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?
Just in case you didn’t know…
The United Methodist Church recognizes two sacraments; baptism and communion.
These two acts have a special place in the church because Jesus commanded them and participated in them.
Baptism marks the beginning of our lifelong journey as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Communion nourishes and sustains us on the journey.
Holy Communion includes a profound act of remembrance that recalls the last supper Jesus had with his disciples. But it is more than just a ritual of remembering. It is primarily an act through which our connection with God, each other and our life of ministry in the world is nourished and strengthened.
When we receive the bread and wine so “we may be for the world the body of Christ redeemed by his blood,” we are remembering. At the same time, we are also re-membered, or put back together again. We pray that we may be “one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world.” God’s work of making us one and uniting us with Christ and with each other is the ordinary way by which God feeds us, sustains us and empowers us to live as Christians in the world.
In communion, we do remember the saving work God has already done in the world and is doing today. And we anticipate God’s future for the world and all creation. We’re partners with God in creating this future. We are strengthened and transformed by the presence of Christ in the bread and wine to respond to God’s love by loving God and others.
Baptism and Salvation –
People often have a lot of questions about baptism. Maybe this will clear up a couple.
Q: Do I have to be baptized in order for God to save me?
A: No. God is free to offer God’s salvation if for some reason you have not been baptized by the time you die.
Q: If I am baptized, does that mean I will be saved no matter what?
A: No. Baptism begins God’s work of saving us by cleansing us of sin and beginning the work of renewing us fully into the image of Christ. The key word here is beginning. Baptism starts the process. It does not complete it. We can choose by our action or inaction to let the work begun go dormant and have no fuller effect. Or, as John Wesley sometimes put it, we may “sin away the grace received at baptism.”
Q: How does baptism relate to salvation?
A: We say baptism is the “ordinary” or “instituted” means of justifying grace. It is the usual way God has offered the church to enable people of any age to experience the justifying grace of God and the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Salvation normally begins taking root in people’s lives here. From here we are invited to keep growing in sanctifying grace until by God’s grace and our faithful response we are “made perfect in love in this life.”
If you ever have questions regarding your faith or our worship practices here at Westville United Methodist Church, please feel free to contact me and we can figure it out together.
Remember that God loves you, and I love you, and there isn’t anything you can do about that.
From the Pastor…DID YOU KNOW?
Have you noticed the recent changes inside the sanctuary of the church? The changes can be subtle if you don’t pay attention. I’m talking about the colors used on the alter, the pulpit and the lectern. For example, at Easter, the colors were white, but on Pentecost Sunday, the colors were red. What does it mean? Hopefully, this article will help you to understand.
The Christian year contains two cycles: the Christmas Cycle (Advent– Christmas–Epiphany) and the Easter Cycle (Lent–Easter–Pentecost). Within each cycle are a preparatory season symbolized by the color purple and a festival season symbolized by the color white. After each cycle there is an ordinary time of growth symbolized by the color green. Thus, there is a sequence of seasons using purple, white, and green in that order twice each year.
Purple is a color of both penitence and royalty used during the preparatory seasons of Advent and Lent. Blue, a color of hope, may also be used during Advent but I don’t think we have blue paraments at our church.
White and gold are joyous and festive colors used during the Christmas and Easter Seasons (except on the Day of Pentecost) and in other seasons on festive days such as Baptism of the Lord, Transfiguration, Trinity, All Saints, and Christ the King. White may also be used at weddings and at services where the Sacrament of Baptism is central. White is recommended at services of death and resurrection because it symbolizes both death and resurrection. At services of Holy Communion white linens on top of the Lord’s table are customary, but the paraments hanging over the front or sides of the table and the other visuals should reflect the day or season of the year.
Green is a color of growth, used in the Seasons After the Epiphany and After Pentecost, except when special days call for white or red.
Red is a color of fire, symbolizing the Holy Spirit. It is used on the Day of Pentecost and at other times when the work of the Holy Spirit is emphasized. Red is also the color of blood—the blood of Christ and the blood of martyrs. Because of its intensity, red is most effective when used occasionally rather than continuously for a whole season. It is appropriate for evangelistic services, for ordinations and consecrations, for church anniversaries and homecomings, and for civil observances such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or Memorial Day. It may be used beside white and gold through the Easter Season. It may be used during Holy Week, beginning with Passion/Palm Sunday, to symbolize the blood of Christ.
Although use of these colors is based on broad ecumenical tradition, other colors have been and are being used in Christian churches. Creativity with colors and other signs for days and seasons is encouraged.
Thank you to Cathy Jo Grostefon for your commitment to making sure the church is properly adorned throughout the liturgical calendar year.
From the Pastor – April 2021
Every month, I challenge myself to put together an article for the newsletter that will either inform you, educate you, or even humor you a little. I sometimes wonder if anyone even reads the articles I write, or do they just skim through the newsletter looking for something specific that they are interested in. How would I know if you actually read my article? If I were to ask you – would you be honest with me if you hadn’t read it? I have an idea. Join me for an experiment. The next time that you see me I want you to say the following…” April Showers bring May flowers”. This is how I will know that you have read at least this much of my article.
The poem that, as we know it, contains the words, “April showers bring May flowers” actually originated all the way back in 1157 in the form of a short poem written by Thomas Tusser. The poem can be found in the April section of a collection of his writings titled, “A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry.” The actual poem goes as follows: “Sweet April showers Do spring May flowers”. I thought that since I am writing this article for the April newsletter – we can talk about this well-known poem.
“April showers bring May flowers” is a reminder to us all that even the most unpleasant things, in this case the heavy rains of April, can bring about very enjoyable things indeed – even an abundance of flowers in May. To make this more relevant to our current time and season of life, we can look at any situation that seems bleak or that we might consider a hardship, and trust that good things are coming. Another line that comes to mind that I have heard is that “It’s always darkest before the dawn”. What does that make you think of?
When Jesus Christ gave his life on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind – when he drew his last breath, the scriptures tell us that it was around noon and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. “It’s always darkest before the dawn” and good things often come after hardships. Good things like the Good News of the resurrection of Jesus Christ which we will have a special celebration for on Easter Sunday.
So many things have happened over the past year and the global pandemic has logically taken center stage. As more and more people receive the vaccine and reported cases continue to trend downward, I am confident that good things are coming our way. I am seeing light at the end of a very dark period and am placing my hope in the One that brings light, and I am approaching this next season with great anticipation to see how God is at work.
April Showers bring May flowers – let us trust in God’s process.
From the Pastor… March 2021
During the Ash Wednesday service on the first day of Lent, I invited you all to observe a holy Lent: by self–examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self–denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word. While you may be aware of this season leading up to Easter, you may wonder how you might “observe a holy Lent.”
There is no one prescribed way. Instead, we are each encouraged to find our own method of confronting our sinfulness, remembering our mortality, and giving thanks for the gift of salvation we receive through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
One of the more common practices is to give something up for Lent. Some abstain from chocolate, social media, shopping or something else through the season. This is a religious practice we know as fasting. We fast to reorient ourselves away from the distraction of those things, and back toward God.
Another way to reorient your life toward God, is to focus on devotional practiceslike Bible study and prayer during the season.
Many do not know where to begin when reading the Bible. May I suggest reading from a devotional such as Upper Room or downloading a free Bible app like “You Version” to help guide you in this pursuit. The nice thing about the Upper Room Devotional Guide is it provides a scripture passage and wonderfully thought-provoking and spirit-enriching material to read and think about each day.
In the busyness of our everyday lives, prayer can sometimes get squeezed out. Lent is a wonderful time to intentionally work toward finding more time in your life for prayer. You can experiment with different ways to pray during the season, or really delve into a new-to-you way of praying. Enriching your prayer life is a great way to spend Lent.
Another way to observe a holy Lent is to take on a new way of serving. Throughout the forty days of the season, you can adopt a new habit of volunteering in the community or making special financial gifts.
An important practice with which many of us struggle is the spiritual discipline of rest or Sabbath. We don’t have to rest on Saturday, the traditional Sabbath day, or even Sunday. You can instead find moments during an ordinary day to be still in God’s presence. You might choose to spend a few minutes during lunch with a desktop meditationor listen to sermons during your commute. Each can be a great way of enriching your Lent.
Our church offered services on Ash Wednesday to begin Lent, and there are plans of offering other special services during Holy Week, the final days leading up to Easter. There may also be special times of prayer, study, and other gatherings that will help you continue your journey throughout the season.
Observe a holy Lent
This 40-day journey called Lent is a wonderful opportunity to grow in your faith. Find your path of self-reflection and spiritual discovery, and invite others to join you as you seek to observe a holy Lent.
Pastor Toby Guill