Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-Letter 8/16/19

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Four summers ago (which does not seem possible!), right before I began my seminary education at Duke, I worked at a small thriving rural church in Western North Carolina. It was a delightful summer for many reasons: it was one of the first times I could see myself independently and genuinely in the pastoral role, and I also ate a LOT of good food. (Southern Hospitality rings very true in North Carolina!)

One of my favorite parts about this internship was leading a small group in the local nursing home, just a mile away from the church. Each Wednesday, we’d meet in the dining room and discuss the Psalms. The faithful folks, most of them unable to attend regular worship on Sunday mornings, made sure to be present for their small group every Wednesday morning. We would study, learn together, and pray for one another. I learned so much from them! Even now, when I talk about the Psalms, I find notes in my Bible about the truths they taught me.

Beyond the individual descriptions of the Psalms, what I learned most from them was their faithfulness. They made sure to show up to be present with one another, even in struggles and joys. They were sure to check in with each other during the week and made sure to check in with me throughout my time there. I will never forget their faithfulness to each other, or to me. I still have a prayer shawl that community knit me at the end of the summer.

This presence and faithfulness are not reserved just for my small group in the nursing home. It has been a part of each church I’ve served, and it has edified me each time I’ve encountered it. It is why I love local church ministry. It takes dedication to show up to worship each week. It takes dedication and loyalty to be a part of small group study, learning from one another and praying for one another. You all change things when you show up to be together.

We know this as your worship leaders! We take seriously the task of planning and leading worship, knowing the importance of confessing our faith together, joining together in Christian community, and sharing the love of Christ with one another.

This week, we’ll talk about our commitment as United Methodists to be present. This means we commit to moving on towards that faithful loyalty, but also that we commit to being present with one another in the highs and lows of life. It means your church commits to being present when you are in the valley of the shadow of death, and in the best moments of your life. It means your church commits to having discipleship opportunities for you to engage in with your presence as you grow in your faith in our Triune God. It is a humbling task, to meet your faithfulness, to be present with the Spirit of God in this place.

I hope you’ll be present with us this Sunday morning, but also on Sunday afternoon as we join together at Lori Wilson Park at 4:30pm for our Beach Baptism service. Your presence and support of those getting baptized is essential to their growth in faith… and your own!

 See you then,

Pastor Allee

Posted by Allee Willcox with

Pastor's E-Letter 8/9/19

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What a great week of ministry here at Suntree UMC! On Tuesday, we delivered over 400 backpacks to Harbor City Elementary for distribution to the students on Wednesday. Other volunteers were busy in the Teachers' Lounge - making it beautiful and inspiring and stocking it with all kinds of goodies for pre-planning before the students arrive next week. It looks amazing!
 
After all the backpacks were brought in and sorted by grade, we circled up with the principal and other staff for prayer. Before we started to pray, Principal Joy Salamone choked up. With tears in her eyes, she thanked us once again for our love, our support, the amazing gift of the backpacks, and all we are doing for the teachers, students, and families at Harbor City. Then we all cried (in fact, I'm crying again as I write this). Then we prayed for the students, their families, the teachers, and staff. We prayed for God to bless them, keep them safe, help them to learn and grow, and have a wonderful school year! Lastly, we offered our thanks to God for the generosity of Suntree UMC in sharing in this amazing partnership that is making a Kingdom difference in the lives of these children, families, and teachers. What a joy and a privilege to share the love of Jesus with this community! What a difference it makes in us as we serve them, love them, and share in relationship with them! All I can say is "Wow! Yay God!"
 
Then on Wednesday evening, about 100 people gathered in the Worship Center for a service of Prayer and Action in response to the mass shootings over the last week. We joined together in praise and in prayers of lament, confession, and intercession for all those who have been touched by these horrific events. We lit candles of remembrance and made personal commitments to put our prayers into action by continuing to pray for the victims and communities torn by this violence. We reflected on our own complicity and sought God's direction for how we can put our prayers into action that leads to change, which is the true fruit of repentance. We also gathered around the table of grace, sharing in the bread and the cup, and celebrating the power of Christ to forgive, heal, and restore.
 
After the service we moved to the Dining Room where folks were provided with a variety of template letters that they could use to write our legislators, urging them to take some kind of action: increased funding for mental illness care and intervention, the establishment of more red flag laws nationwide, or passing universal background check legislation. While we do not all agree on the path forward when it comes to this issue, the point is that doing nothing in the face of this national crisis is not acceptable. So, we are encouraging you to follow your convictions and act in some way, putting your prayers into action.
 
All this talk of prayer serves as a reminder that Suntree UMC is a praying church! We believe in the absolute necessity and importance of prayer in our life together as a church and in our individual lives. That's why on Tuesday evening, there was a small group of folks gathered in the Prayer Chapel off the Sanctuary praying for: our church, our world, all the prayer concerns in the bulletin, our homebound, our ministries, and the cards in the prayer wall. This group gathers every month (the first Tuesday of the month at 6:00pm) to bathe the church and the world in prayer. We have a prayer chain of about 100 folks who pray each week at home over the weekly prayer list that is emailed out. I could go on! The ministry of prayer is deeply embedded in the life of this congregation. Prayer is the fuel which the Holy Spirit uses for the engine of mission and ministry around here. Prayer is what enables us to discern the leading of God's Spirit in all that we do.
 
So, what about your life of prayer? How is prayer centering you on loving God and loving others as a disciple of Jesus? How is prayer helping to shape and form you into the likeness of Jesus? Most of us want to pray. We even believe in the power of prayer. But we are not always sure how to pray. Or we struggle with making it a regular part of our daily lives.
 
This week in worship we will be continuing in our "Back to Basics" message series based on the book A Disciple's Path by Jim Harnish. We will be focusing on prayer. We will be reflecting on what prayer is and some practical ways to learn to pray using Jesus' words about prayer in Luke 11:1-13. The good news is that no matter where you are in your prayer life, there are ways to grow and learn to connect deeper and deeper into God's grace and purpose for us. God wants to be with us in prayer. We just need to begin. A great place to start is with the prayer he taught us, "Our Father, who art in heaven..." Why not stop right now and pray that prayer?
 
Grace and Peace,
Annette

 

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