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Collin's Columns: Called

Column from May 27, 2021
Greetings all in the name of Christ!
 
If you’ll remember along with me, we’ve been in the midst of a sermon series entitled, “Called.”  We started this sermon series way back on Sunday, April 18 and since that day, so much has changed.  I was reappointed to a new church, Grace has been assigned a new pastor, the Future with Hope decided to take a Sabbath, and so much more!  And now as the last Sunday of May approaches, we’re also approaching the end of this sermon series.  This week, we’ll examine the life of a little-discussed character in the Bible by the name of Nicodemus. Next week, we’ll conclude the sermon series with discussions surrounding an anonymous Disciple who in John’s Gospel is simply called, “The One whom Jesus loved.”
 
Nicodemus is not mentioned in any of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke).  Only John’s Gospel has any mention of him, but it isn’t insignificant.  Jesus & Nicodemus have a conversation in John’s third chapter surrounding the concept of being reborn, and Nicodemus asks spirited questions.  Nicodemus also happened to sit on the Sanhedrin and thus would have wielded significant influence and power.  For the most part throughout the Gospels, Jesus is usually at odds with the Sanhedrin for he often very forcefully called out the Sanhedrin for being hypocritical.  In fact, it was members of the Sanhedrin that sought to have him killed.  However, Nicodemus seems to have been the exception as he quietly defends Jesus’s teachings within the Sanhedrin itself.  While the context of how Jesus and Nicodemus know each other is important, the focus of Sunday’s sermon will be just one very small action.  Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are the ones who take Jesus’s body down from the cross after he died, and it was Nicodemus who brought the spices with which Jesus would be buried. 
 
It may not seem like it all the time, but God through Christ calls us all to be active in ministry.  For some, like pastors and missionaries, the call is also a vocation.  But for others, the call placed on our life could just be a simple action, such as bringing spices to bury a loved one.  What Nicodemus did for Jesus wasn’t a pretty or even a particularly enjoyable act – but it was a necessary one.  This week, we’ll talk about how sometimes living out our call isn’t always fun or even desirable.
 
See you this Sunday in the GOD IS CALLING YOU place.
 
In Christ,
Pastor Collin

 

Column from May 20, 2021

A MESSAGE FROM OUR CHAIRS:

At this moment in time, where we hope for the end to the Pandemic, the weather changes from not-hot to hot, and when the school year draws to a close, our community is experiencing yet another moment of change – a change in leadership.  We say goodbye to Collin and the Taylor family that has guided this community through these past 7 years.  He has been a beacon for our community, growing the congregation, launching a day school, and uplifting this historic church and community. 

 

We wish the Taylor’s the best in their new adventure in the wilds of East Texas and know our loss is Pollard UMC’s gain of a tremendous pastor. 

 

Likewise, it is with great excitement that we anticipate the arrival of Pastor Kate and her husband Patrick.  And to make their landing as comfortable as possible, a variety of initiatives have been launched.  We ask the entire church body to reflect on how we can all contribute to making our new pastor feel welcomed to the Grace community and how we say goodbye to the Taylor family.  We ask you to dig deep and consider generous contributions to one if not all of the following opportunities:

 

Parsonage Workday - June 12th - We would like to host a workday at the parsonage from 8 am – 12 pm.  We will be cleaning, weeding, replanting, and otherwise freshening the exterior of the Parsonage in anticipation of its new occupants.  Please register to participate in this activity.

 

Farewell to the Taylors - June 13 – Mary Gossett is leading the charge for a party celebrating Collin’s tenure at Grace.  She would appreciate a volunteer to help organize the reception for the Taylors.  Please send an email to mary@graceintheheights.org (or call the office) if you feel called to contribute to this effort.

 

Parsonage Renovations - The trustees are in the process of evaluating the state of the parsonage and using this time as an opportunity to repair, refinish, and correct some overdue maintenance items. We are generating a work list and prioritizing it based on the available budget and donations from the community.   Items on the list include:

  • Repainting of most of the interior, light patch, and wall repair as required
  • Replacing the carpet in the “playroom” with a resilient surface
  • Replacing toilet room fixtures, faucets, showerheads, and control valves
  • Removing the deactivated gas space heater in the back toilet room
  • Replacing some sheathing around the HVAC unit that has been damaged over time
  • Replacing some minor electrical items, (2) ceiling fans, (2) rocker switches, & (2) light fixtures

If you want to contribute financially, please visit www.graceintheheights.org/give and note your gift with “Parsonage Repair and Maintenance”  We have already seen an outpouring of support, but additional funding is needed to help achieve all of our ambitions.

 

Stock the Pantry – A sign-up genius asking for the community to contribute various pantry items so the house is stocked and ready for the new occupants when they arrive.  

 

Please sign up if you feel called to contribute in this way. Additional information is provided in the link and information about when the donations are needed will be forthcoming.

 

Welcome Reception -  July 11th - We will have a welcome reception for Kate and Patrick.  SPR is organizing this event, please reach out to Meredith Miller (mam10411@yahoo.com) if you would like to assist in planning for that event.

While it is with sadness that we say goodbye to the Taylor Family – it is with excitement for the future we welcome the Walkers-Williams Family.  In this time of change, we honor the things past and hope for the future.  We hope that you will consider contributions of all kinds and thank you for your continued generosity.

 

Kyle Thiel                                
Chair, Trustees 

 

Meredith Miller
Chair, SPR

 
 
Column from May 13, 20201

Greetings all in the name of Christ!

 

I want to draw your attention to an important piece of communication from the Future with Hope Committee (FWH).  In consultation with Pastor Kate (Grace UMC incoming pastor), and after I recently discerned that many in leadership are just simply worn out, the FWH has decided to take a sabbath.  This sabbath means that the FWH will immediately pause all of its work for the next 10 weeks.  On the evening of July 19, Pastor Kate will reconvene the FWH to continue that work under her leadership.  This will obviously affect the timeline that was released a few short weeks ago but know this is not something we take lightly.  In the midst of a pastoral transition, it just made sense to us to take a bit of a break, rest up, and go back at this important visioning and discernment work with a fresh perspective.  However, it is the intention of the FWH and Pastor Kate to wrap up this work and ask the church body to make a firm decision regarding a potential merger with Chapelwood before the end of the year.  We all feel as though it is important not to drag this process out any longer than is necessary.

Additionally, for the last three weeks, we’ve been announcing that changes are coming to our online giving portal and those changes are nearly complete!  By Saturday, May 15 our transition will be complete.  What does that mean for you? 

  1. Online giving will still be done at www.graceintheheights.org/give but the page will look slightly different.
  2. If you participate in text-to-give, the phone number will be different. 
  3. If you are a recurring giver, you will receive an email from Shelby Giving with a link for you to set up your recurring gift.  Please click the link and enter your financial information within 72 hours.  If you wait longer than 72 hours, we’ll need to reset your specific link.


**It is important that, in addition to setting up your recurring gift through our new platform, you disable your previous recurring gift that was done through PushPay.  We will make sure that you receive clear instructions about how to do that.

 

I hope that you’ll continue praying for Pastor Kate as she and Patrick prepare to move to The Heights.  While more specific information will be made available in next week’s edition of Grace Notes, the Trustees are recommending some maintenance be done to the parsonage in advance of Kate and Patrick’s arrival.  The most visible item is painting the interior of the parsonage as it is in need of some TLC.  Thus far, three Grace members have made very generous donations to the Parsonage Maintenance fund.  If you would like to help the church offset the cost of some of these important projects, choose “Parsonage repairs and maintenance” from the drop-down menu on our giving page and donate generously!

 

See you this Sunday in the THIS IS A DAY OF NEW BEGINNINGS place!

 

Yours in Christ,
Collin

 
Column from May 6, 20201
Greetings all in the name of Christ!
 
This week in worship, we’ll continue in our latest sermon series entitled, “Called” by hearing from a familiar character from the Bible in Mary Magdalene.  Mary Magdalene is referred to frequently in all four gospels and seems to constantly be around Jesus during very important events in his ministry, including both his death and resurrection.
 
I also want to draw your attention to two documents that are now live on our website.  As you’ll remember, the Future with Hope committee has committed itself to publish a number of different documents, among them being a series of FAQs and a vision document. 
 
The FAQs themselves are actually broken into three separate categories.  The first category is the first series of questions that the Future with Hope Committee answered in December 2020.  Those can be found here.  They haven’t been edited since January and hopefully, you’ve read over them.  If you haven’t, take some time to do so now!  The other two categories are simply called Internal Questions and External Questions.  The Internal Questions are questions that were answered internally by the Future With Hope Committee and me and can be found here.  The third category, External Questions, are questions that the Future with Hope Committee asked of Dr. John Stephens, the Senior Minister at Chapelwood UMC.  He spent a great deal of time and energy answering these questions, so I hope you’ll take the necessary time to look them over.  The External Questions can be found on the same page as the Internal Questions (here) but you will need to scroll down to the middle of the page and look under the heading “External Questions.”
 
The Vision Document can be found here.  This simple vision contains two aspirations that I believe should drive the mission and ministry at Grace for the next few years whether you decide to merge with Chapelwood or not.  This vision was created by the Future with Hope Committee based on feedback gleaned from small group meetings with the congregation, advice from the Church Council, and fervent prayer both with each other and independently.  The Church Council formally and unanimously approved this vision at their most recent meeting on April 28th.  Note that this is not a plan of action, and this was done intentionally.  Rather, these are two very broad statements about the church we’d like to be.  In order to understand what actions must be taken to accomplish these overarching goals, two more documents will be generated by the Future with Hope committee.  One of these additional documents will outline a plan of action under a merger scenario, and the other will do the same but under an independent (non-merger) scenario.
 
On a personal note, I want to say that I’ve so thoroughly enjoyed being your pastor these past 7 years.  While I’m looking forward to new challenges at my next appointment in Tyler, there is so much that I’ll miss about you and this church.  My last Sunday will be on June 20, and Pastor Kate’s first Sunday will be on July 4.  Regarding Kate, I don’t believe there is a better choice to lead Grace at this time, and I’m so very excited about your future.  I truly believe it is one filled with hope!
 
Yours in Christ,
Collin
 
Column from April 29, 20201
Greetings all in the name of Christ!
 
This week’s column is all about the recent work of the Future with Hope Committee.  Obviously, the announcement of a pastoral transition required the Future with Hope Committee to briefly pause their work and discuss the ramifications of that change on their work.  Because of that, we’ve committed ourselves to a new timeline that you’ll find at the bottom of this column.  We’re continuing this period of discovery about what a post-merger Grace might look like, and the June 23 Church Council Meeting that was initially scheduled to have a vote on whether or not to pursue a merger will now just feature a presentation of the Future with Hope Committee’s work.  It is not a good idea to vote on whether or not to pursue a merger with Chapelwood UMC before the next pastor is firmly in place.  However, our important work continues! 
 
Also, I think that it is important for you to know that at my invitation, the Rev. Kate Walker has started attending the Future with Hope meetings so that she can be up to speed with the process when she arrives on July 1.
 
We’ve broken ourselves into two sub-committees, both of which are both pursuing the same vision of Grace.  One is pursuing what changes might need to be implemented under a non-merger scenario, and the other is doing the same under a merger scenario.  However, the vision of what we want to be as a church is the same.  The question that you as a congregation will eventually answer is, “What is the best way to achieve our vision of Grace – through a partnership merger with Chapelwood or as an independent church?”
 
Here are the four documents you can expect to see published during the month of May.
  1. Future with Hope Questions and Answers:  many in the community have been offering questions about a merger with Chapelwood and all of the many implications therein.  Some answers have been provided, more will follow.
  2. Grace Future with Hope Vision:  we will be crafting a common vision and statement of what we understand to be Grace’s core vision. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, this is intended to capture what we have learned about what are the guiding principles of our community.  The Vision will be drafted in cooperation with the Church Council.
  3. Enacting our Vision, Merger Scenario:  In response to the Grace Future with Hope Vision, we will create a document that outlines the possibilities of pursuing our Vision in partnership with Chapelwood UMC.
  4. Enacting our Vision, Independent Grace Scenario:  Likewise, we will create a document that considers a future as an independent community and the ways we might pursue our Vision as an unaffiliated organization.
Revised Timeline
Week of April 26
  • Present 2 part vision to Church Council meeting 4/28 for feedback and approval
  • Refine and review both scenario documents
    • Enacting our Vision, Merger Scenario
    • Enacting our Vision, Independent Grace Scenario
  • Publish Future with Hope Questions and Answers (FAQs)
Week of May 3
  • Publish Future Forums II dates and sign up information
  • Revise Future with Hope vision based on Church Council feedback
  • Continue to refine and review both scenario documents
    • Enacting our Vision, Merger Scenario
    • Enacting our Vision, Independent Grace Scenario
Week of May 10
  • Publish Future with Hope Vision
  • Publish Enacting our Vision, Merger Scenario, for church comment
  • Publish Enacting our Vision, Independent Grace Scenario, for church comment
    • solicit feedback on the documents published to-date
  • Re-publish Future Forum II dates and sign-up information
Week of May 17
  • Publish Future Forum II dates and sign up information
  • Future Forums II happen this week
Week of May 24
  • Revise Future with Hope Questions and Answers based on feedback generated in Future Forums II
  • Revise Enacting our Vision, Merger Scenario as required
  • Revise Enacting our Vision, Independent Grace Scenario
  • Church Council Meeting (5/26) – provide FWH Committee update as required
Week of May 31
  • Publish all revised and final documents
    • Grace Future with Hope Vision
    • Future with Hope Questions and Answers 
    • Enacting our Vision, Merger Scenario 
    • Enacting our Vision, Independent Grace Scenario
Weeks of June 7 & 14
  • Contemplation, prayer, and time for personal reflection on the future of Grace
  • Committed effort to reach out to folks on the periphery
Week of June 21
  • Church Council Meeting (6/23) – Present all data collected from the previous 9 months of discovery

 

Column from April 22, 20201
Greetings all in the name of Christ!
 
This week in worship, we’ll continue in our new sermon series entitled, “Called.”  If you weren’t able to join us for in-person or online worship, let me encourage you to take some time between now and Sunday to attend a worship service.  You can find all our recent worship services here, including last week.
 
This week, we’ll examine another Old Testament prophet by the name of Samuel.  We’ll primarily be focusing in on his call story that happens in 1 Samuel 3:1-11.  It is my firmly held belief that God calls all of us to participate in ministry.  That doesn’t always mean ordained ministry, but it does mean that at least some of the actions we take, we take because God called us to do so.  And wouldn’t it be great if we every time we were living into God’s call on our lives that everything was free and easy?  But in fact, Samuel’s first action as a called prophet of God is to impart what could easily be defined as “bad news” to someone very close to him.  In that spirit, we’ll take some time to acknowledge that sometimes the things that God calls us to do aren’t always super fun.  On occasion, the thing that God calls us to do is somewhat vexing and perhaps even stressful. 
 
But, of course, that’s not always the case.  Sometimes when we’re doing God’s work, we feel fulfilled and even happy!  It was scholar William Barclay who reminded that us that, “Jesus promised his Disciples three things – that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.”  I have to thank incoming Grace Pastor Kate Walker for that quote, but I also must acknowledge its truth.  This week in worship, we’re going to examine the “good trouble” that Samuel got himself in, and the “good trouble” we might find ourselves when we follow God’s call on our lives.
 
I can’t wait to see you, online or in-person, in the GOD IS UP TO GOOD TROUBLE place!
 
Yours in Christ,
Collin

 

Column from April 16, 20201

Greetings all in the name of Christ!
 
Well, what a week we have experienced together.  It has certainly been a whirlwind for me.  If you haven’t yet heard, effective July 1st I’ve been appointed to lead Pollard United Methodist Church in Tyler, TX.  That means that Grace will receive a new pastor and I want to invite you to start praying for that person now.  The SPRC has been in close contact with our District Superintendent, the Rev. Dr. Elijah Stansell, as to what gifts and graces Grace’s next pastor should possess.  As soon as we’re able to share who the new pastor will be, we will!
 
In the spirit of transitions, I also want to make you aware that we have hired a new Director of Music Ministries.  We’ve hired Melanie McCreary to take the helm of the music ministry at Grace.  You will recognize Melanie from Sunday mornings as she has been signing in our choir as a scholarship singer for several years.  She is already familiar with other staff, the choir members, as well as our hopes and dreams for what the music program can be. Offering her this position seemed like a natural next step.  When you see her this Sunday, I hope that you’ll extend her a warm Grace welcome!  I am very excited to have her on board.
 
Also, as a reminder, we are still asking all church members to reserve your attendance for each Sunday.  We are in the process of developing expectations of what our crowds will look like now that we are back to in-person worship and if you let us know that you’ll be in worship, it will really help.  To reserve your spot, please click here.
 
This Sunday, we will start a new sermon series entitled, “Called.”  This will be our final sermon series together!  Over the next 8 Sundays, we’ll explore several different characters of the Bible and learn about how God called them into ministry.  I’ll also be talking about how, just as God called each of these biblical characters into ministry, likewise God calls us.  God calls each of us to be active in leading the church, and leading a Christian life – indeed God calls each of us.  Our first character to learn a bit more about is Abraham.  Abraham did a lot in his life and is an important person in Christian history.  In fact, he is often called “Father Abraham” because he often pointed to as the Father of three separate world religions.  He is a fascinating character, and I’m looking forward to sharing more about him.
 
See you this Sunday in the WE ARE ALL CALLED place.
 

Yours in Christ,
Collin

 

Column from April 9, 20201

Greetings all in the name of Christ!


This week in worship, both in-person and online, we have a real treat in store for us!  Over the past few weeks, the families of our church have been working on an Easter Pageant so that they, too, can share in the Good News of the Risen Christ.  I am very excited to see it as I know the children have worked very hard.

 

Also, beginning April 18, we'll begin a new sermon series entitled, "Called."  We're going to spend the next eight Sundays discussing different characters in the Bible and learning about how God called them into ministry.  They all had different gifts that God used to spread the gospel.  As we progress through the series, we'll discover that many of these characters know about God and even loved God with their whole hearts but had no intention of going into ministry.  That is to say, many characters these characters were just regular everyday people going about their lives when they heard a call from God.  Sometimes what God asked them to do was just a single event, and sometimes it meant a wholesale change in their lives.  But God called them all.  

 

Another thing that we'll learn together is that God is calling you, too, into ministry.  That may not mean that you quit your job and go to seminary and begin preaching every Sunday morning, but it may mean that you acknowledge for the first time a nudging in your heart.  We'll discuss that God calls all of us into the great work of making Disciples of Jesus Christ.  Some of us play very large roles, and some of us very small ones - but we are all called to do God's work here on earth.

 

See you this Sunday in the A CHILD SHALL LEAD US place.

 

Yours in Christ,
Collin
 

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