Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Bells

The two bell pieces from the pre-service Christmas Eve concert.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Very British Nativity

Really found this unique approach to the Christmas story to be one good way of updating the context of the ancient story to the difficult (and political) issues of our own time ... offered for the United Kingdom. Charming and challenging.

Christmas Eve Family Service

Video including much of the 7:00 pm Christmas Eve worship service.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rejecting Good News (Welcome to Our World #3, 2016-1218)

12/17-18/2016 Christ Mountain Top, Advent 4
Psalm 80.1-7, 17-19 (not used on Saturday)
Isaiah 7.10-16, advent wreath
      With Nativity Hymn IV of Charles Wesley, v 4
Matthew 1.18-25, kids
Romans 1.1-7, message

Welcome to our world
      In which obsessive religion is unworthy
      In which we marginalize the most vulnerable
      In which good news is so often rejected

Welcome to our world. The coming of Jesus …
      Invites those of us who think too highly of ourselves to break through the barriers and labels and welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us.
      Invites us to join him in going to the margins, in solidarity with the vulnerable, in waiting for and expecting justice for the oppressed.
      Invites us to unlearn our cynicism and control issues and learn to trust.

Welcome To Our World  Chris Rice
Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Monday, December 26, 2016

Revival - and a 1200 voice choir - in the Philippines

A 1,200-voice choir was a highlight of Revive 2 at the Ultra-Philippines Sports Complex in Pasig City on Nov. 26, an event which drew 10,000 United Methodists.
By Gladys Mangiduyos
Dec. 2, 2016 | MANILA, Philippines (UMNS)

Bishops Rodolfo Juan and Pedro M. Torio Jr. affirmed the heightened enthusiasm for the revival movement, as well as the opportunity to engage in social holiness.
"I believe that humble, repentant spirit is always the starting point,” Torio said. “With this, God can clothe us and embrace us with this holiness and with a sanctifying grace. It will spread like a wildfire in the UMC connection and all over the Philippines."
Part of the enthusiasm was expressed in the fact that what began as a 1,000-member choir became a 1,200-member choir.
"Coordinating the 1,200 choir was very overwhelming and challenging,” said Esther Joy Herradura. “But it is worth doing again, very tiring but really worth repeating."
The Rev. John Manalo, overall coordinator expressed gratefulness on the fulfilment of Revive 2’s aim.
"Foremost is the pride, as United Methodists, on how it all started, its contribution to the world in general and to the Philippines in particular,” he said. “It has given the youth inspiration about how John Wesley started and this revival has opened avenues for heartwarming experience."
"Keep the flame burning, keep united, go in faith, go in power, and go in unity so the UMC will be revived," Manalo said.

New Member

Welcome Betty Hauze, a resident of Smith Health Care, who made her vows at the monthly service at the home on Dec 15!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Candlelight Christmas Eve!

7 pm Family Service
11 pm Reflections Service
(Concert prelude beginning at 10:15 pm)
Come one, come all!

The Children's Ark Christmas Program

It is our privilege to partner with The Children's Ark daycare and preschool. The annual program was wonderful, the cookies were great, and the personal connections are a blessing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Santa and his helpers at Independent Life

Congrats to Gerri Vickers for opening her own business, Independent Life NEPA, offering Home Care and Concierge Solutions, right here in Mountain Top. The Christmas luncheon was a wonderful treat!

Friendship Circle Christmas Lunch

Great to share in story and laughter.

New Eagle Scout

Congrats to Cameron and his family! (Pics from the ceremony on Dec 10.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Africa University, nearing its 25th Anniversary as a United Methodist school

An aerial view of Africa University, located in Mutare, Zimbabwe, shows the central area of the campus, with the chapel and library. Photo courtesy of Africa University
AU has a unique vision to build capacity, leadership, sustainability, and peace throughout Africa in the name of Jesus. Check out the full story!

By Jeff Wolfe
Dec. 6, 2016 | (UMNS)
For entities such as the World Intellectual Property Organization, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization and the Government of Japan, bridging fundamental gaps in development capacity in Africa is equally important and urgent. Currently, those three organizations are collaborating on the provision of scholarships for more than 30 graduate students who will return to their countries as experts in intellectual property rights, patent and copyright protection and policy implementation.  
A newer partnership for Africa University is UNICEF, which is supporting the Masters of Science in Child Rights and Childhood Studies program and providing $400,000 in scholarship funds.

“The benefits of any degree program at Africa U cascade throughout Africa, making the university the training ground for the African continent,” said Dr. Abigail Kangwende, director of the Office of Research and Outreach Programs at Africa University. “This enhances the impact of UNICEF programs in that by putting resources at AU, the impact will be felt throughout the African continent.”
After all, a big part of Africa University’s mission is based on making life better for people across the continent.
“The idea that the experience of the students is a broadening experience, that breaks down stereotypes and distrust,” Stevens said. “It’s a new kind of leadership model that is morally and ethically grounded and more realistic.”

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Vulnerable Margins (Welcome to our World #2)

12/10-11/2016 Christ Mountain Top, Advent 3
Psalm 146
Isaiah 35.1-10, advent wreath
      With Nativity Hymn IV of Charles Wesley, v 3
Matthew 11.2-11, kids
James 5.7-10, message

Song, “Welcome to our World” (Chris Rice)

Welcome to our world
      Exploring the “human condition”
      And how Jesus’ coming addresses our deepest needs

      Last week, most obsessive religion is found unworthy
            We know it, even though we’re not always happy about it
            At the root of much pride, prejudice, and violence
            “Welcome one another …”
      This week: the vulnerable are pushed to the margins

Mary Poppins, the margins
      Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
      The bird lady
      Chimney sweep, on the bottom rung of the ladder
      Men over women, as sovereign of the home

Anton Boisen, mentally ill pastor, writing in 1936
Forced off the beaten path of common sense and have traveled through the little-known wilderness of the inner life.
In Dykstra, Robert C.. Images of Pastoral Care (p. 29). Chalice Press. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Philippine United Methodist Church and HIV/AIDS

Participants of the HIV/AIDS forum in the Philippines pose during the event. The Rev. Donald Messer (second from right), top executive for the Center for Health and Hope and member of the executive committee for the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, was a speaker. Photo by Gladys P. Mangiduyos, UMNS.
“We are gathering for this conference today because we want to create an AIDS-free generation,” Messer said. “Fortunately, the Philippines is making strides in that direction and you can help be a leader in making that possible.” 
Messer commended the Philippines, the churches and the universities for breaking the silence about HIV and AIDS and giving urgent attention to the issues of HIV education, prevention, care and treatment.
HIV and AIDS is increasing in the Philippines. Messer said in many places in the world young people are often forgotten and excluded from education and planning about HIV/AIDS.
“An estimated 2,100 young people are daily infected with HIV around the world," he said.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Advent Prayer

Christ Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness,
Send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
            Seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
            Look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
            Long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy
            Seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people,
            Walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.

To you we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

By Henri Nouwen

O Come, Emmanuel 2016-1204

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Unworthy Obsessives (Welcome to our World #1, 2016-1204)

12/03-04/2016 Christ Mountain Top, The Lord’s Table
Isaiah 11.1-10, advent wreath
      With Nativity Hymn IV of Charles Wesley, v 2
Matthew 3.1-12, kids
Romans 15.4-13, message

Wow. I love this story from Matthew’s gospel that we shared with the kids. If you’re a fan of watching other people get confronted, especially the ones painted by the story as “the bad guys”, it’s perfect. They self-identify as “children of Abraham”. Instead, John the firebrand labels them “brood of vipers”. Talk about a put down! Taking them out at the knees! Good thing we’re not Pharisees, right?
      I don’t know about you, but I’ve got plenty in common with those Pharisees. In John’s time, in Jesus’ time, they were the scrupulously observant Jews. They were widely respected for their piety and obedience. They were the faithful church-goers, the good tithers, the Sunday School teachers, the choir members, the Bible study group. They were obsessive about following God. And somehow unworthy. “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.”
      Baptism, which was being celebrated by others, was not for the Pharisees. It was part of the conversion process for Gentiles who wanted to become Jews. So, why would any self-respecting child of Abraham, especially one of the good guys, the obsessively religious, need baptism or repentance?

Here’s the trouble, and it is addressed in the passage from Romans as well: When you are confident that you are that good, when you know for sure that you are worthy, you tend to conclude that your goodness makes you better than…. I know I’m preaching to myself, but I hope that I’m not the only one who has struggled with that secret pride.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Bread Church begins to Rise

Bread Church participants gather ingredients for an evening of baking and spiritual discussion.  Photos by Brian Diggs.

Bread Church is one of many outreach programs Kepler-Karrer has launched since arriving at Memorial five years ago, one of many small victories for a congregation with an all-too-familiar story. After years of decline, Memorial has the hallmarks of many mainline Protestant churches today -- low attendance, financial struggles, an aging congregation and worries about long-term survival.

But Kepler-Karrer and church members are too busy to plan their funeral. They are baking bread with neighbors, coordinating ESL classes for immigrant parents and inviting an assortment of community groups -- from the Austin Ukulele Society to Meals on Wheels -- into their space.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ring the Bells

If you are interested in joining our bell choir, contact Michele!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Bishop Park's Advent Letter

Bishop's Letter Header
November 30, 2016

"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility... Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."
(Ephesians 2:14, 19-20)

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.... And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him." May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in God, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
(Romans 15:7, 12 & 13)

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World.

Each Advent Season is different and special, because its context is ever changing. However, it is always a God-given opportunity to celebrate its promise and embrace its gift: a future filled with hope.

The hope of Advent is not only an ardent aspiration for, but also an unwavering faith in, a promised future that is surely coming. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) Hope is alive because of confident faith. Faith and hope go together.

To us, the people of faith, hope is never confused with an empty promise or wishful thinking. Our hope has a firm foundation: Jesus the Christ. Advent is all about the Christ who was promised to come, has come, and will come again.

Jesus Christ is the hope of the world, because he is the herald of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. His birth, life, death, and resurrection are God's unequivocal affirmation of the vision of the future filled with hope that Jesus lived for, died for, and was raised for. It is the vision of the beloved community embodied by Jesus, where love rules supreme, righteousness is prevalent, and peace with justice prevails. Advent is about the living hope of the Beloved Community of Christ to which our ultimate loyalty belongs.

As a nation and as a church, we recognize a heightened presence of fissures and an acute sense of division. However, let's be reminded that, no matter where we may come from, "We are one out of many." That's our destiny as a nation and the destination as God's people. We are "no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household." Jesus Christ invites and receives all to the Kingdom of God, the Beloved Community of Christ, where each and every one is accepted and affirmed as God's beloved child of sacred worth. "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you." That's the mandate from the Great Commandment ("Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34) and the Great Commission ("Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations." Matthew 28:19).

Fred Kaan, in 1974, penned the words to the hymn, "Help Us Accept Each Other." Let me offer them for your personal reflection and as a prayer for our life and witness together as we follow the vision of the Beloved Community of Christ.

"Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us, and bring us to believe, we are ourselves accepted and meant to love and live.

Teach us, O Lord, our lessons, as in our daily life we struggle to be human and search for hope and faith. Teach us to care for people, for all, not just for some, to love them as we find them, or as they may become.

Let your acceptance change us, so that we may be moved in living situations to do the truth in love; to practice your acceptance, until we know by heart the table of forgiveness and laughter's healing art.

Lord, for today's encounters with all who are in need, who hunger for acceptance, for righteousness and bread, we need new eyes for seeing, new hands for holding on; renew us with your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one!"
(The hymn, Help Us Accept Each Other, the United Methodist Hymnal #560.)

Yes, Lord, we pray this prayer in your name for the good of the church, the nation and the world - renew us with Your Spirit; Lord, free us, make us one!

May God's rich blessings of Advent be with you, your loved ones, our nation and the world.

With You in Christ's Ministry, 

Jeremiah J. Park

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Deck the Halls!

The Lighthouse Update

An update from Carrie Haverlock of our ministry partner The Lighthouse:

Hello everyone!

NUMBERS: Lighthouse has been doing very well!! When we finished the year last May, 90 children were on our roster and we had two children come to know Lord as their personal savior! We are only three months into the school year and we have had a little over 150 children come through the lighthouse and are consistently having 50 to 55 children every Tuesday -Thursday

SALVATION AT LIGHTHOUSE: During the school year the children get to participate in many different things. This year I arranged for the Daraja Children's choir of Africa came to the lighthouse. The choir consist of a group of 18 children from Uganda plus an American staff from the ministry called the 410 bridge. The 18 children put on a small worship concert for our children and Intern we got to sing for them. It was a great night! However the best part of the evening was when I had a little girl from Uganda touch my arm ask me to come over to where she and another girl from Uganda and the Daraja choir director were talking to one of my Lighthouse girls named A'. 
A' is a quiet 12 year old girl who has been coming to Lighthouse since September. She brings with her about five other children. Lately I've been watching her at lighthouse especially during our small group time and I could tell she has been really searching and listening. Well this night November 16 two girls from the Daraja choir gave A' the gospel and I was able to lead her to the Lord!! And all God's people said AMEN!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Scouting for Food

Our Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts gather in the parking lot for their annual Scouting for Food collection.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Contemporary Worship

A "bibliodrama" during the Open Table service on Saturday evenings at 6:00 pm, and the Open Table band (this time playing on Sunday morning).

Monday, November 28, 2016

Girl Scouting!

Girl Scouts gathering at Christ Church, led by a couple of our own members.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks, a Prayer











From a prayer written by my father-in-law, Jesse Grimm, for a family reunion.

They'll Know We Are Christians (Children's Choir, 2016-1113)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Bikes for evangelism in Ivory Coast

United Methodist lay leaders present clergy members with new bicycles at Emmanuel Port-Bouet 1 UMC  in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The bikes will help clergy evangelize in remote areas of the conference. Photo courtesy Emmanuel 1 COCOM
By Joe Tueche Ndzulo
Oct. 28, 2016 | ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS)
A gift of 25 bicycles to the clergy in Abidjan, means they can evangelize in areas with few or no passable roads, and while they are pedaling, they can “meet the faithful” along the way.
Lined up in front of United Methodist Emmanuel Port-Bouet 1 in Abidjan, the bicycles were the first of 75 to be distributed to pastors and lay leaders to boost evangelism nationwide, said Louis Aboua, lay leader of the Côte d’Ivoire Annual Conference.
The bikes were donated by the Côte d’Ivoire laity in partnership with Bikes and Bibles, a nonprofit ministry of the U.S. North Georgia Conference. The organization donated $7,000.
“These 25 bicycles represent one third of our gift to support evangelism,” Aboua said on Laity Sunday, Oct. 16.
Of the 17 districts that make up the conference, 10 are missionary districts, covering the center, west, northern and eastern parts of the territory. In three missionary districts, there is less of a United Methodist presence compared to the southwestern, south and southeastern areas.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post Election Reflection and Prayer


November 9, 2016

Yesterday, across the United States, citizens exercised their right to vote for the leadership of their country.  Today, may we stand united in prayer for all those who have accepted the mantle of leadership: that they might find strength and wisdom to lead our communities and country in the days ahead. We pray that they remain always focused on the common good, continually shaping through their words and actions a more just and peaceful world.

We are grateful for the dedication of public servants who devote their lives to serving all peoples of the United States. We are especially grateful and pray for the countless United Methodists who live out their faith as county commissioners, sheriffs, judges, state legislators, and members of the U.S. Congress.

Despite the long and rancorous road to this election, let us pray that we, as faithful witnesses, find renewed strength for the journey ahead as we hold leaders accountable to supporting policies that transform our world into a more just and peaceful home. May we all renew our promises to be faithful to the ways that lead to peace and abundant life. Let us hold onto the promise that peace will come in our day.


Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church

A word, a prayer, and a song for the world after the 2016 election

Remembering the words of Abraham Lincoln

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and will all nations.

May we pray with the great Methodist theologian, Georgia Harkness,

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth's kingdoms;
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
Myself I give thee; let thy will be done. 

Let us sing together, For the Healing of the Nations

Lead us forward into freedom;
from despair your world release,
that redeemed from war and hatred,
all may come and go in peace.
Show us how through care and goodness
fear will die and hope increase,
fear will die and hope increase. (Fred Kaan 1965)

The prayer and song can be found in the United Methodist Hymnal

Trunk or Treat (2 of 2)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Living the Adventure (Trail Blazing #5, 2016-1030)

10/30/2016 Christ Mountain Top
Call to worship, Prayer of St Augustine, No psalm or sung response
Children, Matthew 14.25-33 – walking on the sea (with Peter)
Message, Mark 3.14-19 and Acts 2.37-47

We’ve been moving through a message series titled “Trail Blazing”, showing the white blaze of the Appalachian Trail, the “AT”, that Steve Ross is hiking. We’ve heard him share the tradition of “Trail Magic” – unexpected kindness and friendship encountered along the way. This is one more of those stories:
      VIDEO – Steve Ross (water jugs)

Theme Scripture for the series:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,
who for the sake of the joy that was set before him
endured the cross, disregarding its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.
from Hebrews 12:1-3

Overlapping spheres of discipleship: Worship, Community, Mission
Tagline: Friends. Purpose. Life.
Spirituality: Giving, Faithful, Real.

Today, we’ll have three stories, one each from these three dimensions of discipleship. We’ll examine some of the themes raised by the Scriptures of the day. We’ll bounce back and forth a bit and finish with a time to prayerfully consider how God is calling each of us to grow.
      Scripture on the three themes:
            Mark, selection of disciples (3.14-19)
                  To be with him, preach/deliver
      Acts 2.37-47 – devotions
            Teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer
            And, day by day, the Lord added

Power: Saints and the Kingdoms (message, 2016-1106)

11/06/2016 Christ Mountain Top, All Saints
Call to worship, Psalm 149
Children, Luke 6.20-31 – beatitudes
Message, Daniel 7.1-18

Today we are confronted with confusion and anxiety, and with our uncertain relationship with power. Perhaps we feel the same way about Election Day?
      Today we face one of the strangest passages offered for All Saints, this section from Daniel that usually has the middle – the four beasts – removed from the reading because it is simply weird. Now you know where the Revelation gets its imagery! It is harvested from some of the least understood and most figurative texts in the rest of Scripture. Who or what are these beasts? Traditionally, they are understood as four great ancient kingdoms or empires, from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece to Rome. And what does this passage have to do with saints? It is the last line of the text: “But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever – forever and ever” (Daniel 7.18). “Holy ones” is another translation for the Hebrew and Greek word for “saints.”
            Today is All Saints Sunday. There are various meanings of “saint” – someone whose life is an example for me, someone from New Orleans, unique persons in the history of the church, those who are exemplary in holiness, those whom God uses to perform miracles. One of the best and simplest definitions, one that fits today’s passage, is that saints are God’s people, warts and all, holy because God has claimed them. It fits with a wonderful phrase from Lutheran theology, that we are simultaneously saint and sinner.
Story: Compared to his brother, he was a saint. One of the dangers in the political process, for God’s people, is that we overlay our favorite candidate with the mythic potential and character of a “saint”, however we understand sainthood (see Hunter, 186). Once we do that, we lose our ability to think critically about our decision, and we lose the ability to interact positively with those who disagree with us. This week, I asked one of our groups if I should talk about politics today. “No … You’ll have to provide separate exits for those for Hillary and those for Trump.” Of course, the Scripture is not always cooperative. We’re stuck with a passage all about kingdoms – politics, power, and public life – and where God’s saints fit into the picture.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ebola Survivors in Sierra Leone

Ebola survivor and former Mercy Hospital employee nurse, Dennis Karimu, is chairman of the Post Ebola Treatment Center in the Bo District of Sierra Leone. He also works as a nurse and counsellor at the center.
Photo by Phileas Jusu, UMNS
Ebola survivor and former Mercy Hospital employee nurse, Dennis Karimu, is chairman of the Post Ebola Treatment Center in the Bo District of Sierra Leone. He also works as a nurse and counsellor at the center.
By Phileas Jusu
Oct. 13, 2016 | FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS)

Normal life has proved elusive for Ebola survivors who struggle with health complications and face discrimination from people who still fear the deadly virus. It’s also been difficult for the country’s 8,500 children orphaned by the disease.
Abubakarr Sillah and his brother lost their parents to Ebola.
“We rely on handouts from neighbors, otherwise there is no reliable means for our everyday survival,” Sillah told United Methodist News Service eight months after the tragedy.
The brothers, who live at Deep Yai Wata in rural Freetown, also lost three siblings to Ebola.  Abubakarr, an older teenager, dropped out of school because there was nobody to pay his fees after his parents died.
The deadliest Ebola outbreak in history killed 3,589 people in Sierra Leone, including 221 healthcare workers. 

Trunk or Treat (1 of 2)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Confirmation Class kicking off

The confirmation families gathering for dinner and an introduction to the spiritual journey, the beginning of a lifetime adventure. And a younger brother photo bombs! (Oct 9)