Sunday Funday

As the youth leader I often struggle with ideological practice of having everything we do relate back to a religious idea or practice. I will ask myself, “Does this further the Kingdom of God?” Most often the answer is a resounding YES! But as I strolled through the Wal-Mart aisles picking up dish soap, a few buckets, and tarp – I couldn’t help but think that the 45-foot-super-awesome-slip-and-slide might just be for our own enjoyment.

Ultimately, we could have connected our journey downhill to the concepts of hope, courage, and God’s divine protection. Like – I hope I don’t break my leg, or I will take courage and get a running start, or “Oh Mercy!” this is super fast (Jesus, take the wheeeeeeel ♫)! We could have also used it as an invitation tool to help facilitate other youth joining our group – which we tried! There were a few neighborhood children that came over to see what we doing but I think they were too overwhelmed at all of the awesomeness that was taking place and really only came over to get a closer look. A small number of my other neighbors also came outside to openly view our craziness, but most stayed indoors away from all of our giggling and screaming – I imagine they were all peeking out of their windows like Jimmy Stewart’s character L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries in the movie Rear Window, waiting for one of us to slip up (pun intended).

It wasn’t all fun games though… well… yes it was. There was pizza, water balloons, water slingshots (although they didn’t work too well), card games, some sidewalk art, and of course the biggest slip-and-slide in Charlottesville (at least for today), and after all was said and done there were only a few grass scratches and bumped knees – but as I explained to the kids, that’s how you know you had fun! And honestly, that’s really what it was all about – having fun. And you know what else? Having fun is great. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m fairly sure 9 out of 10 doctors recommend having fun on a daily basis.

Now, if only we could find some biblical basis for all the fun we had…

(insert dramatic pause)

Boom. King Solomon comes through.

Yes, according to rabbinic tradition, the book Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon in his old age and I quote:

Ecclesiastes 8:15: So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. (NLT)

There it is.

“Have fun.”

So much of what our youth have to look forward is not always going to be fun – being an adult is hard. You can ask one, I’m sure they’ll tell you all about it! Jobs, money, bills, work, etc. Think about the first things that adults talk about when they see each other! They are very rarely in the market for having some fun. There’s a great quote from the children’s book The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that illustrates the adult conundrum:

“Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get an idea of that house at all. You have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $400,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”

Now, I’m only 30 years old – but this already hits home with me and speaks to how I sometimes view the world.

Thankfully, I have a job – well, 2 jobs actually – that keep me young. I am regularly reminded of the necessity to not take things too seriously or get too upset about the adult method of doing things and I am so very thankful that in this moment, on this day – we can fly down the hill and roll over backwards with laughter. Thankful that we are able to create memories that will bring a smile to our face when we’re feeling down and when we’re working hard – because, ultimately, God does want us to work hard. I dare say he needs us to work hard – we are told that the mountain is steep and the path is narrow.

So for now, while we can, let’s have some fun.

Funday 1 Funday 2

Funday 3

 

Report on Church Council Meeting

Last Sunday, I met with our Church Council and Deacons, and together we discussed the job descriptions of a “Ministry Resident” (a two-year position for a seminary-trained graduate to explore and gain experience in congregational ministry) and a “Director of Creative Arts” (a part-time position for a musician with theological training that can assist in the musical, audio-visual and participatory aspects of our creative service).  I also presented an initial description of the creative worship service that I’ve been proposing. Those who attended the meeting asked good questions and provided valuable input.

One point that was made repeatedly was the importance of providing more information to the congregation and garnering wide support for this venture. Our leadership is working on revising the job descriptions, and they will be distributed in time for a church-wide town hall meeting in August.

Stay tuned for more details later.

I will be on vacation from July 14-27. While I’m away, please welcome our guest preachers, Rev. Elizabeth Dowdy on July 20 and Rev. Lynn Litchfield on July 27.

~Blessings, Michael

 

Thinking Out Loud

thinking-out-loudWhat a wonderful morning of worship we experienced last Sunday at our Summer Choir Program! I am so grateful that four of our former Ministers of Music — Carl Beard, Len Willingham, Mike Norris and Kevin Holland — spanning three decades of service, all returned to UBC last Sunday. What a joyful reunion to see them and their families! These four directed our Sanctuary Choir in an “extended musical sermon” preaching the love and grace of God in Christ! Also, many thanks to Alba Beasley, Barbara Moore, our Summer Choir and instrumentalists for their leadership in worship. We are blessed to have such musical talents at UBC!

In other matters, I want to give you an update regarding my proposal for a “creative worship service.” As I continue to receive feedback, you have helped me realize that I had been unclear regarding why I spent two sermons giving details about this proposal before the Church Council had given its approval. While the ministerial staff, Deacons, and members of the Personnel, and Finance committees were already engaged in conversation with me about this proposal, they too have not given me their final approval. That gave the perception that I was not following our usual process for congregational decision-making.

I want to affirm our church’s process for vetting and approving major, new endeavors through both the Deacons and the Church Council before bringing it up to the church for a discussion and vote.  That is our standard process of congregational decision-making and it is a good one. We take a question or issue, step back and take time to process it, and then come back with an answer or well-thought-out and detailed plan. As an introvert, that’s my default methodology. read on

Exciting Developments

A lot of exciting things are happening at UBC! Last week, we held a very successful Vacation Bible School in which we had an enrollment of 86 children, with an average attendance of 79 for VBS and 33 for the afternoon camp session. I was especially gratified to know that 18 of the children were from the community with no connection to the members and families of University Baptist. Many thanks to Erin Brown, Bob Badgett and others for leading and volunteering at VBS this year!

In my sermon on Sunday, I gave more details regarding my proposal to launch a second worship service here at UBC. You can read the sermon here.

In my sermon, I tried to explain how that second service is part of our new vision and mission venture to minister to people outside our congregation, including the community at the UVA Medical Center. I also mentioned the cost and sacrifice needed to launch this venture. read on

Thoughts about a second service

In my sermon last Sunday, I attempted to make a case for launching an alternative worship service as part of our missional strategy to reach out to the university community and a younger generation. You can read my sermon here.  I welcome your thoughts via email, personal conversations and/or anonymous notes slipped in the mail slot of the church office door.

In other matters, I will be away this Sunday as we take Thea to Dulles airport for her three-week trip to Guatemala. Please welcome Brian Williams to the pulpit this Sunday!

~ Blessings, Michael

 

Hearing from UBC

This past weekend, Ruben Swint met with approximately one hundred church members representing all age groups, and members of Church Council, Deacons and the Stewardship and Finance Committees.

Here are some comments from church members about this weekend.

Ruben’s comments were informative and particularly helpful as he emphasized the importance of targeted communication to various age groups.”  – Ed Smith

Having someone from the outside to help us achieve clarity on our mission/passion and then structure accordingly is a vital process throughout an organization’s life cycle. … We will leverage the unique lens Ruben provides to revitalize and refocus our efforts.”  – Brad Groff

In the coming weeks, Ruben will be writing a report of his findings and that report will be available for all members to read sometime this summer.

At my debriefing breakfast meeting with Ruben this morning, he shared with me that he observed positive and enthusiastic participation from the groups that met with him.  University Baptist is in a good position to enter into a fruitful future.  The church is blessed with a fine facility that is well-kept, clean and functional.  Ruben observes that our church has a strong capacity for generosity — in the giving of our time, talents, and finances.  The challenge is to clarify our vision and mission in order to focus our resources toward that goal.  Finally, further church-wide conversations are needed to leverage our excellent worship and music ministries toward accomplishing our mission.

I want to thank everyone who participated in these sessions.  Your input and thoughts were crucial in helping Ruben assess where we are and where we can go as a congregation.  I’m excited about the journey!

~Blessings, Michael

Welcome, Ruben Swint!

ruben_swintCongregational Coach Ruben Swint will be visiting UBC, beginning on June 1. During Ruben’s time with us, he will meet with various groups in the church to learn more about us — our strengths and opportunities, as well as our challenges and weaknesses. It will be a time of envisioning God’s future for University Baptist.

Below is a schedule of meetings. We invite you to attend the one scheduled for your age group. But if you’re not available at that time, feel free to join another group!

SUNDAY, June 1

8:30 – 9:30 am………Ruben meets with Church Council & Deacons (Choir Suite)

9:45 – 10:40 am……..Ruben meets with Young Couples & Young Families

11:00 am……………..Ruben joins us in morning Worship

12:15 – 2:00 pm……..Ruben meets with Finance & Stewardship Committees (Fellowship Hall — Light lunch served)

6:00 – 8:00 pm………Ruben meets with Median Adults (Fellowship Hall)

MONDAY, June 2

11 am – 1 pm…………Ruben meets with Senior Adults (Light lunch served)

3:00 – 4:00 pm……….Ruben meets with Church Staff

7:00 – 8:30 pm……….ALL church members and regular attenders are invited to meet Ruben (Fellowship Hall — Light refreshments are served)

Please attend one of these meetings and make your voice heard!

~Blessings, Michael

 

Building God’s People

In my sermon last Sunday, I talked about how in the past several years UBC has embarked on a series of capital campaigns called “Building God’s House” and “Caring for God’s House.” These campaigns renovated our building, which is now a wonderful asset for ministries. Our building now hosts a variety of groups, including university voice professors and students, a Hispanic Bible study, a Christian counseling practice, and the Central Virginia Baptist Association steering committee.

As wonderful an asset as our building is, I believe that the greatest asset God has given to UBC is her people — members and regular attenders who participate in the life, ministry and worship here at UBC. Now that our physical building is in good shape, I believe that it is time to “Build God’s People,” to bless, nurture and grow the people of University Baptist.

Therefore, in a couple of weeks, Ruben Swint, a congregational coach, will be visiting us to help us with this journey. He will spend time with various groups in the congregation to help us assess where we are, to clarify our mission, to strengthen our faith, to build our capacity for generosity in reaching out to the university community and beyond, to give birth to new groups, and to launch us on a journey of transformation. A schedule of these meetings will be posted in next week’s Word. In the meantime, pray that God will prepare us for this exciting journey ahead!

~Blessings, Michael

Ceiling Tiles

Tonight we started a new tradition. I gave each youth permission to take one of the ceiling tiles in the youth room and personalize it with their names and a bible verse. The bible verse could be one that applies to their lives right now, one that they hope will apply in the future, or it could be a “birth verse.” A birth verse is kind of a kitschy idea but the premise involves aligning your birthday with a chapter and verse from a book in the bible. For example, my birthday is September 1st, so I was looking at the first verse of a ninth chapter (9:1). I settled on Romans 9:1 – I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit. I really identified with this one as it touches on my role as the Youth Coordinator and how I approach my relationships with all of the kids. It’s also a lot better than Nehemiah 9:1 which reads- On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads.

Now, I recognize that there may be a few critics of the youth personalizing anything in the church, but I assure you this was not an unseemly undertaking. You see, over the last year and a half I have often heard Michael preach or talk about the history of our church. I have repeatedly heard the story of how the bank moved in and our congregation had to ban together to raise the money to purchase the church. I heard about the decision to stay and be UNIVERSITY Baptist Church and how the congregation felt there was a purpose and calling to be located so close to the campus (grounds). Today, I heard Michael preach on the importance of the cornerstone and it reminded me of the connection that so many in our congregation have to this building. They are invested in it (literally). They have a history here. Their children were born into this church community and have been nurtured to adulthood only to then have their own children now become a part of the congregation. The walls and pillars are richly coated with the memories of the saints that have gone before us and many in the church experience the same comfort and solace that we would expect to find in our own homes.

So, what does this have to do with the youth taking the ceiling apart….? Simply this: The youth are making their own memories. The way I see it is – there’s no great crisis or concern that will underlie or define their church experience (hopefully). They will grow up, go to college, and possibly move away to accomplish great and wonderful things. We hope that they will remember their time at UBC with fondness but in reality they may not have the same connection to this church that some our members have had in the past, or still have today! The world is getting smaller and we can no longer expect our youth to always come back and pick out a permanent pew for the rest of their lives. In fact, if we look at our current membership – we can already identify this gap forming.

By allowing our youth to personalize the ceiling tiles, we are helping them become invested in this building. They get to say, “Look. That’s me.” When they set off into the world, there will always be a piece of them that will remain here. There will always be a marker of their time, and a tangible connection to this part of their lives that will forever connect them to this place, and by extension, to the people that are here. I want the Emily Morrises, John Browns, Audrey Millers, and Thea Cheuks to all bring their own children back to that 3rd floor and show them their tiles. I want them to be able to tell their children about what they did, and who they knew, and how God was with them through all of it! I want people to visit our church and see that we have a living history – one that’s not only retold around the tables on a Wednesday night, but one that is actively happening. I want new families to come in and see that ceiling, and know that their child will get a tile, that their child will make memories here, that their child will know a faith community, and their child will forever be connected to the family and house of God!

This is their cornerstone. This is a way for them to identify and recognize that they are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and God’s special possession.

I would like to encourage everyone to visit the 3rd floor when we’re done. If you’ve ever been a member of the UBC youth, then there’s a tile for you. Even if you weren’t in the youth group – if you have found family here at UBC, or if you want to create a memory – then there’s a tile for you too. Come see what God is doing and come see how his word is speaking to the hearts and minds of our youth.

In Christ,

Phil

God’s Love on Display

“God’s love on display” That’s what came to mind as I saw over seventy-five members and friends of UBC show up this past Saturday for Operation Inasmuch.

I spent most of the morning going to various work sites and taking a few pictures. I saw folks joyfully fixing drainage problems, sawing and hauling branches, cataloging library books at the Venable School, weeding and planting a garden, painting rooms and cleaning out a front yard.

On a couple of sites, I saw two Charlottesville officers from the Crime Prevention Unit giving out pens to our volunteers as a way to say thanks.

One of the leaders of the Bridge Ministry told me just how grateful she was for the same members of UBC who came back year after year to work on their garden.

On one site, OIAM members worked from 7 am to 8 pm, through the rain storms and sunshine to build and install a wheelchair ramp for a retired Albemarle County maintenance worker suffering from kidney failure and colon cancer.

I cannot add more to what a member of that team wrote later: “Thank each of you for a long hard day of work done in Christian love. Clearly a team effort that I was proud to be a part of. University Baptist Church spread the love of Christ on Saturday.” Indeed, God’s love was on display!

~ With a thankful heart, Michael

PS – Pictures of our OIAM day can be found here.

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