Great News!

Pledge PlateGreat news!  We surpassed our goal for our special Stewardship Campaign!  As of today, we have received fifty-five new or revised pledges totaling $88,546!  I cannot express how grateful I am to all of you who responded so positively and generously to this campaign!  Once again, members of UBC have shown that we can rise up to meet a challenge!  Our Finance Committee will begin to work on a new, revised budget, and we will schedule a budget discussion meeting sometime in late April.

I am so thankful to God for the positive and encouraging signs that are springing up everywhere at UBC:  new babies dedicated, new believers baptized, new members joining, and new financial supporters of our ministries.

This week, Jubilate, our collegiate choir, is on tour singing in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia.  This weekend, nineteen of our youth will be joining youth from all over the state to participate in “Mission Madness” in Blacksburg, VA.  Pray for both groups as they share the love of Christ through song and hands-on service.

This Sunday Erin Brown will give a report on the progress our Faith and Justice Committee is making through IMPACT in addressing youth unemployment, homelessness and mental health in our community.  Those interested in getting involved are invited to an IMPACT Network meeting after worship.

Great news all around!  Thanks be to God!

~ Blessings, Michael

God is Good!

God is good!  This past Sunday, Phil Woodson and our youth did a wonderful job planning and leading our worship service.  It was so inspiring to see Ismael Moumbossy, Joey Hamel and Jacob Morris being baptized, to hear Mattie Morris speaking about how UBC has nurtured her Christian faith, and to receive Will Wagoner’s request for baptism.  Visit this link to view video of the youth service.

I also thank God for your response to our Pledge Challenge!  We are less than $5,000 from making our goal.  If we raise that final $5,000, a church member has agreed to match it!  With this goal met, we will be able to continue to invest in the lives of our babies, our children and our youth, even as we all grow in faith, in love, in service and in generosity.  God is good!

                        ~ Blessings, Michael

 

What a Sunday!

What a Sunday!

Eight babies and children were dedicated.  Joseph Johnson was ordained as a Deacon (after his son Joshua was dedicated).  Laura and Patrick Watson joined the church (after their son Zachary was dedicated).  And Joey Hamel, Jacob Morris, and Ismael Moumbossy came forward to profess their faith and request baptism.  It was a moving service, and I was thankful to be a part of what Joyce Martin called “a mountaintop experience.”

The service featured two video presentations, one showing the young parents stating their hopes and love for their babies, and one showing Joseph’s parents offering similar words of blessing and thanksgiving for his ordination.  The videos are posted on the church’s web site and Facebook page.

The excitement is not over.  This Sunday, our youth will lead us in worship, as Ismael, Jacob, and Joey will be baptized.

I am thankful for all this — the signs of new life among our youth and young families, and the signs of commitment among people of all ages.  Many of you have pledged or revised your pledge as part of our campaign.  Thanks for your faithfulness as we look ahead to what God will accomplish through UBC!

~Blessings, Michael

 

A Word from Michael

Last Sunday I shared from my heart my emerging hope and vision for UBC.  For those of you who were not in attendance, the audio file of that service will be available for download on our Worship Media webpage, and I will be posting the text of my sermon on the church’s blog.  I hope it will spark a wider conversation among our church members and leaders as we begin the process of living into our future.  In many ways, my sermon was inspired by the positive spirit and faithful stance exhibited by our members’ response to our budget challenge.  We’ve received over $30,000 in additional pledges already; and if you haven’t done so already, I invite you to help us meet our $75,000 goal!

This coming Sunday, we will hold a Parent-Child dedication service for seven families and eight babies/young children!  In addition, we will ordain one of those parents, Joseph Johnson, to the office of Deacon.  Exciting things are happening among our young families, so let’s pledge our support to them this Sunday.

Finally, this Wednesday night, we will serve a traditional Slovakian meal as Mark Snipes, Missions Coordinator of CBFVa will be our guest speaker to talk about our mission work among the Romany people in Slovakia.  Come join us for what will be a fun and informative evening!

 ~ Blessings, Michael

 

Responding to a Wake-Up Call

I read this statement at the end of worship, Sunday, February 9.

As many of you know, we scheduled a called church conference today to vote on our 2014 budget.

Last Wednesday, we discussed the proposed budget for 2014 which included an additional reduction of $20,000 from last year’s budget, which had already been reduced $55,000 from the year before. The Finance and the Personnel Committees did a great job in coming up with a proposed budget based on the money we anticipate to receive this year.

We had a lively discussion that took almost two hours, and at the end, those who attended the meeting didn’t feel comfortable presenting the proposed budget for a vote this Sunday, and recommended that we postpone a vote on a budget.

Here’s my take on the discussion meeting and the rationale for postponing a vote on the upcoming budget.

First, we honestly acknowledged that our pledges have plateaued and our total contributions have decreased 12.3% since 2011. This is not a sustainable trend.

Secondly, we affirmed that we are a people of faith, and God has already given us the resources needed to fulfill God’s mission in our community and our world.

Thirdly, instead of despair and pessimism, we ended the meeting with a lot of positive energy as the group decided to face this challenge head on.

Therefore, the group decided it best to postpone the vote of the originally proposed budget today. Instead, they suggested we provide everyone the opportunity to increase their 2014 pledges with a goal of raising an additional $75,000, which would get us back to the level of contributions in 2012. Whatever additional pledges are received will be allocated to the 2014 budget proposal at the discretion of the finance committee.

Please be in prayer as you consider your part in achieving our goal of $75,000 by February 28. In the pew racks are pledge cards for you to take and return if you would like to revise your pledge or pledge for the first time. You can also submit this information via our website or by calling the church office (434) 293-5106.

Our finance committee will come back at the end of March with a revised budget based both on our financial response to this challenge and on our long-range vision for the church. In the meantime, the Finance Committee recommends that we operate for the first three months of 2014 at the level of the 2013 budget.

Please know that what we’re doing is only a stopgap measure. We have been given a wake-up call. In order to fully reverse this trend in our generosity, we must begin to renew our vision and our mission. Why do we exist as a church? To what mission is God calling us? What does God’s future for UBC look like?

In recent weeks, I have already begun addressing these questions with various leadership groups in the church, and I will give a more detailed report in my “State of UBC” address this Wednesday night (6:15 pm in the Choir Lecture Suite), and in my sermon this coming Sunday. God has plans for UBC. Opportunities abound. This is an exciting time to be at UBC, and I invite you to join us in this journey!

~Blessings, Michael

Baptist Women’s Month of Preaching

February is the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching sponsored by Baptist Women in Ministry.  Known for her zeal and eloquence, Martha Stearns Marshall was an 18th-century Baptist who preached alongside her husband, Daniel, in churches in North Carolina and Georgia.

In honor of Martha Stearns Marshall, Baptist churches are encouraged to invite a woman to preach during worship during February.  This coming Sunday, Rev. Allison Jackson will be our guest preacher.  Allison comes recommended by Will and Erin Brown.

On February 16, Rev. Elizabeth Dowdy will be our guest speaker.  I’m looking forward to hearing both of them share their gifts in the service of God.

In other matters, we will have to reduce $20,000 from last year’s budget.  I encourage you to attend an important budget discussion meeting Wednesday, February 5, at 6:15 pm in the Choir/ Lecture Suite.  Next Wednesday, I’ll give a “State of UBC” address.  At that time I’ll share some exciting things taking place at UBC, and answer any questions you may have.

Speaking of exciting things at UBC, this week’s newsletter features an update on our ESOL classes.  Future issues of the Word will focus on other ministries and programs.

~Blessings, Michael

 

Traditioned Innovation

Several weeks ago I was in Atlanta for a national CBF meeting, and Dr. L. Gregory Jones of Duke University led a seminar on “Developing Strategy in the Midst of Change.”  While the seminar was specifically designed to help CBF live and plan strategically into its future, there were many concepts that were applicable to the local church.

One such concept was “Traditioned Innovation.”  Traditioned Innovation honors the past but is not imprisoned by it.  Neither does it make things up willy-nilly as it goes along.  It seeks to experiment with ways to bring the life-giving aspects of our tradition into the present and the future, so that we can better fulfill our mission in a rapidly changing world.

UBC is a church blessed with a rich tradition, and we are also faced with the challenge of how we can continue to share the love of Christ in a rapidly changing world.  Traditioned Innovation suggests that we clarify our mission and tap into our enduring values and strengths in order to experiment with new ways to reach out to more people with the gospel of Christ.  I’m beginning to have these conversations with our leaders, and I look forward to engaging the whole church with these questions in the months ahead.

~Blessings, Michael

 

Origins

As we begin a new year, I often return to a meditation by William C. Martin in his book The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections. It’s entitled “Origins,” and is directed toward pastors, but I think we can all benefit from its wisdom.

If you were to trace all things back to their beginning,
you would find the Word.
If you were to follow all things out to their ending,
you would find the Word.

When you are confused and troubled
by events and persons in your parish,
look deeply into the origins of the problem
and you will find the Word
and you will find wisdom.

If you do not do this work,
you will make hasty judgments
and decide according to your own desires.
This will keep you in constant turmoil.
If instead you look into the origins of things
you will find light for your heart.
And as your judgments fall away
that light will shine upon the congregation.

As we continue journeying through the season of Epiphany, a season that shows forth Jesus Christ to the world, may the light of the Word shine upon our congregation and our hearts into “the origins of things” in order to illuminate our way into this new year.

~Blessings, Michael

Baptism Sunday

We celebrate the “Baptism of the Lord” in worship this Sunday.  As we begin another year, I think it is instructive that our liturgical church calendar celebrates the baptism of Christ toward the beginning of the year.  The new year is often a time for us to “start anew” with resolutions and decisions to improve our lives.  These resolutions can be a good way to establish new, good habits and behaviors.  But for those of us who have been baptized, it is also good to “remember anew” our own baptisms and to acknowledge that our life of faith started not with what we’ve done, but with what Christ did for us.  Baptism is a gift of God that declares our identity as beloved children of God.

This Sunday, as we remember the baptism of Christ and our own baptisms, we also have the privilege of witnessing the baptism of Kelley Sivley.  I invite you to come to worship this Sunday prepared to encourage and support Kelley in her journey of faith, even as we remember and recommit ourselves to be a community of baptized pilgrims on a journey with our Lord.  See you this Sunday!

 ~Michael

Christmas Thanks

I want to take the opportunity to thank you all for allowing me to serve as your senior minister.  You have been a blessing to me and my family during our first full year back at UBC.

I am grateful for a wonderful staff, for a great group of leaders, for good and faithful servants and volunteers, for prayer warriors, and for those who selflessly and anonymously share the love of Christ each and every day.

I’m also thankful for Sarah Buchanan, who steps down this week as our web steward and publications coordinator.

To all of you, may God’s grace and joy be yours during this Christmas season!

~Blessings, Michael

 

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