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

Where in the World is God?

Did you ever ask, “Where are you God?” Some ancient people would answer: “In the sun.” Others believed that the “gods” lived on Mount Olympus. Some believed that God was in the trees.

This week’s message, “The Heart of God: God the Revealer,” based on Psalm 139, explores where we can discover God.  Lawrence Kushner explains:  “In Judasim the world is viewed as one world which is material and spiritual at the same time.  The material world is always potentially spiritual.  For Judaism all things – including, and especially such apparently non-spiritual and grossly material things such as garbage, sweat, dirt, and bushes – are not the pediments to but dimensions of spirituality.  Jewish spirituality is about the immediacy of God’s presence everywhere.  It is about patience, and paying attention, about seeing, feeling, and learning things that only a moment ago were inaccessible.” (From “God was in this place and I, I did not know.’)

In Psalm 139 we discover a God whose love is inescapable.  It reaches beyond the highest heaven to the lowest places of the earth.

Let us celebrate this weekend our God whose love cannot be contained by time or space… a God who is with us, always!


Pastor Cathy

Understanding Mercy

God is known to be a God of mercy and grace. Understanding mercy is often difficult for people as we tend to be a generation of “I’ll get him for that” and “I hope they get what they deserve.” Many have developed a nature of harsh criticism and want others to get what they have coming to them and then some.

God, however, is merciful to even the worst offenders, sinners, and law-breakers. This means that even though He knows of our guilt, God doesn’t issue the punishment deserved. To elaborate, the verse in Romans 3:23-24 says “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” God’s mercy is restorative, not punitive.

Simply, we all miss the mark and will never meet the full standards of righteousness that God intends us to have. But, through God’s mercy and grace God releases us from any form of judgment. God’s covenant of love and mercy with Israel in the Old Testament was steadfast regardless of how wayward the people were. God’s mercy in the New Testament is made known to us through Jesus who reconciled all people once and for all.  We live under a new covenant of love, mercy and grace.

We continue the sermon series this week titled: “The Heart of God.” Our subtitle is “God the Merciful.” God’s mercy is there for us every moment of our lives. Join me in worship this Sunday. Maybe you will go away understanding the depth of God’s mercy. Maybe you will recognize the need for God’s mercy. Maybe you will realize you need to show mercy. Or maybe you will experience God’s mercy as we sing the famous hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and the words, “Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed Thy hand hath provided; great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

In Christ,

Pastor Dave

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

An Update from Over- the- Rhine

We’ve had a number of exciting things going on in Over-the-Rhine. In an ongoing effort to be the Church in our community, our sisters and brothers at Over-the-Rhine Community Church (OTRCC) are continuing to discern ways in which God is calling us out. One current initiative is to transform our vacant lot at the corner of 14th and Race into a permaculture community garden. With “green space” in Over-the-Rhine shrinking quickly, our goal is to use this land not only as a way to grow local food, but to invite our neighbors into building a community space together.

Additionally, back in February, the OTRCC Lead Team relaunched the longstanding breakfast ministry. Now at 9:30 am, this meal is seeking to create a space in OTR where all people are able to interact as neighbors, peers and friends. Formerly, these meals relied heavily upon volunteers from partnering churches; they are now fully run by the local community. We have a few core leaders from OTRCC who make sure the breakfast is functioning each week, but the bulk of the work falls to anyone who shows up for the meal and who is willing to help!

Every person is encouraged to help with the meal AND sit at the table, regardless of where they live- an apartment, a house, or the street. In this way, we are stepping into God’s Kingdom where there truly is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, “Us” and “Them”; for we are all one in Christ Jesus! You can find a video of our new breakfast on the OTRCC website, otrcc.org, under “media”. All are welcome!

If you are interested in participating in any of the exciting things mentioned above or in OTRCC in general, please contact Pastor Ian Strickland at istrickland@hpcumc.org. And be sure to join the OTRCC email list at otrcc.org.

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

Candy For Our Neighbors in the Congo

In August, I will be serving on a mission team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have been asked to teach discipleship and leadership to residents of the Kamina Children’s Home in the North Katanga Conference. One of my duties is to bring thank you gifts for our hosts. I will be bringing hard candy and creating simple “hobo” bags with the word “peace” in three languages painted on them with fabric paint.

If you would like to participate in this mission project, I welcome your support! Here are four ways you can support this mission to Kamina Children’s Home:

1) Pray that God works in a mighty way through this mission team from West Ohio Conference.

2) Contribute Candy. Please bring individually wrapped candies by Monday, July 25 to the church office; please place your donations in the bin marked “Candy for the Congo”. List of candy to donate:  Jolly Rancher hard candy,  Life Savers (individually wrapped), peppermint hard candy (individually wrapped), Salt Water taffy, Werther’s butterscotch (individually wrapped), Tootsie Rolls midges.

3) If you would like to help me sew and paint the cloth bags, please contact me at cjohns@hpcumc.org or 979-8182.  We will be gathering in the Welcome Center on July 26 from 2:00 – 6:30 pm.

4)   Donate brightly colored shoestrings (15 pairs are needed.)   We will use these as drawstrings for the bags.

This week’s scripture is the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus told this parable, in response to a question asked by a rich young man:  “Who is my neighbor?”

At times the needs of our world are overwhelming!  I invite you to come and explore this familiar parable for it is timely; we seem more eager to hate than to love our neighbor, more eager to fight than work for peace.

I look forward to seeing you in church this Sunday!


Pastor Cathy

Life Changing Attitude: Forgiveness

Attitude is everything! Our attitude is one of the few things we have total control of, but, sad to say, we fail to control. Too often we walk around carrying unhealthy thoughts and feelings that shape our attitudes. No matter our circumstances, we have a choice: positivity/negativity, good/bad, optimism/pessimism. The attitude we choose to embrace will bind us or free us; attitude is everything!
Forgiveness is a life-changing attitude and Jesus invites us to make this part of our lifestyle. We are created in the likeness and image of God. Created in the likeness and image of God, has nothing to do with our physical characteristics and everything to do with our character. Created in the image and likeness of God, we possess the characteristics of God. We possess the capacity to love as we are loved, to show grace and mercy as we have been shown grace and mercy, to forgive as we have been forgiven. As Paul puts it, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
Author, and Pastor of the largest United Methodist Church in the United States, Adam Hamilton, writes in his book, Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go,
“When we choose to show mercy, the image of God is seen in us. Our willingness to forgive has the power not only to change us, freeing us from bitterness and resentment but to change those who receive mercy from us, just as we are changed when finally we see and comprehend the vast and wonderful mercy of God.” (Page 138)
In many ways forgiveness is counterintuitive. For multiple reasons that seem logical and reasonable, we convince ourselves that forgiveness either makes us weak and/or more vulnerable. In reality it makes us stronger and releases us to live life abundantly. I look forward to seeing you in church.
In Christ,
Pastor Doug

West Ohio Annual Conference 2016

The West Ohio Annual conference began with almost 3000 clergy and laity gathering at Lakeside, Ohio in early June.  Each day began with a powerful worship experience with preaching by Bishop Palmer and guest bishops from other conferences.  Holy Communion is celebrated.  Worship is an inspiring way to start each day, and it sets the tone for all of us to work together in the unity of the Spirit.

For me, the gift of being a lay delegate is to see the best of our connectional church.  It is about learning what our church is doing for mission and outreach in the state of Ohio, the U.S., and the world.  It is learning about new initiatives which the conference, districts, and the local church are doing to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world. It is seeing how others are serving to transform the world.

The business portion of the conference was non-controversial this year.  There were five recommendations which were discussed and voted on:  Finance and Administration; Equitable Compensation; Pension and Health Benefits; sale of Camp Asbury; and a study regarding the benefits and costs of the Missional Church Consultation Initiative.  Two years ago we started using the electronic voting process so the actual voting took a lot less time than in the past when we said “Yea or Nay”; raised our hands, or had a written ballot.  The administrative and parliamentary procedures may be cumbersome and sometimes tedious (at least for me), but the gift is that everyone has “voice and vote”, and we are part of the holy conferencing process, the solutions, and the future of the United Methodist Church.

We affirm the new clergy who are commissioned or ordained as local pastors, deacons, or elders (including our very own Pastor Ian Strickland at OTRCC).  New clergy appointments are announced by Bishop Palmer.  We celebrate the retiring clergy who have served us well for many years (although I don’t believe a pastor ever retires).  And we honor the saints and spouses who have gone before us with deep reverence and appreciation.  Certified lay ministers and other missional lay leaders in the West Ohio are recognized as well for their faithful service.

Every year I am moved when over 3000 people stand and sing the hymn, “Lift High the Cross.” And every year I cry as I sing this hymn.   I pray asking God what He wants me to let go of and how I am best to serve Him.  Let us all celebrate and sing, “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim till all the world adore his sacred name.”

-submitted by Diane Weaver

“Nothing is Wasted with God”

During college many of us had to take “core” classes. In liberal arts college, like I attended, the idea was simple:  We are committed to producing graduates who have a well-rounded education.  I remember taking Southeast Asian history, thinking during the entire semester,

“I will never use this in my lifetime!”   Oddly enough, Doug’s sister, Dianne, who is an executive with General Motors, took an assignment in Singapore.  She flew our family out to visit and treated us to a trip to Thailand.  With God, nothing is ever wasted!

In high school I took three years of French and two years of French in college. Our son, Blake, was able to study in Paris during one of his college semesters. I was amazed at how quickly he picked up the language and knew how to navigate Paris like a native!   Although I enjoy French, it has been a long time since I have used it.  Chalk it up to Exhibit A of a  “well rounded education.”

This summer I will be joining a mission team from West Ohio Conference to offer discipleship training for youth in the North Katanga Conference of the United Methodist Church, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  During our first meeting, they explained that we would need to factor in the time for translation.    French is their primary language.  As we have been working on preparing the curriculum, I realized that I will at least be able to read the Bible to the youth in French!   With God, nothing is ever wasted!

As a pastor, I often hear people put themselves down by saying, ” I can’t do this”  or “I can’t do that.”  As we study the Parable of the Talents this weekend, I invite you to to celebrate who and whose you are:  You are a unique child of God who has been created to bless the world.   Let us focus on what we can do and give God all the glory!


Pastor Cathy Johns