Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor E-Letter 5/29/20

One of my favorite radio stations in our area is 98.5 “The Beach.” They tout themselves as the “Space Coast’s Greatest Hits,” and play great music across the last sixty years or so. I like The Beach because I know that I will hear music that is familiar to me and fun- you don’t make it decades of listening without being somewhat palatable!

Recently I heard the song, “Under Pressure,” by Queen and David Bowie as I was on my way home from Publix. Mask in hand, I listened to the catchy rhythm with new ears. Under pressure, indeed! Since March 15th, our last in-person worship service, we have felt “under pressure” in this new world created by the pandemic. Everything I do feels much heavier to me: grocery shopping, decisions about worship and Bible study, and my behaviors. And, for most of these small, everyday choices, I am just deciding for myself! I do not envy our leaders, locally, in our state, or nationally, as they make decisions in this new world, trying to balance the physical and emotional needs of millions of people. Whether or not I agree with the choices they ultimately make, I can feel the pressure they must be under as they navigate this time. 

This Sunday is Pentecost, when we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church for the first time (Acts 2:1-13). As I listened to the song, Pentecost flickered across my mind, too. The disciples were under pressure, too- afraid and uncertain in the new world created by Jesus’s ascension. Who would be with them as they tried to share the story of their savior? Was it possible for them to evangelize with power, pray with dedication, commit to community? When the Holy Spirit came, their uncertainty was answered with the strong presence of God amongst them, like the love that is the antidote in Queen and Bowie's song. As you’ve heard over the last few weeks, it is the Holy Spirit that empowers the church, not our own strength. And it is the Holy Spirit with us that calms our fears and bears up under the weight of the world with us, relieving some of that pressure and giving us wisdom to continue.

At one time, a long time ago, we wondered (really, we hoped) if we would be back in our building by Pentecost. Obviously, this is not the case. Some have told us that this means that the church is “closed.” This Scripture passage reminds us that the church has been moving out of the building since the beginning! We have never been closed. We have been dedicated to prayer, community, service, acts of courage, and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. We have been “under pressure” to innovate, carefully and deliberately, in this new era, just as the early church was. The promise of Pentecost is that the same Spirit that fell on those disciples and early converts falls on us and empowers us today. 

Part of our pressure is our movement to a slow reopening of our building. Our team feels the weight of these decisions, too. As a point of personal privilege, I cannot imagine making these choices alongside a better team, leader, or conference guidelines. We are in capable hands that are guided by that same Holy Spirit. We, too, bear up under that pressure with you, remembering the power of God to strengthen us as we endure and prepare for the next “phase” of this new world together. Part of our hope is that we believe the Holy Spirit is at work in you, in your everyday life. The church is on the move in you. The church has never closed and never relied totally on this building, because the church, and God’s love, is alive in you. This is the power of Pentecost.

Wherever you feel pressure this week, remember that the Holy Spirit is with you and empowers you to “be the church,” wherever you are. We hope to gather again soon to experience that together, but we trust God is at work in each of you, always.


Peace,
Rev. Allee Willcox

Posted by Allee Willcox with

Pastor E-Letter 5/22/20

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In May of 2015, I graduated from Indiana University with my bachelor's degree. To be honest, I graduated from Indiana University South East in New Albany, IN not the Bloomington Campus. Either way, I get to say I graduated from Indiana University and have claimed to be a Hoosier for life. I thought with the degree they would officially give me the backstory to what a Hoosier is, and they didn't. Mary who lived in South Bend, IN for 20 years doesn't have the official story. So I still don't know what it is.
 
What I can tell you is how much I loved going to IU schools. I attended the South Bend, IN campus first and that is where I met Mary when we were in the theatre department together. I have a lot of pride in IU and the work that they do between their MBA program and amazing teaching hospital in Indianapolis. I have spent time at IU Hospital in downtown Indy with my family over the years as they received care. IU Hospital has an amazing heart center and cancer research team. The care that my family has received has been so loving and full of amazing work by the people there. It is a teaching hospital and they have plenty of wonderful students learning from this great team.
 
What struck me as I walked through the main entrance one day were these pictures at the main entrance:
 


You see, IU Hospital in Indianapolis is the IU Methodist Hospital. Founded 121 years ago to serve the sick, wounded and injured. I was awestruck how many people would pass through this metro-downtown hospital and read these words from John Wesley, known as "John Wesley's Rule." How many people have been served, and cared for in the name of God by the people known as Methodist?
 
I was talking to Annette this week about UM Hospitals and we talked about Emory Hospital in Atlanta, another Methodist hospital. Emory was at the front of the line in caring for Ebola patients and developing a vaccine for that outbreak and today they are working diligently to research and develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. The Methodist church has a long history of showing up when there are people in need. This work is no stranger to Suntree UMC people. During hurricane season we are known for handing out coolers of ice and helping our neighbor. We fill trucks and buckets and send them to disaster areas all over the country. Suntree UMC seeks to live into our mission statement of "Loving Our Neighbors in Extraordinary ways".

The question for us now is how do we live into the heritage of being Methodist people? Wesley was clear about doing good. Wesley did not count acts of service as more important than faith, however, he claimed that it is because of our faith we will be compelled to care for the poor, the sick, the needy. We would do it by this rule "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."
 
Some have begun that work in our community:
We have partnered with Daily Bread, The Evans Center, Interfaith Alliance of Brevard, and others to help during this extraordinary time. There are many ways to serve in accordance with your comfort level and ability. All sites that we have partnered with take social distancing very seriously and seek to make sure our volunteers are safe and well cared for while also respecting the dignity and need of our neighbors.
 
While we understand that there is a real concern for many to not engage any "in-person" activities, even with social distancing measures, there is still a great need for supplies and supplemental food. We care for you deeply and want you to be safe. We also want you to know that there are ways for you to support our partners during this time. Our foster parents still need diapers and wipes. Daily Bread needs supplies for the hygiene program that provides clean undergarments and socks. The food programs in the area need supplemental food. And all our partners need financial support.

One thing I'd like to keep at the front of our minds: this is not a one-time need. We will continue to engage our partners as the lasting effects of this virus will be felt for a long time. The financial stability of so many families will continue to struggle and many who have little to no savings will find themselves in a serious financial crisis in the coming months. We will continue to engage the needs of our neighbors and we hope you will join us.
 
How can we live into this amazing heritage of the people known as Methodists? How can we live into the heritage of Suntree UMC that loves their neighbors in extraordinary ways? I hope you'll ask that question with me and I hope we can find ways for you to engage the many layers of the needs in our community. No matter your abilities, we have all been blessed by God and because of that, we seek to do all the good that we can, as much as we can, to as many people as we can, for as long as we can.
 
With Grace & Peace on this journey together,
 
Augie
Posted by Augie Allen with

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