All Things New!

Happy New Year!  With a new year comes new beginnings.

John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created a “Covenant Service” in 1755 to guide the faithful in the re-committing of themselves to God and God’s leading.  Today, the “Covenant Service” is most commonly held on New Year’s Eve or Day.  At the heart of the service is Wesley’s Covenant prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,

Exalted for thee or brought low by thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.  So be it.

And the covenant, which I have made on earth,

let it be ratified in heaven. 

Amen.

As we begin a new year, I encourage you to commit 2017 to God, commit to deepening your relationship with God and others.  We serve a God who makes all things new.  Let us commit ourselves to partner with God in God’s acts of new creation.  I look forward to seeing you in Church as we lean into God’s new creation in a new year!

Pastor Doug

Making the Journey

Often in life we find ourselves on a journey not of our own choosing: The unexpected happens, interruptions barge into an all ready packed calendar, plans made with intentionality and care suddenly need to be altered.  The events surrounding the birth of Jesus remind us that we are not alone; Mary and Joseph found themselves on a journey they had not planned.  Likewise, the Wise Men found themselves on a journey, not knowing the outcome, but knowing it was a journey they must make.

Mary’s journey with Jesus took her to mountaintops of joy and valleys of despair. Many times the journey Mary found herself on were not of her own planning, nor were they what she expected, and often did not want to make.  Adam Hamilton in his devotional, The Journey, writes:

“Like Mary, all of us find ourselves forced to take journeys we do not wish to make.  These journeys are not prescribed by God but by life’s circumstances or the will of others.  In the midst of them, we may be disappointed, wonder if we’ve been abandoned by God, or simply feel confused as to why we’ve had to travel such roads.  Perhaps Mary felt some of these same emotions on the journey to Bethlehem.” (p.106)

No matter the journey we find ourselves on, we, like Mary, can embrace God’s presence in the journey.  Like Mary, we embrace our God who delivers, sustains, and empowers, knowing, “God has a way of bringing good from disappointment, suffering and pain.”  Like the Wise Men we can make the journey, and when all is said and done experience “overwhelming joy!”

As we continue the journey to the manger this Advent season, let God direct your path, empower your steps, and lead you to that place of peace; yes, peace even in the midst of chaos!  I look forward to seeing you in Church as we make the journey together!

Advent/Christmas Blessings,

Pastor Doug

Perfect Christmas Gift!

I am sure I am not alone in asking the question: What do you get someone who has everything for Christmas?  Our Alternative Christmas Giving has the answer: The transformation of a life!  Hyde Park Community U.M.C. has offered “Alternative Christmas Giving” for a number of years.  This year Alternative Christmas Giving donations will go to help provide much needed Christian curriculum translated into Russian.  By participating in the Alternative Christmas Giving program, a $10 donation will cover the cost of printing one book.

God is raising up new leaders in countries with long histories of persecuting Christians.  The emerging churches in countries like Russia mirrors the churches described in the book of Acts in the first century.  For over 70 years Christianity was forbidden in Russia. With the fall of communism the United Methodist Church was provided the opportunity to form faith communities based on the Wesleyan understanding of Grace.

The United Methodist Church in Russia, and other eastern block nations, is a very young church.  The leadership of Samara UMC is pleading for their brothers and sisters in the west to teach, guide, and mentor.  They yearn for resources in their language to be used in training leaders, and discipleship resources to assist in deepening their walk with God through Jesus Christ.

As HPCUMC deepens our relationship with Samara UMC we have committed to help the Samara UMC translate resources in leadership development, marriage and family, divorce care, and youth/young adult ministry.   Your Alternative Christmas Gift of $10 will go a long way in equipping our Christian brothers and sisters in Samara for mission and ministry.  With each donation of $10 or more you will receive a Christmas card to give to your loved one acknowledging the gift.

You can make your donation to the Alternative Christmas Giving program in the Welcome Center Sunday mornings, or stop in the office during the week.  May God bless you this Advent season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Investing in Mission and Ministry

The ministry and outreach of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church is  healthy.  Our mission is to “Share the love of Jesus to transform Lives, Cincinnati, and the World”.  It is bearing fruit in ways seen and unseen, touching people that we know by name and have never met.  Your financial investment in the mission and ministry of Hyde Park Community has ensured this current reality.  We celebrate how God has been at work in our lives this past year, and seek to follow where God is leading us in 2017.

On October 23 we were invited to make our 2017 financial commitments to God in worship.  Our worship was a celebration of God’s blessings and a response to God’s calling to be a blessing.  The commitments received to date bear witness to the generous hearts, and giving spirit of Hyde Park Community!

If you were unable to join us on October 23, or have not been able to make your 2017 financial commitment I invite you to prayerfully consider how you will support the mission and ministry of Hyde Park Community through your financial resources.  If you have already turned in your 2017 commitment, Thank You!  Thank you for your willingness to partner with God in the “marriage of heaven and earth”!

Through your extravagant generosity the broken are healed, the hungry are fe/d; children are encouraged and mentored, and our relationship with God and one another deepen.  Lives are transformed!  I look forward to where God is leading Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church in 2017, and count it a privilege to make the journey with you!  May God’s blessings abound as we commit ourselves to God’s calling.  I look forward to seeing you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Church Conference and the Master Plan

On November 6 at 4:00 pm, Hyde Park Community/Over The Rhine Community United Methodist Church will hold our Annual Church Conference in the sanctuary.  The Annual Church Conference reviews the membership roll, elects the church leadership, sets the salary for the pastoral staff, and other items as needed.  On November 6, in addition to the above, Hyde Park Community will vote on moving forward with the Master Plan.

In 2013 Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church received, and approved, a recommendation from The Armstrong Group to:  “create a long term Master Plan with associated costing to lay a roadmap for future capital projects to meet evolving ministry and missional needs.”  Shortly after the decision was made, The MSA Architectural firm was engaged to lead HPCUMC in the creation of a Master Plan.

Late fall 2015 MSA Architects presented their report to the Servant Leadership Board, and with input from the Facilities Team the Servant Leadership Board approved the Master Plan as our road map into the future, aligning our facilities with our mission and ministry.  On November 6 the Church Conference will be asked to approve the formation of a building committee to phase the Master Plan, and create a plan for implementing the first phase; which includes, but is not limited to, a timeline, architectural and funding plans.

Every member of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church is a voting member of the Church Conference.  Join us on November 6 at 4:00 pm in the Sanctuary, as we celebrate the ministry and mission of HPCUMC/OTRCC, and take this exciting step forward, living into our Master Plan. I look forward to seeing you at our Church Conference, may God’s blessings abound as we strive to be faithful to God’s calling.

Prayer Labyrinth Re-Installed!

The Prayer Labyrinth, first put in use at the Erie facility, has found a new home at the Grace and Observatory location.  As you turn from Observatory onto Meier you will see the prayer labyrinth in the yard adjacent to the chapel.  When the Erie building was sold, the prayer labyrinth was disassembled and stored in the Peebles house garage.  The property team earlier this year approved the reinstallation of the prayer labyrinth at the current location.

What is a “prayer labyrinth”?  “A prayer labyrinth is a labyrinth used to facilitate prayer, meditation, and spiritual transformation.” The most famous prayer labyrinth is located in the cathedral of Chartres, France.  While prayer labyrinths have been used in Catholic cathedrals for centuries, the past decade has seen a resurgence in their popularity among mainline protestant denominations.

The prayer labyrinth (a gift to Hyde Park Community from one of our members) is an addition to the many ways a person can engage in the life of Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.  As individuals and groups use the prayer labyrinth in their discipleship journey, they find clarity of the call to love God, love neighbor, and love as Christ Jesus has loved us.  God speaks into our lives to participate in the mission of Hyde Park Community: To share the love of Jesus to transform lives, Cincinnati and the world!

I pray, in the days ahead, you will be able to enjoy the prayer labyrinth as an individual or as part of a group, and that it enriches your relationship with God and others!  See you in Church.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

The Marriage of Heaven and Earth

Jesus often taught about the kingdom of God.  The kingdom of God was not something afar and otherworldly; the Kingdom of God is here and now.  As beloved Children of God we are called, encouraged, coaxed into a relationship with God that leads to our participation in God’s “new creation.”  Begun at Jesus’ resurrection, God’s new creation continues through you and me; “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

As partners with God in revealing God’s new creation, we are participants in the Marriage of heaven and earth. Thus, the kingdom of God is a reality that we lean into as we love God, and we love those whom God loves. However, too often our human condition gets in the way.  Father Richard Rohr says it best, we live in a “winner-takes-all society” and we’ve embraced the secular teaching, “dignity must always be ‘acquired’ and earned”.

Father Rohr says, “We live in an affluent society that’s always expecting more, wanting more, and believes it even deserves more. But the more we own, ironically enough, the less we enjoy . . ..  If you don’t live from within your own center of connection and communion, you’ll go spinning around things.” (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, Tuesday, October 4, 2016)  As we love God with all of who we are: our finances, our time; in our work and relationships we love holding onto hope, a hope that draws us back to the center of who we are, God’s beloved.  It is in this hope, grounded in God’s love, that we begin to experience God’s new creation and become partners in revealing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!

All that we have, and all of who we are belongs to God, When we live life from the center of this reality, we possess a peace that the world cannot give, nor take away; we possess a joy that transcends our circumstances; we are a new creation participating in God’s new creation!  See you in church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Deepening Relationships

Sunday, October 2 is World Wide Communion Sunday. World Wide Communion Sunday was set aside as an ecumenical expression of a spiritual reality in Christ Jesus.  Christians across the globe will celebrate communion on this day.  The prayer consecrating the bread and wine invokes God’s presence through the outpouring of God’s spirit; the bread and cup become the “Holy Essence” of Christ’s body and blood, and we who partake become the body of Christ, redeemed by His blood, to the world.

On October 2, at the 8:00 worship service we will celebrate World Wide Communion Sunday, via live stream, with our brothers and sisters at Samara United Methodist Church, Samara Russia.  We will share in the liturgy, and both the Wesley choir, and the Samara choir will offer God’s word through song.  As we worship together we grow together in faith and love.

In addition, as we seek to deepen our relationship with Samara UMC, we will have a Skype Conversation, Saturday, October 8, 9:00 am at the parsonage, 2928 Alpine Terrace.  If you are willing and able to join us on October 9, please rsvp by either calling the Church office: 513-871-1345, or use the comment section of the communication sheet!

Mission Trip to Romania 2017! As the Body of Christ in the Global Community we will send a team to our United Methodist churches in Romania.  Do you have a heart for missions? A call to minister to children? A passion for those who are vulnerable living in our Global Community? A heart for orphans? Are your spiritual gifts in leadership or discerning? Please prayerfully consider joining the mission team heading to Cluj, Romania on March 2 – 9, 2017.

In March we will be taking an exploratory trip to minister alongside our brothers and sisters as they reach out to the orphans in their city, and the Roma in their neighboring towns. We are seeking to explore whether God is calling HPCUMC into partnership with these Romanian churches.

If the Spirit is stirring in your heart, please pray about whether God is calling you to use your gifts to help minister in Romania and discern possible partnership on this upcoming trip. For more information, mark your calendars for October 9, 12:15 pm when there will be an informational meeting, or email Sarah Putman at sputman@hpcumc.org.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

Love in Action!

In recent months we’ve witnessed multiple disasters that have left physical, emotional and spiritual devastation.  As we pray for the survivors of these disasters, let us pray for God to show us how we can help.  Both the District and Conference have communicated how our United Methodist Churches can help:

Assisting our neighbors not only takes prayers and compassion, it takes financial resources.  None of these disasters are big enough for us to request UMCOR dollars.  It will take the response of our local congregations for us to extend the love and care of Christ to our neighbors within our communities. Your gifts to the West Ohio Conference Disaster Relief Fund will allow us to work alongside families and congregations seeking to recover from disasters. You can give online at westohioumc.org or by check.  If you give by check please make the check payable to HPCUMC, (with Disaster relief in the memo line.) Clearly mark your envelope for disaster relief and place in the offering plate.

Collect Flood Buckets to replenish the UMCOR supply for the next round of floods whenever and wherever they happen: http://www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies/Relief-Supply-Kits/Cleaning

Volunteer to help. Pam Follmer of the Monroe UMC is our Ohio River Valley District Disaster Response Coordinator. Pam has been in contact with the TriState COAD.  They work with the Red Cross and other agencies dealing with active disasters.  They have contacted Pam regarding the need to tear out drywall for homes of elderly and disabled folks affected in the region. They will be sending names and addresses to Pam to coordinate teams of volunteers to assist. If you (or a group from your congregation) would like to be on a team to address these needs, please contact Pam at 513-539-8691 or pfollmer@cinci.rr.com

Refer persons in need affected by the flood or storms. If you know of someone who has not yet been contacted by a community organization that is active in disasters, please contact Pam Follmer, ORV Disaster Response Coordinator (pfollmer@cinci.rr.com) and with the permission of the person affected, share that information with Pam.

As we walk this journey with our brothers and sisters most affected by the disaster they’ve faced, may they come to know of God’s love and presence.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

God is Love!

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love, does not know God, for God is love.”

(1 John4: 7-8) God’s “Being” is love, “agape love”; a love that is self-giving, selfless, unconditional and forever present!

Who is God?  God is Love!  Jesus Christ left you and me a “new commandment”, “love God as you have been loved by God” (John 13:34).  To love as God loves means we must understand love as the Apostle Paul taught and modeled: Love is patient and kind; it is not envious, boastful arrogant or rude.  Love is not irritable or resentful, and does not keep score (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).  In Jesus Christ we are lifted above the dualistic thinking of the Enlightenment and Post Modernity, empowered to embrace, as Paul puts it, a “more excellent way”!

“Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”  We love as we have been loved by God when we understand “love never ends”; and we cease to judge who is and isn’t worthy.   Father Richard Rohr writes, “The only way I know how to love God and to teach you how to love God is to love what God loves.  To love God means to love everything . . . no exceptions.  Of course, that can only be done with divine love flowing through us.” (“Seeing with God’s Eyes”, August 17, 2016)

When we allow God’s “divine love” to flow through us,we are transformed and become transformative; we are empowered and are empowering; we claim our identity as a beloved child of God, and see others the same.  I look forward to seeing you in Church; invite a friend, relative, acquaintance or neighbor to join you!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug