Holding Hands

As we approach Valentine’s Day, I invite you to consider all the ways that we connect with others by holding hands:

A mother holding the hand of her baby for the first time

A father holding the hand of a child as they cross the street

Walking with a special friend holding hands

Holding hands as you leave the church after your wedding

Holding hands in prayer around the dinner table with family

Holding hands to reassure a friend who is struggling

Holding hands with an elderly parent as they receive hospice care

30 Lessons for Loving, a new book by gerontologist, Dr. Karl Pillemer, concludes after 700 interviews that older adults “place intimacy as a high priority” in their marriages.  One recent widow, Jennie B., who was married for 47 years, says that what she missed most is holding hands.

This week I invite you to use your hands to extend the love of God to others.  The touch of Jesus brought healing to many.  Teresa of Avila wrote:  “Christ has no body now but  yours….no hands, no feet on earth but yours.”   

May our hands extend the love of Christ to bless the world.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Can You Help?

The United Methodist Church is a “Connectional Church”, each church is connected to the other.  Our connection manifests itself in many ways throughout the denomination: Mission and outreach; financial and human resources; and the appointment of Clergy.  The United Methodist Church has been able to live the words of John Wesley, “the world is my parish,” because of our connection.

In order for The United Methodist Church connection to function efficiently with excellence and vision, strategic processes are needed.  To this end our District Superintendent, The Rev. Dr. Todd Anderson, asks your help.  Dr. Anderson writes,

“We need your help as we prepare a District Strategic Plan. As United Methodist Church leaders, we are praying about and considering where God is leading us in the future. Your input will be helpful in the process of realizing our potential for future ministry, all for God’s Glory.  Below you will find a link to a survey that we would like as many United Methodists in the district to give their input. Please complete it for us at your earliest convenience and feel free to share it with your Ohio River Valley District United Methodist friends and colleagues. The survey will remain open through Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ORVDCongregationSurvey

This survey is being administered by an independent organizational development and research firm, Measurement Resources Company.  All responses will be kept confidential and sent directly to Measurement Resources. Individual responses will not be shared with the Ohio River Valley District or congregation leaders. Your honest input is desired. Thank you for your participation!  Grace and peace.”

I invite you to participate in shaping the direction of the Ohio River Valley District, and to a certain extent, The West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Can you help?  Please take a moment and complete the survey using the link above.  Together we make a difference in the world.  I look forward to seeing you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

What’s New at OTRCC?

Much has happened in the spirit and life of Over-the-Rhine Community church in 2016 and the beginning of 2017. From physical changes in our entryway, Gathering Place, and Sanctuary to changes in worship time, worship flow, and community fellowship – OTRCC has experienced and activated “new things” in our space and community.

In the spring we began planning for moving forward creating a Permaculture Garden in our lot at the corner of Race St and 14th St. Follow through of planting and creating signage rolled out at the end of the summer and in the fall.

This summer, under the leadership of a new member of the church, we repainted the Gathering Place and the entryway of the church. We added new light fixtures this fall and had specialty wooden tables built and incorporated at the end of the year. The Gathering Place has a much warmer, welcoming feeling to help accommodate the spirit and feeling of our community breakfasts that have been happening since early spring.

One of the neatest things for me to experience is to see some of our long term neighbors show up for breakfast and stay for worship. As we continue cultivating an atmosphere where people are not only welcomed but really feel that they have a place at the table – a place where everyone else sees them for the man or woman they were created to be – people want to be part of that community.

One other addition to our culture this year was Ian’s interest in creating videos. It has been such a blessing to be able to see in video/picture representation all that is going on. If you are interested in seeing videos, pictures, and more of the story, visit our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/otrcommunitychurch/.

Many blessings to you!

Sarah Putman

Community Ministry & Global Outreach Ministry Assistant

Do you Listen as well as a Sheep?

Barbara Brown Taylor, a nationally known preacher, shares:

“In Palestine today, it is still possible to witness a scene that Jesus almost certainly saw two thousand years ago, that of Bedouin shepherds bringing their flocks home from the various pastures they have grazed during the day. Often those flocks will end up at the same watering hole around dusk, so that they get all mixed up together—eight or nine small flocks turning into a convention of thirsty sheep. Their shepherds do not worry about the mix-up, however. When it is time to go home, each one issues his or her own distinctive call—a special trill or whistle, or a particular tune on a particular reed pipe, and that shepherd’s sheep withdraw from the crowd to follow their shepherd home. They know whom they belong to; they know their shepherd’s voice, and it is the only one they will follow.”

God longs for an intimate relationship with each one of us.  When we open our hearts and our ears to listen for God to speak, God will provide the guidance that we long for, a message tailor-made for us.   

May God richly bless you this week as you walk with God.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

All Things New!

With a New Year comes a heightened awareness of “newness” and of hope.  In these days of change and uncertainty, in a world that seems to be filled with discord, violence, and the inability to tone down the rhetoric, let us remember that hope remains; it is a hope that “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

Embracing this hope that is ours through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we partner with God in God’s acts of “new creation.”  As we remember the life and ministry of The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., hear once again his encouraging words, and live into the challenge:  “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding a deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.  Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only love can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Bishop Gregory Palmer (Resident Bishop of the West Ohio Conference) wrote a few months ago, “I refuse to believe that we are hopeless or abandoned.  But failure to act courageously will only reinforce the perception that we are.  We must act now:

  • To change every conversation until it bends us and the world to not only acknowledging a shared humanity but embracing it;
  • To remove the scales from our eyes that hinder our seeing the connections between race, religion, poverty and violence;
  • To change legislative conversations so that we get common sense solutions, to change our vocabulary, not merely tone down our rhetoric.

God is calling us into a life of “new creation” as we begin a New Year.  Let us embrace God’s leading; empowered by the Spirit of our living God let us love, as Christ Jesus, our Lord, has loved us.  See you in Church!

In Christ,

Pastor Doug

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

Happy Epiphany!

Hello Friends,

Happy Epiphany! The Advent and Christmas season is coming to an end. Hope your family holidays were filled with much peace, comfort and joy. The question is “Are you now ready for the New Year of 2017?” One of the first days at the beginning of the New Year we celebrate is called, “Epiphany Sunday.”

Some Epiphany history:

Epiphany, or the 12th day of Christmas, usually falls on January 6 and marks the official end to the festive season for many Christians. The ancient Christian feast day is significant as a celebration of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, as well as a more general celebration of his birth. The six Sundays which follow Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation.

The Twelfth Night (Epiphany) also marks a visit to the baby Jesus by three Kings, or Wise Men. The word ‘Epiphany’ comes from Greek and means “to show”, referring to Jesus’ being revealed to the world. In the West, Christians began celebrating the Epiphany in the 4th century.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the men found Jesus by following a star across the desert to Bethlehem. The three men – named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – followed the star of Bethlehem to meet the baby Jesus. According to Matthew 2:11, they offered symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts were symbolic of the importance of Jesus’ birth, the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality.

Let’s step into the new year of 2017, like the wise men, “seeking diligently” for more of Jesus, the Christ, in our lives. They were following a star that placed them over the place where Jesus was born. They were bearing gifts.

Maybe Hyde Park Community UMC is that place where we find Jesus born anew each and every Sunday in worship, a study class or a small group. What gifts will you bring to the Lord this year? Will you give more generously of your time, talents, and treasures for His Kingdom? I invite you to make Jesus’ teachings more of a priority in 2017. A great faith journey and wise first-step might be to make a heartfelt “recommitment to Christ” New Year’s resolution.

Happy searching! Happy finding! Happy New Year!

Pastor Dave

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

Daring to be an Instrument of Peace

He is known as the “Cellist of Sarajevo.”  Vedran Smailovic, born on November 11, 1956, has also been called a hero.  A former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quarter, he made a choice.  He took his cello and played Albonini’s Adagio, a composition which symbolizes hope rising from the ashes.  Samilovic played this powerful piece of music amid the ruins of his beloved city.  He played during funerals even though snipers were a very real threat.

What does it mean to be a presence for peace this season?  Our nation is bitterly divided.  Racial tensions are high.  Economic strain plagues many.  Marriages and families experience added stress.

We are called to be peacemakers, standing for peace wherever we are, pointing people to Christ who is the light of the world and the Prince of Peace. It may be that it is as simple as choosing peace, instead of engaging in an argument.  It may be as simple as deciding it is more important to be kind than to be right.  It may be as simple as choosing to be silent rather than to speak.   

St Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226, reminds us during this holy season what is means to be an instrument of peace.  May this beloved prayer infuse your body, mind, and spirit with Christ’s peace:   

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Praying for God’s peace to fill you,

Pastor Cathy Johns

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