From the Pastor…
Hello church, and Happy New Year to all of you! Have you ever welcomed in a New Year – and hopefully, a new start – more than the way we have been looking forward to the end of 2020? As we enter into this new year with hope and anticipation of things to come, let us not completely forget (not that we can) all that has happened in this past year.
We welcomed 2020 with open arms like we would any other year…not knowing that this would not be like any other year we have experienced.
In February, we showered Bill Olson with birthday cards from everyone in the congregation as we recognized and celebrated his 90th birthday. His family would surprise him by showing up to church for worship followed by a party with cake and punch and a menagerie of photos from his life. We would have an Ash Wednesday Service, kick off the Lenten Fish Fries, and add one extra day to the calendar as we observed Leap Year!
March would be the last time the Men’s Breakfast Club would meet at the Greenway Café. As we were all preparing to celebrate Easter, on March 15th, Jan Buchanan would deliver the last service in the sanctuary titled, “Jesus Stepped In”, where she showcased stories of hope and faith from those who attend our church. On March 16th, the decision was made to cancel in-person church services, the fish fries, and the operations at the Resale Shop due to the announcement of a global pandemic known as coronavirus or COVID-19. Realizing the need to stay connected as a church family, we introduced a temporary solution that became known as “Bag-O-Church” where bags were passed out in a drive-thru fashion that contained scripture readings, coloring pages, crafts, and pictures. As we began to receive more information about the virus and wanted to keep everyone safe, the distribution of bags ended after a couple of weeks. Our church partnered with the Westville Schools to assist with passing out meals to the families of children that would not be receiving breakfast and lunch due to school closings.
In April, in-person services continued to be cancelled and we started to worship virtually through weekly online video messages posted on YouTube, Facebook and links sent out by email. We were making weekly phone calls to our parishioners to stay connected in a time when it was unsafe to be together physically.
Our Care & Share ministry continued to operate in May and in addition to the Backpack Ministry, our church supported 7 Westville families with weekly grocery boxes including staples such as eggs, butter, bread, meat, potatoes, etc. Kay Tetzloff played a huge roll in this expression of love and compassion and we are so grateful for her missional heart. Drive-In church services began to be our “new normal” way of worship. At the end of May, I was invited to visit Bill Olson in the hospital. It would be the last time I would visit with him. I would officiate at his funeral in June.
In June, we recognized that Drive-In Services and virtual worship was working really well for us and found ourselves sitting outside on lawn chairs in the sun listening over portable radios on 91.3 FM thanks to the multi-talented and gifted Jerde Family to whom I am forever grateful. We awarded Joey Stark with a church scholarship and wished him luck as he prepared to leave for college at Mount St. Joseph. We also offered well wishes to David and Sunny McKee as they picked up and moved to Chicago where they could be closer to their new grandson and offer their assistance in caring for him.
In July, after going back and forth on when we would return to the sanctuary and following Governor Holcomb’s 5-part plan – we took on a new attitude of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We also shifted our focus from the Governor’s plan to that of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and his 3 Simple Rules that state, “Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love with God.” In July, we would host a blood drive that would end up having 26 donors with 7 of them being first time donors. In an effort to connect with the community during this time, we hosted an outdoor movie night in partnership with Jimmy’s Grub & Pub where we showed the animated movie “Toy Story” on the south lawn of the church.
August provided more opportunities to reach out to the community of Westville by continuing the annual tradition of offering the Free Farmers Market on Mondays. We would also host Power Lab One Day Vacation Bible School where our children and volunteers would be wearing masks and sanitizing and washing their hands often throughout the day. Steve Swanson would approach me again about him wanting to be baptized by full immersion. This time, he offered a great location to be able to do it. We would pack up and head out to Clear Lake for a Service of Baptism at the lakeside property of a very generous and welcoming couple. Unfortunately, Steve would need to be in quarantine on the day of this service but would later be baptized at a separate service. However, we would have 60 people in attendance and 6 people inspired to be fully immersed in the lake as they renewed their baptismal covenants. The generous family that owned the property has offered their space to us as an annual off-site service location. Continuing to keep our focus on being active and present in the community and looking for new ways to serve – Rob and Sue Klett built, installed, and stocked a Blessings Box on the South side of the church. This blessings box contains non-perishable foods, literature, and a place for people to leave prayer requests. It continues to be used by people in the neighborhood. What an amazing gift.
We did make our way back into the sanctuary in September and celebrated World Communion Sunday together. It was not long before we learned that a couple of people from our church had tested positive for the virus and the decision to go back to drive-in and virtual services was made. The virus hitting so close to home is what led to our decision to cancel Trunk-or-Treat on the Halloween weekend. You have no idea how thankful I am that those infected with the virus have fully recovered and that their cases were relatively mild. God is good, all the time.
Keeping with the tradition that was just started the previous year, we provided Thanksgiving food baskets to 4 different families in our community and delivered turkeys and all the trimmings to their homes.
As I am writing this, I am also preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with our first Drive-In Christmas Eve service at 11p.m. The weather forecast suggests that it will be about 23 degrees as I am standing out in the parking lot delivering the message. I am actually hoping for snow. Wouldn’t that be nice?
While this past year has been full of…let’s say, “surprises”, I passionately believe that it has created memories that will stick with us – and also it has created opportunities for us to reimagine how we can be the church. How we can continue to be missional in our communities. How we can continue to be together – connected by the Holy Spirit. How we can do all the good we can – do no harm – and stay in love with God when our circumstances may call us to question His very existence.
As we enter into this new year, I pray that you all stay healthy and that you never forget that – God loves you – and I love you – and there is nothing you can do about it.
Peace, Pastor Toby
From the Pastor…December 2020
I can hardly believe it’s already December. I think most of us are ready for this year to be over as 2020 was a really bad year for a lot of people. Of course, I don’t think that when the New Years Eve ball comes crashing down in Time Square that everything is going to go back to the way things were in 2019 B.C. (Before COVID). So, I look for happiness and joy wherever I can find it.
As we enter into the Christmas season, the thing that brings me joy is watching old Christmas movies. One in particular has been my favorite for years and it’s The Bishop’s Wife. Cary Grant plays a suave angel who comes to earth to save a woman and her Episcopal priest husband from spiritual doubt, and a lack of love for life itself. This movie was produced in 1947 making it 73 years old – but it is an amazing film that is timeless. At the end of the movie, the priest stands in front of his congregation on Christmas Day to deliver a sermon. This sermon…
Tonight, I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking.
Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child’s cry, a blazing star hung over a stable, and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven’t forgotten that night down the centuries. We celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, with the sound of bells, and with gifts.
But especially with gifts. You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry can do with a new pipe. For we forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled, all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It’s his birthday we’re celebrating. Don’t let us ever forget that.
Let us ask ourselves what He would wish for most. And then, let each put in his share, loving kindness, warm hearts, and a stretched-out hand of tolerance. All the shinning gifts that make peace on earth.
In times such as these, it can be easy to forget the reason for the season. In times such as these, it’s understandable that we lose our joy – our sense of wonder – our love and kindness towards others as we focus on the negative. I pray that you are able to reconnect with Jesus during this season and that you are able to experience His hope, His Joy, and His unwavering love for you and that you may have peace on earth.
Thank you all for your continued support and remember that God loves you, and I love you, and there is nothing you can do about it.
From the Pastor… November 2020
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.
The Apostle Paul wrote these directions to the church at Thessalonica. Back then, he was addressing a young church that needed to strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ. These people were being persecuted for believing in Christ and Paul reminds them to “Always be joyful” and to “Never stop praying” and lastly to “Be thankful in all circumstances – for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)
These same directions apply to all of us today who belong to Christ. As we turn on the news or read the papers, we can find it exceedingly difficult to find joy or anything to be thankful about. What we often see is anger, fear, and division over the state of our world, our nation, our communities and even our families. It is important in these times to remember that our joy, prayers, and thankfulness should not fluctuate with our circumstances or feelings. Obeying these three commands – be joyful, never stop praying, and be thankful – often goes against our natural inclinations. When we make a conscious decision to do what God says, however, we will begin to see people in a new perspective. When we do God’s will, we will find it easier to be joyful and thankful.
Let us all continue to be in an attitude of prayer at all times as we acknowledge our dependence on God, realizing his presence within us and determining to obey him fully. When we take on this attitude, we will find it natural to pray frequent, spontaneous, short prayers outside of our normal daily prayer times. A Christian’s persistence is an expression of faith that God answers prayer. Our faith shouldn’t die if the answers come slowly, for the delay may be God’s way or working his will. When you feel tired of praying, know that God is present, always listening, always answering – in ways that he knows are best.
November is the month when we are reminded to be thankful. Being thankful and giving thanks in all circumstances is a personal responsibility and it comes from the heart. Proverbs 4: 23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.Let us all remember to be in an attitude of gratitude – even when things are not working out the way we would like them to – we need to be grateful in our current circumstances. Remembering that all good things come from God. Paul was not teaching that we should thank God foreverything that happens to us, but ineverything. Evil does not come from God, so we should not thank him for it. But when evil strikes, we can still be thankful for God’s presence and for the good that he will accomplish through the distress.
Hang in there church and remember that God is still in control.
And as always, remember that God loves you – and I love you – and there is nothing you can do about it.
October : We have two submissions for this month: See Below
From the Pastor…
On Thursday September 24th, we began a new thing where everyone in our church family was encouraged to enter into a time of intentional prayer at 9:00 a.m. over the next 40 days. The idea is to ask God for His presence to be among all of us in our community, our state, our nation, and our world in this time leading up to the November 3rd election.
It would seem that this season we find ourselves in is one of stress, anxiety, anger, fear, and hatred. Not only do we continue to struggle with navigating life during a pandemic where relationships and families are being torn apart – largely over the disagreement with what precautionary measures are being taken (or not taken) to avoid contracting or spreading this virus, but we also are seeing division based on one’s political affiliation. All of this, along with the rioting and protests over the systemic racism plaguing our nation, has brought tension and uneasiness to the people of our country. What we need now…more than ever…is God’s presence and grace as we are all faced with the responsibility of voting for our president and acting Christ-like during this process. Regardless of the outcome of this election, we are still called to remember the MAIN thing…LOVE. To love God and to love our neighbors – both Republican and Democrats.
Let’s pray –
We pray that you would unify your people for the glory of your Name that all who call themselves Christians would rise up, believing your great Truth. Wake us up Lord! Remind us to live aware, to redeem the time, to listen to your words, to be willing to make a difference in this land. We pray for all those in authority, that you would give them your wisdom and discernment as they lead. We ask that you would appoint strong, faithful men and women to serve this nation and our people and help us discern who we cast our vote for that it would align with your will.
In Jesus Name…
Hello my church family,
Beginning September 27th, we plan to open the church building for in-person worship services on Sundays. The service time will be as it has been with music starting at 10:00 a.m. and the message at 10:15 a.m. We will continue to offer an online worship experience which will be emailed and can be accessed through our Facebook page and YouTube channel. We are also working on having a live stream to Facebook. If you haven’t yet, please send me a friend request on Facebook if you are interested in watching the sermon live. We will also continue to broadcast our service on 91.3 FM so you can still park in the lot and listen to the service on your radio.
Our practice will be quite different than normal when we gather so that we follow social distancing and sanitation guidelines for COVID-19. Following John Wesley’s simple rules, we will seek to do no harm. This plan was developed adhering to guidelines set forth by the State of Indiana’s Back on Track recommendations.
Here is a description for what you can expect to experience if you choose to come for in-person worship.
- Signs will be posted on all entry doors listing the COVID symptoms and instructing people not to enter if feeling unwell. Please exercise personal responsibility and care for neighbor.
- Hand sanitizer will be located at each entry and we ask everyone to use it upon entering the building.
- All who attend should wear face masks when entering and moving about the church. Once you have taken your seat, you may remove your mask if you feel you need to.
- There will be no beverages or food served at this time.
- Sunday School for children, youth and adults will be discontinued until a later date.
- Seating will follow social distancing guidelines.
- Every other pew will be closed.
- Each pew will hold 1 family or 2 couples or 2 singles.
- Again, we ask that you exercise personal responsibility and care for neighbor when selecting your seat.
- Overflow seating will be made available in the Family Life Center.
- A volunteer will use a disinfectant wipe on door handles, handrails, and commonly touched surfaces before and after the service.
- There will be no bibles, hymnals, bulletins, or attendance pads in the pews. Prayer requests can always be given to the church office through email, phone message or Facebook.
- A box for financial offerings will be located in the sanctuary and collected at the end of the service. We will not pass plates/baskets.
- Current science suggests that singing produces aerosol breath that can travel twice as far as normal breathing even with masks. Therefore, we will not be encouraging congregational singing. We will have special music and will instead encourage you to meditate on the music and the words.
- Holy Communion will be done differently and will be explained further on the first Sunday in October as we celebrate World Communion Sunday.
THIS ENTIRE PLAN IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE based on new health department data, government restrictions, and prayerful wisdom of the collective church leadership.
Friends, I know we do not all agree about what are the right things to do in this unusual season. I know many people are struggling to make good decisions for themselves and their families about when and how to interact with others. Please know that I have your best interests in mind and will continue to work hard to find ways of serving you as your pastor. Remember that God is with you. Be kind to yourself and receive the grace God will give you regardless of your decision to attend in person worship or not. And remember to keep the MAIN thing – the MAIN thing.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12-13)
In His Service,
Pastor Toby Guill