Daily Prayers for Holy Week | Easter Sunday

The prayers this week were adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

The Resurrection of the Lord Easter Sunday

Acts 10:40-43

40 God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Lord Jesus, we come before you on this day of triumph, grateful for the knowledge of your saving love and for your promise of everlasting life. In the power that comes from your resurrection, we call out to you: Amen, Alleluia!

• Lord Jesus, continue to lead, nourish, and protect the people you have redeemed;
• Lord Jesus, strengthen us to achieve that peace which the world does not yet know;
• Lord Jesus, give us new life through the power of your resurrection;
• Lord Jesus, empower us for your work in the world;
• Lord Jesus, enlighten those in darkness;
• Lord Jesus, by your resurrection, show us the light of life;
• Lord Jesus, nourish us with the bread of life;
• Lord Jesus, by your resurrection, pour out on us the Spirit of life.

Prayer:
Holy God, raising Christ from the dead, and raising us with Christ, you have fashioned for yourself a new people, washed in the waters of baptism, sealed with the gift of your Spirit, invited to the heavenly banquet. In the beauty of this Easter, set our minds on the new life to which you have called us; place on our lips the words of witness for which you have anointed us; and ready our hearts to celebrate the festival of the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. We ask this through your Son, the Christ, our Passover and Peace, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever, Amen.


Easter Faith

“If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain…  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 

I do not know if you are like me, but this word from Paul rings truer for me this Easter than perhaps any other time in my adult life. 

  • The last two years of losses in our family, both my parents and Lynn’s mother…

If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain. 

  • The disruption caused by the pandemic of Covid 19…

If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain.

The disruption of the inability to hold General Conference of The United Methodist Church

  • If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain. 

The political rhetoric of this country which seeks to divide rather than unite the United States, and now a war in Ukraine. 

If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain.

On Easter, I’m drawn to John’s gospel for the telling of the resurrection story. 

In particular, I’m drawn this year to the beloved disciple who enters the tomb after Peter, sees Jesus’ linen wrappings lying about, and believes. He doesn’t need a sermon. He doesn’t need an explanation. He simply believes. 

I wish John had said more about what he believes or how deeply he believes or even some word about the journey he traveled to belief. 

Maybe it’s simply that he recognizes that God has vanquished death. 

We are left to wonder. 

However, I hesitate to speculate. My Old Testament seminary professor, Dr. Max Miller, admonished his students, “speculation about the Bible is cheap.  I don’t recommend it.” So I won’t speculate on the beloved disciple’s model of believing. 

What scripture says is this: “he sees and believes.”  

This is to say, he steps into the truth of his experience. He trusts his experience.  

Without speculation, wonderment, confusion or doubt, he walks into faith. That’s all. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

As pastor Debbie Thomas has written about this moment:
I love the way the beloved disciple’s story honors the gap between faith and understanding, because it’s a gap I know so well.  I believe but I don’t (yet) understand. I believe in the resurrection, but I don’t understand death’s ongoing cruelty.  I believe that Jesus reigns, but I don’t understand the elusive nature of his kingdom. I believe that all things will be well, but I don’t understand why they’re not all well now.”

One of the first sermons I ever preached was rooted in this idea that faith and doubt go hand in hand. As a young adult, I was reading the works of  Fredrick Buechner. I remember well reading Buechner’s  now famous quote that “doubt is the ants in the pants of faith. If we don’t doubt, we are either dead or asleep.” This notion ran counter to all that I had been taught growing up about faith and doubt. Yet, his words rang true. 

I later learned that doubt was not the opposite of faith. The opposite of faith is unbelief. Learning this was also an important turning point in my faith journey. 

So Paul, and the beloved, strengthens me this Easter Day. 

Here’s the truth of it: I believe in the resurrection because I have experienced it and I have witnessed it. 

The truth is this: resurrection roots us. It places us in the community of all those who for over 2000 years have gathered this day to celebrate the resurrection. And when we open our eyes to see where God is raising us from the self defeating experiences of our lives, we see God is in the resurrection business. 

I love the way Poet R.S. Thomas describes the process in his poem, “The Answer”: 

There have been times

when, after long on my knees

in a cold chancel, 

a stone has rolled

from my mind, 

and I have looked in 

and seen the old questions lie

folded and in a place

by themselves,

like the piled graveclothes of love’s risen body.

Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!

With all that has been lost across these last two years, I’ve need to see with resurrection eyes. 

I’m helped by remembering that all our endings are not final. 

Indeed, new life comes, just two days ago, my niece gave birth to a baby boy. We are reminded, life cannot be stopped. 

In every ending there is a beginning. 

In every single one of them, we are held in the arms of the risen Christ. 

We may stumble out of Easter doubting, fleeing, and maybe even falling. 

We are held, rooted in scripture, centered in Christ, serving in love. 

If Christ has not been raised our faith has been in vain.

He is risen! Christ is risen indeed!

Bishop William T. McAlilly


Daily Prayers for Holy Week | Holy Saturday

Over the days of Holy Week, we have offered Scripture, prayers for your consideration, and the Lord’s Prayer. We invite you to consider these daily prayers for your journey through Holy Week to Easter.

The prayers this week are adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

Holy Saturday

Psalm 24
1
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
2
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
3
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
4
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
5
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
6
Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
7
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
8
Who is the King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
9
Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
10
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.

Hymn
Hail, O faithful Cross of Jesus, nobler than all other trees,
On your branches hung the Savior, God’s own justice to appease.
You, O Cross, became the balance on which Jesus’ body lay:
All our sins amassed together Jesus’ death did far outweigh.
Hail, O Cross, our only comfort, teach us patience, mercy, love;
Be a bout of inspiration and of grace from God above.
To the Father, Son, and Spirit, equal praise be given now.
As we call to mind Christ’s passion, and in deep repentance bow. Amen.

Lord Christ, you have brought us again to this holy season,

Ready to celebrate your victory over death, we give you praise and say: Christ, we adore you:
• Lord Jesus, your disciples forgot your promise that you would rise again, but you did not forget them. Remember those who do not know your resurrection and give them hope.
• Christ our Savior, from the cross you promised paradise to the repentant thief. May all who have shared in your death partake of your risen glory.
• Christ the Good Shepherd, you gave your Body and Blood for all humanity. Let your gifts be the source of life for your Church.
• Christ, Son of the living God, you have buried us with you in baptism and brought us to birth. May our new life grow to full stature in your Spirit.
• Christ, the new Adam, you went down among the dead to make them free. Lead out of captivity those who have died with you.

With the power of the Spirit, let us pray to the Father as his son taught us:

Pray as Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Closing Prayer:

God of mighty power, living forever and source of all life, your only Son descended to the realm of the dead, so that from that place of exile and shadow you might raise him up to new life and to glory at your side. Let all those who in faith descend into the waters of baptism find the font of the Church to be both the tomb in which they die to sin with Christ and the womb from which they rise reborn, a new creation. We ask this through your Son, the Christ, our Passover and Peace, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.


Daily Prayers for Holy Week | Good Friday

Over the coming days of Holy Week, we will offer Scripture, prayers for your consideration, and the Lord’s Prayer. We invite you to consider these daily prayers for your journey through Holy Week to Easter.

The prayers this week are adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

Good Friday

Isaiah 53:4-5

4
Surely, he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.

Toward mid-afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

Isaiah 53:6-7

6
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

I Peter 2:21-24

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

For our sake Christ humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross.

When Jesus tasted vinegar he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, de delivered over his spirit.

Pray as Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

Almighty God, you awoke in your Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the desire to be human, without power or prestige in this world. He experienced in his person the cost of such a life, dying like a salve on the cross. Let us, we beg you, recognize in him your power and wisdom. Give us faith, both in you, the living God, and in your power to bring even the dead to life again; today and every day forever and ever.

For our sake Christ humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross.


Daily Prayers for Holy Week | Holy Thursday

Over the coming days of Holy Week, we will offer Scripture, prayers for your consideration, and the Lord’s Prayer. We invite you to consider these daily prayers for your journey through Holy Week to Easter.

The prayers this week are adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

Holy Thursday

Hebrews 2:9-10

9 We do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Merciful God, you have brought us to the threshold of the Easter journey, this time of salvation, so that you might free us from sin and strengthen us in your love. Listen as we pray: Lord, hear and have mercy.

• Lord, make us fruitful members of Christ by renewing in us his Holy Mystery;
• Make us eager for your word by opening our ears and hearts during these sacred days;
• Make us faithful in your service by the common events of our daily lives;
• Make us generous in serving others by our simplicity of life;
• Make us humble and without guile by giving us true knowledge of ourselves;
• And make us bear in ourselves the wounds of Christ by sharing the suffering and pain of your people.

Pray as Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.


Daily Prayers for Holy Week | 4-13-22

Over the coming days of Holy Week, we will offer Scripture, prayers for your consideration, and the Lord’s Prayer. We invite you to consider these daily prayers for your journey through Holy Week to Easter.

The prayers this week are adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

Wednesday of Holy Week

1 Corinthians 1:28-30

28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one[a] might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
Lord Jesus, for forty days you fasted in the desert and were tempted, yet never sinned. Guard us with your power as we seek to follow you. Hear us as we pray: Lord, save your people.

• Lead your Church to Unity and Peace;
• Bless the efforts of world leaders to bring peace on earth and foster understanding among nations;
• Free all people from bigotry, prejudice and hatred;
• Comfort those who suffer because of injustice, poverty, and sickness;
• Increase the faith, hope, and love of those who are broken and confused;
• Forgive us our sins and keep us from losing heart because of our weakness.

Pray as Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.


Daily Prayers for Holy Week | 4-12-22

Over the coming days of Holy Week, we will offer Scripture, prayers for your consideration, and the Lord’s Prayer. We invite you to consider these daily prayers for your journey through Holy Week to Easter.

The prayers this week are adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

Tuesday of Holy Week

Jeremiah 11:19

But I was like a gentle lamb
led to the slaughter.
And I did not know it was against me
that they devised schemes, saying,
“Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
so that his name will no longer be remembered!”

O God, you call us to seek you and the kingdom you have promised. Help us to answer your call with greater zeal. Hear us as we pray: Lord, be gracious and bless us.

• Enliven the faith of all who lead your Church and renew them in their ministry of service.

Draw Christians together in the bond of peace of love, and make them one in the power of your Spirit.

Turn us away from our selfishness, and renew our desire to serve you and each other.

Heal our anguish and pain we have caused others, and forgive our neglect and unconcern.

Pray as Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.


Daily Prayers for Holy Week | 4-11-22

Over the coming days of Holy Week, we will offer Scripture, prayers for your consideration, and the Lord’s Prayer. We invite you to consider these daily prayers for your journey through Holy Week to Easter.

The prayers this week are adapted from the Benedictine Daily Prayer Book.

Monday of Holy Week

Acts 12:26b-30

To us[a] the message of this salvation has been sent. 27 Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. 28 Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. 29 When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead;

Lord God, you brought us out of slavery to sin into the freedom of a new life by the death and resurrection of your Son. Though we have been unfaithful, you wait for us with strong and gentle care. Listen, we pray,

Lord, save your people:

• As we turn away from sin;
• As we turn from selfishness and deceit;
• As we turn away from pride and arrogance;
• As we turn away from anger and hatred;
• As we turn to you in lowliness of heart;
• As we turn to you in worship;
• As we turn to you in love.

Pray as Jesus taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.


Building Bridges in the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference

Recently, I shared with you the news of the postponement of General Conference 2022 until May of 2024. There is significant disappointment across the Church with the news. For sure, there are implications of this delay, and the Council Bishops continues to consider the implications of this delay and how to lead in the coming two years until the General Conference will gather.

However, as I have reflected on this news, I have been reminded of the journey we have traveled together. Throughout our time together the conviction that has guided my leadership is this: nothing is sacred but the mission. In recent days, I have remembered the call God placed on my heart in 2012.  God has been calling me to build bridges across the Nashville Episcopal Area and to be the bishop of all persons.

I am serving in my 10th year as your bishop.  I remember well the joy and excitement Lynn and I had to become a part of the Nashville Episcopal Area and the promise of Greater Things about which Jesus spoke in John 14.

One of those greater things was the monumental task of uniting two conferences with histories, customs, memories, and relationships that were deep and vital. This work we have faithfully done and the TWK is  now 70+ days old. We are learning a lot; our team is adapting constantly to the changing landscape of the conference and the UMC. 

The Connectional Table has adopted four areas of focus for the work of the Annual Conference:

1.    Reconciliation

  •       Discover the work that God is doing to dismantle racism in TWK

2.    Resilience

  •       Discover what God is doing to increase resilience of spiritual leaders in TWK

3.    Response

  •       Create systems of response to Disasters that affect the TWK by setting up a Long Term Recovery organization and deepen our ability to respond quickly to disasters through church volunteer efforts

4.    Resurrection

  •       Pay attention to the ways God is helping us be the Church in a new day
  •       Collaborate with leaders and discover the assets that are available to grow new communities of faith
  •       Bear witness to God’s work of renewing and becoming the Church in the world.

As we think about our life together, I am drawn to John’s gospel.  In fact, if I look back over the last 10 years much of the teaching we have shared is drawn from the Gospel of John.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

The overarching task of the Church today is rooted in the evangelistic process of knowing, growing, abiding in Jesus Christ (John 15:5)

This work is Initiated by the Movement of the Holy Spirit.  It is through the movement of the Holy Spirit that we experience the Resurrected life which makes possible Reconciliation, Resilience, and Response.

Lay and clergy leaders all over the TWK conference are leading in ways that Christ is using to accomplish our mission.

Over the years as our two conferences worked to create the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference, people revealed a strength and resilience and a willingness to create a new conference in a season filled with disruption.  There have been multiple disruptions. And yet we practiced adaptive leadership, grounded in Christ, that led us through.

Two years ago, this week two things happened. One, my mother died and two, we shut down all our in-person worship services.  It’s been a hard two years. The journey since that time has been filled with challenges, confusion, adaptability. Our Pastors have been amazing front-line workers pivoting to worship in creative formats.

As you know, as we were saying goodbye to the legacy conferences we did so in a virtual way.

We did not have the opportunity to adequately celebrate and give thanks for who we have been.

As we have created a new conference, we have grieved the losses that we have experienced.

We will, at the first session of the TWK annual conference,  have a time of lament for the losses and for what we have been. Dr. Sharon Cox will lead us in this process of grieving.

We continue to lead adaptively as we experience multiple disruptions.

Regarding the announcement of the delay of General Conference, we have learned that some of our churches may want to leave the UMC. This will cause further disruption in our conference. 

I want you to know this:

  • my calling is to remain faithful to the United Methodist Church.
  • I believe that it is possible be a United Methodist and be faithful to orthodox, traditional, and progressive beliefs.
  • I am called to this work, and to a church that does amazing mission on behalf of God’s kingdom across this world. Even as I write these words, the United Methodist Church is on the ground in Ukraine and the United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to humanitarian need through the leadership of Bishop Eduard Khegay. When we consider the disruptions, those we are experiencing pale in comparison to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

Here’s what I know:

“The United Methodist Church is founded on a Wesleyan theology of grace, anchored in Scripture, and based in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the continuing movement of the Holy Spirit.” – #BeUMC

  • We embrace the fundamentals of the Wesleyan tradition and dedicate ourselves to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
  • We embrace a Church anchored in Scripture and a theology of grace.
  • We embrace a Church that aspires to be a more just and inclusive force in the world. 
  • We embrace the connected power of 12 million souls united, working towards good in the world.
  • We embrace a Church that has uplifted our own lives and the lives of our friends, family, and those we cherish.
  • We embrace a Church built in loving relationships rather than uniformity in thought and action.
  • We embrace a Church where everyone does not have to agree and where everyone is welcome.

I recognize that not every person and not every congregation will choose to remain a part of our family. If that is the case, we have a process in place. Our process affirmed by the Conference Board of Trustees as guided by the recent Judicial Council decisions has reaffirmed paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline as a clear and fair process for churches who wish to depart from the denomination.  

Additionally, the Council of Bishops has asked for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council regarding whether an annual conference can leave and join another evangelical denomination.

Gil Rendle reminds us that this season of leadership must be quietly courageous: cultivating hope that becomes wise through experience and is undaunted by disappointment, naming anxiety that does not unnerve us but reveals to us new ways to look at new things in the future, knowing that we have simple blessings that will see us through — health, food, sleep, one another, the seasons of God’s creative hand. These practices draw us close to the foundation that is our faith in Christ.

Our work is to be bridge builders as we bear witness to the love of God in the world.

A Prayer for the Church in These Times

O God, whose mercy is ever faithful and ever sure, who art our refuge and our strength in time of trouble, visit us, we beseech thee—for we are in trouble.

We need a hope that is made wise by experience and is undaunted by disappointment. We need an anxiety about the future that shows us new ways to look at new things but does not unnerve us. As a people, we need to remember that our influence was greatest when our power was weakest. Most of all, we need to turn to thee, O God, and our crucified Lord, for only his humility and his strength can heal and free us.

O God, be thou our sole strength in time of trouble. In the midst of anxiety, grant us the grace to count our blessings—the simple ones: health, food, sleep, one another, a spring that is bursting out all over, a nation which, despite all, has so much to offer so many.

And, grant us to count our more complicated blessings: our failures, which teach us so much more than success; our lack of money, which points to the only truly renewable resources, the resources of our spirit; our lack of health, yea, even the knowledge of death, for until we learn that life is limitation, we are surely as formless and as shallow as a stream without its banks.

Send us forth into a new week with a gladsome mind, free and joyful in the spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.

—William Sloan Coffin, Riverside Church

I invite you to join me in the work of building bridges across the rivers that bind us in the Tennessee Western Kentucky Conference.

Bishop McAlilly


A message from the bishop

General Conference further postponed to 2024


Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6.1-16, 16-21

In a sense, the 40-day Lenten journey upon which we embark today is a journey of spiritual preparation.  This season is about death and resurrection, brokenness and redemption, endings, and beginnings.

It is a time to take stock, to reflect, to come clean before God.  There is a remarkable prayer of confession in our hymnal that says: we confess, O Lord, that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. 

So, in the words of the prophet Joel appointed for today, “Return to the LORD, your God, with all your heart for God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. “

Return to the Lord, praying as King David did, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

The Christian faith, of course, is not just a collection of ideas to be believed; it is a way of life to be practiced.  Lent is a time when we commit to come clean before God.  

And there is no sense pretending with God. God knows that you don’t have your act together.  God knows the who we are.  God knows the confused motives behind the seemingly innocent remark or gesture.  God not only knows the real you, but God also loves you. Today our scripture teaches us to “Rend your hearts and not your garments” are both counseling us to pay more attention to the content of our hearts as we enter this season of preparation for Easter.

In the words of the prophet Joel, God is telling us, “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart.”  

May this Lenten Journey guide your heart and your steps as you draw near to Christ. 


Pastoral Letter in Light of the Tragic Events in Ukraine

Please receive this word from Bishop Christian Alsted

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

There is war in Europe; Russia has invaded Ukraine, which is a free independent democracy. 

War and violence are evil and always entail considerable human costs. The Christian message points to the path of reconciliation and never to war and violence as a solution to conflicts. 

In the face of this evil, we pray for a logic different from the one based on geopolitical competition. We pray for a change of hearts and minds of leaders; we pray for de-escalation and dialogue instead of violence and war. 

The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church say: 

We deplore war and urge the peaceful settlement of all disputes among nations. From the beginning, the Christian conscience has struggled with the harsh realities of violence and war, for these evils clearly frustrate God’s loving purposes for humankind. We yearn for the day when there will be no more war and people will live together in peace and justice. —2016 Book of Discipline, Social Principles, ¶ 164

Our central conference consists of Nordic, Baltic, and Eurasian countries, including Russia and Ukraine. The Christian church is not nationalistic, and our relations with our brothers and sisters in other countries are not limited by nationality or culture. We have deep relations with Methodists in Ukraine and in Russia, and although we are influenced by our culture and the political realities, we must never allow this to hinder or break our unity in Christ.

We stand with the United Methodists in Ukraine in prayer for protection, reconciliation, and peace. We pray for pastors, leaders, and congregations in The United Methodist Church in Ukraine; may God grant that their witness of reconciliation and peace will bring strength and hope to the Ukrainian people.

We pray for Bishop Eduard Khegay, bishop of both Russia and Ukraine; may God give him the wisdom and grace that he needs in his ministry and leadership under these challenging circumstances.

In the Nordic and Baltic episcopal area, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all have borders with Russia; and in addition, Latvia and Lithuania have borders with Belarus. In the Baltic countries in particular, the invasion of Ukraine causes great concern.

The United Methodists in the Nordic countries stand with the Methodists in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in prayer for protection and peace. May the church’s testimony of reconciliation and peace in Christ offer hope and strength to the people in the Baltic countries.

In the coming week, we will enter the season of Lent, which, in the church, is a time for prayer and soul-searching. I call on all our congregations to intercede for the people of Ukraine and for the leaders in the world who have the power to bring an end to war. I call on all our congregations to pray and fast for reconciliation and peace in the world. May God, in his grace, open our eyes to the things that make for peace, may he protect us all from the escalation and spreading of war, and may we follow him on his path of truth and peace.

May Christ have mercy on us all

Christian Alsted
Bishop


Appointment Season

Dear Friends,

I give thanks to God for your ministry across the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference, in every place, and in every community where God is at work through the United Methodist Church.

As you know, this is the season when the cabinet begins its annual appointive work. Already, district superintendents have been in consultation with pastors and congregations who are anticipating a pastoral change this year. Those changes will be announced in worship on Sunday, April 3, 2022.

This is my tenth appointive season as your bishop. The cabinet has learned much from you as we have done this important work. Congregations and pastors have taught us that in some cases, there is never a good time to make a pastoral change. Pastors have taught us that the needs of families often outweigh any other considerations. Families where both spouses have careers create challenges to the vow made to itinerate.

Next week we begin in earnest the appointive season. During February, March, and April, the Appointive Cabinet will meet to consider pastoral changes. Our district superintendents are consulting with pastors and congregations during this season to determine where we need to consider changes.

The chair of the P/SPRC will receive a letter from me which will be read in worship on April 3, 2022. This is when congregations will learn of their new pastors. 

The P/SPRC Chair will not announce where the departing pastor is moving. This will be the responsibility of the pastor who is departing, and the pastor will choose how to share that information.

Later in April and May, the district superintendent will convene covenant meetings with the P/SPRC where the new pastor will be introduced to the committee.

The actual moving day for clergy is not yet determined. It’s likely that Sunday, June 26, will be the last Sunday of your current pastor’s appointment. The first Sunday for your new pastor will likely be July 10. This delayed start relieves a new pastor from beginning on the July 4 holiday weekend.

Please be in prayer for the cabinet. This is intense work. It is work that impacts congregations, pastors, and pastoral families. Each appointment is important to the disciple-making process in every community and United Methodist congregation within the bounds of the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.

We covet your prayers and thank you for your faithfulness. May God be with us all in this season.

Bishop McAlilly


Statement from Central Conference Bishops

Below you will find a statement released this week by the Central Conference College of Bishops regarding the proposed vaccinations of Central Conference Delegates. 

There is deep concern about the inequity this idea presents for Africa, and these leaders in the Church were compelled to speak into this moment as we consider the potential delay of General Conference due to the Global Covid Pandemic. 

We simply offer this to you as information to keep you abreast of all that is occurring in this liminal season leading up to a time when we can gather for General Conference.  

It is expected that the Commission on General Conference will meet near the end of the month and will give direction to when General Conference will be held. It is worth noting that currently, only two bishops serve on the GC Commission with voice but not vote.

Statement from Central Conference bishops on vaccine offers

January 17, 2022

As Christians, we are called to serve all of God’s people without discriminating or choosing only those who agree with us theologically or politically. We are called to be of help to all those in need and not only those who would support our organization’s goals and desires.

That is why we are appalled by the action of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. The WCA has decided to raise funds to assist some United Methodists, mostly in Africa, with getting vaccinations for the sole purpose of making sure that those United Methodists who are delegates to the postponed General Conference would be able to travel to the United States.

While we understand that vaccines are not easily accessible to all people in many parts of the world, we are dismayed that the WCA would choose to help provide vaccines to only a few people and not the community as whole. If the WCA’s motives are pure, why not provide vaccines for the entire family of that delegate or the entire church or the community in which the delegate lives?

The world is in the midst of a global pandemic that so far has caused the death of more than 5.5 million people. Currently, the highly contagious Omicron variant has made many countries shut down again and reintroduce severe restrictions due to exponentially growing numbers of people infected. While the United States and Europe are struggling to increase the number of people fully vaccinated and encouraging a third and, in some places, even a fourth shot, countries in Africa are struggling to make vaccines available at all. In the Democratic Republic of Congo for example, less than half a million people out of a population of 80 million are vaccinated.

Furthermore, we know the virus is likely to continue to mutate as long as a significant amount of people are infected. This is why the Connectional Table has called the church to consider vaccine equity a missional priority of the church. The Council of Bishops supports this effort. As vaccine distribution is regulated and controlled by the government in each individual country, the efforts of The United Methodist Church are to focus on advocacy and education. This concerns our future – we are all affected, and we all know people who have been seriously ill or have died from Covid. Jesus called us to care for the least and making vaccines available across the globe and receiving vaccination when possible is a simple matter of obedience to Christ’s call and a tangible expression of love of neighbor, and far more important than our own internal struggles in the church. It is time that we wake up to this reality in God’s world.

Offering vaccines to General Conference delegates or covering the cost of delegates to travel to places where they can be vaccinated is not an expression of vaccine equity. Rather, it appears as an attempt to benefit those who have been given a special responsibility, and who the donor wishes to fulfill a certain purpose.

Furthermore, the official organizer of the General Conference is the Commission on General Conference, and when individual interest groups begin to offer benefits to delegates, they jeopardize the integrity of General Conference.

The unfortunate thing about the entire process by WCA is that it has all the marks of colonialism which our countries went through in some years ago. The tactics of divide-and-conquer have created chaos and division on the African continent and should not be allowed in our churches. One would have thought that our friends and partners in the WCA would have taken some modest time to consult with the church leaders in the Central Conferences so that we move together in how to implement such a cause. We people called United Methodists from the Central conferences promote unity and we treasure our connectional spirit but we deplore any form of colonialism.

Unfortunately, what we experience time and again is the brazen interference in the affairs of The United Methodist Church in Africa from our brothers and sisters in the WCA. If forming a new denomination means leaving a trail of destruction as we are now experiencing in Africa, we surely need to talk about it as friends and members of the family we call The United Methodist Church.

We, the undersigned bishops, have vastly different perspectives on the issues surrounding human sexuality. But with one accord, we stand together for the cohesion and unity of our beloved United Methodist Church. We will not be dissuaded from seeing one another as brothers and sisters in the church.

We live on different continents, in very different contexts. But together we carry out the task entrusted to us by our church, to be shepherds of the whole flock and to lead the church with honesty and integrity. We do not allow that trust in one another to be undermined.

We represent United Methodists on three continents with a variety of languages and cultures, styles of spirituality and convictions. We share a history which contains some dark and shameful aspects. But we are convinced that we can witness to God’s love more powerfully, beautifully, and invitingly if we continue to do so together. We do not allow others to pit us against each other.

Signed:
Bishop Harald Rückert, Europe – president of the Central Conferences College of Bishops
Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, Africa – president of the Africa College of Bishops
Bishop Rudy Juan, Asia – Philippines College of bishops

COB Executive Committee endorses Central Conference statement on vaccines


From Our House to Yours, Merry Christmas!

There are two times of year that I miss serving the local church most keenly. One, of course, is Holy Week and Easter. I miss the journey from Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter—the rhythms of the liturgy. We regularly need to hear the story that  reminds us of our why.   We need to be reminded  that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus as Paul reminds us in Romans 8. 

The other season that captures my heart is Advent. I love the pageantry of preparation for the birth of the Christ Child. I remember well the sheer exhaustion of the week of Christmas.  Multiple services on Christmas Eve. The desire to have just the right message for the occasion, knowing that there likely would be those in the congregation who were longing for something they could not even name. 

I miss serving Holy Communion to children held in the arms by their parents or grandparents.

I miss looking in the eyes of those whose story had been sacredly shared in the holy space of my office at a moment when life hung in the balance as I served the sacrament.  

I miss sharing the light of a candle that had been ignited by the Christ Candle. 

In the first years of our marriage Lynn and I always made the long drive from Gainesville, Georgia to New Albany, MS, where her parents lived. Christmas Eve was a very special night with her family and it started with the Christmas Eve service at First United Methodist Church. Lavelle Woodrick was the Senior pastor. Every year, Lavelle would invite me to read the Christmas story, Luke 2, from the King James Version of the Bible. “In those days a decree went out…” 

As a seminary student, not yet ordained, I was given the privilege of serving the sacrament of Holy Communion.  I usually served the bread, Lavelle held the chalice, and together we shared the words, “The body of Christ, given for you.  The blood of Christ shed for you.”

Then to share the light of Christ with a sanctuary packed with friends and family who had nurtured my faith and my call to ministry as we sang “Silent Night”.  It was a holy time. 

In my experience, on Christmas Eve, Maundy Thursday and Easter, the minister is on the receiving end of ministry, maybe more than at any other time of the Christian year. 

We still come to New Albany, MS, for Christmas. We’ve been making this pilgrimage from one place or another now for 43 years. We’ve had the great fun of having all five of our grandchildren with us this week. Thomas, Micah, Iris, Bo and Mac. Lynn has employed her teaching skills of classroom management and had all five around the kitchen table doing Christmas crafts and singing Christmas carols. The voices of children singing carols is heavenly. 

Today we will go to Oxford University United Methodist Church, where we will hear our granddaughter, Bo, sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” in the Angel Choir. Bo is four and she told us she was an angel since she sang in the angel choir. I do not dare dispute her claim. 

We will be a part of the worshipping community and we will receive the bread and wine, served this night, by our son, Chris, who is Co-pastor at OUUMC. It will be a holy time. 

This Advent season, I’ve reflected on the thought that Emmanuel means God with us. I’m wondering though, in light of what I’ve experienced over the years on this special night, Emmanuel means God embraces us with a love that will not let us go. 

I am mindful of the grief our family has experienced during the Advent season since 2013, when my nephew Gale,  was killed in the line of duty, to my father’s death two years ago, our family has longed for that embrace. We’ve longed for that embrace when we lost my mother at the onset of the pandemic, and most recently the loss of Lynn’s mother last April.  

I am mindful, especially today, of those in our clergy family who will linger in the sanctuary a bit longer because for the first time they will come home without the embrace of a spouse. 

I am mindful today, also, of those in our communities who will this Christmas be without a home because of the recent tornadoes that tore across our Kentucky and West Tennessee. 

I am especially mindful that, if Christ is to be born in us this Christmas, we will need to reach with open arms to those in need. We will need to wrap our arms around our faith. 

So, I invite you to be mindful that when we birth and cradle Christ in our own lives we will find our arms wrapping around others who need Christ birthed and cradled in their lives. 

From our house to yours, 

Merry Christmas! 

Bill and Lynn McAlilly