The Beat Goes On

As we come to a finale of this “long and winding road” of Advent this Sunday, some of you might be thinking, “Don’t stop the music!” If that is your sentiment, know that I stand in solidarity with you – as music is a passion of mine. While I know God can’t give all of the gifts to people – I wish I would have received the gift of music (either singing or playing – I’m not picky) instead of only the gift of appreciating music.

For some people, though, music is something that just “sounds nice, it’s good background noise.” For me, it is so much more! People of the Bible used music as a tool to pray and as an outlet to express the whole spectrum of human emotion. This creative expression helps us emotionally and spiritually, offers us direction, and has the ability to articulate thoughts and feelings all while showing us that we aren’t alone.

This series was based on the premise that God is in all things and we have the ability to find sacred in the ordinary and everyday as we theologically reflect on how songs not traditionally found in “Christian music” can point us to God. This Advent, the Beatles songs acted as a soundtrack for the season leading up to Christmas as we were invited to explore creative ways to connect with God and others.

For those who want the beat to go on and continue to explore faith through music – never fear! The teaching theme for *Summer Impact is “Rock of Ages” as a way to enjoy music, express faith, and find community. There is even a community made playlist of 176 songs that you can access through Spotify: or search “Rock of Ages: Summer Impact 2019.” These songs were submitted to the playlist because people have found divine meaning, hope, and love. Are there unexpected songs that have connected you to God?

May you experience God in unexpected places and ways this Christmas season and into 2019 as you open your eyes (and maybe your ears) to what God is trying to show you.


Pastor Kate

Summer Impact –


Seeing Samara Through Our Hosts Eyes

Sorry to get this out to you later, but we had a very busy night.

Yesterday began with a moving devotional by Becky, which lead the group to open up about personal challenges. After, we all went to Novokuybyshevsk, where we visited a theater program for people with a disability. In Russia, people with disabilities are marginalized, and there are not any programs sponsored by the state after the age of 18. This organization gives a place for people over 18 with disabilities to have a sort of life. At the theater we learned that this was a group led by volunteers and mostly mothers whose children have a passion for acting. They have so much confidence in the shows they are putting on, and you could tell were completely happy to be performing. A highlight was watching Albina watch the children because she works closely with them through teaching them to sing and writing songs. Her pride for how well the children performed brought tears to our eyes. Afterwards, we had a reception of coffee and tea, where we could interact with the performers. They were filled with such warmth, and we could see what great friends they were.

Afterwards, we went to the church, where we were picked up by our host families. We went to their apartments for a late lunch/dinner. Albina graciously hosted us and Elena to a wonderful meal and some sledding. Fortunately, we had Maria there to help translate. However, some groups learned that Google Translate doesn’t always convey the right meaning.

We debreifed as a group about our different experiences at the host families, which were all very positive. The day extra was special because it was Christmas Even in Russia. Max and Stassi took Sarah, Elena, Pastor Cathy, Pastor Doug, and Linda to part of a Russian Orthodox Christmas Service. It was an amazing experience. While we did not understand the Russia, Max said that most of the service was in ancient Slavic, so even they did not understand either. The church was ornately decorated with beautiful scenes and idols painted on the walls, and everything shone in gold. It was an incredibly unique experience that we are fortunate to have seen.

Merry Christmas!



One for the Books

This morning was pretty similar to yesterday. We finished our painting at the church and got everything cleaned up. We also took a break at noon to celebrate both Max and Stas’s birthdays (Stas is the deacon of the church) with cake and tea. After a bit of cleaning we had lunch which was a soup we would consider most similar to chowder and a second course of meat with scalloped potatoes, cabbage, and tomatoes. We finished work at the church around 4 and were brought back to the hotel to shower before going out to do a bit of shopping. Then it was time for dinner, which is what we are going to spend a majority of this blogging talking about.

If there’s two things we haven’t emphasized enough this week it’s how much food we’ve been served and how absolutely incredible everyone we’ve met has been. Starting with the food this evening, they decided to treat us to unique Russian cuisine, more specifically the ones we’ve been hearing about all week and trying to avoid. The first appetizer was a bit of bread with a thin layer of pig fat and salt. It is second from the left in the picture. Next up was a toothpick of meat that had been roasting for 6 hours on top of a broth gelatin which can be seen on the far right. We called this the meat jelly as we were contemplating it on our plates. After this came the small cup with a white liquid. It was a thick milk with a similar taste to Greek yogurt, but I must say it smelled a bit like Swiss cheese. Next was a bowl of cabbage that ended up tasting very similarly to cole slaw. Finally, they had bread with butter and red caviar, which they told us they only have on special occasions. Overall, we tried all of them and none of them were too off-putting. There were even a couple I went back for seconds of. For our main course, we had buckwheat and mushroom stuffed chicken. Once again, there weren’t many problems with this and I (Anna) was forced to overcome my fear of mushrooms, and I think I succeeded. For dessert we had a Turkish disk called chuck-chuck and it resembled a Rice Krispie Treat. It was covered in honey and definitely delicious. Along with this we were also served some very tasty chocolates. This is just one meal, but you can see how extensive it was and we feel like they never stop eating.


Now onto our second point: the people. As dinner was winding down Stas starting asking questions for everyone to answer and one in particular was what our biggest impression has been of Samara. Doug started us off and took the rest of our answers by saying the enthusiasm and spirit the congregation has is incredible. They voluntarily have spent so many hours at the church this week, not only hanging out with us, but also preparing for us and driving us and cooking for us that we definitely feel their love. The love they have for the church, the love they have for each other, the love they have for God, and especially the love they have for us. It’s so insane how connected we feel despite the language barrier. When we asked the Russians their impressions of us, it was crazy to see how we had touched them because I think we all feel like they’ve impacted us so much more than we’ve  impacted them.

The waterworks started and we know tomorrow night is going to be incredibly difficult. We realize this mission trip hasn’t been about the physical work we’ve done, but the emotional in keeping and strengthening HPCUMC’s relationship with Samara United Methodist. There isn’t a better group I could imagine having a partnership with and it’s exciting to see what the future could hold. These people will forever be in our heart and prayers and we can only hope to one day see them again. We still have one more day and will post a couple more blogs, but after tonight this was something we really wanted to share. Samara United Methodist is doing incredible things and will continue to do so with the passion they have.

Here are a few pictures from the day, but we didn’t take many:


Doug and Sarah painting

Doug trying a Georgian dish of meat wrapped in grape leaves as Tanyla looks on with excitement

Doug trying a Georgian dish of meat wrapped in grape leaves as Tanya looks on with excitement

The birthday boys, Stas and Max

The birthday boys, Stas and Max


The room after being painted and the repairing and moving of the shelving used for giving clothing to the homeless

A Review of a South Carolina Gem: The McCutchen House


Our son, Blake, is a proud graduate of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina.  During one visit we discovered “The McCutchen House” right on the “Horseshoe” of campus, a lovely, open green space.  It is a part of the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management.  Students who are studying to be chefs, owners of clubs, and those majoring in Hospitality Management are able to work in this lovely, charming Southern gem.

The service was gracious and attentive and the food was outstanding, not to mention reasonable. As I was leaving I found myself thinking, “You can practice on me any day….that was amazing!”

As a Christian what does it mean to embrace and practice radical hospitality?  The Benedictine monks seem to understand this, both in theory and practice.  Several years ago I attended a seminar at a Benedictine monastery.  Within ten minutes of my arrival, I happy that I was there.  The welcome was genuine; the food was delightful.  I felt as if I was among old friends yet I had just met these gracious people.  They exceeded my expectations in every way.

What would happen if we as God’s representatives in the world exceeded the expectations of each person who came through the doors of our homes and our churches? For the month of September we will be exploring what it means to be a person of hospitality in the world and in the Church.  We can be part of the transforming love of God as strangers become friends, friends become disciples, and disciples change the world.

May God richly bless you this week and always!


Pastor Cathy