Sunday, September 29, 2019

Women's Movement and a Prayer Hill

United Methodist clergy and church members witness the dedication of the Chin’ando prayer shrine in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. Photo by the Rev. Taurai Emmanuel Maforo, UM News.
United Methodist clergy and church members witness the dedication of the Chin’ando prayer shrine in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe. Photo by the Rev. Taurai Emmanuel Maforo, UM News.
By the Rev. Taurai Emmanuel MaforoSept. 13, 2019 | OLD MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UM News)

Hundreds of United Methodist clergy and church members parked their vehicles at the foot of the hill as they ascended to witness the historic dedication of the Chin’ando prayer monument.
The prayer shrine reveals a significant and historic narrative of The United Methodist Church in the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.
Founding mother Mbuya Lydia Chimonyo discovered the spot, named after the Chin’ando tree at the site, in the early 1920s. A pastor’s wife, she was looking for a quiet place to encounter God. Soon, other pastors’ wives joined her.
“Lydia Chimonyo died at the age of 41, but she had already ignited the fire (at Chin’ando) of a unique brand of women’s ministry in The United Methodist Church,” said Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, who dedicated the monument and improvements to the site on Sept. 6.
The women’s organization Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai, which has become one of the pillars of the church's growth in Zimbabwe, owes its strong spiritual foundations to Chin'ando.
Following years of struggle for recognition of their efforts by the church, the women went up to Chin’ando to pray for the women’s organization to be approved at the 1938 Rhodesia Mission Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. 
“Their radical prayers in 1938 at this hill gave birth to the organization that (United Methodist) women in Zimbabwe love to identify with,” said Nhiwatiwa.
From the handful of women who frequented Chin’ando in the 1920s, Rukwadzano Rwe Wadzimai now stands with a membership of 20,809 women (9,191 in the Zimbabwe East Conference and 11,618 in the Zimbabwe West Conference). The women are known for their signature blue dresses with red collars and white headdresses.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Witness of the Spirit (Saving Grace #3)


I have enjoyed and been challenged by our fall ROOTS series for this year. As in past years, we’ve dived into the roots of our tradition, particularly our United Methodist tradition, to recapture the heart of our faith in the words, language, and theological themes of another time. We’ve been looking at some of John Wesley’s "standard sermons", given to his preachers to define the basics of our faith and the peculiar gifts of the Methodist movement. And, our focus has been on salvation and sin, grace and faith.

Today, we come to a theme with which some may be familiar, but under a different name: "the assurance of salvation". John Wesley called this gift "the witness of the Spirit", a witness that was joined with the "witness of our own spirit" that, in Wesley’s words declares 

that I am a child of God; that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God (W2, II, 2 quoting W1, I, 7).

If you have ever doubted your own faith, doubted God’s saving work in your life, then you know how important such an assurance can be, you know how vital it is to have "the witness of the Spirit". It is such an important gift that Wesley devoted 3 messages of his 53 to this theme. And, he viewed it as a special theological gift recovered by the Methodist movement on behalf of the whole church:

It more nearly concerns the Methodists, so called, clearly to understand, explain, and defend this doctrine; because it is one grand part of the testimony which God has given them to bear to all mankind. It is by this peculiar blessing upon them in searching the Scriptures, confirmed by the experience of his children, that this great evangelical truth has been recovered, which had been for many years well nigh lost and forgotten (W2, I, 4).

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Two pastors in the path of Dorian


Ocracoke Methodist Church on Sunday, Sept. 8. Photo by Ocracoke Methodist Church
September 17, 2019 | Local News | By: Joy Crist
On the morning that Dorian made landfall on Cape Hatteras, Pastor Tim Fitch was at his Tri-villages home when his mother, Rev. Susie Fitch-Slater of the Ocracoke Methodist Church, initiated one of the most terrifying phone calls of his life.
“It was the kind of phone call that you never want to hear,” he says. “She told me how proud she was of me, and how much she loved me… The water had already risen more than four feet in her Ocracoke home, and at that moment, she didn’t think the flooding was going to stop.”
“I really thought that it was the last time I was going to talk to her,” he adds. “In that moment, I realized how bad it was down there.”
The Ocracoke Methodist Church was a new assignment for Tim’s mother, which she started in June of 2019. She was just starting to know her congregation when Dorian arrived on Friday, September 6, and changed everything in a matter of hours.
After that initial Friday morning phone call, Pastor Fitch waited for an excruciating 90 minutes until he received a second call from his mother, saying that she had found higher ground, and was safe.
“After that second call, my [mindset] changed, and I instantly knew that there was about to be a lot of work to do,” he says.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The Almost Christian (Saving Grace #2)



The Almost Christian (Saving Grace #2)              \Saving Grace 02
Highlights from John Wesley’s Sermons
7-8 Sep 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Praying, BCP
Children, Matthew 22.34-40
Message, Acts 26.1-9
Mission Moment, Pounding the Pastor

Being persuaded to ride a roller coaster … twice.

Each fall, we begin the season with an exploration of our roots in the Christian tradition, especially in our United Methodist tradition. This year, we’re dusting off some treasures of the church – John Wesley’s "standard sermons", particularly those on the themes of salvation, sin, grace, and faith. Last week, we looked at the very first of the 53 sermons, "Salvation by Faith". This week, we look at the second one, "The Almost Christian", preached on July 25, 1741 at Oxford University. His text was one line from Acts 26.28, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian".
       Paul is sharing his story before Governor Felix and King Agrippa and his wife Bernice, defending himself against some of the accusations that had been brought against him and, even more, inviting his audience to follow Jesus with him. Paul knew that Agrippa had studied the Hebrew Scriptures and had some level of belief in the writings of the prophets. So, he was challenging Agrippa to take the next step, attempting to close the deal. "I know that you believe", Paul says. "Almost you persuade me".

Have you ever been almost persuaded of something? Getting on that ride at the amusement park? Signing up at the fitness club? Buying a car? You are right at the edge and maybe one little push will put you over. So, Paul comes back with, "I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me this day might become such as I am – except for these chains".

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Starting Churches in Madagascar

Members of a new United Methodist church community gather in Antsiazopaniry, some 50 kilometers from Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Though only officially a church for a year, United Methodism is taking hold in the island nation. Photo by João Filimone Sambo, UM News.
Members of a new United Methodist church community gather in Antsiazopaniry, some 50 kilometers from Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Though only officially a church for a year, United Methodism is taking hold in the island nation. Photo by João Filimone Sambo, UM News.
By João Filimone Sambo
Sept. 3, 2019 | ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (UM News)

The large island of Madagascar, located between the Mozambique Channel and western Asia, is a fertile ground for evangelism and the establishment of United Methodism through education.
The country, with an estimated population of about 26 million, is currently under the responsibility of the Mozambique Episcopal Area, where Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala is the resident bishop.
Recently, a representative from the bishop’s office visited the country to assess the development of the church and to meet with spiritual leaders.
“Our existence as a community of faith dates back to 2017,” said Jean Aime Ratovohery, one of the co-founders and leaders of The United Methodist Church in Madagascar. “This is the result of internet research on potential churches with doctrinal, social and practical principles that were consistent with the morals and practices of the Malagasy (natives of Madagascar) people.”
The church was officially recognized by the government on March 7, 2018, and Ratovohery said there are already more than 200 followers in two communities.
One of the places where they gather is at the Alpha Primary School, located in a poor urban area of the capital city, Antananarivo.
The community, which meets at the school every Sunday afternoon, ranges from 50 to 80 members. Here, people from various places, children and adults, come to Sunday services to hear the Word proclaimed and praise the Lord.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Salvation by Faith (Saving Grace #1)


Salvation by Faith (Saving Grace #1) 
Highlights from John Wesley’s Sermons
31 Aug-1 Sep 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Scripture, Psalm 107, selections
Children, Luke 7.36-50
Message, Ephesians 2.1-10
Mission Moment, new sign

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, published a series of 53 "standard sermons" to serve as a resource to his preachers and to "the people called Methodist". Many of them focus on the themes of salvation, sin, grace, and faith. For John Wesley, a priest in the Church of England, much of the church had forgotten about its core message, the gospel, and its implications for life. Beyond that basic foundation of grace and faith, these standard sermons also addressed a number of other important themes – 13 messages on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the nature of Christian unity beyond the brand names of denominations and traditions, bigotry, money, manners, and even a eulogy.
       Each fall, I plan a message series exploring our roots in the Christian tradition. This year, we’re going to dig up these relics of the church – John Wesley’s sermons on salvation, sin, grace, and faith – and rework them for today. Today we tackle the very first of the 53 sermons, "Salvation by Faith", preached before Oxford University on June 11, 1738. His focus text was one line from Ephesians 2: "By grace are ye saved through faith".

Debt, Forgiveness, and Love

Friday, September 6, 2019

Bahamas relief begins

A Coast Guardsman talks to a civilian aboard an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, Sept. 5, as the Miami-based aircraft medevacs 10 people from Marsh Harbour to Nassau, Bahamas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Photo by Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Hunter Medley, courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Defense.
A Coast Guardsman talks to a civilian aboard an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, Sept. 5, as the Miami-based aircraft medevacs 10 people from Marsh Harbour to Nassau, Bahamas, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian. Photo by Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Hunter Medley, courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Defense.

By Linda Bloom
Sept. 5, 2019 | UM News

As Hurricane Dorian continued to threaten the U.S. east coast, United Methodists were connecting with Methodists in the Bahamas to start relief efforts.

The Bahamas Conference of the Methodist Church already is fielding requests to help those being evacuated from the “unprecedented devastation” to receive basic supplies and find a place to live, says its president, the Rev. L. Carla Culmer.

But the survivors also need someone to hear their stories. “We want to see how we can counsel and listen and be there for them,” she told UM News in a Sept. 5 phone interview.

After striking the island nation on Sept. 1, Hurricane Dorian caused “vast devastation”and left 70,000 people in need of immediate humanitarian relief, says Mark Lowcock, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis called Dorian the most damaging storm ever to hit the island group, Reuters reported. Worst hit was the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas and Grand Bahama Island. As of Sept. 5, the death toll was 20.
 
Culmer, who also serves as the pastor at Wesley-Grants Town Church in Nassau, agreed.

“People are traumatized because the storm lasted so long,” Culmer said. “We heard about 20 deaths, but we believe there are many more deaths.”

The receding floodwaters “will reveal a lot,” she added. “And maybe some of the things it will reveal we won’t be ready for.”

The rest of the story ...

You can make a contribution to UMCOR disaster relief through Christ Church. Mark it for "Hurricane."

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

New Sign Project


Thank you Dalton! Pastor JP and Robin are giving $1000 to the project. Please consider a significant gift.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Evangel, Jesus and Jonah (Man Overboard #4)



24-25 Aug 2019, Christ Mountain Top
Praying the Scripture, Psalm 16
Children, Mark 1.9-11
Message, Luke 11.27-36, Matthew 12.38-50

accidental evangelist, how NOT to witness
hypocritical evangelist, how NOT to pray
suicidal evangelist, how NOT to be happy

Today: Jonah and Jesus, using the insights of the early church fathers, who were quite creative in reading Scripture with a laser focus on Jesus. In fact, the Jonah story was the #1 Christian art work in the ancient church, even more than the cross!
       AND, Jonah and Jesus, how Jesus talked about Jonah. Matthew and Luke’s gospel report Jesus’ comment on Jonah as a SIGN. Both of those passages have some shared themes in the context. So, we’re going to look at those common themes:
·       The Outsiders
·       The Cost
·       The Sign
·       The Word Preached

The Outsiders: Pagans repent, church people don't
The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah and now something greater than Jonah is here.
             Matthew 12.41 and Luke 11.32

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Senior Awards


Congrats to Katie, receiving the Friendship Circle and Judy Stanton Memorial awards.