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,


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.

Spring into Motion!

SiMAs many of you know, this Wednesday night, we will begin a series of mission activities called “Spring Into Motion.” Each week, participants will choose from a variety of activities and service projects. You can stick with one activity for multiple weeks, or you can sample a different option each week. My hope is that this time of service will also be a time of growth and fellowship.  Click here for a list of activities and to sign up!

In addition, there are several other ways that we can “spring into motion.”

The first is a practical appeal. The parking lots closest to the church have been quite full lately, which has created problems for our visitors, our members with physical limitations, and our families with small children. If you are able to walk a block or so, please “spring into motion” and park at places such as the 14th Street Garage or Stacy Hall.

Another way to “spring into motion” is to host “A Quiet Place to Study” starting this Thursday for UVA students studying for finals in our Fellowship Hall. Sign up by calling the office.

Yet another way we can “spring into motion” is to participate in Operation Inasmuch on May 10. Our sign-up lunch this past Sunday had a good crowd, and I encourage you to invite friends or neighbors to work alongside us throughout the community on Saturday, May 10, starting at 8:00 a.m.

Finally, for those who support the community work of IMPACT, you might “spring into motion” by attending the Nehemiah Action at JPJ on Monday, May 5 at 6:30 p.m.

Let’s spring into motion together!

~Blessings, Michael

Bright Sunday!

laughing_jesusWhat a privilege it was for me to observe Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with you this year! What a joyful Easter Sunday service we had as we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord! I am so grateful to the staff and to all the volunteers and worship leaders who made those services so memorable.

As you know, the Sunday after Easter is often a “low Sunday,” both in attendance and in spirit. However, this year, we intend to inject a joyful and humorous attitude into our worship service this Sunday as our young couples are planning a “Bright Sunday” worship service. According to the website,

For centuries in Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant countries, the week following Easter Sunday, including ‘Bright Sunday’ (the Sunday after Easter), was observed by the faithful as ‘days of joy and laughter’ with parties and picnics to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection . . . . The custom was rooted in the musings of early church theologians (like Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and John Chrysostom) that God played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead.”

This Sunday, we will continue the Easter story as we celebrate the greatest practical joke of all time: God overturning death! So come wearing bright and colorful clothes, and prepare to have your spirits lifted in the joy of the risen Lord!

~Easter blessings, Michael

Holy Week Journey

Holy Week is upon us.  For Christians throughout the centuries, Holy Week, the week spanning Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem through His Last Supper, betrayal, trial and crucifixion, and ending with Christ’s resurrection the following Sunday, is the most sacred time of the Christian calendar.  Time almost slows down as some Christian traditions call for worship gatherings every day of the week in order to provide followers an opportunity to worship and remember Jesus during the final week of His life.

While Baptist churches have not traditionally observed Holy Week services, many are now recognizing the value of these additional services, especially on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  These services allow congregations to experience the sacrifice and the suffering that our Lord took upon Himself for the forgiveness of our sin and the restoring of our relationship with our heavenly Father.  Without these extra worship gatherings, Christians often go from one jubilant service on Palm Sunday straight to another celebratory service on Easter Sunday, while skipping right over Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion in between.

In our culture today, we want life to be easy, convenient, happy and without sacrifice.  But that is not the narrow way of Christian discipleship.  That’s why I hope that you will allow yourselves to be inconvenienced this week by attending as many of the Holy Week services as possible, either here at UBC, or at some other church.  May Holy Week be a reminder to us that our salvation, while a free and gracious gift from God, was obtained for us with great sacrifice at a very high cost.

Therefore, I invite you to follow Jesus into Holy Week.  You experienced the joy of the Palms last Sunday.  Now experience the sorrow of the Passion.  Reflect in the silence at the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.  Grieve over Jesus’ sacrifice and death on Good Friday.  Then you will be prepared to celebrate the amazing miracle of Easter Sunday.  On that day, we’ll celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the baptisms of Will Wagoner, Fanli Yang, and Yang Zhao.  See you on the way!

~ Journeying on, Michael


A Note from Alba

Jubilate-webAfter a very successful Jubilate year and a wonderful Homecoming Concert last Sunday night, there are so many people to thank for all that they have done!

We thanked UBC for the support that for 41 years has kept Jubilate a viable ministry and a musical force in the Charlottesville community.  We also thanked those who have prepared us meals for this year’s experiment with a once-a-week rehearsals.  Of course, we thanked Robby Gough, who embodies the spirit of service, and Anne Keith who has been our choir “Mom” since 2005, and our wonderful accompanist Barbara Moore!

One person that I have failed to thank for 12 years now, someone who works tirelessly behind the scenes doing tasks ranging from stuffing programs to cleaning tables to cooking bacon crisps for the Jubilate Christmas fellowship and, most importantly, leading the Soprano and Alto section rehearsals — our own Pam Beasley!  She has given her time to help Jubilate sound as beautiful as they have this year and for many years.  Her support of the group and love and care for its members have made her a most special friend to all the members of Jubilate for 12 years!

Thank you, Pam, and all who love and support Jubilate!

Soli Deo Gloria!                                                                               ~ Alba


Lenten Reflection

During this season of Lent, I have been reading Richard Rohr’s Wondrous Encounters:  Scripture for Lent as my daily devotion.  Today’s reflection is on Daniel 3, the prayer of one of the three young men in the fiery furnace, and on Matthew 18:21–35, the parable of the “unforgiving servant.”  Rohr connects these two Bible passages by suggesting that refusing to forgive can be like time spent in a fiery furnace.  He writes, “If you do not pray to be released from your unforgiving heart, you will indeed keep burning.  Sometimes, only God can release you from such a furnace.”

Rohr then wrote this prayer:

 “God of Compassion, Mother and Father of all Mercies, do not let us shame ourselves — or the wonder of your name — by living outside of the wondrous loop of your forgiveness and mercy.”

I hazard to guess that we all have been hurt by others.  My prayer is that we will pray to be released from an unforgiving heart, so that we may show compassion, forgiveness and mercy to others in the same manner that our Lord has shown it to us.

 ~Blessings, Michael

Mission Madness & OIAM

This past weekend, 19 of our youth and 4 chaperones spent time in Blacksburg with 150 others from across the state.  They were participating in one of three “Mission Madness” weekends organized by CBF Virginia.  The youth broke up into work teams and joined forces with kids and leaders from other churches.  They did tasks such as building a wheelchair ramp for a woman who had been practically homebound for several years, or cleaning up the grounds and touching up the facilities of a retreat center, or sorting baby clothes for a women’s clinic.  They did all this and much more, holding hammers, paintbrushes, rakes, and cleaning supplies.

Sound familiar?  Of course it does — it sounds like the youth version of Operation Inasmuch.  I’m thankful to John Buchanan and the rest of the OIAM steering committee who are already at work lining up projects and making plans for our own day of service.

Let’s follow the example of our youth, who set aside an entire weekend for time together and for time in service.  This year OIAM is Saturday, May 10.  Let’s write it on our calendars so that we can be praying for that day and for the ways that we can be involved.  It’s a perfect chance to invite friends to join with us as we lend a helping hand to our neighbors.

                          ~Blessings, Michael

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

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