From the Pastor…
On the first Sunday of October, we traditionally celebrate World Communion Sunday. With that being fresh in my mind, I thought I might share with you some information about Communion by looking at some frequently asked questions on the subject. For more information, or to see some other FAQ’s, visit www.umc.org and search “Ask the UMC”.
Do United Methodists believe the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ?
In the Great Thanksgiving, we ask the Holy Spirit to be poured on us and on the gifts of bread and wine we offer. We ask for the Spirit’s outpouring to make the bread and wine be for us the body and blood of Christ so we, who receive them, may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood. We believe God answers this prayer “Yes,” and the Spirit does all these things. Christ is really present here, and Christ’s presence really changes us.
Why do many United Methodists use grape juice instead of wine?
Predecessor bodies of The United Methodist Church were deeply involved in the Temperance Movement. Grape juice was originally invented by Thomas Welch, a Methodist, so Methodists and others would not need to use wine for communion. Today, United Methodists still commend, but do not require, abstinence, and may continue to use grape juice in communion out of pastoral concern for people who may have problems with alcohol.
Do I have to kneel to receive?
No. How you receive is up to you. Most congregations will offer several ways you may receive. You may stand and receive in a line, or you may kneel at a rail near the Lord’s Table, or if you are unable to come forward, someone may bring you the blessed elements where you sit.
How may I receive?
The key word is that you receive rather than take the elements. They are given to you by servers. When you receive the bread, you may want to hold your hands out, with your left hand cupping and supporting your right hand. The server will say something to you about the bread as it is given to you. Before you eat it or hold it to proceed to the cup, you may say “Amen” or “Thanks be to God.” When the cup is offered to you, the server will say some words to you about the cup. You may respond “Amen” or “Thanks be to God” and then either dip the bread into the cup (but not your fingers!) or drink from the cup. Most United Methodists tend to dip into the cup rather than drink from it.
Who May Receive?
As we say in our Invitation to the Table, “Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to be at peace with one another.” If you can say you do or have done these three things, you are welcome to receive.
Additionally, all baptized Christians, of any age (including infants) and any Christian denomination are welcome to the Lord’s table. It is Christ’s table. He welcomes all who are baptized in his name, and so do we.
We affirm the historic Christian precedent that people are normally baptized prior to receiving communion. Yet, as our invitation notes, baptism is not required. If you come and are not yet baptized, we will encourage you toward baptism at your earliest convenience.
If at any time, you have questions or would like to speak with me – feel free to contact me.
Remember that God loves you, and I love you – and there is nothing you can do about it.
From the Pastor…
Can you believe it is already September? Where did the summer go? I hope you all have enjoyed the summer and have made some awesome memories. Speaking of memories, September is a month that calls us to remember an event that turned our lives upside down. Of course, I am speaking about the events of 9/11 and the terrorist attacks on New York City. While the devastating scenes of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers are forever burned into my memories of that day, there is another memory that stands out even more so. This memory came in the moments soon after the buildings fell and lasted a few days. It’s the way that people came together to support each other and how any differences people had with others before the building collapsed had also fallen away. Do you remember what that felt like? It’s unfortunate that those feelings of true community and love of neighbor isn’t something that we yearn to remember on the anniversary of that day.
The whole idea of “being the church” should be centered around that feeling of community where we all share a common desire. That desire should be to glorify God. We should be reminded of that (at bare minimum) every Sunday as we gather. Let’s also remember that we do not ultimately come together for Sunday worship service to experience an emotional response that brings joy to us as consumers, but rather, we gather because God has united us. God has brought us together to go through life together and to be effective witnesses to our local community. We gather because the diversity of the local church across the country should mirror heaven to a dying, lost and sinful world. As Christians, we are made to gather and to show love to those around us.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks. I remember where I was when it happened. I remember thinking and worrying about the next attack. I can remember the eerie feeling I had looking up into the sky and not seeing any plane traffic – and that eerie feeling worsened the next time I did see or hear a plane in the sky. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. But the feeling I will hold onto was the feeling of hope for civilization as everyone came together in search for the common desire of peace. In this, let us never forget.
May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
From the Pastor – August 2021
The bulk of this newsletter article was originally submitted last year, but I believe it is worthy of repeating. As some glimpse of normalcy begins to appear on Sunday mornings as we worship together, I wanted to remind you all of the responsibility we have as Christians to spread the Good News of Jesus. One way we can do that is by inviting our friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors to church. So, here’s the article…again.
There are so many books written on the subject of increasing attendance in church. There are seminars held on the subject and other church leaders have put together the most successful programs for attracting people to their church. We could spend a lot of time and money by subscribing to these programs, hiring consultants to put a plan together for us to best reach the community…or…we could take it back to the basics. INVITE SOMEONE.
Let’s face it. Just the thought of inviting someone to church can be nerve-wrecking. There’s a lot of inner dialogue that happens. How do I bring it up in conversation? What if I come across as judgmental? What if I get rejected? What if I make them uncomfortable? The tendency is to ask a lot of “what if” questions that focus on the negative side. But what if you reminded yourself of the potential, instead?
What if God has been preparing their heart and has been waiting for me to invite them?
What if they say yes?
What if they’re hurting and find healing at church?
What if they give their life to Christ, and future generations are changed because of it? Keep those in mind, and use the tips below to overcome any fears you might have!
How do you bring it up in conversation?
Approach #1 – When you’re not sure whether they attend a church. Lead with this simple question.
“I was wondering, do you go to church anywhere?”
If they answer yes, then the follow-up conversation is easy.
“That’s great! So happy to hear you have a church home. What church do you attend?”
This approach works because it celebrates the church they’re connected to and shows them you’re not trying to recruit them to your church.If they answer no, you can follow up with an invite.
“Well, if you’re ever looking for a great place to go, I go to Westville United Methodist Church and would love to see you there!”
This language is simple, casual, and friendly in tone. It doesn’t assume they’re looking for a church and leaves the decision up to them.If they don’t ask a follow-up question or engage further, then you’ll want to leave the conversation at that. If they ask a question or share a bit of their faith journey, then it’s a good sign they’re open to hearing more.Take the opportunity to share more about your church: why you love it, how God’s used it in your life, give them an invite card, etc.
Approach #2 – When you know someone doesn’t attend a church.
Try leading with this question:
“I’m curious—did you ever go to church when you were growing up?”
The key with this question is how you follow up.This question is an easy way to start a conversation, but the real value is learning more about a person’s background with church, faith, and Christianity.There could be many reasons why someone doesn’t currently attend a church. They could’ve had a bad experience growing up. Been hurt by people. Maybe they’ve always wanted to but never made it a priority.Whatever the reason, you’re trying to understand why. So don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions.
“Have you ever thought about attending a church (again)?”
“If you don’t mind me asking, how come you don’t see yourself going to church?”
“If it’s not too personal a question, what was the bad experience you had?”
The answers to these questions will help you tailor a more personal invite at the right time. Use what you learn, and ask God for wisdom on how best to invite them to church. That could be during this conversation or another time.
Is there something about your church they’d like? Is there a specific message series you can share that speaks to a situation they’re going through? Do you apologize on behalf of other Christians or churches that have hurt them?Remember, you don’t have to invite people to church the very first time you talk to them. That can be something you work toward.
How do I avoid making a person feel judged or uncomfortable?
It’s all in the approach.Notice the “posture” the conversation starters above take. They’re casual and friendly. They don’t assume anything and don’t force any type of answer. Pay attention to the conversation and engage as much or as little as you feel the other person is comfortable with.That’s the key to inviting someone (or having a conversation about faith) without the person feeling judged or uncomfortable.And don’t forget to always invite with kindness.How you end the conversation will be how they remember your invite. So be kind, gracious, and understanding no matter the response.
What if I get rejected?
You will, but don’t let it discourage you. It’s not the end of the world, and it’s not personal.Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.A “no thanks” won’t negatively impact your life. But a “yes” could change someone’s life forever. Press through any fears of rejection and keep inviting! You’ll never get a “yes” if you never ask.
Another common fear is getting a negative reaction.In my experience, almost everyone will accept your invite graciously whether they’re interested or not.
As you invite people to church, you’ll find most of your fears are not reality. Rejection isn’t as bad as you think. People generally avoid confrontation. They’re not going to be hateful toward you or feel judged by you.
Now let’s play the what if game again.
What if they say yes?
What if they experience authentic community and love for the first time?
What if the church renews their faith and hope in Christ?
What if they find their identity in Christ and walk in greater confidence?
God wants to use you. And often, it’s through a simple invite. If we do our part, God will do His part. We just have to plant the seed.
Who will you invite this week?
Pastor Toby Guill