Friday, June 30, 2017

Ukraine-Russia Peace Dialogue 2017

By John Calhoun

It is now more than three years since armed conflict erupted in the heart of eastern Europe. In February 2014, the center of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, was engulfed by violent confrontations between protesters and police that left more than 100 people dead and many more injured. The upheaval led the (former) President Victor Yanukovich to flee Ukraine, resulting in a newly-elected government to serve the country. In late February, Russian troops entered the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and quickly assumed control of government buildings; in March, Crimea became a Russian territory. In April 2014, a portion of eastern Ukrainians with the support of Russian military personnel, took up arms against the Ukrainian authorities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine.

Bishop Eduard Khegay, the episcopal leader of the United Methodist Church in Eurasia, which includes Ukraine and Russia, is acutely aware of the pain and fear experienced by many United Methodist in his episcopal area. In his pastoral visits to local congregations in the affected regions, Bishop Khegay has witnessed the impact of war and displacement on congregations and families. He has heard clergy and lay members express their frustration over the failures of political leaders to resolve this crisis, and their desire to try to build bridges of peace with people of faith on the other side of the divide.

St. James United Methodist Church transforming and blessing its city

As a house of worship that is literally building up its own community, St. James United Methodist Church spends more time outside in the streets being a church than it does inside. This focus, in addition to a contemporary service, has resulted in significant growth, suggesting a bright future ahead for St. James and anything else it touches.
“The church was about to close down,” said Senior Pastor John Brice. “I don’t want it to come across as just me that did it. Tracey Bass, the district superintendent, is one of my main mentors. And it was being strategic about our approach to ministry.”
Brice began leading St. James last July and said at that time there was an average of six members coming to church.
As of now, there are 79 members, but this increase doesn’t compare to how St. James has grown as a ministerial force in the community.
Currently, St. James provides free English classes to the diverse languages of the church’s neighbors; an after-school program offering free music classes; a SHARE food program; a free community breakfast on the last Saturday of every month; a computer lab; free wireless access for the community internet use; and an open space for youth to play in its gym on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Ark Graduation 2017 (2 of 2)

Exodus: Holy Ground, Cold Feet (2017-0625)

24-25 June 2017, Christ Mountain Top
      New member; VBS song
Call to Worship, Psalm 105:1-11 or 1-6
Children, Exodus 3.1-22
Message, Exodus 4.1-17

Moses at the bush
God has heard their cry

Objections to faith:
      That God is made in our own image, simply a reflection of our social context or our personal desires. Instead of people of faith “plundering the Egyptians”, this is “Egypt” plundering people of faith for their metaphors, that it is you and I who are created in God’s image. Such a god, made in our image, does not imagine, much less engineer, sweeping social change, because such a god is “extrapolated from social reality” (Brueggemann, Prophetic Imagination”, Kindle location 364). Those are the gods of Egypt – extrapolated from the Nile River, the rising of the sun, and the Pharaoh himself. That is not, however, the God of Exodus, the God of biblical faith.
      This objection is kin to Karl Marx’ critique of religion as “opiate of the people”, keeping people in bondage to the systems of power that oppress them. The real question, when you encounter the Exodus story, is “Whose religion? Whose religion is the opiate?” Is it the religion of Pharaoh, of empire? Yes, that is designed to keep people under Pharaoh. Is it slave religion, the message that Moses the prophet declared? That’s dangerous faith, faith that stands up to injustice and declares “Thus says the LORD: Let my people go.” As we move forward in the story, it appears that Moses’ message is as much for Israel as it is for Pharaoh, that is, it has an evangelical component. Israel struggles to know how to pray, at times crying out for relief to Pharaoh, rather than to the LORD (5.8, 5.15; Brueggemann, Kindle 459).

In our story, we are introduced to God as “I AM WHO I AM, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Confirmation Story 2017

Thanks to Tim and Kim for their leadership, shepherding this fantastic group of young people over the past year.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Vacation Bible School presentation

Sunday morning's presentation by the VBS children. This begins with silence as Carrie leads them in sign language - without the microphone for her voice. It ends with their theme song!


Friday, June 23, 2017

Eagle Scout Basketball Project

Failing and Flourishing (Exodus)

17-18 June 2017, Christ Mountain Top, Father’s Day
      Recognizing graduates; VBS kick-off
Call to Worship, Psalm 124
Children, Exodus 1.8-22 and 2.1-10
Message, Exodus 2.11-25

Jesse, we’re aliens

Pharaoh & the midwives
Jochebed lets Moses go on the river

Lots in this passage …

Big picture social questions: Oppression and VIOLENCE
      This passage was chosen well before this past week’s attack on US Congressmen preparing for the annual baseball game. Lest you wonder if Moses the deliverer’s first attempt to bring freedom – through murder – is comparable to that attack, it is not. We do not live in a totalitarian state. They exist – see North Korea’s release of a comatose American college student for example. Because we live in a democracy, we have other solutions available to us as we stand up to injustice and inequality. So, when your heart is stirred for the “underdog”, and I hope it is, whether that is an immigrant working in your factory, or a special needs child in your classroom, or an HIV positive patient in your clinic, please stand up. Stand up for them. Stand up for Jesus.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ark Graduation 2017 (1 of 2)

It is a blessing to partner with the Ark, welcome Ark families into the fellowship of Christ Church, and enjoy the work of a wonderful staff.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

New Member (28 May)

Congrats to Kim, presented by Jacquie, who joined during our 8:30 service on May 28.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Vacation Bible School, Monday night (1)

56 kids the first night, the most ever! Thanks to everyone who has made this possible, and for all of your prayers. More pics to come.

Memorial Day (1 of 3)

Thanks to our Sunday School for the annual Memorial Day service, reading the roll of the honored dead and planting geraniums. And thanks to the Scouts for the shelter.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mist on the Moor

Thanks to the Sunshine Circle for funding the improvements to the Quilting Room, and to Jim for doing the painting. It looks great in its new color, complete with a modern romantic name from the color palette.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Youth Sunday team

The Youth Sunday team!

Welcome to the Healing Dance

Welcome to the Healing Dance
June 11, 2017: Trinity Sunday

Genesis 1:1-2:4
Psalm 8
Matthew 28:16-20

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In the fall of 1972, when I was in 8th grade, Angela Smith asked me to be her escort for homecoming. Angela was a beautiful young woman who was a bit more “mature” than most 8th grade girls, and the student body of Gassaway Junior High School had elected her to be their homecoming queen. She had a 17 year old boyfriend who was not permitted to attend her coronation at the homecoming football game or accompany her to the dance, and so she asked me, probably taking my social backwardness as a sign that I was “safe”—which in those days, at least, I most certainly was. I said yes, not so much because I was flattered, but because I felt obliged—regardless of how uncomfortable it might make me feel. I joined her in my football uniform at midfield before the game, and then that evening I escorted her to the dance. So far, so good. But then things got complicated. Angela asked me to dance. I remember it as my first dance, and I was a sweaty package of anxiety and cluelessness. I survived, but a die had been cast, for I was and remain a terrible dancer, far too self-conscious to allow myself to enjoy the experience. That October night was the beginning of a history of frustration, because for the last 45 years I have disappointed every woman who has tried to teach me to dance, up to and including the one to whom I am married. Yet even after all that, I have not completely given up on dancing. I still have hope that one day I might dance, if not with beauty, then at least with joy.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Thanks to Mary Jane Kotansky for bringing her piano studio to Christ Church for their spring concert!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Youth Sunday (3)

Part of the Youth Sunday team. Don't be so serious!

Leadership retreat

Spring leadership retreat for our Council and Staff, held at Stairville Church, May 19 and 20.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Children and Sunday School Bell Choirs (May 14)

Thanks to Michele for leading these groups!

Don't Say "When"!

3-4 June 2017, Christ Mountain Top, Pentecost
      Baptisms at 8:30; Confirmation at 10:45; Lord’s Table
Psalm 104, selections (call to worship, 6:00pm)
John 7.37-39 (children)
Acts 2.1-21 (message)

      Language and location
My Kazakhstan Tshirt
      Golden sun from the Kazakh flag, on a red field (Russian)
            Instead of sky blue (of Kazakh flag)
      The team of guys from Central Asia, united by speaking Russian

Procession from Gihon spring, into Jerusalem via Water Gate, to the Temple. Circumnavigate the altar seven times, then pour out the golden pitcher of water into a silver funnel. An expression of hope for the day described by the prophet, when a steam of living water will flow out from the altar and into the world, bringing life everywhere it goes.
John 7:37-39  On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me,  38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'"  39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Baptism! Spirit of God!

Say “when”
      My fantasy … not to speak and see if the person over-fills