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

Master Plan Opportunities

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.  Subsequently a group from The Servant Leadership Board, and Facilities Team, led by Pastor Cathy, developed a plan for communicating the report of MSA to the congregation.

Over the next couple of months a team of people will visit with various groups (Program/Fellowship/Administrative groups) of HPCUMC and share the Master plan.  In addition, there will be two to three “All Church” gatherings.  Following the sharing sessions a recommendation will go to the Annual Charge Conference (Late October or Mid November) to create a Team that will “Phase” the Master Plan, and create a plan for implementing the first phase; which includes, but is not limited to, a timeline, architectural plans and funding plans.

We look forward to sharing this forward thinking plan with you.  If you are a part of a group at HPCUMC and would like to have a team come to present the Master Plan, please contact Lindsay Garrison (lgaarrison@hpcumc.org) with your preferred date. In addition, be on the look out for the all-church opportunities to hear the Master Plan report.  I look forward to sharing in ministry with you in the months and years to come as we put in place the infrastructure to fulfill God’s calling with excellence! See you in Church.

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

From Russia With Love…

The book of Acts records:  “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” (Acts 16:9-10) In 1991 the Communist government of the USSR fell, and for the first time in over 75 years, the people of Russia were provided the opportunity to worship freely.

The United Methodist Church, concluding that God was calling us to take the Gospel message of love and grace to Russia, started a new church in Samara.   Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church has been a faithful partner, mentor, and sister church from the beginning.  This past June (June 22-30) HPCUMC sent a team to re-connect and deepen our relationship.  Upon our arrival one of the pastors of Samara UMC said to me, “HPCUMC is our Paul!”

The Spirit of our living God is at work in profound ways at Samara UMC!  From day one to the day we departed, the people of Samara UMC showered our team with Colossians 3:12-17 kind of hospitality and love!  I was humbled to be in their presence, to receive their love, and to be encouraged in our common work for the Lord.  Needless to say, there is no language barrier when it comes to sharing the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord!

Consequently, Kevin Betts (trip leader and member of the HPCUMC Servant Leadership Board and Community Ministry/Global Outreach Team) and I had the opportunity to sit with Pastor Olga, Pastor Natalia, and Pastor Stas to discuss taking our relationship to the next level and came up with a 10-point plan. Sarah Krott, Anna Renfro, and Mary and Jeff Sheldon were also team members.

The 10-point plan is a guide for deepening our relationship with the Samara UMC.  Will we achieve all 10 points, I don’t know; will we be blessed and be a blessing in trying? Absolutely.  Details of the plan will be shared in the near future.  As we look to the future, pray for our brothers and sisters in Samara.  Pray that HPCUMC is found faithful to God’s calling as we walk this journey with Samara UMC.  Pray that together we help God bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  Stay blessed!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug