One of the things you may have figured out about me is that my life and my ministry are often calendar focused. Let me give you an example. As of August 1, we are only 146 days from Christmas. If you are wondering why I’m mentioning Christmas already, it’s because I try to stay three to six months out on my sermon preparation along with my calendar awareness of upcoming ministry dates and opportunities. In other words, I’m trying to be ready and aware of things down the road for our church here at Salem.
Over the next several months, we here at Salem will be needing to get ready for some new things planned down the road. Our District Superintendent, Dr. Quincy Brown, has suggested that our church do a community wide assessment in and around the surrounding area of Salem UMC. One of the main purposes of the assessment is to help understand the needs and desires of our community. This will help us achieve two things. First, it will help us and our church understand what’s going on in our community and how we can develop ideas and ministries in how we can bring hope to those who live and work around our church. And second, it will also help our church go outside the walls of our church so we can begin to get to know who these people really are.
Using the resources Dr. Brown has given me, we will be talking to some of the people and businesses in our community in order to find out who they are and what types of ideas they have for our community. This will also give us the opportunity to start and build relationships with both of the groups.
The main focus of the actual assessment will be based on five questions:
In Christ’s Love and Service,
Hard to Believe
It is very hard for me to write this newsletter today. Why, you ask? Simple, we have already gone through the first six months of 2018!!! This past year has truly flown by way too quickly and before we know it, 2019 will be here.
Wednesday Supper and Studies
Wednesday Night Suppers and Bibles Studies wrapped up in mid-May and I want to thank everyone who were a part of the wonderful fellowship and sharing, both around the dinner tables and in our class discussions. I look forward to getting started back again after Labor Day and will plan on more actual studying of the Bible itself instead of the primary use of books. I also want to say THANK YOU to Debbie Andrews for your service and hard work in preparing our delicious meals for us every Wednesday night.
Vacation Bible School Recap
We just recently wrapped up another Vacation Bible School, with more than forty kids
attending. Thanks so much to Amy Standard for her great leadership of VBS and to the many, many volunteers who helped out in a variety of ways. I would also like to thank Anita Anderson for her creativity and work in the stage production along with Carol Rodock helping to secure all of the things needed to make our VBS this year a success.
These were a few of the wonderful things we've enjoyed at Salem. But that was the past; there is still plenty for us to do in 2018!!!
Summer Lunches for Hungry Kids
Starting this coming week for the month of July, we will once again begin to make and to deliver lunches a couple days a week for the children who live in the mobile home park behind the church. We have also committed to Action Ministries to team up with Shiloh UMC for the second week of July to provide lunches for the children of the Nelson Heights community in downtown Covington.
A New School Year
And speaking of children, schools in Newton County will be starting back on August 1. I would love for Salem UMC to continue its partnership with West Newton Elementary School located on Brown Bridge Road. I will be contacting the principal there in the coming days to see where we can be of assistance to the students, teachers, and administrators of West Newton.
Summer Combined Worship and Snafus
I want to close today by thanking all of you for being so supportive of the joint church services. We are planning to send out the damaged sound board for the sanctuary soon and hopefully have it back by the first Sunday in August. It is my prayer that we will be back to our normal worship schedule by then. The only possible holdup to this is the damage to the ceiling that fell in the sanctuary a few weeks ago caused by the birds. We are in the process of getting bids to repair the ceiling and also hope to have it done by the first Sunday in August. I would like to ask you for your prayers for the Trustees as they negotiate a fair price and quick resolution to this issue. I will keep you advised of any information that I receive from them. It is my prayer that all of this will be kept with a minimum of financial costs and inconvenience for all.
What is On My Heart and Mind Right Now!
Recently, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) held a public information Open House concerning their proposed solution for the traffic problems and delays of GA Hwy. 162 and Salem Road. As many of you know, the state has been discussing and looking for possible solutions for numerous years. The solution, as proposed now, may cause several issues for our church in the future and has myself and several other members very concerned.
The GDOT is proposing to move GA Hwy. 162/Salem Road west of its current location starting about two-tenths of a mile north of Spring Road in an arc and rejoin the current Salem Road between near Salem Circle. The current stretch of Salem Road where the arc starts and ends will be renamed Salem Campground Road.
As proposed, our church will lose all visibility to the traffic flow of the new stretch of road. People will have to go out of their way to find our church not only on Sunday mornings but for any other times where we are offering ministry opportunities to our community.
Besides the loss of visibility, some of our other concerns are:
You can contact the GDOT online at www.dot.ga.gov/PS/Public/PublicOutreach. From the menu, select "Newton County" and click GO. Select the SR162/Salem Road Improvements Project. Then CLICK on the comment section, follow the directions and leave your comments. You can also mail your concerns to Mr. Eric Duff, Georgia Department of Transportation, 600 West Peachtree Street NW, 16th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30308. Please prayerfully consider doing this for YOUR church and for our work in our community. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at your convenience. Thank you for this and for what you do and give to Salem.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…”
- Hebrews 10:24-25a
It’s getting that time of the year where our church schedule seems to be packed more than ever. But shouldn’t it be that way? We are wrapping up our church year and getting ready to prepare to welcome the season of Advent leading up to the celebration of the birth of the Christ child. And the joy and anticipation for Christmas we should feel this time of year should be contagious throughout our church. So much so that we should be making plans to be here for every event starting December 3, which is the first Sunday of the Advent season.
And for the Advent season, I will be preaching a sermon series called “The Redemption of Scrooge,” based on a book by Rev. Matt Rawle, a UM pastor from Louisiana. The book is based on the Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol.” We will look at the Christmas Eve night where Ebenezer Scrooge encountered the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come and seek to apply the lessons Scrooge learned that night to our own lives on how we can live with and love for others as followers of Jesus.
With all of this going on, there is no better time than to invite your family, friends, and others to come to Salem and see what God is doing here, for us and through us. I can’t wait to see where God is taking us together in our first Advent and Christmas season together.
I hate to be the bearer of bad new, but as your pastor, I must tell you this: There are less than 3 months until Christmas. I know it may be a shock to you and let’s face it, mid-to-upper eighty degree temperatures do not help the thought that Christmas is coming. So, if Christmas is coming, what is there for us to do? Simple, let’s have some fun! We have several community events set for the month of October and we will need your help, prayers, and support.
The first event takes place the first week of October, our Fall Barbecue. We will start on Friday, October 6, by getting everything ready here at the church. There will be food to prep for the Brunswick Stew along with cleanup and putting everything in position for Saturday’s early start on October 7. Then Saturday morning, we will need all hands on deck. There will be chicken to be de-boned and pork to be pulled and chopped. And the to-go plates will need to be organized before the food can be placed in them so they can be separated into delivery orders. We will also need some delivery drivers to take the orders which were pre-sold over the past couple of weeks.
Then the fun starts! We will be selling plates, BBQ pork, and Brunswick stew from 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. The prices are $10 for a quart of Stew (limit of 2), $10 for a pound of pork, and $8 for a plate which includes chopped pork, stew, slaw, pickles, bread, chips and tea. Please invite your friends and family to enjoy some great food and the wonderful fellowship of our church.
Our next community event starts on Saturday, October 14, about 1PM with the delivery of our pumpkins. Again, we will need all hands on deck as we unload, separate, and set up the pumpkins to be sold to the public starting that day. The hours will be Monday through Friday — 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m, Saturday — 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., and Sunday — 12:30-7 p.m.. Ginger Bloodworth is organizing the time slots to volunteer, so please be generous with your time to help raise funds for our church.
Finally, our last community event, Trunk or Treat, takes place on, Saturday, October 28, from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Please come and enjoy the fun and fellowship as we set up our cars and trucks to pass out candy to the children of our community. Please feel free to decorate your vehicle any way you want and remember it doesn’t have to be scary. A couple of ideas could be decorating with your favorite sport team colors, TV and movie show themes, etc… Have some fun with it and bring plenty of candy! Let’s make this one of the biggest Trunk or Treats yet!
And while you are here at any of our October events, please remember to bring your biggest Salem smile and be ready to share some of the great Salem hospitality with our community!
Above all, let them see Jesus in your words and in your actions. As Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
Jesus Christ is indeed the only true hope for our world!
Question for you: Have you ever seen the face of an angel? I think I may have several times today. It’s Monday and it looks like it may be a long Monday at that. Beyond the normal Monday activities and e-mail to handle, I was kept busy with phone calls and other things to check off my To-Do-List. The morning went by fairly quick but when I got back from lunch, things changed.
When I got back from lunch, I got ready for our weekly staff meeting. After the meeting was done, I received the second of four visits from individuals who needed assistance with their utilities. The woman was 45 minutes early for her appointment with me and I had wanted to get a few things done before her and the other two people came for their assistance. Anyway, I decided to go ahead and help her. She entered my office and began to ask me numerous questions about our church, where she could get additional help, etc… I didn’t think she was going to stop talking. Anyway as she handed me her paperwork, she asked me if the church had an extra-large print Bible to give her. When she asked the question, I “knew” she was just making small talk with me until I gave her the check she needed, or at least, that’s what I thought.
I finally got everything done for the woman and handed back her paperwork along with the check she needed. She then asked me again if the church had a large print Bible for her to have. After checking with Annette to see if the church had one, I remembered I had one on my shelf that I didn’t use anymore. I wish all of you could have seen the woman smile after I handed her the Bible.
Shortly after she left, the next person needing help showed up. The gentleman was genuinely excited. The reason was that he had found full-time work earlier that day so he knew he would be back on his feet again soon. The gentleman praised God when he left and told me he would be back sometime to pay back what he could so we could pass it on to the next person.
And then final person came. She was a young woman of 30 years of age. She appeared to be embarrassed having to be in a church asking for help with her bills. As she handed me her license, I noticed her birthday was two weeks away. When I commented on that to her, her face lit up with a big smile and thanked me. As I handed her the check for her assistance, she asked me if she could take a couple of Tootsie Roll pops from the bucket on my desk for her kids in the car. I told her sure and to get one for the birthday girl too. She again smiled, took the three Pops and went on her way.
Later as I was cleaning up my desk to leave, I thought about the four people who had visited me that day seeking assistance. As I was thinking about them, Hebrews 13:2, came to mind, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
It was a sobering reminder for me and I pray for all of us, each and every time someone approaches us for some form of help individually or as a church, we will always offer hospitality and the Love and Grace of Christ. We should offer nothing less than what God has shown us.
What’s your favorite place to pray? UMC.org, A United Methodist website, asked their readers where their favorite places were to pray. Some loved to pray while out in nature, being in and surrounded by God’s creation. Others mentioned that their places of prayer were wherever they could be active; from walks or runs in their neighborhoods to mowing their grass. The one favorite that caught my attention was that people like to pray while they drive back and forth to work. I have trouble enough paying attention to how I (and others) are driving, let alone adding one more thing for me to do with all of the craziness taking place in and around me.
At my previous appointment, my favorite place to pray was walking the halls of the church and praying for those people and those things that weighed upon my heart. I primarily did this first thing in the morning before the busyness of the day and the business of the church started. Depending on my day and/or any distractions that might come along, the overall time I spent in prayer varied from day to day. Since coming to Salem, I have tried to develop the same rhythm here but have had very little success. This makes me wonder if God is calling me to new ways to pray and/or new places to pray.
During our staff meeting this week, Pastor Carol asked me if I would be available to go with her that evening to West Newton Elementary School to pray for the school. Knowing that my evening was free, I told Carol I would be glad to meet her there. When we arrived, we were greeted by one of our church members and by the principal.
The principal asked how we would like to pray for the school, and Carol mentioned that she would like to go into each of the classrooms and pray for both the teachers and the students. I loved her idea and agreed that would be something I would like to do, too. The principal approved of Carol’s plan, and after praying for him for the upcoming year, Carol and I went on our way. We divided up the classrooms and began our prayer quest.
To say I was blessed by this opportunity to pray would be a vast understatement. Almost all of my classrooms were unlocked and I was able to stand among the desks and pray for the teachers and students. What a joy and honor it was for me to offer prayers for the teachers and students of our community. And I may have found a new place to pray. Who knows? It just might become one of my new favorite places to pray.
In Christ’s Love and Service, Dan
“I thank my God every time I remember you.
In all of my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.”
— Philippians 1:3-4
What a wonderful first week Brenda and I have had here as your pastoral couple at Salem. You all have welcomed and blessed us both more than you will ever know. From the sign out front welcoming us, to “friending” us on Facebook, to the many gifts and cards we have received, and the many hugs and affirming words you have offered us, we have felt loved and welcomed. Brenda and I want to offer our heartfelt thanks for all you have done to make us feel at home here at Salem.
The scripture above is a verse I have come to treasure over the years. Throughout my 17 years of ministry, people from all parts of my life have found ways to bless me either professionally or personally. When those times take place, I strive to fall back on the verse above as a reminder to thank God for them and their service and to remind me of the opportunity to also thank them personally in some way. Depending on the depth of the gift, I will thank them by conversation either directly in person or over the phone. I will also drop them a note in the mail sometimes or offer some small token of thanks too.
What about you? How do you thank the people in your lives for the things they do for you and/or your loved ones? For that matter, when was the last time you told someone how thankful you were for them being in and/or a part of your lives? Saying thank you to them can be an important way to show your thanks to someone but sometimes I think we say “thank you” as a reflex action instead of a thankful action. We go through the motion of saying “thank you” but there is nothing attached to what we have said to show the other person of how sincere we are for their help or support.
I would like to challenge all of us in the coming weeks to reflect on the people who have touched our lives whether it has been recently or sometime ago. When they cross your mind, make yourself a note of some sort to find a way to thank them for what they have done or for what they have meant to you. And when you are done with thanking them, offer God a prayer of thanks for the gift of them in your life.
In Christ’s Love and Service,