Friday, January 28, 2011

Back in July 2010 when I came to Pisgah, I found a church that had been sailing along for nearly 135 years. Through many long and sometimes difficult seasons since 1875, Pisgah United Methodist Church has been situated and doing ministry in the Long Shoals community.

There is no doubt about the faithfulness of the people of Pisgah UMC. One look to the past shows a church that has been developing ministries, paying their apportionments, and continuing to be a faithful witness for Jesus Christ every year of her existence. Today when many churches are declining, Pisgah remains constant in worship attendance, giving, missions, and ministry.

Yet that is not to say that we, like many churches, do not face challenges. We do. The world around us is changing every day. Technology, culture, mores, family mobility and structure, and much more have affected the way we are able do ministry and the way we are able to care for our members and the community.

At the first meeting I had with the leadership of Pisgah we discussed our need for future planning. I agreed that we need a vision and a plan. In order for Pisgah to meet the needs of the community, to be true to her values and identity, and to follow God's will for ministry, we need to make plans. Plans are difficult to make though when everyone is not on the same page with God and one another.

Susanne Farnham in her book, Grounded in God, says "God knows our deepest potential, sees the hidden complexities of our circumstances, comprehends our situation in relation to the larger picture and grasps the broader implications of our plans"(5). Of course! Discerning what God envisions for Pisgah can be our way of tapping into God's divine wisdom.

During the month of February, every person at Pisgah is invited to be involved together in hearing from God. I will be presenting a series of messages Jan. 30 to Feb. 20 surrounding the theological foundations for taking time to discern God's vision for our church.

Also we will be praying, gathering information, doing surveys, defining our community, collecting historical and demographic data, and planning for a Discerning and Visioning Retreat to share all we are learning. The retreat will take place on February 25th and 26th.

Those who can and wish to participate will meet together in retreat to learn, pray and seek God together in a spirit of Holy Conferencing. What we are aiming to do is develop a spiritual environment which can enable us to see more clearly God's vision for Pisgah UMC. That's exciting.

I look forward to the weeks ahead because I know that when we seek God together for God's vision God for Pisgah UMC, we won't be disappointed! To God be the glory!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Visiting Rachel

Today I received such a blessing. I visited a saint of God, met a new sister in Christ and shared the Eucharist with a parishioner whom I'd only heard about from the other members of the church. As a minister, I often go to visit peoples who are suffering from dementia, mental illness, Alzheimer's, and the like. You really never know quite what you may face, what you will be able to do or say to them. Will the person know you, recognize why you've come, or even be conscious? Today was one of those visits.
The joy for me was that this person did not know me, but I sensed immediately that we know the same Lord. As we visited and talked, I could tell she could not remember much about her circumstances, or of those who had been so lovingly caring for her, or even where she was. She was pleasant, cheerful, and happy.
So I said, "Will it be okay if I sing you a song?" When she agreed, I sang for her the great Wesley hymn, "Oh For a Thousand Tongues to Sing." She, who couldn't recall even who she was, joined in, remembering and singing every word of that hymn. This frail, clearly failing 92 year old lady, sang like she was a mere girl in church on Easter morning. Her voice was strong, fierce, and confident.
Together we sang many other songs, and she knew and remembered the words to every one of them. Amazing too, was her recitation of the 23rd and the 24th Psalm. Every word of the Eucharist liturgy she recalled, and her voice as we sang the Lord's prayer together brought such joy into my soul that I wanted to shout. I didn't. (Shouting in a Hospice home disturbs the others living there.)
Today, this sister of mine and I had church; she and me and Jesus. We three, sang, prayed together, heard the Word, shared a meal, and I was blessed completely. God is good and loves us so much. I am grateful.

©2011 Judy H. Eurey

Saturday, January 08, 2011

On January 1st. I thought...

Wow! It is hard to believe that Christmas has come and gone. This was my first Christmas with the family and friends of Pisgah, and I have been mightily blessed by being with you. The Christmas blessings began showering down early in the month with the United Methodist Women Christmas meeting, where...I learned a lot about some women whom I thought were meek and sweet. When it came to "taking" what they wanted, well...they took it. I don't remember who got the jar of butterflies or the stained glass nativity, but they were well fought-over gifts! The party was great fun, great food with a great group of God's women! Blessings galore!

The music this year from the groups of gifted singers and musicians was a blessing to me too, and also a blessing to God. The Bells of Praise concert filled the sanctuary with the glory of praise, laughter, and love. I was blessed that the group let me join them this year. Believe me, it was a sacrifice on their part. They had to put up with me messing them up every chance I got. They even smiled through it all! Added blessings!

The choir also blessed me and the whole church with the Christmas cantata. I heard many people comment how beautiful the music was and how much they enjoyed seeing Cale Thornburg nearly fall backwards into Jackie Reep's lap! The flapping arms was him wind-milling...not exuberant choir directing. Some extra blessings!

What can I say to express how touching the children's Christmas play was? The kids did an absolutely fantastic job. I was proud of their and their leaders hard work in putting it all together. I was so blessed by their singing, their speaking parts, and their solos. God has graced us with a wonderful and talented group of kids who love Jesus and show us all how to love and be in the world. Abundant blessings!

Our Christmas Eve service filled me with the peace of Christ in a very special way. As we all came together and filled the church (to capacity), sang together, heard the Christmas story read, and received the Gospel message as presented by the Pisgah youth...I felt the presence of God with us. Those tears on our cheeks were tears of joy, brought by God working through the ministry of our youth and their leaders. So many blessings!

What I want to say is thank you! Thank you for the gifts of laughter, fun, love, hugs, music, grace, friendship, and oh yes, the "Edwina Piggy" gift. I give thanks to God for you, and for Jesus who is with us all. No more darkness for us; our way is forever lit by the presence of Jesus, the one born to save us. Hallelujah! Light has come!

To all the saints of Pisgah UMC, I pray for God's blessings on you in 2011 and always.