Why God Made Puppies

On April 1, I was introduced to three puppies (from a litter of 12) that were seized from their owners in court because of neglect.  A rescue organization had pre-approved me and I was invited to come and meet these three puppies at a dog park in Newtown.  As I sat on the floor getting to know them, one of the puppies kept coming over to sit on my lap.  I anticipated adopting a female, but there was something about this male puppy; he seemed very loving and affectionate.   

The woman who was assisting the rescue organization asked me to pose for an “adoption day” photo.  Several minutes later I was driving away with a puppy on my lap.  He looked up at me with his caring brown eyes and seemed so incredibly happy.

I chose to name the puppy “Caspian,” after Prince Caspian of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Prince Caspian was once a refugee who summoned the kings and queens back to Narnia to restore the land and save the people.

As I played with Caspian I noticed something change in me:  I was laughing more.  His love and energy started to bless me in a way that is hard to explain.  A few days later I saw a bumper sticker on a car with a paw print.  It read: “Who rescued who?”

Caspian, the lab/golden mix puppy, may not realize it, but God has been working through him to rescue me.  When I am tempted to take things too seriously, Caspian wags his whole body, not just his tail, and makes me smile!  When life feels “heavy,” managing some of the challenges that come my way, both personally and as a United Methodist pastor in this season of “unknowns,” Caspian’s presence delivers unbridled joy and I find myself laughing out loud.  This bouncing, happy puppy is indeed a conduit for the joy of the Lord!  Nehemiah was right:  “The joy of the Lord is my strength!”

Our God, who created this wonderful world and all creatures within it, wants us to be filled with love, joy, and peace.  May we open ourselves to all the ways that God wants to shower us with blessings!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

UMC Next: Where are We Heading As United Methodists?

Last week I joined nearly 600 clergy and laity last week in Kansas City at Church of the Resurrection UMC. Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor, and a diverse convening team of 17 individuals (clergy and lay) led us in powerful conversations about shaping an inclusive Methodist church. Table discussions were diverse and rich; they built community and gathered data that was forwarded to the convening team.

The February vote of the General Conference Special Session was a “tipping point” in The United Methodist Church. The passing of the Traditional Plan tightened the ban on gay clergy and imposed harsh penalties upon clergy who officiate at same-sex unions.  After the Traditional Plan was passed thousands of people around the world joined in the conversation.   Hamilton said, “I refuse to treat the LGBTQ community as second class.” Churches and Annual Conferences around the world have stood up in holy resistance, embracing our baptismal vows to resist evil and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. We discussed the need for contextual expressions of resistance.  A form of resistance, for example, that is appropriate in Seattle might not be appropriate in Athens, Georgia.  We also explored creating a new, fully inclusive Methodist Church.

The participants at the UMC Next Conference reached consensus on the following core values:

1.  We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, experience and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness.

2.  We commit to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church that affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.

3.  We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.

4.  We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.

At Hyde Park Community, The HPC Way Forward Task Force will be holding listening sessions this summer and fall.  Please join us in prayer as we seek God’s path for us.     

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Leave A Legacy

On May 19 we celebrated “Legacy Sunday”, an annual observance, with thanksgiving, for those who have gone before us and continue to support the mission and ministry of the church they love, through the Endowment of HPCUMC.  Endowment programs have a positive impact on the life of a congregation.  Endowment programs offer families and individuals the opportunity to leave a legacy to their beloved church, a legacy that bears abundant fruit!  HPCUMC has been a transformative presence through the life-stages of many: birth, baptism, confirmation, graduation, marriage and death.  As a result, a deep and abiding love for our faith community has become the motivation for making a gift to the HPCUMC endowment, ensuring and enhancing the ministries of HPCUMC for future generations.

Hyde Park Community has been blessed by the foresight of those who have gone before us to leave such a legacy gift.  From the first gift, under the leadership of Bishop Emerson Colaw, to the 28 million dollar endowment it is today, the endowment has enhanced the vision and mission of HPCUMC.  From support of the facilities, to the support of our outreach/mission programs, and missionaries, the HPCUMC endowment has been a part of partnering with God to bring God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. From scholarships awarded to our young adults in college to scholarships awarded to those interested in short term mission opportunities, the income from the HPCUMC endowment has been actively involved in making disciples and facilitating intellectual, and spiritual growth.

The beauty of the Endowment program is that no gift is too small, whether $5 or a million dollars the endowment program provides the opportunity for individuals and families to leave a legacy to the church they love.  We invite you to make a gift to the endowment, and/or including HPCUMC in your estate plans.  I would love to talk to you about your legacy gift.

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

Thoughts on Hope…

There are times in life we need to have hope. And in most cases when we do, we are wishing for a preferred future outcome. So where are you in need of hope? Is it in the area of your health, finances, or in a relationship? Do you need hope in your suffering?

Professor of Psychology Barbara Fredrickson argues that one way hope comes into its own is when crisis looms, opening us to new creative possibilities. Frederickson argues that with great need comes an unusually wide range of ideas, as well as such positive emotions as happiness and joy, courage, and empowerment, drawn from four different areas of one’s self: from a cognitive, psychological, social, or physical perspective. She said hopeful people are “like the little engine that could,” because they keep telling themselves “I think I can, I think I can.” Such positive thinking bears fruit when based on a realistic sense of optimism, or “real hope,” rather than a naive “false hope”.

Much of our hope is based on our own willpower or our self-motivation. We have aspirations to attain something and we set goals to get us there. For instance, “I hope to become a major league baseball or football player. Or I hope to become an accomplished singer or dancer.” We are driven by our own desires.

What about placing our hope in God? The Bible is full of stories of hope. God’s followers are hoping for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven. Or, said another way, the Christian is hoping for the fruition of what has already begun, the full arrival of God’s Kingdom and we pin our hopes on the God of that Kingdom. Our hope in God is both a present and future reality.

The apostle Paul wrote in several places about what hope leads to or makes: patience, courage, and joy.  It is one of the three things which lasts: faith, hope, and love. We will begin a new sermon series titled the “Power of Hope” found in Paul’s writings this week in Romans 5: 1-5. Please join us in worship the next several weeks on a variety of topics that will focus on hope.

Hope to see you Sunday!

Pastor Dave Weaver

Update: Hyde Park Community’s Future/The United Methodist Church

In the wake of the Special Session of General Conference in February, many conversations have started to take place regarding the future of the United Methodist Church.  In February, delegates from around the world voted to embrace “The Traditional Plan” which tightens the ban on gay clergy and same-sex unions.  These changes to the United Methodist Book of Discipline go into effect on January 1, 2020.

Judicial Council, which is a diverse nine-member group of clergy and laity, met to review all of the legislation that was addressed at the Special Session in St. Louis in February.  They upheld the majority of the decisions made including an exit path for churches that choose to leave the denomination.

Conversations are taking place all over the country and the world regarding the future of United Methodism.  Here are a few gatherings that will help shape our future:

May 20-23: “UMC Next” will gather in Kansas City to pray and discern a way forward for congregations who seek a more inclusive path than the decision made by the Special Session of General Conference.  Invited representatives from annual conferences will gather at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection to worship, pray, and discern options.  Rev. Dr. Cathy Johns, one of our senior pastors, will be attending as one of West Ohio Conference’s representatives.

June 2 – 6:  West Ohio Annual Conference will be held at Lakeside.  Delegates will be elected to attend the General Conference in May 2020 in Minneapolis.

June 11: The HPC Way Forward Task Force, composed of nine laity and our senior pastors, will begin to meet.  They will explore options and seek direction as we move forward.   Dr. Al Painter, the chair of the Servant Leadership Board, will chair.

Summer/Fall: Listening Sessions will be held at Hyde Park Community to help discern our way forward as a faith community.  Multiple options will be discussed to continue as a strong, vibrant church that changes lives for Christ locally and globally.

A Church Conference will be held to vote on the recommendation of the HPC Way Forward Task Force.  All members will have voice and vote.        

Your prayers for bishops, church leaders, laity, clergy, and your church staff are deeply appreciated during this season of listening and waiting for God to direct our path.  As always, we are here to listen to your questions and concerns.

Through Christ,

Pastor Cathy & Pastor Doug

God as a Mother Hen

I remember one of those “light bulb”  moments from seminary.  My father, Don, was a faithful, gentle, loving man who deeply cared for his family.  As a child it was easy for me to have positive images of God as male because my earthly father was such a blessing.

My friend, Penny, had a much different experience growing up.  Her relationship with her family was strained and bordered on abusive.  Images of God as father did not work for her;  if fact, she shared that when God was mentioned as “father” painful memories flooded her soul.  It was then that I understood:  words matter.

Jesus uses a tender, female image to refer to God as he laments over Jerusalem:   “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”  In John’s gospel there are seven “I am” statements that reveal who Jesus is, including “I am the Good Shepherd.”  “I am the Bread of Life.”

As a person committed to preaching the good news of Christ’s love for all people, I invite people to expand their images of God.  Ron DelBene wrote a wonderful book called “The Breath Prayer.”  This simple, short prayer (7 words of less) is constructed based on what one needs.  The steps:

1)  Identify what I need

2)  Choose an action verb that identifies how God can meet my need

3)  Choose an image for God that connects with what you need

Several years ago I was given an appointment to a church which some colleagues thought was “a reach,” saying that I was too young to serve that church at the age of 35.  I wrote a breath prayer, using the formula above, and memorized it.  I took a deep breath and prayed it all day long – in traffic, while I was waiting in line at the grocery store.  I prayed:

“Prince of Peace, cast out my fear.”

Two weeks later I experienced complete peace.  The fear was gone.

May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, richly bless you this weekend.

Joy in our Risen Lord,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Living Out Our Mission of Putting Faith into Action

Over the last few months, you might have noticed something new in the News & Happenings. As a way to inform and encourage engagement in missional opportunities, the Monthly Mission Spotlight was created. Since its launch, Interfaith Hospitality Network, the Romania Partnership, and Habitat for Humanity has been featured. Each week, new information is shared regarding that particular ministry for the month and also gives specific ways people can get involved. After Interfaith Hospitality Network was featured, 10 new people served in some way during our last host week in March!

The mission of our church is a commitment to share the love of Jesus to transform lives, Cincinnati, and the world. Our hope at Hyde Park Community is that each person can find a meaningful way to serve that connects people’s passions and gifts to needs of the community and world. My relationship with Jesus became real when I had my first invitation to serve alongside others. My faith continues to grow as I put my discipleship into action and I find that the life that is most changed is not the people I’m serving with, but it is my own.

If there is a stirring in you to go deeper in your discipleship through service, I would love to meet with you! The monthly mission spotlight scratches the surface of all the ways one can use their gifts. With the variety of ways to get involved and serve, I believe there is a great fit for each person.

Finally, thank you to all who are already serving and being the church! Your passion, energy, and commitment is amazing and I’m beyond thankful for your ministry to the church, community, and world. Let’s continue to bring the Kingdom of God closer!

Peace,

Pastor Kate

Ministry Is A Team Sport

Paul in First Corinthians talks about the body of Christ, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. . . . Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”     (1 Corinthians 12:12, 27) Using a sports metaphor, ministry is a team sport, individuals coming together to use their gifts in coordination with the giftedness of others for the greater good.

As is the case with any team sport it is important to have the right people in the right place to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God.  With this in mind I take this opportunity to share exciting news with regard to our new Youth Director.

Over the past five months the Personnel Team of the Servant Leadership Board has been working with our Youth Leaders and Youth to fill the Youth Director position (effective January 1, 2019, Rev. Kate Smith transitioned from Youth Ministry to Mission and Outreach, succeeding Sarah Putman).  After reviewing over 30 resumes and a number of interviews, the right candidate never materialized.  Our priority was not to rush the process, settling for an “ok” youth director.  Strength in our youth ministry is what we sought and we were willing to stand on God’s promise in Isaiah, “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31)

I am pleased to announce that Dana Calhoun has agreed to re-align her responsibilities on staff to include youth ministry.  Dana has a passion for youth ministry and possesses the right gifts to serve and walk alongside our youth and their families with excellence.  Dana is the right person for the position on the team!  As the Director of Family Ministry at HPCUMC Dana’s focus will be Youth Ministry.

Over the coming weeks the Personnel Team will review the needs of our Children’s Ministry and seek the right candidate to join Pam Pilger on the Children’s Ministry Team.  In the meantime, an interim plan will be in place to make sure Children’s ministry is offered with excellence.  Your prayers are welcomed as Dana makes this transition, and for God’s leading, as the right person steps in to lead our children and their families.

It is a privilege to serve in ministry with you at HPCUMC.  Together we are the body of Christ to the world, offering God’s love to all God calls God’s beloved!  See you in Church!

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug

The Surprise Inside

My childhood friends and I would hunt for geodes and buckeyes. We would ride our bikes in the neighborhood back to the woods. There were would find all kinds of treasures, but our favorites were buckeyes.
On the outside they are just round, green balls. When you crack them open you discover a beautiful, shiny brown treasure. We would make necklaces out of them and wore them proudly. My friends and their Dad brought home another treasure: geodes. On the outside, they look like boring rocks. When you crack them open with a hammer, you discover beautiful sparkling colors: usually blue, purple, or white.
On Easter morning Mary Magdalene went to the tomb with spices. She expected to tuck the spices into the folds of his burial clothes. When she arrived she discover a surprise inside: the tomb was empty. In Matthew’s gospel we read that she saw an angel in white sitting on top the stone. The angel said, “Do not be afraid; I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’”
This Easter do not miss the surprise inside……Allow yourself to walk inside the tomb to discover the treasure:
The tomb is empty. He is not here; He is Risen. Alleluia, Alleluia!

Joy in our Risen Lord,

Pastor Cathy

Together We Make A Difference!

Together We Make a Difference!

As the flowers bloom and the trees bud, all of creation is singing resurrection praises!

Thank you for your support and generosity of the ministries of Hyde Park Community/Over The Rhine Community United Methodist Church!   Because you gave:

•  On Friday, April 12, HPCUMC opened the doors of the Church, offering our community God’s love and grace through song, as our Praise Band performed a concert of love and acceptance.

•  On Saturday, April 13, HPCUMC, children and their families enjoyed our annual Easter Egg Hunt, led by our Children and Family Ministry.

•  In partnership with the University of Cincinnati’s Audiology Department, we have provided hearing aides for the community of Red Bird Mission. There is a waiting list of 3+ years for hearing aides. 

•  The Lenten Retreat offered participants a time of reflection and renewal.

•  The Pre-School Chapel engages over 190 children and adults with the love and grace of Jesus twice a month.

•  The weekly Young Adult gatherings average 11 young adults in study and fellowship. 

•  The Mission and Outreach Team provide opportunities to mentor/tutor children at Rothenberg and Wesley Chapel Mission Center.

•  Eight members of HPCUMC represented the church as part of the mission team to Cluj, Romania.

•  The Young Adult Enneagram Retreat inspired 22 young adults.

In these ways, and many more, your generous giving is a way in which you have partnered with God to bring God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.  Thank you!

May God’s blessings abound as you continue to support the ministry and mission of Hyde Park Community through your extravagant generosity!  

Through Christ,

Pastor Doug