Mary's Message from June 3, 2021
Life is starting to return to normal, or the new normal. Another sign of that was attending Annual Conference this past week. I did so virtually because I thought that would be easier (but when you have two kids, it’s much easier to attend in person, away from the kids!) Our own Melanie McCreary was also a part of Annual Conference and sang in the choir! Annual Conference can be a bit boring because it is the big meeting of all pastors and lay representatives from all the churches in the conference, but I actually enjoy attending because I get to run into lots of old friends.
This year, I found a rush of comfort as I got to listen to a presentation for laity on being adaptive to change. Several churches found growth in thinking outside of the box and experienced growth before the pandemic and were able to weather it well. Another very good lecture was from the Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference. He had been a professor before being elected bishop, and he talked about how we are called to be multi-cultural in scripture and what that means for society and our churches. What I loved the most about his message was that we need to be careful to assign people to only one story. Very seldom does everyone fit into the box that we think they should, so be open to learn about other’s experiences and to not discount them just because they aren’t our experiences. The pastor who was being ordained later in the evening brought a message about the odd idea that trees can bear two kinds of fruit due to cross-pollination. I am thankful for the theological words I received and the new ideas that I get to share with you over time.
Annual Conference is also a reminder that Pastor Collin’s move is about to happen. I hope you will join us for his farewell lunch on June 13, and his sermon, One Last Time, on June 20th. (You get to hear from me in the transition between him and Pastor Kate!) You can register for his lunch and many other activities here: https://www.graceintheheights.org/register.
Mary's Message from May 27, 2021
You Say Goodbye… And I Say Hello…
The sign outside the church officially reads as a thank you to Pastor Collin and his family for the last seven years of ministry. Seven years is a long time. In my family, it was enough time to have two children, three different jobs at three churches, and even a house purchase. Pastor Collin has led us through Hurricane Harvey recovery and relief, Imelda recovery and relief, the building of a preschool, and the pandemic that we are starting to recover from. Under his leadership, we have reached out to schools in our area and provided supplies, support for teachers, and even presents at Christmas.
We have a lot to be thankful for, and it’s okay to be both happy and sad that he is leaving us. We will be celebrating his ministry at a lunch on Sunday, June 13 after church in the Fellowship Hall. We are catering a fajita meal, and we ask that you register if you plan on eating. If you would like to attend, but do not plan on eating, feel free to stop by the celebration without registering. The cost of the meal is $10, and you can choose beef, chicken, mix, or veggie fajitas. Plus we will have the usual fixings of chips, salsa, and queso, and also drinks and dessert. It will be a fun time for all!
Since we are an in-person and virtual church right now, I would like to encourage everyone to record a short video for Pastor Collin and his family. This could be a funny memory, best wishes, or a special time of ministry as a few suggestions. Once you have recorded a video, please share it via DropBox with email@example.com. If the sharing part is confusing, just contact me, and I can pop by to record something for you or get the file from you. Pastor Collin’s last Sunday to preach will be Sunday, June 20.
We say hello to our new pastor, Kate Walker, and her husband, Patrick Williams on July 4. Their welcome party will be a pot-luck lunch on Sunday, July 11 after church. Sign up to contribute a dish, drink, or plasticware to the lunch.
Transitions are hard, but let us gracefully send Pastor Collin and his family off to their new appointment and welcome Pastor Kate with hope.
Mary's Message from May 20, 2021
Is God calling you?
We have been doing our Call series for a while. We have heard the call stories of several people. Many of them include lines like, “Why me, God?” “Isn’t someone better suited?” “But I have this wrong with me.” And in the end, God still says, yes, I chose you. God often calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
So my answer to, “Is God calling you?” is yes, yes God is calling you. But to what?
We don’t have all the answers about what the church will look like in a few months or years, but we do know that we need people to worship, tithe, attend, invite, and lead.
Here are some ideas for how God might be calling you:
- Have you invited a friend to church? Online or in-person?
- Have you heard a struggle that a friend is going through and offered them a sermon or song that you heard that might apply to their situation?
- Can you lead a children’s class for a month or two (with training)?
- Can you lead an adult class for a week or two?
- Can you help with Vacation Bible School? We have lots of roles from guides, to science and craft volunteers, and even food helpers.
- Can you lead an online class or social time?
- Can you volunteer to call to check on others during this continued socially distanced time?
- Can you send care packages to college students or home-bound individuals?
- Can you go on a mission trip or help fund one?
When God calls, God doesn’t always call us to lead a church or journey to Nineveh to convince the people to repent, God often calls ordinary people to step out of their comfort zone and help others. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but God can use you to make a big impact on the lives of others.
Mary's Message from May 13, 2021
One of the predictions is that life as we know it will continue to go digital. Doctors visits, classes, work, and so on will continue to be digital in one form or another. It suggested that because of this drive to distanced life, that free spaces to congregate will be all the more important.
Some of you probably remember when the church was the center of social life. You went to church to make social and political connections because that's where everyone was. Everyone that went because it's what was expected didn't necessarily take the message to heart and many weren't able to articulate their faith, so it does have some downsides, but it's an exciting idea that maybe we could move into a new time when the church could offer a chance to connect in a world that is wanting in-person connections. I expect that God will continue to work through this pandemic to create something new in the lives of all of us.
May God continue to lead us out of the wilderness into this new promised land. I invite you to pray for what is next.
Mary's Message from May 6, 2021
After such a weird year, I am thankful to be able to gather in person again in worship, and I am so thankful that we are able to still provide a quality online presence for those unable to gather in person yet. It is starting to feel like we are almost there. I encourage you to receive the Covid vaccination when you are able to. I am fully vaccinated, as are family members of mine, and I’m happy to talk to you about it if you have any reservations.
As we continue to come out of the wilderness that is Covid-19, I would like to make sure that you know about our Muffins with Mom breakfast on Mother’s Day. We will set up tables outside the sanctuary where people can gather together and have a simple breakfast of muffins, milk, or juice. We are encouraging pre-registration (register here) to make sure that we have enough supplies, but please join us even if you forget to register. We even have a To-Go option for those who are uncomfortable gathering in person. This year, everything will be individually packaged, but it will still be a chance to gather and celebrate the moms in your life.
This week, I have the privilege of sharing the call story of Mary Magdalene. She is the first to proclaim the Easter message, “I have seen the Lord!” (shortest Easter sermon ever!) I hope you will join us at church, in one fashion or another, and think about the women in your life that shared Jesus with you, like Mary Magdalene did.
Mary's Message from April 29, 2021
Moses never got to enter the Promised Land.
After overcoming fear of public speaking, after freeing his people from slavery in Egypt, after 40 years in the desert, after all of the grumbling and whining during those 40 years… Moses never got to enter the Promised Land himself.
Moses and all the Israelites faced a great paradigm shift between slavery in Egypt and the long promised land. There were 40 years, enough for one generation to die out and another to take over, where the Israelites were wandering in the desert. Due to the lifespan back then, that was a lifespan of time. During this time, the Israelites had 7 rebellions where they began to complain against God or their leaders.
I can’t imagine what it was like to wander in the desert for a year, let alone forty years. I can imagine what it is like to live in a pandemic for a year. I just did the math, and if we start with Spring Break of 2020, March 16, we have been in a seriously different world for 425 days. It’s been a long year. I can totally understand why the Israelites would grumble about being in the wilderness for forty years. At least they knew that what was at the end was an amazing Promised Land! We just want the promised land back to normal, or at least back to a new normal where we can see people without fear of everyone dying.
I feel like we are approaching the end of our time in the wilderness, but we can’t rush the process of going out. Moses was given strict instructions from God that God would make the water flow from a rock, and that he didn’t need to strike the rock with his staff as he had done previously. But Moses, in a bit of a huff, struck the rock anyway. Moses got to see the land that God promised him, but he did not get to enter it.
I know it is hard to wait, but I think we are almost there. Let us take the time to discern what is next. What will the world look like? How will we do church? How should we do Christian Education? Where are people in need in our community, and how can we help?
Even though the Israelites continuously questioned the leaders and God during their time in the Wilderness, God was still with them. God still provided for their needs and gave them guidance. God will give us guidance too as we make our way out. Be strong and hold firm. God’s got this.
Mary's Message from April 22, 2021
It’s that time of year when I break out the VBS music and start listening to the songs that will soon invade my brain and never leave again. This year’s theme is Knights of North Castle, so there are stories about finding strength and courage in God. One of the stories is Jesus’ birth, and there is a line from a song that says, “Emmanuel, God is with us all year long.” This is such a needed message to hear after the year that we’ve had. We had our first Christmas in a pandemic. We have made it through a year of milestones that were celebrated very differently than we are used to.
I know that everyone is so very ready for things to stop changing and to go back to what it was like before, but I think that things will never be the same. Like the Israelites, we have been wandering in the desert. Just like them, God is with us, holding our hand in the hard time, providing manna for our needs, and guiding us forward into the unknown promised land.
Pastoral transitions are hard, but I know God is with us in this transition. God will be at work with Pastor Collin at his new church, Pollard, just like God will be at work with Pastor Kate. God is at work in you and me. God makes great things happen… usually through ordinary people. As we continue to emerge from this wilderness into the promised land, look for how God is guiding you. You might have a giant pillar of fire or smoke to guide you, or you might hear a still, small whisper guiding you.
Please be on the lookout for more details about Vacation Bible School, and I hope that you will say yes when I ask you to volunteer.
Mary's Message from April 16, 2021
As many of you have already heard, Pastor Collin is moving. For those of you new to a United Methodist Church, this happens every few years. Pastors are assigned to what are called appointments. These include a church, churches, or out of church appointments like to be a chaplain or work at a school. Every few years, these appointments are changed so that a fresh set of eyes can come in and take a different look at the mission field and see if we can try a different way to reach the people around us. The Bishop, the head of all of the pastors and churches in our area of Texas, is in charge of this appointment process. He works with other head pastors to fit churches and pastors together as best as possible.
Any kind of change brings anxiety to the system. We have already had some anxiety in our system from the pandemic and the potential merger, but anxiety is not all bad. One of the things that the anxiety has brought about in this past year has been to spawn creative ideas. This summer, we had a virtual Vacation Bible School, and we even had two different children’s pageants at Christmas and Easter that were both virtual. From our many discussions about the future of the church, we have heard the desire to do more things like Bible studies. Anxiety can prod us into action, so I pray that you will be open to the workings of the Holy Spirit and see where God might be leading you and the whole church.
Anxiety is not always a bad thing, and change can even be a good thing. It is definitely going to be a bumpy few months ahead, but remember the message of Easter, that things seemed bleak, terrible, and impossible on Good Friday, but by Easter, new life was born. This doesn’t mean that this transition is going to be terrible, it’s just a shock that we are all processing.
I encourage you to pray for Pastor Collin, whoever our new pastor will be, and both of our respective churches during this transition. God has got this.
Mary's Message from April 9, 2021
Easter is here!
And so is the pollen. But pollen is a necessary part of creating new life. Bees use it, plants use it. It has a purpose other than to make us sneeze.
The sadness and discomfort of Good Friday led to new life. Our sneezing and car washes leads to new life all around us. Flowers are popping up, grass is growing higher, and the warmer temperatures are fairly pleasant to play outside in.
Growth of any kind can come with unpleasantness. As I headed off to seminary, I heard many comments of, “Don’t go to seminary, you’ll lose your religion.” It’s not that you lose your religion or beliefs, it’s that they are tested by further knowledge, and you come out with a stronger faith. Bones that break are knitted back together stronger than they were before.
Growth in a church is no different. My professor of conflict resolution indicated that as a church grew from one size to another, that the system often groaned in that shift. Expectations had to be mended, new people had to be included, power had to be shared.
There is much unknown about what happens after Covid-19. We have no idea who will return to service in person, and who will choose to remain online. Families have moved during the pandemic. New people have moved into our neighborhood. Others have realized that they have a deep ache inside, and we have to help them understand that it is God who can fill that.
There is much work ahead, but I know that God can and will continue to use Grace United Methodist Church to do the hard work to reach others. God makes all things new. May we all enjoy the spring and the new life that it brings.