A Word from Us…

Below you will find thoughts, updates, and articles from our staff.

A Word About Suzii Paynter’s Visit

PaynterpulpitWhat a privilege it was to host CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter at UBC last weekend!  Suzii arrived Saturday evening from Atlanta and met with fifteen Baptist pastors at a dinner gathering held at the home of Debra Bryant and Larry Groves.  Pastors from as far away as Harrisonburg, Orange, Madison, Scottsville, and Buena Vista braved the cold weather to have a chance to spend an evening with Suzii and hear about the developments at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.  At the end of the gathering, Rev. Bryon LePere, pastor of Buena Vista Baptist, joked that UBC should cancel worship so that Suzii could go and preach at his church instead!

Thankfully, the weather cooperated and we were able to have church.  Suzii reminded us in worship of the words preached by Jesus that spoke of good news to the poor, the recovery of sight to the blind, and the freeing of captives and the oppressed.  These challenging words in many ways have become the guiding principles of what it means to be a Cooperative Baptist.

At the after-worship luncheon, Suzii enumerated the ways in which CBF is committed to sharing the Good News.  100% of our mission offerings and 54 cents of any additional dollars received by CBF are channeled toward missions.  CBF has made a 20-year commitment to work alongside twenty of the poorest counties in the U.S.  CBF partners with many other organizations to advocate for the Roma and other oppressed people groups.

Suzii is just one of many leaders that I’ve invited to speak as part of our “Lent is for Listening” theme.  These leaders represent groups that receive money from UBC’s budget.  For instance, John Upton, last Wednesday’s speaker, represents both Virginia Baptists and the Baptist World Alliance.  This Wednesday, we’ll hear from Blake Tommey, the director of the Baptist Collegiate Ministries at UVA.  I hope their presentations will deepen our relationship with our mission partners and inform us about how our contributions are being used to spread the good news of Christ throughout the world.

~Blessings, Michael

 

We’re Not Racist, Are We?

im not racistLast Thursday, the film “I’m Not Racist, Am I?” was shown at the Paramount Theater downtown. The documentary follows a diverse group of 12 New York City teenagers as they engage in a yearlong process examining racism in their lives and communities. Six of our youth attended the showing (along with hundreds of other local teenagers and adults) and were so moved that they asked if they could share what they had learned at our next Real Life meeting.

This past Sunday evening, after we engaged in some general antics of merriment (devouring pizza, popping balloons, imitating both Taylor Swift and the author of Genesis, etc.), the youth who attended the film shared some of the stories and questions of the teenagers in the documentary, as well as their own reactions to the ideas presented in the film.  For the rest of Real Life, the group then embarked on an hour-long discussion of racism: examples of racial prejudice in their own lives or the lives of friends, the prevalence of racial slurs and why that is problematic, whether racism is an individual reaction or systemic throughout society, and what our role is as Christians, as followers of Jesus, in addressing racism in our community.  The youth asked great questions, answered honestly and thoughtfully, shared openly and poignantly, and throughout our conversation addressed an incredibly complex idea with amazing insight and maturity.

Long story short, UBC has an amazing group of youth. And when I say amazing, that’s an understatement.

 

 

A Report on John Upton’s Visit

On Wednesday night, February 25, UBC welcomed John Upton as our speaker. He began by bringing greetings both from the Baptist General Association of Virginia, where he is Executive Director, and the Baptist World Alliance, where he serves as President. In his BWA role, he has been traveling around the world to visit and support Baptist congregations, and he shared about a recent trip to meet with African Baptist leaders, many of whom are serving in difficult and dangerous situations. Upton relayed to us that when these churches are feeling forgotten and alone, the support of their Baptist sisters and brothers around the world is incredibly meaningful.

Drawing on the book of Acts, Upton’s message centered on what we do “together” as the body of Christ. Reporting on the activity of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), Upton described a hopeful and promising time in Virginia Baptist life. In fact, the BGAV’s impact stretches far beyond Virginia: Baptist congregations from seventeen other states and countries have joined the BGAV to partner in the work we are doing together. Even though it may seem odd that churches from other states are joining an organization with “Virginia” in the name, Upton explained that these churches are joining because they agree both with our work in missions and the manner in which we are doing it. He listed five characteristics that draw these churches to associate with Virginia Baptists: being Gospel-centric, being relationally rich, being civil and reasonable, having a heart for the not-yet, and having a sense of mission and call.

Upton emphasized that we as Baptists are not afraid of the future, both because it is “a future that God inhabits” and because we have had a rich heritage in the past. Virginia Baptists continue to adapt and serve God in new and meaningful ways, and the fruit of these efforts can be seen in our campus ministries, new churches being planted, fresh expressions of church, our affiliated colleges and seminaries, our disaster relief work, and countless other ways that we are serving the Kingdom of God in Virginia and beyond.

After a question-and-answer time with Dr. Upton, Michael Cheuk reiterated our church’s support of both BGAV and BWA, and he presented Upton with a check for each organization. These contributions, a supplement to the annual amount we give through our budget, are part of how our congregation voted to use the surplus in our giving from last year. Upton expressed his gratitude on behalf of the organizations he represents, reiterating that the work he described is our work, part of the much larger mission that we as the body of Christ are doing together.

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Welcome, Suzii Paynter!

Paynter, S photoOur guest preacher on March 1 will be Suzii Paynter.  She is the Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a Christian network comprised of nearly 1,800 congregations, thousands of individuals and dozens of partners that work together to renew God’s world.  CBF supports a wide range of missions and ministries that give people meaningful opportunities to put their faith to action, including a network of 125 field personnel ministering in more than 30 countries.

Over the past decade, Paynter has gained a national reputation for her advocacy on important ethical issues such as religious liberty, hunger and poverty, human trafficking and immigration reform.  An ordained deacon and Sunday school teacher of more than 40 years, Paynter has held positions of leadership in Baptist churches in Texas, Kentucky and Mississippi.    We welcome Suzii Paynter to the pulpit this Sunday.

Light Luncheon Following Worship
Everyone is Invited!   

This will be a time for further conversation with Suzii Paynter.
D
onations will be accepted for Jubilate’s Spring Tour.

 

Lent is for Listening

This Wednesday, we enter into the season of Lent, the time in our church calendar that recalls Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness. Often during Lent, we think about the things we will give up — like sweets or soft drinks or TV. This year, I wonder if we might think about one thing we can add to our life, namely, the practice of listening.

Lent is for listening. We can certainly imagine Jesus, during his forty days in the wilderness, listening and praying, strengthening himself for the challenges to come. I encourage all of us to similarly set aside a little time for silence in the weeks of Lent. Perhaps this past Sunday’s session on centering prayer has given you some ideas to try. Or perhaps it might be as easy as turning off the radio or TV for a time of silence. Perhaps you might set aside a time as you wake or before you sleep to cultivate the practice of listening.

In the spirit of “Lent is for listening,” I will be preaching a series called “Words Worth Hearing” in Sunday worship. On Wednesday nights, I have also invited “People Worth Hearing”— leaders of various mission and ministry partners that we support — to share how God is working through our financial contributions. Finally, we will be using a prayer guide called “Seek God for the City” as a way to listen to God through our neighbors. I hope you will join us in listening to God throughout Lent.

In another matter, we’ve just completed another successful two weeks of PACEM. This is the final year that Lynn Martin will serve as our coordinator. I am so grateful for Lynn’s leadership, and I hope you will express your thanks to her when you see her in the coming days.

~Blessings, Michael

A Word from Erin

As many of you know, this year University Baptist has the exciting opportunity to participate in both Operation InAsMuch, our annual church-wide day of service, and Mission Madness, a statewide CBF event offering youth a weekend of hands-on missions, worship, and fellowship.  This spring we will be combining the two events into … (drum roll, please) … “Operation Mission Madness”!!  The weekend of April 17-19, UBC will be a host church for this year’s Mission Madness event.  More than 250 youth from churches around Virginia will flock to Charlottesville to worship here at the church and to engage in a day of service in our community.

As the host church, we will be able to serve alongside the youth at work sites in and around Charlottesville, as we have each year in the past with OIAM. However, we will also have additional responsibilities, and we are hoping UBC members are willing to accept the challenge!  We will need groups to prepare meals for 250 youth on Friday and Saturday, and we will need UBC representatives to be leaders at each work site!

We will be discussing the specifics of this weekend during our Wednesday night Town Hall meeting this week. Join us then to learn more, ask questions, and discover how you can be involved in making Operation Mission Madness a success this year, as we join with hundreds of youth to make an impact in our community!

 

 

Chiming of the Hour

Beginning this Sunday, February 15, we will be chiming the hour at 11:00 am as a way of calling us to worship.  We ask that when you hear the Chiming of the Hour that you begin to prepare for worship by settling your minds and hearts to concentrate on the worship service.  Pray for the service and what you and others will receive from it.  Pray that all of the worship leaders will help you to open your heart and mind to God’s leading through all that is said, sung, and played.

 

Centering Prayer

centering-prayerWhen you pray, how much do you talk, and how much do you stay still and quiet and listen? I find that I talk more than listen, and when I do try to be quiet in prayer, my mind is often filled with distracting thoughts. I find that in the hustle and bustle of my life, it is challenging to “be still and know that God is God.”

Thankfully, there is a long-standing tradition within Christianity that practices a meditative, receptive kind of prayer called “centering prayer.” Centering prayer is a method of silent prayer, also called contemplative prayer, that prepares us to receive the gift of God’s presence. Centering prayer is not meant to replace other kinds of prayer. Rather, it adds depth of meaning to all prayer and facilitates the movement from more active modes of prayer — verbal, mental or affective prayer — into a receptive prayer of resting in God. Centering prayer emphasizes prayer as a personal relationship with God and as a movement beyond conversation with Christ to communion with Christ.

After worship on February 15, our deacons will host Herbert Ely and Susy Weiss from Contemplative Outreach of Greater Charlottesville for an introduction to centering prayer. The deacons will provide a light lunch followed by their presentation which will begin around 12:30 p.m.

If you are interested in attending the lunch and presentation, please contact the church office by February 12th.

~ Michael

State of UBC Address

Natures StairwayThis Sunday, February 1, Michael will be giving a “State of UBC Address” in worship.  His sermon will highlight existing ministries and outline possible new areas of partnership and emphasis.  Join us to hear in word and see in images where we have been and where God may be leading us.  At the end of the worship service, the congregation will enter into a brief Church Conference to vote on the 2015 budget.  The discussion of the budget will take place Wednesday, January 28, at 6:15 in Fellowship Hall.

Update on UBC’s Ministry Residency

Will_BrownI want to take this opportunity to update the congregation about the Ministry Residency program.  As the first resident at UBC, part of my task is to help structure our program and give feedback about how to make changes.  At a meeting with my Lay Support Team earlier this month, I suggested we implement a new rotation schedule for the residency, and the Lay Support Team helped refine how this will look.  While I will continue to perform a wide range of tasks, the rotation system will allow me to focus the residency’s learning and reflection component on a particular aspect of ministry (such as pastoral care, education, worship, administration, etc.).

As I rotate through these areas in the months to come, I will be sharing my observations more regularly, both the lessons I learn about myself and the insights I gain about UBC.  At its best, a residency program like this helps a minister to grow and learn, but it also helps a church to grow and learn more about itself.  I look forward to the conversations this will generate and the insights we will gain from each other.  To facilitate these discussions, one of our Wednesday night sessions later this spring will be devoted to the residency program.  This will be a time when you will hear more from me about what I’ve been doing, and we will all have the chance to talk about it together.  In the meantime, I will be sharing some of my reflections in The Word and on our website, and I hope you will not hesitate to share your thoughts with me as well.  I’m excited about what we will be learning together!

                                                                                           – Will Brown

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