Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Showing items filed under “Annette Stiles Pendergrass”

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

 

Pastor's E-Letter 07/19/19

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Children hold a special place in God’s Kingdom reality. Jesus made that abundantly clear the day people were bringing children to him so that he might bless them. His disciples, thinking he was too busy for that nonsense, were shooing them away. And Jesus responded, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Mark 10:14)

As Christ’s followers, we seek to value and nurture what Christ values and nurtures. That means that we hold children in high esteem at Suntree UMC. That is why we have spent the last two months hosting ministries designed to nurture and love on the children that God loves and has placed in our path for mission and ministry. MADD Camp, VBS, Brevard Mission Week, Student Mission Trips, Student Life Camp and Warren Willis Camp are all opportunities for us to fulfill the Kingdom mandate to invite children to come to know Jesus and the love God has for them through Jesus. If you add up all the resources it took to carry out all those ministries (the human resources of both staff and lay servants, the financial resources, the wear and tear on our buildings) it’s a huge investment! But I’m convinced there is hardly a greater investment in Kingdom terms. Each one of the hundreds of children and students who have come through our doors for those programs is a precious child of God who holds within them the potential to change their own little corner of the world because they know the love of God in their hearts. Our future depends on these little ones. And I want to do all I can to invest in that future now by investing in them. It is a joy and a privilege to be a part of their journeys!

And we aren’t finished yet. Our ministry to children is not limited to those who find a way through our doors. We can’t bring every child to Suntree UMC. But we can take the love of Jesus for every child out into the community. That is what our Harbor City Elementary (HCE) School Partnership is about. It is one way that we can live into our call to welcome and nurture children beyond the walls of our church.

We are excited to kick off another year in that partnership with another backpack drive. This Sunday we will be distributing 360 school backpacks with supply lists from the teachers at HCE. Our goal is to have each one of these back packs taken, filled with the specific supplies that are on the lists, and then returned to the church by Sunday, August 4. If you can’t take a backpack and fill it yourself, you can write a check that will cover the cost of the supplies and volunteers we shop for the supplies for you. Just put HCE Backpacks in the subject line of your check.

Last year, we received hundreds of thank you notes from the children at HCE. Parents cried with gratitude when they came to orientation and discovered that their children’s backpacks and school supplies were being provided. What a gift to give a child everything that they need to start the school year right. What a beautiful way to let children in our wider community know that they are loved and cared for by Suntree UMC because they are loved and cared for by God.

So, come prepared this Sunday to pick up a backpack at one of the tables outside the Sanctuary and Worship Center. It’s a huge goal: 360 filled backpacks. But I know with the love of Jesus in us, we can do it.

On another note, some folks have asked what we can do as a church in response to the migrant crisis at our borders. Obviously, the issue of immigration is complex. Clearly, we are in a place where our current policies are not working and in need of reform. But rather than speak into the politics of this situation, I simply want to remind us of some of the commitments of the UM church concerning immigration.

Our UM Book of Resolutions contains a resolution titled Global Migration and the Quest for Justice, which affirms, “Christians do not approach the issue of migration from the perspective of tribe or nation, but from within a faith community of love and welcome, a community that teaches and expects hospitality to the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed,” an echo of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

Another resolution titled Welcoming the Migrant to the U.S. reads, “Welcoming the migrant is not only an act of mission; it is an opportunity to receive God’s grace.” This reflects what we are taught in the book of Hebrews, “Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2 CEB).

It’s easy in the face of the complexity and political rancor around this crisis to think there is nothing that we can do. But there are ways we can seek to be instruments of peace and justice as we stand with the most vulnerable in our world.

We can pray that God will be at work in us and in our leaders to bring peace and justice for all people.

We can be advocates for legislation that is humane and upholds the dignity and worth of all God’s children. Calling or writing your elected representatives makes your voice and concerns heard. Wherever we find ourselves personally in this debate, we can ask our representatives to introduce new legislation to make immigration, refugee and asylum processes just and efficient and to support policies that are hospitable to refugees and immigrants.

We can give to organizations like Justice for Our Neighbors, a ministry of the United Methodist Church that provides free, immigration legal aid to those in need of legal representation. You can give to the Florida Justice for our Neighbors at www.fljfon.org. You can also give to other branches of JFON in other states through www.njfon.org.

The call of Christ again and again is to stand with, care for and protect the most vulnerable and those at the margins in our society: children, the elderly, the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the refugee, the mentally ill. Because it is Christ’s call, it is our call. What a joy it is to be part of a church that is heeding that call in so many ways in our mission and ministry. Thank you for your faithfulness in answering that call.

See you in worship Sunday as we continue in our “Recalculating” message series, where we will reflect on the story of the prophet Samuel as God calls him to follow a “New Traffic Pattern Ahead” sign and anoint a new King for Israel. The story is found in I Samuel 16: 1-13, and I encourage you to read and reflect on it before worship.

Grace and Peace,

Annette

PS. A huge thank you to our amazing facilities team, Dominic Lies, Jack McGinley, Herb Jordan and Matt Gould for all their patience and hard work in the set up and the cleanup in the midst of all these special summer events. You are awesome!

 

 

 

 

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