Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Showing items filed under “Annette Stiles Pendergrass”

Pastor E-Letter 5/15/20

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

One of our members that I have seen the most since the coronavirus quarantine is Ernie Allen, pictured above. I took this picture of Ernie and his buddy, with their new “Ernie’s Army” shirts last week. For 20 years, Ernie and his army have been doing volunteer labor in the yards of their Spanish Cove neighbors. Since my gym has been closed during the quarantine, I’ve been forced back out on the streets for my exercise, and pretty much every day I’ve seen Ernie and his “army” out working somewhere. Now I know you are probably concerned that Ernie and his friend are close to one another. This gentleman and others are part of what I call, Ernie’s “quarantine family” – the close circle of folks that many of us share (for me it is the worship team and my immediate family) that we do see even as we shelter in place beyond that small group. These are the folks that work alongside us and continue to make life manageable during this time.

Seeing Ernie with his “army” shirt last week caused me to reflect on and give thanks for all of the ordinary folks in our church and community that continue to find ways to love and serve their neighbors during this crisis. I’ve talked to several folks who are still faithfully delivering meals on wheels to seniors who depend on this service for their daily hot nutrition. I know many of our folks have been busy making masks to share with individuals and organizations in need during this time. Many of you are checking on your neighbors or fellow church members and bringing them their groceries and other necessities during this time. Others are simply calling, texting, emailing, zooming to check in on one another to help alleviate the loneliness.

You will see information below that describes how those of us who are not in the high-risk category for the virus can help to meet the growing food insufficiency needs in our community due to unemployment. I hope if you feel able, you will consider signing up to serve at either Daily Bread or the Evans Center in Palm Bay. Both organizations use safe social distancing practices while still seeking to meet the needs of hungry folks right here in Melbourne.

My point in sharing all this is to say that these are just a few of the ways that we can continue to love and serve our neighbors and they are also the kinds of things that Paul in Philippians invites us to focus our thoughts and attention on. Things that are just, true, commendable, and worthy of praise. It the midst of so much fear and uncertainty, it is good to take Paul’s advice and look for the goodness, or as Allee mentioned in her E-Letter last week, quoting Mr. Rogers, “look for the helpers.” Today, I invite you to spend some time in prayer, giving thanks to God for the ordinary goodness of ordinary people all around us. And give thanks for the ways that God has been present and at work in you to help you stay focused on what God is doing in the world. If we stop and look, there is always something for which to give thanks!

This Sunday in worship we will continue to think about what it means to “Be the Church” by exploring Acts 10 and thinking about the ways that the Holy Spirit works in us to empower us to change course, think in new ways, and continue to welcome new people into the family of God. One of the characteristics of the early church was its ability to be flexible and constantly adapt, grow, and change in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, there is a word here for us in these challenging days about how we must continue to change and adapt and grow in the ways we share in ministry. So, I encourage you to read all of Acts 10 in preparation for worship.

In the meantime, be safe, wash your hands, and know you are missed and loved!

Grace and Peace,
Annette

Pastor's E-Letter 04/17/20

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Dear Suntree Family,  
 
"Go with your love to the fields. Lie down in the shade. Rest your head in her lap. Swear allegiance to what is nighest your thoughts. As soon as the generals and the politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it. Leave it as a sign to mark the false trail, the way you didn't go. Be like the fox who makes more tracks than necessary, some in the wrong direction. Practice resurrection." Excerpt from "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front" by Wendell Berry
 
I was reminded of this poem by my devotional reading this past Monday and the last words captured my heart, "Practice resurrection." Berry invites us to embrace a countercultural way of living which is exemplified by the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection didn't make sense. It didn't follow the accepted rules of life as we know it. And so, as people who seek to live in and through the resurrection of Christ, we are invited to defy the status quo by living a countercultural kind of life. 
 
I've been pondering what that means for us as followers of a resurrected Christ during this global pandemic. What does it mean to claim and live in the light and power of Christ's resurrection amid so much darkness? What does it mean to be a witness to the light, while at the same time, not ignoring the real pain, grief, and sadness that permeates our world and our own days? 
 
For me, I believe it may mean that I pay attention to all the pain and sadness. I weep with those who weep, I mourn with those who mourn. I pray for the suffering that is all around. I pray for myself and for all of us as we navigate this isolation, this economic fallout, this utter upheaval of our normal routines. And I pay attention to my own soul and own those moments when I just need to slow down and be sad and sit with the weight of it all. 
 
But I do not grieve as those who have no hope. (I Thessalonians 4:13) When I am tempted to give in to despair, I remember we are not alone. I remember that Christ is Risen. I give thanks for the day before me. I give thanks for the opportunities it represents. I give thanks for the gifts that surround me even in the darkness. And then I get to work again, even when it would be easier to just give up and lie in bed and feel awful. I call or text a friend or family member, I clean my house, I cook and read and do puzzles and watch mindless TV. This is what it means to practice resurrection. I keep living and hoping and believing the end will come. 
 
And I continue the work that we are all called to, the work of "being the church." I make phone calls to check on people. I work with the rest of the staff to plan worship, devotions, bible studies and all the normal things we are continuing to do during this crisis. And together we work to continue to develop new ways and new opportunities for this body of Christ to stay connected, to worship, to grow in faith, to serve one another and our community, and to keep giving our best to our mission for Christ in this community. This too is what it means to practice resurrection. 
 
Now, more than ever, our community needs us to "be the church", the body of Christ following a resurrected savior, living resurrected lives and sharing the good news of the gospel that darkness is never the end of the story. There is hope and life and healing in Jesus Christ and that is good news! 
 
This Sunday in worship, we will begin a new message series entitled, "Acts: Be the Church" (read Acts 4:13-22 in preparation for worship). In it, we will explore what it meant for the early followers of Jesus in the book of Acts to practice resurrection by "being the church" in witness, in community, in service, with courage, in hospitality, in prayer, and in power. We will be reminded that the church has been, and always will be, about people, following Christ out in the world, giving witness to the life-giving power of Christ to heal and make new. While we miss being able to gather as the whole body of Christ in worship, while we miss the hugs, the handshakes, the joy of being present to one another physically in worship and other activities, the essence of who we are and what we are called to do and be for Christ in the world has not changed. We simply must engage that mission in different ways. Fortunately, God is more than able to lead us in discovering those new opportunities. 
 
So join us for worship online either on our website (www.suntreeumc.org/live) or on Facebook.com/SuntreeUMC. We will again be offering two services, the Gathering Contemporary service at 9:30 am on Facebook and a Traditional service at 11:00 am on Facebook. Both services will be available at 9:30 am on the website. 
 
In the meantime, I encourage you to find your own ways to "practice resurrection". Celebrate each new day. Find something for which to give thanks. Find something positive and hopeful to engage in. Be light and hope for someone else. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
 
Grace and Peace,
Annette

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