A Word from Us…

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

A Note from Alba

JubilateTour2015It seems that every year I tell you that “this year’s Jubilate Tour was the best ever!”  In some ways, that has always been true, and a lofty goal for us each year.  That I will make this claim again concerning this year’s tour should come as no surprise to you.

We were “weathered-out” of our two pre-tour concerts — the time that we get the experience to go out and sing the program with confidence.  When we missed these chances, it was with a great deal of concern that I left the church on Saturday morning, March 7, headed for Pittsburgh.

The next morning, having traveled the day before and lost an hour as we entered Daylight Saving Time, I was amazed that the choir came rested and ready to sing.  They truly led us in worship that morning!

That night, in Toledo, again they lifted the congregation to an experience of worship that was inspirational.  After the service, someone placed a note in my folder that said, “Dear talented young people – Today was a sad day for my family.  But we decided to come tonight in hope of some light and comfort.  We found it!  Thank you and best wishes to you all.  You do not know who and how your music will touch.  Keep singing!

This was the case for the four concerts we sang along the tour.  On Monday and Tuesday evenings, both church Senior Ministers shared that their church had never hosted a traveling choir, and that the experience with Jubilate had opened a door of possibilities for them in the future.  I received an email from one of the organists at Christ the King Lutheran Church, where we sang on Tuesday night:  “You and the choir made a deep impression on all of us in so many ways!  If any other church or concert venue has an opportunity to have Jubilate perform, I suggest that they jump at the chance!

We will be leading in morning worship here at UBC this Sunday, singing selections from our tour program.  We hope that you will also come to the Homecoming Concert on Sunday, March 29, at 5:00 pm to hear the entire program.

Thank you for your prayers and support for Jubilate this year and all the 42 years the choir has been ministering to people wherever they sang!  Soli Deo Gloria!

 

 

Engaging in Ministry

SeekGodIn this Monday’s devotion in our Seek God for the City devotional guide, we are called to seek God on behalf of ministries.  Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brothers (and sisters), pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified.”

As you know, there are many ministries taking place at UBC.  This week, Alba, Barbara Moore, Robby Gough, and Anne Keith are leading Jubilate on their spring break tour.  Alba recently posted an article on our website about Pam spending her snow day cooking for a pre-tour Friday night dinner, students taking tests on the bus via wi-fi while traveling to Pittsburgh on Saturday, and Alba scrambling to teach alto parts to some sopranos because of last- minute drop outs.  In all this, Alba finds joy in investing “in the lives of some of the brightest and best college students ever.”  You can read Alba’s full article on our website: http://wp.me/p3JX6D-162.

Similarly, last weekend, Erin Brown led a lock-in for twenty-one youth.  They cooked breakfast for the church, and held their own worship/prayer time during the 11 o’clock hour.  Erin’s report, pictures, and thank-you note can be found on our website: http://wp.me/p3JX6D-178.

Starting this Wednesday, we will set up a volunteer sign-up board for Mission Madness (April 17-19).  Please consider helping this exciting ministry as we host over 250 youth from all over Virginia to engage in mission and service projects here in Charlottesville!

As UBC seeks God for the city, we the church staff greatly welcome your prayers, not only for us but also or especially for our church community engaged in ministry.  May the word of the Lord spread and be glorified!

~Blessings, Michael

Youth Lock-In and Breakfast!

Awesome group!

What an awesome group!

The youth and I would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who woke up early this Sunday to join us for breakfast! We know it was a sacrifice to rise early the same day you also lost an hour of sleep, and we appreciate your support, both this Sunday and always. Many of our youth ministries and activities happen solely because of your help and encouragement, and we are grateful for such an amazingly supportive congregation!  It was wonderful to see a packed fellowship hall full of smiling faces, and to benefit from the generosity of so many church members as we prepare for our mission trip this summer!

Though the youth did their best to match the smiles and enthusiasm of those who joined us for breakfast, after our Saturday night lock-in full of fun and festivities that lasted into the wee hours, some of us rocked the ‘glazed over’ look more readily than the ‘I’m-so-happy-to-greet-the-new-day’ expressions we were desperately hoping to achieve.

Saturday night, however, was a different story. That evening, 21 youth eagerly helped assemble breakfast casseroles or prepared in other ways for Sunday’s breakfast.  After these tasks were complete, we were free to enjoy racing scooters in the fellowship hall, playing multiple rounds of the hide-and-seek game “sardines”, devouring more junk food than you may think is humanly possible (and certainly more than is humanly advisable), and playing a game of Human Hungry Hippos, an adaptation of the childhood board game where brightly-colored hippos shoot out from corners of the board to “eat” as many marbles as possible. If you’re curious about what this looks like with teenagers instead of plastic hippos, take a look:

Saturday night we also spent some quality time with God and with each other in prayer. We discussed the difficult question of if/how God answers some prayers and not others, and the different ways we can pray that may or may not resemble the traditional spoken prayers we use in church. Then we took time to commune openly and honestly with God, in written and spoken prayer.

Sunday morning we continued our exploration of prayer, worshipping individually or in groups at different prayer stations. Everyone was free to pray in as many different ways as they wished… some explored a number of different stations while others remained in one particular type of prayer for the duration. The youth were invited to pray while doodling, similar to the idea of “praying in color” that Lynn Martin introduced to us a few years ago. We prayed directionally, lifting up people facing different cardinal directions (to the south: patients in the hospital, to the north: family in New York, to the east: Christians in Syria, etc.). We prayed through music, we prayed in different postures, we prayed molding play-dough into a representation of our prayers, we prayed writing letters to those on our minds and hearts, and we prayed for those people and needs recommended in our Lenten prayer guide, “Seek God for the City”.

While watching a slideshow of pictures displaying God’s amazing creation, several youth commented that because they often find active, spoken prayer difficult, it was meaningful and freeing to be able to sit back and experience, admire, and praise God without saying a word. Others especially liked praying with stones. Writing a particular need on a stone and holding onto it while praying provided a simple yet very concrete (no pun intended) expression of our prayer requests and praises.  Another teenager appreciated the station where he could write a prayer in the form of a haiku. He explained that he often gets distracted while praying, but writing a haiku required all of his attention, and through writing, he was able to fully concentrate on God. I will close with his words of prayer, as well as another gem of a haiku written by one of our amazing youth:

I pray for the poor
For people who aren’t happy
For people I love

God is the bestest
He is all-knowing and cool
Jesus loves all peeps

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Jubilate Tour 2015

It would be nice to think that the night before a Jubilate tour, a good night of sleep was being enjoyed by all!  The reality is that at least one of the members is traveling to Pennsylvania, only to return in the wee hours of the morning to board the bus back to Pennsylvania.  There are several members who have midterms due by midnight via the internet (remember the “good old days” when we went to class and took tests?).   Still others have exams due on Saturday by 6:00 pm – did you know our bus has WIFI and they hopefully will be able to complete the tests as we travel to Pittsburgh.   There are the procrastinators (some are proudly so!) who are scrambling to get things done just before we pull out Saturday at 9:00 am.  There are the planners who also are scrambling to get projects started so that the time away will not put them behind.

And there is the director and his wife…  The director, who spent a snow day on Thursday, unable to get to the church office, but able to log in and prepare some documents for printing as soon as he could get there on Friday … The wife, who spend her snow day cooking soups and desserts, and putting together a salad so that Jubilate could have a “pre-tour-dinner” and be given all those materials the director slaved over on his snow day.

And there is the frustration to learn on the day before tour that some of the choir had to drop out of tour at the last minute – as it turns out, of nine Altos, only 4 are able to go on tour.  (If the director had hair, he wouldn’t have it now … eh … well, you understand!)  So, the night before tour, the director and his wife are frantically looking at standing charts and revamping, and calling the best switch-hitter Soprano to ask her to start learning some Alto notes!

But, the bottom line is this: the joy of working with Jubilate is the joy of investing your life in the lives of some of the brightest and best college students ever.  They all have such interesting life experiences that have led them Jubilate.  They come with such varying musical and spiritual backgrounds.  We have some who come with no musical background, but who are willing to work hard to be a part of a group like Jubilate.  We have some who come with no particular spiritual background, but who are learning the joy of the Lord.

There are two “mantras” about Jubilate that I think speak to this group.  One is that we “sing excellent music excellently.”  We are committed to singing the wonderful music of Telemann, Distler, Hogan and Hutchings with an abandon to singing it beautifully, both musically and spiritually.  We strive to sing with the understanding of the notes and the words.

The other “mantra” is this – “It’s more than just the music.”  It says it on the back of our tour t-shirts.  But, more than just a slogan, it is a way of approaching Jubilate that connects the group today with every group for the preceding 42 years.  We – all 42 years worth of us – are Jubilate. We are a family of pilgrim musicians who have dedicated a part of ourselves to something so much bigger than a tour.  We are dedicated to each other, and to the God who calls us to family.  And this commitment is eternal!  Until the end of time, and beyond, the strains of “Beautiful Savior” and all the other music will ring in the spheres of all creation.

And that makes losing a little hair every spring break worth it all.

Pray for the Jubilate, for Barbara, for Robby and for Anne as we journey forth, following the trail of 41 years of our family!

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!

 

 

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