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


Stewardship Sunday

This coming Sunday is Pledge Sunday, the culmination of our stewardship emphasis.  Last Sunday in worship, we heard moving testimonies from church members sharing how UBC made a difference in their lives.

Lu Overbeck recalled a period in her life when she was inactive at church.  But after the death of her husband, the church welcomed her and her daughter Ruth back with open arms, and invited them to different groups.  The members of UBC were there when Lu needed them most.

Debby Johnson shared how she found a welcoming and loving community, as well as her husband when she started attending UBC almost forty years ago.  Larry Johnson talked about the many priceless gifts he has received from UBC—from his grandparents and parents who were lifelong UBC members, to close friends, Wednesday morning work crew buddies, golfing companions and fellow Sunday School class members.

Finally, new members Brent and Sarah Wilson talked about what a blessing it was to find a church family not only to worship and fellowship, but one with other young couples to share life’s journey.

It was inspiring to hear their testimonies, and you can view the video here.

How has UBC made a difference in your life?  How can you give back in gifts that build up the church?

~Blessings, Michael


Special Guests this Sunday

This coming Sunday UBC will be hosting our first Missions/Community Outreach Fair after worship.  We welcome representatives from ten community agencies and organizations who will be stationed in the Fellowship Hall to share information about their mission.  This is a wonderful opportunity for you, your family, and/or your small group to get involved with one these organizations to make a difference in our community.  Light refreshments will be served.  Many thanks to our Missions Committee for organizing this Fair.  I encourage you to attend!

Also this Sunday, we welcome Botrus Mansour here to speak to our Koinonia and Open Minds classes at 9:45 a.m. about his experience as an Arab Palestinian Evangelical Christian living in Israel.  Botrus Mansour is the general director of Nazareth Baptist School (NBS), in Israel.  Will and Erin Brown met Botrus during their year in Nazareth, and they highly commend him to us.

Finally, stewardship letters and pledge cards will be mailed to you at the end of the week.  Please begin to prayerfully consider your financial support of UBC for the 2014 budget year.

~Blessings, Michael


Remembering our “Saints”

As we approach Halloween, with its emphasis on dressing up and going “trick or treating,” did you know that the word “Halloween” is a shortening of the phrase “All Hallows’ Evening”?

This “hallowed” or “holy” evening precedes “All Hallows’ Day” or “All Saints Day,” a day in which Christians in many countries observe to remember the dead, including saints (“hallows”), martyrs and those who died in the faith.

As our way to remember the “saints” of UBC, on this Sunday in worship, we will briefly recognize by name those members who passed away this year.  But we also remember all our loved ones who are now with the Lord.  We give thanks to God for their lives and for their gifts in building up the church.

In other matters, the Baptist General Association of Virginia is having its annual meeting in Fredericksburg, November 12-13.  This year, the assembly will be voting on a new governing structure that shifts the policy-making authority from a 100-member body to a new 20-member Executive Board.  We will vote on our messengers on Wednesday, November 6.  If you would like to serve as a messenger, please let the church office know!

~ Blessings, Michael


A Word from Michael

Looking ahead to tomorrow, let me say welcome to Mark Biddle, Old Testament scholar at BTSR!  Mark will speak this Wednesday night as we resume our crucial conversations.  I look forward to seeing Mark and all of you.

* * * * * *

And looking back to last Wednesday, we received a thank you note from Bob and Sharon Hallissy, who expressed their appreciation for your warmth and interest when they spoke about their work with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  They continued,

“The love offering was a surprise and very much appreciated.  As we left on Thursday morning, our car was having trouble, making a strange noise.  Our son, David, said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if the love offering covered the cost of the car repair?!”  And guess what . . . it did, with money left over for gas in the car!  Our God is an Awesome God!” 

It is inspiring to hear stories of how God provides, and I am so glad that our congregation could help display  God’s faithfulness to the Hallissys.  Thanks to all of you who contributed to the love offering!

We as a congregation have another opportunity to reflect God’s faithfulness and provision through our contributions to the Alma Hunt State Missions offering, which will support the chaplain ministry of Julie Perry and other state Baptist missions and ministries.  Our goal for the State Missions offering is $4000.  As of yesterday, we’ve collected $2,857.  If you’ve made a contribution, thank you!  If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to consider your participation.

~Blessings, Michael


A “Pounding” of Generosity

A few weeks ago, when Mr. Bob was out of town, my wife Beth gave the children’s lesson in worship.  She reminded the kids of how one year ago, the good folks of UBC gave my family a pounding — a pound of peanut butter, two pounds of coffee, five pounds of sugar, etc.  She told the children how generous the church had been to think of us and to supply our needs.  We had bags full of Kleenex and paper towels and toilet paper and napkins, just to mention the paper goods!

In fact, you gave so generously that the only place where we could think to store the canned vegetables and soups and jellies and detergent was under the ping pong table in the kids’ game room.  All last fall and into the spring, someone in our family might ask, “Do we have any mayonnaise?”  And the answer would be, “I don’t know…  Go look under the ping-pong table.”

Another sign of your generosity to us was that even now, a year after the pounding, my family still has a few items left from those gifts.  In other words, for more than a year, we have had tangible reminders — in the form of napkins or salad dressing or green beans — of your love and care.  Thank you for these and many other ways that you have extended love and care to my family during this time.

As Beth reminded the kids, there are many across our state who are in need of our love and care.  We will not send them a pound of peanut butter or flour.  But through our state missions offering, we can send them a gift that will serve as a tangible reminder of the love and care of Christ as shown through Virginia Baptists.  Thanks for your ongoing generosity and ministry.

In Christ, Michael


Partners in Sharing the Gospel

CBFVA-Assembly-2013-BallewsLast Friday Anne Keith, Lu Overbeck, Jackie Lockwood and I attended the CBF of Virginia meeting at Poplar Baptist Church.  Once again we were reminded of how we can accomplish more together for God’s Kingdom than we can accomplish alone.

At the meeting, Larry and Sarah Ballew, self-funded CBF field personnel, gave a presentation about their ministry among the hospitality workers in Macau, China.  The Ballews have been in the States visiting churches on both the west and east coasts to raise financial support.  The Ballews will be here on October 6 to share with us during the Bible Study hour and in worship.

This Wednesday night, Julie Perry, Chaplain of the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, will give a presentation about her ministry among the inmates at the center.  Due to drastic budgetary cuts at the Chaplain Services of Virginia, all state prison chaplains have suffered pay cuts and reduction in work hours.  More than ever, Julie needs churches like ours working together to ensure that this important work continues.

As we welcome Julie Perry and the Ballews, I hope we can be an encouragement and a support to these partners in sharing the Gospel to people in the next county and around the world.

~ Blessings, Michael



Crucial Conversations, Part 2

Last Wednesday evening, we began our “crucial conversations” series, in which we talked about the importance of all conversation partners contributing to “the pool of meaning” so that everyone is more aware of what we wanted out of the conversation.

During the course of the session, participants articulated several themes.  First is the acknowledgement that we are a diverse congregation with a diverse range of opinions and convictions regarding many issues.  Second is that we want to gain a greater understanding of the issue of human sexuality and homosexuality.  Third is that we do not want this conversation to become divisive.

After the session, several of you came to me and offered helpful feedback.  As a result of your feedback, this Wednesday night, we will briefly revisit last week’s session, and then I will articulate what I hope to accomplish as a result of this conversation on sexuality and homosexuality.  Finally, I will lay out a more concrete road map of how this conversation will take shape in the coming weeks.  Three professors from BTSR will be coming to share their expertise on this topic. It promises to be an educational and enlightening series.  I look forward to seeing you this Wednesday night and being a part of the journey.

 ~Blessings, Michael

 PS – You can see our complete Wednesday Night schedule for the fall on this page.

Crucial Conversations

In the past several months, I’ve heard from several of you expressing your desire to have a dialogue on the issue of sexuality and homosexuality.

In preparation for such a dialogue, I will be leading a short series on “Crucial Conversations” during the next several Wednesday nights.

What is a crucial conversation?  By definition, crucial conversations are about tough issues in which opinions vary, the stakes are high, and emotions run strong.

In these sessions, I hope we will gain greater insight into the nature of such conversations and to learn skills to engage in such conversations in helpful ways.

I look forward to this series and hope that you’ll be able to join us.


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