Update from the Pastors: Special Session of the General Conference

Friends in Christ,

Yesterday’s news from the United Methodist Church has caused pain, confusion, anxiety, and for some rejoicing. Delegates from around the world gathered in St. Louis for the Special Session of General Conference to determine our way forward as United Methodists regarding our stance on human sexuality. They voted to adopt the Traditional Plan by a margin of 54 votes.  This means the current stance in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, which prohibits same sex unions and the ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals,  remains in place.

Bishop Reuben Job wrote a book on Three Simple Rules, summarizing what it means to be both a follower of Christ in the the tradition of John Wesley.  They are “Do No Harm, Do Good, and Stay in Love with God.” Sadly, The United Methodist Church has failed.  Much harm and pain have resulted to our sisters and brothers across the world.

This congregation was founded with a heart to be a place that welcomes all people in the name of Christ.  We remain committed to this because Jesus kept it simple: Love God, Love Neighbor.  At this point there are many things to be sorted out.  Thousands of congregations across our nation are also seeking how they will respond to the vote in St. Louis, finding a way to continue serving God and community as ambassadors of Christ.

For up-to-date news we recommend the United Methodist News Service.  We hope that you will also join us for a soup and salad luncheon on Sunday, March 10, 12:15 in the refectory.  We will provide a report with as much up-to-date information as possible to help Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church stay on course as a strong, vibrant community of faith that welcomes all people.      

Bishop Palmer, the resident episcopal leader of West Ohio Conference, posted this on Tuesday, February 26, in St. Louis, just one half hour before adjournment:

Beloved in Christ Jesus,

As I write this, the General Conference is within a half-hour of adjournment. I want to offer a few thoughts as we move forward.

• Your prayers have sustained the West Ohio delegates, all of the delegates, the bishops, me and Cynthia. Thank you. I encourage you to continue to be earnest in prayer for The United Methodist Church, the mission and your local church.   

• Over the next 48 hours I will be sorting out and analyzing what the General Conference actually adopted along with the decisions of the General Conference and the effect of those actions on our common life. I will not be doing this in isolation, but with other bishops and with our delegates and other leaders in our conference.

• I hope you will be at one of many locations for the simulcast on Saturday morning March 2. This will give me a chance to share a first summary of where we are and answer a few questions.

• The cabinet will be meeting with me 3 of the next 7 days to continue the process of analysis and communication.

• Your District Superintendents will be moving among you in the month of March.

• I will be determining in the next several weeks the places I need to be and the conversations I need to host with multiple audiences.

This has been a robust General Conference. The attention to prayer and worship has been inspiring and helpful. There have been bright moments and there have been dim moments. There have been words and speeches that have soared with poetic Spirit inspired oratory. There have been words and speeches that have done harm to people, especially our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. I lament this and our lack of capacity to hold the whole together and keep the “unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

Please continue to pray for the United Methodist Church and for Hyde Park Community as we seek to listen to God, to each other, and embrace our mission to open our hearts and doors to welcome all.

Your Servants in Christ,

Pastors Cathy and Doug Johns

Trusting in the Waiting

Henri Nouwen writes:  “Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy.  In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time.  Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, ‘Get going!  Do something!  Show you are able to make a difference!  Don’t just sit there and wait!’  For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. “ (Watch For The Light, p. 27)

We’re not good at “waiting”, and we are even more anxious when asked to “trust God” in the waiting.  We’re not alone.  Noah, trapped in the arch as the floodwaters covered the earth, was asked to trust God in those days of waiting (150 days, Gen. 8:3).  In the waiting, trusting God, God delivers, and establishes God’s covenant with Noah and all of creation; a covenant grounded in love!

As we reflect on Noah’s walk with God, we are encouraged to model our walk with God.  In our waiting can we forsake the “instant gratification” obsession of our culture, and embrace a deep and abiding trust in God’s presence, and God’s provision, grounded in a loving covenant, sealed in Jesus the Christ?  “Simone Weil, a Jewish writer, said, Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.”  (Watch For The Light, p. 37)

“Walking With God”, let us learn from our patriarch Noah how to trust God in our waiting.  I look forward to seeing you in Church!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Lives Transformed Through Your Generosity

As we begin a new year, I celebrate with you 2018!  Thank you for your faithfulness to the ministry and mission of HPCUMC/OTRCC through your generosity.  You have offered abundant living to countless individuals, families, and communities through your financial support.  Because you gave:

  • Our partnership with Rothenberg Preparatory Academy flourishes.  At Christmas we provided over 40 preschoolers, and 50 third graders, with gifts, in addition to 100 gifts for the “Falcon Buck Good Behavior Store.”
  • We provided 552 families a Thanksgiving meal; and over 200 people helped assemble the
  • Provided pizza and fellowship with youth at 20/20 ministry.
  • Our Preschool flourishes with a capacity enrollment; and bi-monthly Chapel, lead by our Director of Children and Family Ministries, offering God’s love through worship designed for preschoolers.
  • The Young Adult Ministry continues to grow as we engage Young Adults in the Hyde Park Community and surrounding communities.   
  • The Fourth Sunday of Advent offered a worship experience featuring John Rutter’s “Gloria”, and the Cathedral Choir
  • Over 50 children lead our Family Christmas Eve worship service.
  • The Worship @ 11 Band continues to lead worship that is inspiring and powerful.
  • First Friday Nighters and Thursday Edition offer quality programming and fellowship for our Senior Adults.
  • The Christmas Bash (the most recent Community Welcome Event) opened our doors to the community, where over 100 children and their families enjoyed food, crafts, fellowship, and a visit with Santa; of the 54 families that attended 43 families were from the community.
  • For the first time in over a decade we ended the fiscal year in the black, and debt free!

It is a privilege to serve in ministry with you, to God is the glory!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Star of Wonder, Star of Light

“The Star” leads the Magi and their caravan to the Christ Child, and in transforming wonder lead them back into the world.  Likewise “The Star” leads and sends you and me, where we live out our calling to be the “Light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

The Prophet Isaiah describes this “Great Light” that illumines and transforms (Isaiah 9:2-6).  It is a prophecy that holds in tension current reality and future deliverance.  Twentieth Century Theologian Jurgen Moltmann writes:

“Isaiah lets his vision of the birth of the child and the appearance of the pace of God shine like a light into the conflicts and experiences of real life. It is not easy to keep these dimensions together when one is used to splitting up faith and politics, to celebrate Christmas only in the heart and in the bosom of one’s own family.  But the message of the prophet is a realistic vision, and what it talks about is a visionary reality.  It is a message for the people, a message sent into the camps of the exiled, and into the slums of the poor.  It is a word against the captains of the arms industry and the fanatics of power.  If we really understand what it means, it bursts the bonds of Sunday worship.  For if this message really lays hold of us, it leads us to Jesus the liberator, and to the people who live in darkness and who are waiting for him – and for us.” (Watch for the Light, p.309-310)

As we celebrate The Epiphany – the day the Magi saw the light, encountered the Christ Child; and transformed returned to offer transformation to the world, let us make the journey as well.  As we begin a new year, let us be the liberating Body of Christ to the world; and the “Light of the world” to those who walk in darkness!  See you in Church!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Mission and Outreach

Join us in making a difference this Christmas. Historically our congregation has faithfully provided for the various needs of our global partners. Please prayerfully consider giving an extraordinary gift to our Global Outreach Ministry. With your generous support, we will provide leadership training, education for those in poverty, supplies and staffing resources for health needs, as well as training and care for those who need support. Our goal is $60,000 to meet the needs of our partners.

You can make your donation using the envelope provided in your pew and placing it in today’s offering or by mailing it to the church office (1345 Grace Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45208). Checks can be written to Hyde Park Community UMC with a note in the memo; Christmas Global Offering.

Your faithfulness in giving above and beyond this Christmas will enhance the lives of children in Haiti, provide a Christ-centered place of worship in Russia and Romania, or help to maintain the health and wellness of Americans who have followed God into full-time missions in Asia Minor. Keep Christ at the center of your Christmas and into the New Year.

In Christ,

Rev. Doug Johns, Co-Senior Pastor

Sarah Putman, Mission & Outreach Ministry Assistant

Abundant Living

Jesus states his purpose saying, “I came so that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  As partners with God, in God’s acts of new creation, abundant life is experienced through how we give ourselves away; and both we and those we serve experience abundant living!

Michael Josephson in a piece titled, “Live A Life That Matters” writes:

“Ready or not, someday life will all come to an end.  There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.  Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.  It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.  So what will matter?  How will the value of your days be measured?  What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built, not what you got, but what you gave!  What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encourage others.  Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident, it’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.  Choose to live a life that matters.”

Abundant living becomes a reality as we “live a life that matters”. In this season of Thanks-Giving we express gratitude for our blessings; may we become a blessing to the world through our investment in God’s acts of new creation.

The finance team is in the final stages of putting together our 2019 budget.  Thank you to all of you who have made an investment in the mission and ministry of HPCUMC/OTRCC through your 2019 commitment.  To date we have received 253 commitments totaling $1,214,491.  For those of you who are still praying about your 2019 commitment, I am in prayer with you.  I encourage you to either go to our website and make your commitment online, or return a commitment card to the Church office (there are commitment cards in the literature racks around the church and in the church office).

I thank God daily for you, and count it a privilege to serve in ministry with you!  This Thanksgiving I praise God for the abundant living that is mine through Christ Jesus, and the abundant living we are able to offer others through our investment in God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Investing in the Kingdom of God

Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and God’s righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NJB)

The words of Jesus connect our yearning, as expressed in the Lords prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”, with God’s promise of blessing; Prayer and Partnership!  But what is this “kingdom of God” we pray for? It is a kingdom of abundance not scarcity, it is an investment in ensuring all God’s children have enough, it is investing in doing what is right, not settling for what is fair.

Henri Nouwen writes:

“Even a seemingly small act of generosity can grow into something far beyond what we could ever ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20): the creation of a community of love in this world and beyond this world; because wherever love grows, it is stronger than death (1 Corinthians 13:8).  So when we give ourselves to planting and nurturing love here on earth, our efforts will reach out beyond our own chronological existence.  Indeed, when we [financially investments in] the creation of a community of love, we are helping God build the kingdom. . . .  Paul is clear: Make love your aim” (1 Corinthians 14:1 NJB).”   

This is the nature of our partnership with God, expressed through the Lord’s prayer, and supported by our financial commitments: by helping God create communities of love, we are helping God build God’s kingdom.”  Our investments are a witness to our love of God, and those God Loves.  I invite you to watch the video on our website, hydeparkchurch.org, and hear the stories of how God’s Abundant Living has allowed HPCUMC to offer abundant living.   I look forward to seeing you in church as together we partner with God to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Abundant Living!

Jesus proclaims in the tenth chapter of John, “I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly.” In Acts 1 we are told to go and bear witness to this abundant life. I celebrate the multiple ways Hyde Park Community has borne witness to, and offered abundant life:

• Over 90 youth and adult servants offered the light of Christ to the most vulnerable in Cincinnati through Summer Impact.

• For the third year we sponsored a Summer Reading Camp for at risk elementary students grade 1-3.

• Our Preschool maintains the highest ranking in the State of Ohio (5 star), with 200 children enrolled.

• First Friday Nighters and Thursday Edition continue to be a foundational piece of our Senior Adult Ministry.  New programs include: “A Few Good Men and a Meal”, a time for men to gather for lunch and fellowship; “Friendly Visitors”, a ministry where members of the church give their time and presence to fellow members of HPC who are home bound.

• The Organ Concert Series begins its fifteenth season hosting internationally acclaimed concert artists.

• 136 of the 228 participants in the “Shipwrecked” Vacation Bible School were from the surrounding neighborhood.

• Partnership with Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, offering a beacon of love, support, and compassion through 3 different programs for volunteers to engage.

• Our Youth made an impact locally and globally during the “Made to Make a Difference Retreat; and traveling to the impoverished Sea Islands of South Carolina offered a hand up to those in need.

• The Young Adult Ministry has launched a number of opportunities for fellowship and study, and is flourishing.

• Over 1,000 HPC members/attendees are engaged in a study or connect group.

• Inspiring worship is offered weekly through music and the spoken word.

• The Hospitality Team welcomes our guests with a welcome lunch quarterly.

Thank you for witnessing to the abundant life in Christ through your financial generosity and gifts of time! It is a privilege to serve in ministry with you!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Be the Hands and Feet of Christ!

The weekend of September13th, Hurricane Florence devastated the eastern seaboard of the Carolinas, as well as a number of inland counties.  We’ve seen the pictures, and heard the news reports, and now it is the time to be the hands and feet of Christ to those who have experienced devastating loss.

When disaster hits, The United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) is often the first to arrive and the last to leave.  100% of funds donated are used for the relief effort of UMCOR.  More than 30 inches of rain fell on the Carolinas in a 5-day period, resulting in massive flooding and destruction of property, leaving thousands homeless.  The disaster response team of West Ohio Conference has offered the following ways you can help:

Prayer: Pray for those who have lost loved ones, pets, homes, businesses, and belongings due to Hurricane Florence.  Pray also for first responders and government officials who must make life and death decisions.

Donations: Give to UMCOR’s U.S. Disaster Response online:  umcor.org, click “support”, click “online” giving, click U.S. Disaster Relief.  You may also use one of the envelope in the pew racks: Make your check out to HPCUMC, Memo: U.S. Disaster Relief; mark the envelope U.S. Disaster Relief and place in the offering Plate.

Paul writes to the Corinthians:  “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27) 

Our brothers and sisters need our help; will we be the hands of feet of Christ in their time of need?

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Church Conference

The Servant Leadership Board, with the permission of the District Board of Church Location and Building, has set a Church Conference for today, September 16, at 4:30 pm in the Sanctuary.  The agenda for the Church Conference will be to:

Vote to support the recommendation of the Building Committee and the Servant Leadership Board and move forward with a capital campaign to raise funds to support implementing Phase One of the Master Plan.

Authorize the formation of a Capital Campaign Committee that will organize and conduct a capital campaign to raise the funds necessary to complete Phase One of the Master Plan.

All members have voice and vote.  Please join us as we consider the immediate and future needs of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.  I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, September 16th at 4:30 pm here in the Sanctuary.

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug