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



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!


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


Frightful Weather . . .

The old Christmas song goes, “Oh, the weather outside is frightful …”  We had our first touch of winter weather this past weekend, and while it wasn’t exactly “frightful,” it was enough to make many churches — including ours — cancel services and activities.

Unfortunately, I did hear of a few church members who did not learn of our closing.  I apologize for this inconvenience and the risk you took!

On our end, I called all the local TV stations and WINA at 7:30 a.m. to announce our closing, but some of the stations posted the update sooner than others.  I updated the web site promptly; and while Alba did try to change the church’s answering machine, the device did not cooperate! We’ll be looking into that situation shortly.

We can all hope this this is the last time we’ll cancel services this winter.  But if there is another week when the weather is “frightful,” we’ll try to get the word out through the web site, through the TV stations and radio, and (once we get it fixed) through the church’s answering machine.  On your end, if you learn that churches are cancelling, check a variety of news outlets or call a friend before going out in the storm.

In other matters, I want to encourage you to come this Wednesday night to Skype with CBF field personnel Jon and Tanya Parks.  The Parkses are serving their first year in Slovakia, working with the Roma gypsies.  Come and learn more about their ministry at 6:10 p.m. in our Fellowship Hall.

~ Blessings, Michael


Come, Lord Jesus

“Come, Lord Jesus.”  Those were the words written by the apostle John in the next to the last verse in the book

of Revelation.  This phrase is often used in Advent to acknowledge that our world and our lives are incomplete, and we are waiting for the One who will come to fulfill not just our lives, but all of history.

“Come, Lord Jesus,” becomes then an expression of our hope, which in the words of Richard Rohr, is “the patient and trustful willingness to live without closure, without resolution, and still  be content and even happy because our Satisfaction is now at another level, and our Source is beyond ourselves.  We are able to trust that he will come again, just as Jesus has come into our past, into our private dilemmas and into our suffering world.”  (Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas:  Daily Meditations for Advent)

Rohr also asks:  “What expectations and demands of life can you let go of so that you can be more prepared for the coming of Jesus?”  Good question to ponder during this week of Advent.

~ Blessings, Michael


You can pick your friends…

There was, admittedly, some initial hesitation in proposing a combined youth/parent lock-in, but as I watched 5 adults slowly dancing around our Senior Pastor – who was wrapped up in a sleeping bag – gently showering him in colorful feathers – all to the sound of an extremely cheesy version of Kumbaya playing softly in the background, all of my misgivings melted away. Regrettably, this was also the point in the evening where my camera died.

The night of the youth/parent lock-in, however, was not all fun and games – mostly fun and games – but not all fun and games. Here’s a rundown of our evening and the next morning.

The night began with some fun and games – imagine that – and then we split up into three different groups to plan our worship service for the next morning. Each group was tasked with putting together and leading a song, a prayer, and worship session about family.

  • Group 1 put together a great presentation about how even though some of our family members are not always physically nearby – they affect our lives in so many positive ways and there is always a part of them that stays with us.
  • Group 2 was funny to watch as they completely expected Michael to lead everything since he’s the Senior Pastor! Needless to say, he was a great leader in that group and certainly didn’t do all of the work for them. They ultimately put together a great moment where they each talked about the unconditional love and acts of kindness that we receive from our family members
  • Group 3 – Had a bit of a bumpy start as they struggled to find any positive examples of family in the bible. Abraham and Isaac – EESH! Cain and Able – OUCH! Lot offering up his daughters! Esau and Jacob! In the end we recognized that the bible provides us with a somewhat realistic view of familial dysfunction. Each of us is imperfect and will always fall short in showing the same love that we receive from God.  Being part of family can be, and often is, a difficult thing. Thankfully, we have a wonderful loving Father in heaven that can, and always does, provide us with endless grace and love.

After worship planning we put together and decorated the lanterns that were on display in the Sanctuary this past Sunday. While we were decorating the lanterns we each shared stories of our family traditions, some difficulties that relate to our position in our families, and some our favorite things about our family members who were with us that evening. Once we completed our lanterns, we took them out and lit them on the steps of the church. Each lantern was decorated with some of our stories, words of encouragement, and even our personal struggles. It was our hope that the people passing by would see our lanterns, read our messages, and find comfort, encouragement, and a relatable story.

Following our lantern time we spent a good hour and half engaged in a sardines marathon. For those of you who have never played sardines let me assure you that it’s not an eating contest! Sardines is a game where a partner group goes to hide somewhere in the church, and it’s the other partner groups’ job to find the hiding pair and then join them in their hiding spot – packing in tight together like sardines – until everyone has found them. This is all done in the dark and no one is allowed to use their phone lights or turn on any lights in the church. The adults kept saying that they had the best places to hide, but were never part of a winning group – so we might have to give them a chance to hide at another lock-in!

At around 11:00 p.m. we spent some time back in the bible discussing the importance of the various genealogical references (Genesis 5, 1 Chronicles, Matthew 1, etc.) and how your family history was used to help identify who you were, what you did, what your were like, and where you were from. This was followed by Super-Secret-Fun-Time otherwise known as Kids vs. Parents! This was definitely one of the highlights of the evening and I have to hand it to the parents here because it was way past all of their bedtimes but they all did a great job with the skits, challenges, and finally – trivia! I don’t remember the final question but it may have been something about the legitimacy of Owl Cafes – where people can get a cup of coffee and pet live owls or it may have been about the legality of Kentucky’s bathing laws (everyone must take a bath at least once per year)! Our evening started to wind down after this and finally wrapped up with a few more rounds of sardines and a movie.

The next morning began with a breakfast of waffles and sausage biscuits, some quiet time with God in the sanctuary, and then we were off to worship. We hopped in the cars and made our way over to the Monticello Trails at the base of Carter Mountain. A few other parents joined and/or rejoined our group and we made our way up the short distance to the outdoor amphitheater where each group led us in their worship sessions!

All-in-all I would say a great time was had by everyone. I really appreciated the help and support of all the participating parents and it was great to see the youth interacting and guiding their parents through the norms of our lock-in environment. I can totally see this youth/parent lock-in becoming an annual event!


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A Call to Prayer

Our hearts and prayers go to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and of the tornadoes in our Midwestern states.  Virginia Baptists and Cooperative Baptists have already allocated around $30,000 to be sent to the Philippines.  If you would like to contribute to the relief effort, you can donate through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

You can find out the latest news about what CBF is doing by visiting:

We will also have a special prayer time during our next two Wednesday night gatherings starting at 6:10 p.m.  Let’s pray as individuals and as a congregation as we intercede to God on behalf of these stricken communities.

~Blessings, Michael


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