A Prayer on Pentecost for the United Methodist Church

This Sunday is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church!  In Acts 2 we read the account of the Holy Spirit who empowered the people who were gathered all in one place.

There was the sound of a rushing wind and “divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, a a tongue rested on each one of them.” (Acts 2:3).

Once every four years the global United Methodist Church gathers.  At General Conference powerful worship will be experienced as the Church renews our commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  Major decisions will be made which will impact individuals, families, churches, laity, pastors, and our life together as United Methodists.

The United Methodist Church needs your prayers this week.  Please join me in praying for General Conference:

God, Maker of heaven and earth, as the people called United Methodists gather in Portland, may Your Spirit rain down upon everyone.

As people gather from around the globe, renew the United Methodist Church in a powerful way, anointing us with fresh wind and fire as on the first Pentecost.

Jesus, Great shepherd of the sheep, watch over the delegation from West Ohio Conference, all voting members, and guests.

With Your gentle staff, direct them.  Lead them and guide their words, thoughts, and actions.  Protect them from harm.

Hold them in Your loving arms, especially when they are weary and need new strength.

Holy Spirit, Wonderful Counselor, flood every inch of General Conference with Your life-giving presence. 

Fill each delegate and guest with Your wisdom and strength.  Remind all who gather that You are a God who makes all things new. 

Help us to remember that with You all things are possible. 

Unite us.  Empower us.  Fill us with the peace of Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

I offer this prayer in the name of our God, who created us, watches over us, and guides our steps.  Amen.


(offered by Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns)

Comfort and Hope in Tragedy

From the floods in Houston to earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan, the United Methodist Church is bringing comfort and hope to those affected by tragedy.  The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the United Methodist “first responders” when tragedy strikes.

Bishop Palmer, resident Bishop of the West Ohio conference, writes to the churches of the Conference:

“Major disasters have unleashed chaos across the world.  Earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador have destroyed whole communities killing hundreds.  According to Defense Minister, Ricardo Patino, Ecuador’s earthquake is the worst tragedy that has hit their country in 60 years . . .  In Japan, an earthquake in the Kumamoto areas has resulted in 48 confirmed deaths with over 100,000 people in evacuation centers . . .  The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is assessing the situation and working with the Methodist Church in Ecuador and other partners to develop a response to the devastation caused by the earthquake . . . UMCOR has also assessed the situation in Japan and concluded that the government and people of Japan are strongly and adequately responding to the recent earthquake.  Please keep the people of Japan and Ecuador in your prayers.

Back home in the United States, Houston is still waiting for water to recede after major flooding.  Seven people are confirmed killed with 1,200 people rescued and more rain in the forecast.  The Texas Conference disaster coordinator is a member of the emergency response network for the city of Houston and will be advising UMCOR as to when cleanup supplies and personnel will be requested.  UMCOR Early Response Teams in Texas are on standby, ready to respond when invited.”

How can we help?  First and foremost, pray for the people and communities effected.  Second, consider supporting the relief effort of UMCOR with a one-time gift (www.umcor.org, click on “donate”, and then click on “U.S. disaster response”, or “International disaster response”).  If you do not have internet access, write a check to HPCUMC, and clearly mark UMCOR Disaster Relief.  Together we make a difference; it is a privilege to serve in ministry with you!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

The Eradication of Malaria

Malaria is a preventable disease that kills over a half million people a year in Africa. According to recent statistics 430,000 of the reported 584,000 malaria deaths were children under the age of five. The West Ohio Conference, under the leadership of Bishop Gregory Palmer has led the denomination, in the effort to eradicate malaria, by pledging 3.5 million dollars. Last year HPCUMC embraced Bishop Palmer’s challenge and pledged $50,000 to the Imagine No Malaria Campaign.

The United Methodist Church has partnered with secular and sacred institutions committing $75 million. The Global Community effort involves a four-prong attack on malaria: Prevention- through the use of bed nets, providing access to diagnostic tests and medicine, draining standing water and improving sanitation; Treatment- ensuring clinics and hospitals have the diagnostic tests and treatment needed to save lives; Education- health care workers are trained to go door to door in remote communities to deliver and install bed nets and teach people how to use and care for the nets properly; Communication- using technology to reach millions with life-saving information about malaria.

In an effort to raise our $50,000 pledged, HPCUMC set up a Three Phase Imagine No Malaria campaign. Phase One: “Bring Change,” every man, woman and child was encouraged and challenged to bring their loose change to “change the world.” Phase Two: Alternative Christmas Giving. Individuals/Families were encouraged to make a donation to Imagine No Malaria as a Christmas gift to loved ones and aquiantances. Phase Three: The kick-off was led by a Youth sponsored 5K run April 16, proceeds to support Imagine No Malaria, and continues through May 8 offering the congregation the opportunity to make a one time gift (envelopes are in your bulletin for your use.)

Update: As we begin Phase Three, HPCUMC has raised $48,665 of the $50,000 goal! The question is not can we reach our goal, but how much will we surpass our goal? Can we raise $60,000? $70,000? Dr. Bev Connelly reminded us last fall, “No child should die from a preventable disease.”

Today we welcome Bishop Gregory Palmer to HPCUMC, the resident Bishop of West Ohio Conference, and world leader in the Imagine No Malaria campaign. Thank you Bishop Palmer for your leadership, challenge, and encouragement as together we walk with our brothers and sisters in Africa to healing and wholeness!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Your Legacy Gift and The Legacy of HPCUMC

For decades, the Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church Endowment program has been a vehicle in which individuals and families may express their love for Jesus Christ and HPCUMC. For over 40 years individuals and families have seen fit to enhance the mission and ministry of HPCUMC through their estate plans, wills, and gifts to the Endowment Fund. In 2010 the value of the Endowment Fund (including the Martz Scholarship Fund) was $12,759,784. At the end of 2015 the value of the Endowment Fund was $26,812,844. Over the past 5 years the Endowment Fund has grown over 14 million dollars.

The income from the Endowment Fund supports and enhances the mission and ministry of HPCUMC. Over the years income has been used to support the life transforming ministries of Wesley Chapel Mission Center, The Center for Respite Care, Habitat for Humanity, Inter-Faith Hospitality Network, MEAC, State Ave UMC, Wesley Community Services, Hyde Park Center for Older Adults, a number of food pantries in Metropolitan Cincinnati area, and the world wide effort to eradicate Malaria on the continent of Africa. The Endowment Fund offers scholarship help to our young adults in college, HPCUMC Preschool families, and short-term mission trips. In addition, income has been used to complete necessary renovations and repairs to our facilities, enabling HPCUMC to fulfill her mission.

Thank you to those who made a gift to the endowment and/or included HPCUMC in your estate plans. Your extravagant generosity will transform lives for generations to come. Furthermore, as we celebrate the ministry of the Endowment Fund, we recognize the generosity of Carl and Alice Bimel. Carl and Alice loved the Lord and their church! Consequently, they made it a priority to include HPCUMC in their estate plans. Carl and Alice have left a legacy that will transform lives and communities for generations to come!

The beauty of the Endowment program is that no gift is too small, whether $25 or millions; the endowment program allows every individual and/or family to leave a legacy to the church they love. To those who have considered making a gift to the endowment, and/or including HPCUMC in your estate plans, we look forward to talking with you with regard to the appropriate ways your legacy gift can make a difference.

Together we make a difference in God’s kingdom as we partner with God in establishing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. It’s a privilege to serve in ministry with you! See you in Church!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Resurrection Hope, Resurrection Living

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! This is the proclamation of the women who visited the tomb of Jesus that first Easter morning. This is the great Easter proclamation of the first century church, and the church of the twenty-first century! It is a proclamation of a current reality and a future hope. God makes all things new, re-creating, and calling us to be partners in God’s re-creation!

However, from the time of the Epicurean philosophers to the “age of enlightenment,” and continuing into the twenty-first century, there are voices that would have us believe that God is not actively involved with God’s creation but has created and left us to our own devices; God is separated from the world, and remains uninvolved with the world. Therefore, if true, the resurrection of Jesus couldn’t possibly have anything to do with us today.

In his book, Surprised By Hope, Bishop N.T. Wright offers the following:

“Who, after all, was it who didn’t want the dead to be raised? Not simply the intellectually timid or the rationalists. It was, and is, those in power, the social and intellectual tyrants and bullies; the Caesars who would be threatened by a Lord of the world who had defeated the tyrant’s last weapon, death itself; the Herods who would be horrified at the postmortem validation of the true King of the Jews. And this is the point where believing in the resurrection of Jesus suddenly ceases to be a matter of inquiring about an odd event in the first century and becomes a matter of rediscovering hope in the twenty-first century. Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.” (P.75)

Resurrection hope transforms our worldview; we are partners in God’s new creation. I look forward to seeing you in Church as we proclaim with the women at the tomb: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! And thus we go into the world to be agents of resurrection hope and transformation!

Easter Sunday: Our choirs and pipe organ will enhance worship at 8:00 and 9:30 am, with brass at 9:30 am. Worship @ 11, a multi-media service, will feature Brenda Portman on the organ, “One Accord”, under the direction of Tom Jordan, and our music team of instrumentals and vocalists, led by Dave Colaw.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Jesus and the Law

Jesus teaches: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. The laws of Moses and the teachings of the Prophets had one purpose, and the entirety of scripture reflects this purpose. Jesus said all the commandments are summed up in the “Great Commandment”: Love God and love those God loves! Likewise, Jesus in John’s Gospel gives us a new commandment, one that encompasses the great commandment and reframes it for all who claim to follow him: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

Michael Yaconelli in his book, “Messy Spirituality” writes,
“When Jesus and his followers show up, it isn’t long before people start pointing fingers and calling names. Jesus was called all kinds of names: wine-bibber (what is a wine-bibber, anyway?), Sabbath breaker, blasphemer. Over the centuries, religious people have refined name-calling to an art. The name most commonly used today? Unspiritual!. . . One day we decided to become a follower of Christ, to seek his presence in our lives, and were doing our best to keep Jesus in our sights when we were shocked to discover our fellow “classmates” calling us names. “Ungodly. Uncommitted. Poor example. Unspiritual. Carnal. Unbiblical.” In other words, “you are ‘doing God’ all wrong.” (P.45 and 47)

The voices are many that, like the Pharisees, want to tell us we are “doing God all wrong”. As you journey with Jesus this Lent, listen to the only voice that matters, Jesus. Journey with Jesus and hear His call of redemption, and restoration; His call to be loved and to love.

I look forward to our continued journey through Lent. A journey that takes us from the road of ridicule, name calling, and spiritual bullying, to traveling the way of Love. Jesus reminds us, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). Life lived from the mount of beatitudes; it’s all about love.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Lesson from the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount (Chapters 5-7 of Matthew’s Gospel) is Jesus’ comprehensive teachings on life, much of it an alternative to the teachings of the religious elite of His day. The overarching theme of Jesus’ message is living in relationship with God and one another; how we treat one another, and the respect we have for one another. The lessons to be learned from the Sermon on the Mount are as relevant today, as they were when Jesus first spoke them.

In this season of intentional reflection on our spiritual journey, Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount remind us once again that it’s not enough to love God, but we are called to love those God loves. Richard Rohr writes in his book, Eager To Love:

“For Francis and Clare, Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to worship. Up to this point, most of Christian spirituality was based in desert asceticism, monastic discipline, theories of prayer, or academic theology, which itself was often based in “correct belief’ or liturgy, but not in a kind of practical Christianity that could be lived in the streets of the world. Many rightly say Francis emphasized an imitation and love of the humanity of Jesus, and not just the worshiping of his divinity.” (p.81)

If we are to “journey with Jesus” we are called to a higher calling: Imitation! It’s one thing to say the right liturgy, proclaim with conviction the creeds, and adhere to “right” doctrine; it’s another to imitate the love of Jesus. Jesus in the Gospel of John proclaims, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (13:34-35) Embracing the way of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount is a reminder that the fruit of our faith is known through our actions.

Today Jesus reminds us that He came to “fulfill the law”. The law is summed up in two commandments: Love God, and love those whom God loves. Let us be imitators of Jesus. I look forward to making the journey with you this Lent as we journey with Jesus to the cross, and beyond, to resurrection joy!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Join Us!

Hyde Park Community UMC will be sending a mission team to Samara United Methodist Church, Samara, Russia, June 22 – June 30, 2016. The mission team will be led by Kevin Betts and me.

Hyde Park Community UMC, and Samara UMC have been ministry partners since 1996. This trip will mark the 20th anniversary of our first trip to Samara. We will work alongside our Russian brothers and sisters in Samara UMC’s Helping Hand ministry, and be involved in other areas of outreach as directed by the Pastor of Samara UMC. In addition, we will be involved in some light renovation projects that will include painting. We will worship together, study together, and grow deeper in our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, together.

Samara is the sixth largest city in Russia, with a population of 1.2 million people. Government support for those in need is very limited, and Samara UMC has stepped in to fill the gap. Through our partnership, we provide the spiritual, financial, and psychological help that sends the message, “you are not alone.”

This is a great opportunity to serve as the body of Christ and build relationships with our brothers and sisters from another culture. Join us, June 22 – June 30, 2016; we are in the final stages of putting together the Hyde Park Community Team, and we want to make sure you come with us!

Let me know if you have any questions, or would like to register for this life transforming experience; scholarships are available.

Other ways you can support our mission effort:

•We welcome your prayers. As the team from Hyde Park Community is assembled, pray that God will use each team member in powerful ways. Pray that all preparations align with God’s vision and calling. Pray that the ministry/outreach of Samara UMC brings healing and wholeness.

•Make a gift to the Global Outreach Lenten/Easter Offering (soon to come in your mail). The Lenten/Easter offering supports our mission partners, one of which is Samara UMC, and helps build the Hyde Park Community Mission Scholarship Fund. No one who feels called by God to join a mission team, should pass up an opportunity to participate because of lack of funds. It is a priority of Hyde Park Community to provide assistance as needed, and your generosity makes this possible.

May God’s blessings abound as together we make a difference in our community and in the world.

Pastor Doug

Light in the Darkness…

The Epiphany (Manifestation of the Lord) marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas (January 6). The Epiphany is an ancient celebration of the Church that predates the first official celebration of Christmas. Originally The Epiphany focused on the nativity, incarnation, and baptism of Christ. Thus, to this day the principal day of celebration for the Eastern Orthodox Church is January 6, not December 25.

However, today the focus of Epiphany, for the Western Church, is on the Magi (Three Kings), the gifts they gave to the Holy Family, and the light that lead them. Therefore, the principal symbol of The Epiphany is the star proclaiming the light that dispels the darkness. It is the manifestation (Epiphany) of the light of Christ to the Gentiles (represented in the Magi) that John talks about in his Gospel: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book, The First Christmas, write:

“Archbishop Oscar Romero, a twentieth-century Christian martyr killed by the powers that ruled El Salvador, once said that we are called to be Easter Christians in a Good Friday world, in a world still ruled by Herod and Caesar. So also we are called to be Christmas Christians in a world that still descends into darkness. But Good Friday and the descent of darkness do not have the final word – unless we let them.” (p. 243)

It is our choice to embrace the gift of light in the midst of darkness this Epiphany. As we remember God’s gift of light, through the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus, we embrace the fact that we are “Christmas Christians in a world that still descends into darkness”. We stand firm on the promise that the darkness will not overcome the light of Christ. Consequently, we too like the Magi, bow in homage presenting ourselves in love, and with joy commit ourselves to the work of God’s kingdom on earth.

Resolve to live joyfully in 2016 as we celebrate The Epiphany. My prayer is that you and I will embrace the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness and chaos that whirls around us!

In Christ,


The Gospel of Luke tells us that Simeon was “righteous and devout . . . and the Holy Spirit rested on him” (Luke 2:25); consequently Simeon lived in hope. Upon seeing the infant Jesus, he praised God, with what we now call the song of Simeon:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Simeon’s song is our song in these waning days of Advent as we prepare for God to break through the darkness of our world. Making final preparations for the celebration of Christ Jesus’ birth, our waiting and preparing is grounded in hope. Modeling the hope of Simeon we:

  • Are confident that God’s peace is our peace.
  • Trust in God to bring healing and wholeness (Salvation).
  • We expect a Theophany (Theophany: a manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses); we expect God to be revealed in our lives.

Hope is not a wished for reality. Hope in the Bible, Simeon’s hope, is expectant, and implies a confidence in God’s preferred reality that is to come. The hope of Simeon is the same hope that kept Moses going as he lead the Israelites to the promised land. It’s the same hope that kept the Disciples going after Jesus’ death. It’s the same hope that keeps you and me going in the dark days of life. It’s a hope that is grounded in the fact that it is God who created you, it is God who sustains you, and it is God who reveals God’s will to you; and it is a light illuminating the path you travel.

Simeon took Jesus in his arms, praised God and sang a song of Hope for all ages. As we travel these final days of Advent may Simeon’s song of hope facilitate God’s light and love breaking anew into our lives on Christmas! I look forward to seeing you in church on this fourth Sunday of Advent, and on Christmas Eve!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug