A Pastoral Letter about health care to the People of The United Methodist Church – Nashville Area

episcopallogoSisters and Brothers:

Grace to you from Jesus Christ, who calls his Church to care for “even the least of these.” One of the ways we participate in that possibility is to create personal, environmental and social conditions in which each individual can receive good health care. In the Gospel of John 10:10b Jesus says, “I came so that they could have life – indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” It is our deep desire that all persons across Tennessee might have the possibility of living the abundant life.

The Social Principles of our church remind us of this truth in its statement on the Right to Health Care. “Health is a condition of physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being. Stewardship of health is the responsibility of each person to whom health has been entrusted.” [Para. 162(v), 2012 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church]

In caring for our neighbors and allowing more of our fellow citizens to have access to good healthcare, I urge your prayerful support for Insure Tennessee, an initiative that Governor Bill Haslam has recommended to the State Legislature. Its passage will allow 200,000 more Tennesseans to have adequate health coverage. The program will be open to Tennesseans earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $16,000 in annual income for an individual or $33,000 for a family of four).

A special called session of the Tennessee Legislature will be convened on February 2nd to consider the Insure Tennessee plan. I encourage you to do the following four things prior to that date.

1) Become fully informed and educated about the benefits of the Insure Tennessee Plan.

A good website to consult is www.insuretennesseenow.com.

2) Personally contact your Tennessee legislators and give voice to your opinions. Letters, emails and phone calls can all be effective. If you need contact information for a senator or representative, it is available at www.capitol.tn.gov/legislators (Find My Legislator section on right side).

3) Share this letter with friends, family members and neighbors as a part of your witness of care for fellow citizens who need better health coverage. Click here for a PDF copy.

4) Pray for our legislators that they might seek God’s will as a part of their own discernment process.

The New Testament teachings of Jesus remind us over and over again of his ministry of healing and wholeness. I encourage you to respond promptly and faithfully to this opportunity to join him in this mission.

I invite you to share this with your congregation this Sunday. Click here for a PDF copy.

Expecting Greater Things,

Bishop William T. McAlilly

Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church

(Middle and West Tennessee and Western Kentucky)


Council of Bishops issues statement concerning human sexuality

November 8, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and Peace to you!

Below is a statement that yesterday afternoon the Council of Bishops adopted, unanimously, regarding our ministry with all persons, regardless of sexual orientation:

As bishops of The United Methodist Church, our hearts break because of the divisions that exist within the church. We have been in constant prayer and conversation and affirm our consecration vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We recognize that we are one church in a variety of contexts around the world and that bishops and the church are not of one mind about human sexuality. Despite our differences, we are united in our commitment to be in ministry for and with all people. We are also united in our resolve to lead the church together to fulfill its mandate—to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we do so, we call on all United Methodists to pray for us and for one another.

This statement is offered to the United Methodist Church to affirm our vow “to guard the faith, to seek the unity and to exercise the discipline of the whole church.” We are mindful that many across the Church will disagree; some expecting more, others expecting less.

As a global church, we wrestle with language that does no harm-either in the United States or abroad. What we are clear about is that the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is our deepest call and commitment.

We acknowledge that differences and divisions exist within our denomination and across the Nashville Area. Therefore, we will prayerfully consider ways in which to open space for deeper conversation among one another with regard to our differences around our understanding of human sexuality.

Please continue to offer prayer for each other and for the bishops as we move toward General Conference 2016.

Serving Christ With You,
Bishop William T.  McAlilly
Resident Bishop

*For more information about this statement from the Council of Bishops, click here to read Nov. 7 story from the United Methodist News Service.


I’m thinking about reconciliation today…

1.jpg…it’s on my mind because this is Advent and we are on a journey to Bethlehem, a journey we take annually as a Church. There was a time when the Church began the season with a period of penitence and fasting. Perhaps these are practices that would serve us well in this current environment.

Have you ever wondered why purple is the liturgical color of Advent? It is to create a visual connection between Advent and Lent, the two periods of preparation for Jesus’ birth and death. For early Christians, it was essential to understand the link between the cradle and the cross—that Jesus came as the “Word made flesh.”

There will be great joy among us as we celebrate in our congregations in the coming days. We will celebrate the coming of Christ’s birth. Will we also hold before us the tension held within the reality that his life led to his crucifixion, resurrection and the promise of new life for all of us?

Kate Lasso, a member of the Eighth Day Faith Community suggests that during Advent we celebrate God’s invitation to reconciliation. To be reconciled to God is to be actively living what Jesus taught: Love God and love neighbor. Jesus’ invitation is also a call to discipleship.

Lasso continues: “The first ones to hear the news, and thus mark the advent of an age of reconciliation with God, were poor shepherds, some of the lowest ranking members of Jewish society. Their work made it impossible for them to observe the Jewish ceremonial laws and temple rituals, so they were considered religiously unclean and unacceptable. They weren’t considered trustworthy and were not allowed to give testimony in a Jewish court of law. They were social outcasts, yet they are at the heart of the joyous message—that Christ came for lowly shepherds, for all the forgotten people of the earth, for all of us.”

To be engaged in discipleship is to choose downward mobility. It is to take up one’s cross and follow daily our Leader. It is to be so in love with God that love for neighbor is the natural response. As you make preparations, make room. Make room in your heart, in your family, in your work, and in your re-creation. When you do, you will be ready for Christmas in the deepest places of your soul and you will be one with Christ and one with each other.

Advent Peace,
Bill McAlilly

> The TN Conference Children & Families Ministry is publishing an excellent daily Advent devotional via email, CLICK HERE to subscribe – I recommend it!
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Make plans for ‘Giving Tuesday’ on Dec. 3

givngtues250x250bnnr01Giving Tuesday – Have you heard about it yet?

Created in response to the consumer-driven traditions of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

For United Methodists, this means every gift made online that day through “The Advance” will be matched dollar for dollar. All you have to do is log onto umcmission.org/give and search more than 850 missions and ministries.

I encourage all United Methodists of the Nashville Episcopal Area (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) to participate in Giving Tuesday. It offers us all an opportunity to not only support United Methodist organizations that are transforming the world, but begin the month of December by giving, rather than receiving.

Please join me on Dec. 3 by giving back through The Advance. It’s an easy and meaningful way to show gratitude for the gift of our lord Jesus Christ.

Bishop Bill McAlilly


Council of Bishops takes action following same-gender ceremony

wtm.jpgBrothers and Sisters in Christ,

Over the last several days the United Methodist Council of Bishops has been in session at Lake Junaluska, NC. Of the many topics on the agenda this week, none was more significant or more engaging than the discussion that resulted in this statement (posted below).

This statement from the Council of Bishops is a result of discernment, prayer, and deep reflection. It arises out of the recent actions of retired Bishop Melvin Talbert in the residential area of Bishop Debra Wallace-Padget.

Retired and resident bishops of The United Methodist Church throughout the world came to the Council of Bishops with widely different contexts, culturally and theologically, to craft the following points:
1. An acknowledgement of our dependence on God and our need for prayer
2. A recognition that United Methodists are not of one mind on the subject of human sexuality, and that there are deep divisions among Christians who read scripture in different ways and whose consciences move them to opposing convictions.
3. A direct response to the action of Bishop Talbert, which was in violation of the 2012 Book of Discipline by undermining the ministry of another.
4. A commitment to lead honest and respectful conversations around human sexuality, race, and gender in light of our theological convictions for the sake of our mission.

I ask you to note three facets of this development:
1. The General Conference, not the Council of Bishops, speaks for The United Methodist Church.
2. The Council of Bishops does not hold an individual bishop accountable; this practice is given by the General Conference to the (jurisdictional) College of Bishops.
3. The response of the bishops is a reflection on two subjects: a) the violation of the Discipline by a member of the clergy, b) the ongoing struggle of the church with our ministry with gay and lesbian persons.

As the resident bishop of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, I take seriously the calling to be a shepherd to the clergy and laity of the Nashville Area. I am aware that there are deep divisions among us on this subject. We are in a difficult time as we navigate the changing cultural landscape. We are also an incredibly diverse Church. I covet your prayers for all who are harmed by this action.

Peace and Deep Prayer,
– Bishop William T. “Bill” McAlilly

*For those who follow a number of bishops on these matters, Bishop Ken Carter was the chief architect of the above statement with slight variations for the Nashville Area. I am indebted to Bishop Carter for sharing his willingness to be collaborative. A small group of bishop colleagues collaborate on a number of issues of this nature from time to time.


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Council of Bishops
Contact: Diane Degnan (email)

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.: Following the action of a retired bishop to conduct a same-gender ceremony in violation of church law, the United Methodist Council of Bishops took a series of actions to address the issue during their annual meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

The Council requested that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference file a complaint regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert’s action, for “undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple.”

“When there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required,” the bishops said in a statement.

The Council also voted to initiate a task force to lead conversations about human sexuality, race and gender in a global perspective. The goal of this effort is to come to a shared theological understanding amid diverse opinions in the church about these issues.

These actions followed days of prayerful discernment and conversation about the action it would take after retired Bishop Melvin Talbert conducted a ceremony on Oct. 26 celebrating the marriage of a same-gender couple in Center Point, Ala. – a chargeable offense for United Methodist clergy.

Church law says that, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

Both the presiding bishop of the North Alabama area where the ceremony took place, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, and the Executive Committee of the Council had requested that Bishop Talbert not perform the ceremony.

Under church law, the College of Bishops – which is constituted of the bishops in a jurisdictional or central conference – has authority and accountability for processing complaints against a bishop who serves (or served) in that area, which would be the Western Jurisdiction in this instance.

Earlier this week in the President’s Address, Bishop Wenner acknowledged there is diversity of opinion about many issues in the church. “We have to lead together although we are not one minded. We do not need to hide that we are diverse,” she said. In the address, she also noted, “Serious conflicts have to be brought to the tables where leaders are present,” an acknowledgment that supports the plan for further discussion of the issue through a task force.

In a statement, the Council said that when followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views, honest and respectful conversation and prayer are needed throughout the church. The Council expressed pastoral care and concern for all people. (Read the full statement online.)

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Council of Bishops meet at Lake Junaluska

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 | Council of Bishops
Media contact: Diane Degnan (email)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – United Methodist bishops from around the globe will gather in North Carolina at the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center for the Council of Bishops meeting, November 10-15, 2013.

“The clear priority for the Council of Bishops is to increase vitality in our congregations in all the regions where we are present,” said Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council. “We will engage in prayer, theological reflection and visioning so that we help one another to train leaders, to create new faith communities, and to engage in ministries with the poor and health programs like Imagine No Malaria.”

On Sunday, November 10, a memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville. Bishop Wenner will present the President’s Address at 9:45 am on Monday. On Wednesday, the Council will travel to the Qualla Boundary, which is part of the original homeland of the Cherokee Nation. The area is currently home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, direct descendants of those who were able to avoid forced removal to the area that is now Oklahoma.

“We will spend an afternoon with our sisters and brothers of the Cherokee Nation, following up on Acts of Repentance at General Conference,” said Bishop Larry Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Episcopal Area. “We will remember the start of the Trail of Tears 175 years ago and point toward our Council meeting in Oklahoma later this quadrennium,” he said, referring to the Council meeting scheduled for November 2014.

The Council will spiritually center itself in daily worship and communion, along with small covenant groups for prayer and reflection. Plenary sessions, held each morning Monday-Friday, as well as Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, are open to the news media and the public. Among other reports, some of the items that will be discussed include:
• Objectives for the quadrennium: adaptive challenges and vital congregations
• Four Areas of Focus,  agency alignment, 2016 budget process
• Elections: President, President-Designate, Secretary
• Preparing for 2016 General Conference
• Imagine No Malaria
• 2016 Episcopal Address
• Theological foundations of United Methodist identity and mission

During the six-day meeting, the bishops will also have various small group meetings, including accountability groups which were created as part of a covenant to hold one another accountable as they work together to increase the number of vital congregations and engage congregations in mission and ministry in the Four Areas of Focus.

About the Council of Bishops
 | The Council of Bishops – made up of 46 active bishops in the United States, 20 bishops in Europe, Asia and Africa, and 97 retired bishops worldwide – provides leadership and helps set the direction of the 12 million-member church and its mission throughout the world. The bishops are the top clergy leaders of The United Methodist Church, the second largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.


Please pray and display Christ-like spirit in midst of our disagreement

Notice: Below is an image of letter head and a letter from the desk of Bishop McAlilly. If you can not see the image/read text, please CLICK HERE.

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More resources:
CLICK HERE to read “Bishops urge Bishop Talbert not to officiate same-sex union” by United Methodist Communications


Bishop Unda Yemba’s daughter

Dear Friends,

As I was sending out the post regarding our progress with our East Congo Episcopal Residence Project I learned that Bishop Unda’s daughter Kabibi passed away yesterday from malaria. Not too many years ago he also lost his wife to malaria.

Please remember Bishop Unda Yemba’s family in your prayers.

Blessings,
Bishop McAlilly


Growing Community

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by Heather Heinzman*

2.jpgA few years ago, Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina was contemplating using a portion of their precious green space to expand the parking for crowded Sunday mornings and highly attended special events. At certain times of the morning, a parking spot could not be found, and people were forced to park up and down the streets bordering the property. But was this really the best use for the land?

Highland UMC had hosted a weekday English as a Second Language (ESL) program for several years, and as some of the church leadership began connecting with the staff and students, a greater use for the proposed parking lot emerged—a community garden. Many of the students came from agricultural areas and not only missed farming the land, but could not afford to buy fresh, healthy produce at the grocery store. After gaining support from the congregation, including a member with a background in agriculture who agreed to head up the project, the Highland Victory Garden was born.

The results from the garden far exceeded expectations. Not only were church members and ESL students working side-by-side in the dirt, other residents in the community volunteered and joined in the effort. The garden also became a place of refuge. People driving by would stop to spend a moment on one of the benches interspersed between the beds, and family members of patients at the nearby hospital would come to the garden for some quiet time away from their loved one’s bedside.

Within a year, the Highland Victory Garden produced enough food to not only feed those who regularly worked in the garden, but provided hundreds of pounds of fresh, healthy food for the local food bank. As churches and community groups were inspired by the garden, at least forty other gardens were also started in the area.

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Questions for Discussion

• How are your church’s resources utilized? Are you building bigger barns or seeking to use your resources to meet needs in the community?
• How is your congregation intentionally building relationships with its neighbors, particularly those who are the most vulnerable?
• Are you aware of the needs and hopes of your neighbors? What are you currently doing to be Christ’s hands and feet to bring hope?

*Heather Heinzman Lear is Director of Evangelism Ministries at GBOD. She can be reached at hlear@gbod.org. You can read more about the Highland Victory Garden at http://www.highlandumc.org.

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About Romans 12 | Romans 12 is a project of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church to communicate effective principles and practices demonstrated by congregations that are actively making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

These congregations are marked by:
– Clarity around the mission and vision of the congregation.
– Practice of spiritual disciplines, both corporately and individually.
– Nurture of growth in discipleship through mutual support and accountability.
– Cultivation of intentional and mutual relationships with the most vulnerable–the poor, children, the imprisoned, the powerless.
– Consistent concern for inviting people into relationship with Jesus Christ, combined with wise practices for initiating them into the Body of Christ.
– Connectional relationships that facilitate participation in God’s mission of global transformation.
– Shared clergy and lay leadership.

Romans 12 Newsletter. Issue #174 © 2013 GBOD. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to copy this newsletter for use in United Methodist congregations. This newsletter is provided as a service of the General Board of Discipleship and is funded through World Service apportionment giving by local United Methodist congregations.To subscribe or discontinue a subscription contact Deb Smith at dsmith@gbod.org. For previous issues of the newsletter go to www.gbod.org/Romans12

GBOD | The United Methodist Church (www.GBOD.org)
Toll-free: 877.899.2780
PO Box 340003
Nashville, TN 37203


Rio Grande meets Tennessee River: Leaders participate in international retreat

by Joe Geary

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! Psalm 133:1 NRSV

1.jpgBishop McAlilly and leaders from the Nashville Episcopal Area met with their counterparts in Reynosa, Mexico, September 2-4, for an inter-conference and international retreat to plan ministry on both sides of the border. Participating from our region were the Bishop, Area Cabinet, Chairperson of the Area Pacto (covenant) Committee, Rev. Jim Clardy and the CMT Director of the Memphis Annual Conference, Rev. Tom Hazelwood. The theme of the event was taken from the Gospel of John that “they all might become one.”

At the Piedro Angular Campomento (Cornerstone Camp) in Reynosa, we were joined by Bishop Raul Garcia de Ochoa and the Cabinet of the Conferencia Oriental Anual (Eastern Mexico Annual Conference). Also in attendance were Rev. Roberto Gomez Reyes, the liaison for the Pacto to the Nashville Episcopal Area and Mr. Willie Berman who is the General Board of Global Ministries missionary assigned to minister along the corridor bordering the Rio Grande river.

Each Bishop introduced the participants from their respective areas. Opening worship sought the presence of the Holy Spirit to be with us during the retreat. Tables were made up of equal representation from both nations. The event continued with episcopal leaders presenting the flags of our countries. Each contingent then recited pledges of allegiance and sang national anthems.

The retreat continued with reports from both sides touting the progress of our covenant relationship and where each aspect stood in its development. Throughout the three days, worship was interwoven in the schedule. The three Annual Conferences rotated worship leaders, preachers and those offering devotions, testimonies and song. Language and cultural barriers faded away as strangers became colleagues and then brothers and sisters in Christ. Our time was concluded with a powerful celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

2.jpgThe bulk of our retreat experience was hearing a description of the 27 districts of the three Annual Conferences. Each District Superintendent gave a brief summation of their district including opportunities for mission and ministry. On Tuesday evening, Bishops McAlilly and Garcia asked Superintendents to identify a colleague from the opposite nation. Throughout the experience of the retreat, the Holy Spirit was already building fellowship and affinity amongst the cohort.

Having been paired up as partners, the Superintendents then identified priorities in each district for mutual support. Advance teams will visit one another’s districts in the next few months and then teams will go and work over the coming years. Opportunities exist for local churches to have a sister local church and the same for campus ministries or camping and retreat centers, hospitals and homes.

If you would like to know more, please contact your District Superintendent or Conference CMT Director to express interest and support.

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The Bald Bishop challenge

logo.pngJump to: Ways to give  |  Share, download, print resources

TN Conference Bishop to shave head if $20,000 is raised for YSF

Nashville Episcopal Area Bishop Bill McAlilly has officially issued the Tennessee Annual Conference a challenge…plus a bit of a reward if that challenge can be met or exceeded. After an offering of $1234.06 was given by TN Conference young people at  Summer Sizzler in Beersheba Springs this July for the Youth Service Fund, McAlilly called on the Conference to “expect greater things” and set a goal to raise $20,000 for YSF.

The reward? Bishop McAlilly has promised the Conference a “Bald Bishop” by getting his head shaved if the goal of $20,000 can be met by February 2, 2014. TN UMC Dir. of Young People’s Ministries Brad Fiscus was the lucky recipient of a youth-led head shaving ceremony at Summer Sizzler, the annual Conference young people’s gathering, after the initial $1,000 was raised by the students in time for the summer meeting.

The Feb. 2 deadline date falls in line with the closing of Warmth In Winter 2014 in Murfreesboro, TN, the TN Conference winter youth retreat and the largest Conference-wide event of the calendar year annually. DOWNLOAD a tracker poster on the resources page, keep track of your church’s an/or youth group’s donations, and bring your poster to be presented on the wall at Warmth In Winter.

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Want to experience our appointed Bishop getting the ultimate hair cut in front of an audience of 3,000-plus cheering Conference youth and guests? Please give toward the TN Conference Young People’s Ministries goal of $20,000 for the Youth Service Fund using the info below:

> DONATE ONLINE through PayPal (please remember a 2.9% service charge is applied when processed)

> Drop off a designated donation or mail one to:
TN Conference UMC
ATTN: Brad Fiscus
304 S. Perimeter Park Dr. Suite 1
Nashville, TN 37211
(checks payable to “TN Conference UMC,” memo: “Youth Service Fund” and/or “Bald Bishop”)

* All donations will receive a letter of acknowledgement. Donations of $500 or more will receive an autographed picture of the prospective Bald Bishop if the goal is achieved.

CHURCH RESOURCES:
> Digital materials for your websites and social media outlets
> Print materials for worship bulletins, newsletters, etc.
> Friendly URL: http://www.BaldBishop.tnumc.com
> Twitter: #baldbishopUMC

About Youth Service Fund | YSF provides grants to youth and young adults serving in mission throughout the world as it is described in Acts 1:8. Each year the Tennessee Conference Council on Youth Ministry meets in early May to distribute YSF grant money to youth and young adult teams who submit applications by April 15. Please visit TNUMCyouth.org/ysf/


Day 18: Pastoral excellence

1.jpgLuke 24:36 
While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

I was tired, worn out, and stressed to the max! I was mostly annoyed at the inconvenience when I first got the call from my doctor to tell me that I had cancer. In my war-wearied state of total burn-out, I remember thinking that it might be nice if I actually had cancer, then maybe I could get away for a while.

My melt-down came when I was informed that surgery could not be scheduled for several weeks. I wanted the cancer out of my body immediately! I broke down into uncontrollable tears. I remember sitting at my computer, desperately trying to e-mail my Spiritual Director for prayer. I was crying so hard that I couldn’t see through the tears. My whole body was racked with sobs. I could barely catch my breath.

At one point, as I wiped the tears away, I saw my dog, Gus, sitting on the floor beside me. He was looking up at me with the most compassionate eyes I had ever seen. Around my feet lay all of his favorite toys. I had been oblivious to his efforts to cheer me as he had fetched all of his toys from around the house. Gus was dangerously possessive of his toys. No one was ever allowed to touch any of his toys. If he caught you picking up one of his toys, he would pounce on you, growling his warnings to back off. In his concern for me, though, Gus was now sacrificially extending his love in the only way that he knew how. Some people may think this is a bit of a stretch, but I saw the eyes of Jesus reflected in Gus’ big, brown eyes as he looked up at me in that moment of sacrificial love.

When we extend sacrificial love to those in pain; when we are willing to give all that we have to help another bear their burdens; when we lay down our lives for others, it is then that we see the transformational power of God’s love at work. I am physically, spiritually, and emotionally whole today because of the sacrificial love extended to me through the many friends and family that became Jesus for me when I was broken and weary.

Prayer: Lord, help us to bring the authority of your love to our families, our churches, and to the world around us. As you call us to greater levels of excellence in ministry, may we learn to love well.

The Rev. Dr. Diana M. DeWitt
Chairperson, Spiritual Formation Team-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 16: Missional excellence

1.jpgActs 2:42-47
The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.

Today’s Scripture reminds us that we are called to do what the early church did. They fellowshipped and were obedient to the apostles’ teaching and participated in communion and prayer. Then, greater things began to happen.

The community began to notice the signs and wonders performed by the apostles. The new believers were generous in selling and sharing their possessions with glad and sincere hearts. They were living transformed lives and it was contagious.

We’ve heard a lot of questions about becoming vital congregations and about being disciples of Jesus Christ. But a better question to ask might be, “When did we stop being disciples and vital congregations?” As I reflected, Jesus softened my heart and encouraged me to return to the ways of the early church.

Over the years I have been able to identify others as missionaries (like school teachers) or evangelists (those that share Jesus). But I had been making excuses – that Jesus had called and gifted others, not me. Then, Jesus taught me that I am called and empowered to offer Him to others. Now I am intentional about not only meeting physical needs, but also sharing the Good News of Jesus through His transforming love.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for calling us to follow You. Empower us to share You with everyone we meet. Yes, Lord, GREATER THINGS are still to be done! In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.

Today may we look for the opportunities where God is already at work — and join Him!

Holly Neal
Lay Leader-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 15: Congregational excellence

1.jpgLuke 21: 1-3
Looking up, Jesus saw rich people throwing their gifts into the collection box for the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow throw in two small copper coins worth a penny. He said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than them all.

Some weeks back, the church I attend was damaged by either a tornado or, at least, severe straight-line winds. The fellowship hall had a tree fall on it causing damage to the walls, floors and both roofs, including the roof over the sanctuary. Trees littered the property and parking lot. Our brothers and sisters from UMCOR have been a constant presence giving whatever it takes to help others in need. They give not from their abundance, but they gave and continue giving all they can to God.

Amazingly, last year the church applied for a church extension grant to fix the leaking roof, fellowship hall and a few other items. Out of the chaos of the storm and disaster, God has blessed us with a new roof and repairs that we, otherwise, would not have been able to accomplish. Three days after the roof was completed, as it rained and rained, we all stood in the church thanking God for the sound of the awesome rain falling on that new roof.

So what is a healthy congregation? Could it be that a healthy congregation is one that not only withstands the storms of life, but one which thrives through the storms of life? A healthy congregation is one that is able to celebrate in the rain, when the safety net of God’s love and grace is firmly in place through surrendered servants who love the Lord with all their hearts, and who love their neighbors as themselves.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, giver of all good gifts, help us in this season of worry, doubt and mistrust to trust you as that faithful widow did so long ago. May we not only give out of our abundance, as so many of us often do, but to give our all to you as the widow who gave out of her poverty. Move us into your divine health. AMEN

Gerry Campbell
Lay Leader-Memphis Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions


Day 14: Pastoral excellence

1.jpgExodus 16:4
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction.

Years ago I remember reading about a Methodist missionary recounting a visit from a student. He had been reading the Bible and said, “It writes here that when Jesus will come again, he will come with a shout. What will Jesus shout?” Reflecting on his walk with Christ on the mission field he replied, “Christ will shout ENOUGH! Enough poverty….enough suffering…enough hunger…enough hatred… enough death. Enough.”

That word “enough” is one we struggle with in our culture. Voices bombard us daily saying we don’t have enough. We must buy one more electronic gadget so life can be easier. We must acquire more money to be comfortable. We need more work on the house so it will compete in the market. We need one more car to make life fun. “Enough” gets stretched further and further from our reach. When is enough?

God tried to teach the Hebrews in the wilderness that “enough” was a matter of trust in God’s love, provision, and grace. The Biblical narrative is full of illustrations of good people not getting that lesson. We see it all the way down to Jesus as he stood before the multitude. He kept telling the disciples that a few loaves would be enough.

This is a lesson the church continues to struggle with. We are filled with fear of the future. We are afraid there will not be enough time, energy, money, resources or whatever to take care of the “have to’s,” much less risk caring for those outside our circle. But Jesus patiently keeps saying, “Enough.” Jesus keeps suggesting that we look at our “have to’s,” again. Do they reflect, “I love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and my neighbor as myself?” Enough! That shout transforms us because it shatters fear and releases us in trust to live the life Jesus called “Abundant.”

Prayer: Lord, Jesus, in your power and in your love, release us for “enough.” AMEN.

The Rev. LeNoir Culbertson
Murfreesboro District Superintendent-TN Conference

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REFLECTIONS FOR THE DAY |
Use a program on your computer, a traditional journal, or feel free to use the comment section of this blog post to record your reflections as a conversation with others…
READ – What spoke to me as I read today’s meditation?
REPENT – Where is God showing me that I have failed to be obedient to the call to discipleship today?
RECEIVE – What words of redemption and grace is God offering to me?
REMEMBER – Who and what is God calling me to remember in prayer related to today’s reading?
RESPOND – How is God calling me to respond today?

RESOURCES:
> DOWNLOADS – 40 Day Walk prayer guide (.PDF), 40 Days of Doodles kids journal (.PDF)
> CLICK HERE for sermon starters/suggestions