Thursday, March 28, 2019

Shave/Save the Beard

Vanessa gave me a haircut and trimmed the beard. So far, Shave the Beard is ahead in our run up to UMCOR Sunday. Be generous!


I have been at the BioLogos conference this week (Wed-Fri). The organization was founded by Frances Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and now director of the National Institute of Health. He gave the opening keynote and then joined the worship band. (Zoom in to see the double helix pattern on his guitar fret board.) A really neat opportunity to sit at the intersection of science and faith.

Standing Against Terror

Folks gathered on Public Square last Sunday to stand with our Muslim community after the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Your Face, Lord, Do I Seek (Psalm 27)

Your face, LORD, do I seek    
      Praying the Psalms, 3                                                       \Ps 027
16-17 Mar 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Responsive reading, Philippians 3.17-4.1
Children, Luke 13.31-35
Message, Psalm 27
Mission Moment, UMCOR Sunday video 2

Psalm 51 – lament for our sin
Psalm 91 – quoted both by the devil and by Jesus in the NT
      Deliverance of slaves, God as deliverer
      What does God’s victory look like? Domination or the cross?
Today, Psalm 27 – theme of coming home

City Slickers: Jack Palance’s character to Billy Crystal’s, the secret to life is “one thing.” Figure out what it is for you, give everything to pursuing it. In our world, we pursue all kinds of things that fail to satisfy, but if we find the right “one thing,” what a blessing. The psalm writer describes it this way:
One thing I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD,
and to inquire in his temple.
"Come," my heart says, "seek his face!"
Your face, LORD, do I seek.
The “one thing,” the greatest desire, the desperate need, the entire hope of the psalm writer is this: to come home to God, for the light to be left on, for there to be a place at the table, for there to be room at the inn, for God to smile that great toothy grin and reach out to embrace and welcome me.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Be Strong: Armor of God

Be Strong: Armor of God            

            Being in Christ, 8
2-3 Mar 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Psalm 27 (6 pm only)
Children, Joshua 1
Message, Ephesians 6.10-24
Mission Moment,

Review, transition:
Blessing in Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace
Power and fullness in Christ, all in all
Created and Made Alive in Christ: Grace through Faith
Reconciled in Christ: Near and Far
Love and Glory in Christ: Abundantly Far More
Last week, turned the corner with
Be One: The Unity of the Spirit
      Be Subject: Reverence for Christ
      Be Strong: Armor of God

Who do we fight against?
Ephesians 6:11-12  stand against the wiles of the devil.  12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Is God’s plan to create a new society? Then they will do their utmost to destroy it. Has God through Jesus Christ broken down the walls dividing human beings … from each other? Then the devil through his emissaries will strive to rebuild them. Does God intend his reconciled and redeemed people to live together in harmony and purity? Then the powers of hell will scatter among them the seeds of discord and sin. It is with these powers we are told to wage war.
      John Stott, 261-262

Friday, March 22, 2019

New members

Rich & Bev make their vows as members of Christ Church on Mar 10. They are presented by Jill & Dan.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Hush Harbor

The Message of the Hush Harbor: History and Theology of African Descent Traditions
By the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson
On March 27, 1871, just eight years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation wherein African-American slaves were given their freedom, the Rev. Samuel Watson and eight of his members purchased two acres of land in Sumter County to be used for building a church that they would later call Good Hope Methodist Church.
Although March 1871 is the date the church was officially established on the property, its congregation is thought to have worshipped there for many years before in a secluded space called a hush harbor.
It was on this land that James M. and Mary Louisa Davis, Alexander and Elias Dessassuare, Junis and Sara Davis, John Desassuare and Lloyd Dessassaure and others gathered under the cloak of night to worship God in song, dance and prayer.
In 2002, Good Hope Methodist Church merged with Wesley Chapel Methodist Church, another church with plantation roots, to form Good Hope Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, per a history by Jewell R. Stanley. This unified church maps its beginnings to a time when slaves were not allowed to worship unsupervised by their masters. Yet, in spite of restrictions and life-staking repercussions, they stole away to hush harbors where their faith was continued from Africa and strengthened in the New World.
Today, I serve as the second female pastor of Good Hope Wesley Chapel UMC in its 147-year history, a history that began in the secrecy of a hush harbor and continues amid changing times.
But what was the hush harbor? Who were some of those who risked it all to worship the God of their ancestors and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What was worship like in these sacred spaces?
And what is the message of the hush harbor for us today?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Celtic Dance

The Celtic dance troupe performed for the Children's Ark on Friday.

Friday, March 15, 2019

From Bishop Park, on the religious violence in New Zealand

March 15, 2019
“I wish that my eyes were fountains of tears, so I could cry day and night
for my people who were killed.”
(Jeremiah 9:1)
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and
has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” 
(Ephesians 2:14)
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Conference,

          Once again, we woke up to the horrific news of the events that transpired in Christchurch, New Zealand. My heart breaks and is deeply disturbed when I see the loss of innocent lives and diabolic violence that continue to be inflicted on people by fellow human beings.  I am even more alarmed and disturbed when such events as today happen because of distorted beliefs and hate-filled ideologies often attributed to religion. The human suffering from the violence of hatred is so profound that at times we wonder where we can find healing and hope.
     Jesus Christ came to bring peace and to break down the walls of hostility. He commanded his followers to love God and to love one another. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be diligent in stopping prejudice, discrimination, and hatred and in spreading tolerance, reconciliation and peace.

          At our Cabinet meeting this morning, we offered to God the following prayer*:
          “O King of Kings, O King of the universe, King who will be, who is, may You forgive us each and every one. Accept my prayer, O King of grace.
          Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his or her brother or sister is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his or her brother or sister lives in the light; And there is nothing to make that person stumble.
Lower my vengeance, my anger and my hatred, and banish my wicked thoughts from me; Send down a drop from heaven of Your holy spirit. To vanquish this heart of rock of mine. Amen.
          Lord, let our memory provide no shelter for grievance against another.
          Lord, let our heart provide no harbor for hatred of another.
          Lord, let out tongue be no accomplice in the judgement of another.”
(*From Celtic Daily Prayer, adjusted)

     Our God mourns with us today; but our God also journeys with us. We remember all the loved ones of those who were killed and are mourning today in our prayers. We lift up those who have been wounded in our prayers for healing. We offer prayers for God to gather all humanity under God’s wings of grace, mercy, and love.

     During this season of Lent, may we intensify and renew our passion for and commitment to embodying the Beloved Community of Christ in our community and around the world.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World,

Jeremiah J. Park

Baby by Baby

CCC_Dingele_Nutrition Rehab2.jpg
Denise Mondji walks through the Dingele clinic garden, a project to improve nutrition and increase food security in this remote area of the DRC, Central Congo Conference. PHOTO: CENTRAL CONGO HEALTH BOARD

By Christie R. House*

Traveling to any of the three United Methodist clinics in the northern Kasai region of the Central Congo Episcopal Area that are part of the Abundant Health Initiative can be challenging. The lack of main roads into the area means international Methodist visitors fly into Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A regional flight can get them as far as Kananga. Then, they rely on the Central Congo missionary pilot, Jacques Umembudi, to take them farther. Diengenga, the largest of the clinics, is not on a Google map, but Captain Umembudi knows the way. 

On the ground, Denise Mondji rides on the back of a motorbike, shuttling between the clinics as she oversees the progress of the Central Congo’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) program. These days, she focuses on the very young, whose lives may end prematurely from severe malnutrition before they’ve even had a chance at life.

The population served by these three clinics – Diengenga, Dingele and Ongodu – is experiencing severe stress. Hunger in the DRC is increasing at an alarming rate. The World Food Programme reports that severe food insecurity afflicts 7.7 million in the DRC, which is an increase of 30 percent in the past year. Almost half of the severely food insecure people (3.2 million) live in the Kasai region. Humanitarian needs in the DRC doubled from 2017 to 2018....

The DRC has suffered through long-running civil conflicts. In the Kasai region, 1.7 million people fled their homes last year as fighting spilled over from conflicts in the eastern provinces, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons in the country to 4.5 million. Today, the DRC hosts more displaced people than any other African country. Displaced families have scarce resources to grow food, while their home fields remain uncultivated.

The Central Congo Health Board, which oversees 39 health facilities in the episcopal area, has partnered with Global Health to address challenges in each of the three clinics in the Diengenga area. Kathy Griffith, Global Health’s MNCH program manager, visited the area a few years ago. The roof had blown off the facility at Diengenga, water had to be transported in, electricity was unreliable, and the latrines were in an unhealthy state, shared by men and women. In Phase 1 of this multiyear grant, Diengenga received a new MNCH building, separated from the primary care facility. “When mothers and newborns are with general patients needing primary health care, their exposure is increased, and their privacy is reduced,” Griffith said.

The rest of the story...

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Singing in worship on March 3. Practice on Thursdays at 7:00 pm.

Monday, March 11, 2019

More from Bishop Park on the recent General Conference

March 8, 2019
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble...
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
 I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us…
(Psalm 46:1; 10-11)

Dear Sisters and Brothers on the Journey Together,

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

In anticipation of the pending decisions by the Judicial Council on the legislations adopted at the Special Session of the General Conference 2019 that will be announced at the end of April, the district meetings that were scheduled in March and April are being moved to hold a conference wide event on Sunday, May 5, 2019 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. It will be live streamed to many locations throughout the conference. The event is open to all clergy and laity of the Susquehanna Conference. Please reserve the date. More detailed information will be forthcoming. The purpose of the gathering will be to understand and clarify:
  • The legislations of the Special Session of the General Conference 2019 in light of the decisions made by the Judicial Council
  • How we navigate through the denominational challenge
  • How we build up the conference vision of embodying the Beloved Community of disciple-making congregations
We have heard numerous reactions to and reflections on the 2019 Special Session of General Conference that has maintained the current language of the Book of Discipline about homosexuality, same gender marriage, and the ordination of practicing homosexuals with added accountability of imposing penalties for violation. As emotions are raw and high with deep wounds and pain, people in different communities and circles are assessing where our church is and where it is to go from here. Many are looking beyond the Judicial Council decisions at the end of April, beyond January 1, 2020, the effective date of the new laws, and beyond the 2020 General Conference in May. Speculations on the denominational future are rampant and diverse with a sense of urgency and inevitability. Nobody knows for sure what The United Methodist Church will be like beyond the 2020 General Conference. Our church will not be the same.

Under the circumstances, I am hearing that numerous people, particularly LGBTQ persons and their loved ones, families and friends are expressing their hurt and despair by saying, “We no longer have a place in The United Methodist Church. We are leaving now.” It breaks my heart. Jesus weeps.

I would like to plead with all God’s people of the Susquehanna Conference to stay on. The mission of bringing people to Jesus and transforming the world is alive! The ministry of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, and caring for the impoverished, underprivileged and marginalized is ongoing. The witness of justice and peace and reconciliation is an unfinished agenda. Even at this moment, countless lives are being served and impacted in our communities and around the world with God’s love and in the name of Jesus Christ through The United Methodist Church each day. Many people in hurting and broken places of oppression and abuse find hope through the ministry of our connectional church. The United Methodist Church is not a perfect church. Far from it in many aspects. However, in spite of its limitations, God is using our church as God’s instrument for God’s redeeming work in the world.

At the Bishop’s Retreat held in January, our guest speaker, Rev. Fred Day, General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History, shared with us some historical perspectives on the journey of The United Methodist Church. For him, the most significant word in the journey of God’s people was not faith or hope or love; it was “through”.  He talked about “the power of through”.  God was with God’s people and enabled them to go “through” the wilderness to reach the promised land. Jesus the Christ went “through” the cross to the resurrection. The United Methodist Church represents the former denominations which demonstrated the “power of through” during the most challenging wilderness time in the past. It is in the DNA of our church. Why not this time? I hope and pray that the spirit of “through” prevails for such a time as this.

While our church as a denomination has been in a long and fierce struggle over the question of human sexuality, you have been faithful all along in fulfilling the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. By God’s grace, you manifested and demonstrated the spirit and power of through in such remarkable ways.

I remember my first Susquehanna Annual Conference about six and a half years ago met under the theme: “Alive in Christ Together…On a Journey of Faith.” God’s people, keep the faith. Please stay on. The journey continues. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” throughout the journey of God’s people. God will never ever leave us alone. God has a plan and a future for our church.

Before us, not behind us, is the most critical task in our life time as a denomination. This is the time for our church to stand still to know who our God is. I know that The United Methodist Church is in a labor pain. With a sense of dawn breaking, I plead with you to stay on. Our God is up to something new.

With You On the Journey,

Jeremiah Park

Ten Thousand Reasons

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Bell Choir

Bells playing on Sunday March 3. Come to practice on Thursdays at 8:00 pm!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Be Subject (Ephesians series)

Be Subject: Reverence for Christ            
      Being in Christ, 7                                            \Eph 05 21-06 09
23-24 Feb 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Psalm, Psalm 123
Children, 2 Kings 5, Naaman subjects himself
Message, Ephesians 5.21 – 6.9

Review, transition:
Blessing in Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace
Power and fullness in Christ, all in all
Created and Made Alive in Christ: Grace through Faith
Reconciled in Christ: Near and Far
Love and Glory in Christ: Abundantly Far More
Last week, turned the corner with
Be One: The Unity of the Spirit
      Be Subject: Reverence for Christ
Next week
      Be Strong: Armor of God

We’ve got problems with this passage and its theme, “Be Subject”. Two kinds of problems:

1. Cultural/social distance and issues around authority
      Slaves and masters are made parallel, structurally in the text, to the relationship of children and fathers, wives and husbands. I don’t know about you, but that makes me uncomfortable. I am not Robin’s master. I am not Jesse and Caleb’s master.
      Man I met, who was studying to become a pastor, “I need a woman who submits.” He meant by that “a woman who does whatever I tell her” and he believed he had biblical warrant for his abuse of power. He was tall, physically imposing, walked with a cane, and always seemed angry. She interacted very little, always kept her head down, and said almost nothing. I was a sheltered college student, but I wondered if he was ever violent with her and I knew for a fact that I did NOT want him or anyone like him for my pastor.

      Neighbor shoveling snow that will melt in a day

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday and Lent 2019

Our Ash Wednesday service is at 7:00 pm, Wednesday March 6. It is a wonderful way to kick off Lent, the season of repentance, prayer, fasting, and spiritual preparation for embracing the gift of resurrection. The service will include the imposition of ashes, celebration of the Lord’s Table, and the first message in our Lent series, “Praying the Psalms.”

SERIES: Praying the Psalms, This year for Lent, our messages will focus on the Psalms for each week. We’ll examine them in the context of the traditional Lenten themes as well as for insight into expanding our practice of prayer. The book of Psalms has been the basic prayer book for Jews and Christians ever since they were collected. These Psalms take us on a journey of preparation for the cross and the empty tomb.

  • Mar 6, Ash Wednesday, Psalm 51.1-17, “have mercy on me”
  • Mar 10, Lent 1, Psalm 91, “live in the shelter of the Most High”
  • Mar 17, Psalm 27, “your face, LORD, do I seek”
  • Mar 24, Psalm 63, “my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you”
  • Mar 31, Psalm 32, “I acknowledged my sin”
  • Apr 7, Psalm 126, “may those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy”
  • Apr 14, Palm/Passion Sunday, Psalm 31, “my bones waste away”

Lent and the Cross

Thanks to Ken & Carol, Paul & Carole for getting us ready for Lent!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Audit Team

Thanks to Steve for coordinating and to many others who showed up for our annual audit!

Friday, March 1, 2019

From Bishop Park, on the Special Session of General Conference

March 1, 2019

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it;
if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
(1 Corinthians 12:26-27)

My Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Susquehanna Conference,

Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of our Brokenness, and Hope of the World!
The General Conference is the highest legislative body in The United Methodist Church and the only body that can legislate church law and speak officially for the church. The special session of General Conference 2019 held in St. Louis has ended. I am writing to share with you my heart and my understanding of where our church is at this time.

Here is what we know of the decisions of General Conference 2019.

• The Traditional Plan passed by 54 votes. The vote was 438 (53%) in favor, 384 (47%) against.

• The Traditional Plan keeps the current language around homosexuality and increases accountability by streamlining the processes to enforce penalties for violations of The Book of Discipline related to marriage and ordination of homosexual persons. Some parts of the Traditional Plan were ruled unconstitutional and the entire plan was referred to the Judicial Council for review to determine what parts are constitutional and what parts are not.

• A minority report was passed that would provide for an exit for churches that choose not to stay in The United Methodist Church. That was also sent to the Judicial Council.

• The Judicial Council, the highest court of the church, will meet April 23-26, 2019 to consider all these referrals. Thus, it will take some time to clarify which parts will become part of our church law and which parts will not.

What happens between now and the decisions of the Judicial Council?

• The current 2016 Book of Discipline is in effect.

• Once the Judicial Council rules, only those parts determined as constitutional will become effective January, 1, 2020.

This General Conference displayed that The United Methodist Church is a deeply wounded and broken Church. In the midst of manifestation of hurt and division, I give thanks for the witness of the Susquehanna Conference delegation that you elected. All of them felt the enormity of making decisions on behalf of our church. Filled with compassion and care for each other, they were dedicated to the work you sent them to do. They served with diligence, integrity and faith, led by the Spirit of Christ.

This is indeed a tumultuous time. While acknowledging that all are of sacred worth deserving of and in need of the ministry of the church, The United Methodist Church is in the midst of immense pain. No matter where you stand on the question of inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life and ministry of our church, pain is so deep and real as both sides claim that their position was made out of love for Jesus and the church. Pain will prolong. Knowing that this question will not be resolved by legislation, it will continue and increase.

Knowing also that the intensity of pain is not equivalent among all, I want to say to our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers and their families and friends that your love for Jesus and the church is no less than anybody else. My heart goes out to you and aches for the hurts and harms you have to live through. You are of sacred worth to God. You are God’s beloved. I will do my best to offer space of welcome and hospitality for you to worship, fellowship, and serve as partners in the ministry and witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My prayers will continue to be with you for the grace of assurance, strength, perseverance, healing and wholeness.

The Council of Bishops and the Northeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops had a time together respectively the day after the close of General Conference. As you can imagine, the mood was heavier than any other time in my tenure as a bishop. As we shared our pains and hurts over the brokenness of our church at the college meeting, a bishop reminded us of Isaiah 43. When God’s people were in the midst of drowning waters and fiery trials in exile, God’s words of assurance came to them that they were God’s people known by name, that God was their Savior, and that God loved them. And God called them to give attention to a promise that God was doing a new thing by reminding them that God was making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
God is able.

As your Bishop, what I know and what I believe is:

• Those who have been hurt – God can heal.

• When the way feels the darkest – God will light the path and lead us to God’s preferred future.

• While we cannot see beyond our hurt and division – God holds the future in God’s hands as God loves and holds all God’s children in God’s loving arms.

At the Council meeting, Bishop Ken Carter, President of the Council shared with us that, at least once a year, pastor should preach a, “I have a dream” message. Our “Susquehanna Conference will embody the beloved community as disciple making congregations.” God’s people, please keep this vision of our conference alive as best as you can. Clergy and laity alike, please create as many opportunities to share with one another your dream of the church in a most inviting, winsome, honorable, humble, peaceful and loving way that would reflect the Beloved Community of Christ for such a time as this.

My sisters and brothers, Ash Wednesday and Lent is but a few short days away. As you know this season began as a time of fasting and preparation for baptism for converts. It has evolved into a significant time of prayer and penance for all Christians. This Lenten Season, all in the church have much to repent. Now more than ever we need to be together as a faith community to reflect on division and the hurts in the body of Christ by things we have done and things undone. As we fall on knees with convicted humility, God will hear us and bring new life to our spirits and to our beloved Church. Until the time of Easter and Pentecost which follows, may we find our healing and hope in the possibility of God’s future as we love each other more deeply and fully to embody the Beloved Community of Christ.

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world.

Jeremiah Park