A Word from Us…

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

Welcome to the Table

Lord's TableLast Saturday, Beth and I had the privilege of attending the wedding ceremony of Julie Gaines, the oldest daughter of Ray and Nancy Gaines, and the granddaughter of Barbara Newlon. Before Julie and her husband Jeff Walton exchanged their vows, the congregation was invited to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Jeff and Julie told us, “Communion is a chance to return home. To return to the center of our faith, and remember what is important in the long and sometimes difficult journey of life, faith, and marriage. Whenever we as children of God feel lost, or find ourselves stepping into darkness, it is good to know that God’s table and the community surrounding it will always be there to bring us back home, welcome us back, and remind us of our identity.”

Officiating minister Sterling Severns, Pastor of Tabernacle Baptist in Richmond added, “It is our understanding that this table represents the love of God. It is the table that we find God’s diverse children, one and all, gathering around; continually being reminded that if the world is going to understand who God is, it must first begin with us sitting at the table together.”

As we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Supper this Sunday, may these beautiful words by Jeff, Julie and Sterling stay with you.

Life can be difficult, and sometimes we may even feel lost and in the dark.

But God’s table and the community of faith surrounding that table will always be there to welcome us back home and remind us of our identity as children of God.

~Blessings, Michael

 

Feeding our Helpers

Logo_HotPinkIn last Sunday’s sermon, we considered how to move forward in the midst of these sad and troubling events here in Charlottesville.  According to Sunday’s text, one answer is to imitate Christ.

Sarah Wilson, a member of our church, has been working on a UBC project that perfectly captures the idea of imitating Jesus. She and others are organizing a meal for UBC to serve to police officers and others who have been doing the draining work of searching — not only for Hannah Graham, but also for the truth about her and other young women who have suffered violence or death in recent years in Central Virginia.

This idea was inspired by the group “Help Save the Next Girl,” founded by the parents of Morgan Harrington.

Initially, the plan was to serve lunch for forty, but the idea was so well received that the police asked if we could plan to serve seventy-five. The lunch will be served this Thursday, October 23.

Hardee’s has generously agreed to donate chicken for the meal, but you can also sign-up on our google doc.

to donate drinks, side dishes, desserts, or help serve the meal. Please drop off all food items in disposable containers to the UBC kitchen no later than 10 am on this Thursday.  If you want to make a donation to cover meal expenses, you can write a check to the church and write “search crew meal” on the subject line, or give online.

For more information, you can contact Erin Brown or Sarah Wilson.

I’m thankful for church members who have the passion and imagination to see what imitating Christ looks like even in the midst of tragic circumstances. I’m eager to learn other ways that our church can express the love of Christ, now and in the months to come.

 ~Blessings, Michael

 

A Word from Will

RonaldMcDonaldA few weeks into my new position at UBC, I want to share with you about a conversation I had recently with Rita Ralston, the Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House.  Many of you may know her, and many more of you may be familiar with the work of the Ronald McDonald House, which was started by University Baptist and originally called “Hearthstone House.”

Rita Ralston told me that even though they have been “adopted” by the Ronald McDonald organization and are now a few blocks further away, UBC continues to have a special relationship as their “birth parent.”  She expressed gratitude for our historic relationship and optimism for our continued partnership.

In my conversations with Rita and later with the coordinator of the Hospitality House, we talked about the needs of their facilities, both of which provide housing for families of hospitalized patients from out of town.  As we talked I was struck by the many ways that UBC groups and individual members are already contributing to these organizations.

In addition to several individuals who have volunteered regularly, the Kittie Colvin Trail Circle faithfully supports the Hospitality House with food and supplies.  The Hospitality House director also mentioned what a blessing it is when their guests receive crafts and treats from our children.  Next Sunday the youth from our church are cooking dinner for the guests at both the Hospitality House and Ronald McDonald House.  I am sure that our church’s involvement extends beyond what I have mentioned or what I even know about, and both organizations were excited to consider further ways we may partner with them in the future.

As our church explores various new ministries with the hospital community, I find it encouraging to discover the rich heritage of ministry in our church’s history, as well as the many ways that members of our congregation are already involved in serving the needs of patients and their families.  It is important that we celebrate these vital ministries that are taking place quietly but faithfully behind the scenes. I look forward to the months ahead, as we dream together of how God might use our church to expand these ministries and the service we can bring to our neighbors just down the street.

— Will

 

Youth Awesomeness

On Sunday after church, the youth headed to Riverview Park for an aptly named Afternoon of Awesomeness. After sharing a picnic lunch outside on the most beautiful day God has graced us with this fall, the fun began.

There were team competitions. Boats were made from aluminum foil and tape, and raced down the Rivanna River. Impressively, one boat even remained intact! Relays were attempted, with the sole purpose of getting each team over the finish line in absurdly hilarious fashion…. How would you attempt to get a team of five people across a field, letting only 4 feet and 2 hands touch the ground?

Then there were challenges for the whole group. Do you think it’s possible to fit 10 teenagers into a circle 1.5 feet across? They didn’t either…. at first! But through lots of varying input and ideas, many failed attempts and re-attempts, the group managed to get everyone on board, and stay balanced there long enough to sing a rousing rendition of The Muffin Man. I’m not sure anyone knows why we chose this song to celebrate.  :)

We had the chance to discuss the importance of trusting each other and trusting God, and explored some of what the Bible has to say about this (not always what you would expect)! And finally, each of us had the chance to live out that trust, falling backward off a picnic table into the waiting arms of the rest of the group. Though initially some of us were hesitant, everyone had the chance to experience the thrill of falling, and the reassurance and support of being caught by 20 or so outstretched arms.

It was fun! It was a chance to get to know each other in a different environment, and celebrate strengths and abilities in each other that we didn’t necessarily know were there. It was a chance to laugh, and then fall over, and then laugh some more. It was an opportunity for some of the younger members to let their voices be heard, and lead the group toward success. It allowed the group to affirm each member, quite literally catching her as she plummeted to the ground from atop a picnic table. It was a chance to eat two entire packages of Oreos over the course of the afternoon. It was a chance to fellowship in God’s creation on an absolutely beautiful day.

Did I mention that it was awesome?

 

 

 

World Communion Sunday

WorldCommunionSunday1This Sunday is “World Communion Sunday,” when we acknowledge the almost universal observance of the Lord’s Supper by Christian churches throughout the world.

According to ministrymatters.com, this day was first observed by a Presbyterian church in 1936, and later adopted by the Federal Council of Churches in 1940. Since then, this celebration has grown into an international ecumenical celebration of Christian unity.

We will observe World Communion Sunday with the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, which remembers the night when Jesus broke bread with his disciples for the last time before his betrayal and crucifixion. We also celebrate the fact that the movement Jesus began over two thousand years ago in Palestine now covers all corners of the earth. On this Sunday, we unite with Christians world-wide in observing the Lord’s Supper, acknowledging our unity in Christ as gathered by the power of the Holy Spirit, even as we recognize the diversity of customs, traditions, languages, and liturgies in which we worship our living God.

Prepare to worship this Sunday as we join with Christians world-wide to celebrate our oneness in Christ!

~Blessings, Michael

“Thank you!” from Randi McFarland

Randi_McFarland_webI want to thank all of you for your outpouring of love and support for my sermon on Sunday, September 21! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement, for telling me specifically what you liked, and what I could improve. I want to especially thank Michael for his many suggestions, and my Site Team for their valuable input.

As I continue my internship, I want to thank everyone for their attentiveness and smiles as I looked out over the congregation and for laughing at my attempts at humor. You have all been so gracious in so many ways, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

This is a wonderful teaching congregation, and I am blessed to have the privilege of doing an internship here. I will always have fond memories of this church and am so glad that my very first congregational sermon was here at UBC!

— Randi McFarland

New Beginnings

BrownsSunday will be a day of new beginnings at UBC.  During worship, we’ll have a service of Deacon ordination and installation, as we ordain Erin Brown and Peter Ohlms and install John Buchanan, Elva Ferguson, Larry Johnson, Carolyn Lowry and Barbara Jesser (in absentia) to the office of Deacon.  I am so grateful that they have agreed to begin a three-year term of service as spiritual leaders of our church.  (Pam Johnson will also be installed as a Deacon to serve Joseph Johnson’s unexpired term.)

In addition, we will officially welcome Will Brown as Ministry Resident.  As part of his residency, he will work in all areas of congregational ministry, including regular opportunities to preach. Due to his training at Yale Divinity School and as a chaplain at the UVA Medical Center, Will also brings fresh and innovative ideas.  Let’s give Will the freedom to explore new ways of ministry both in the church and in our outreach to the hospital.

Finally, this week marks a transition in our youth ministry as Phil Woodson wraps up his time with us, and Erin Brown begins her service with our youth.  How blessed we are to have such capable leadership in both these young people!  Phil is now serving as a worship leader at First United Methodist Church in Charlottesville.  We wish Phil (and Ellen and Cooper) all the best as he begins a new chapter of ministry!  And let’s offer our support to Erin as she establishes her own ministry.

~Blessings, Michael

Persecution of Christians in Iraq

Many thanks to Ambassador Nat Howell for the information he shared with us about the persecution of Christians in Iraq.

The video of his presentation shown below.

 

The Baptist World Alliance has issued a call for Baptists and other Christians to provide funds to help Iraqi Christians displaced by war. The funds are earmarked for food and other urgently needed relief supplies for Christian families who recently fled Mosul and Karakosh and are now in Irbil, a city in Kurdistan.

ISIS fighters have terrorized towns in northern Iraq, amassing power and laying down harsh Sharia law. Christians were given the option of paying exorbitant taxes, converting to Islam, or fleeing. Many families fled their homes without their possessions, including clothing. Money, jewelry and other valuables were stolen or confiscated.

 

On August 29, the Associated Baptist Press published the article BWA allocates funds for persecuted Iraqi Christians.

Donations for this relief effort may also be made to “University Baptist Church” and earmarked for “Iraqi Christians.”

You can write a check to “UBC, 1223 W. Main St., Charlottesville, VA, 22903″ or you can donate online.

All of the money we collect will be sent to the Baptist World Alliance fund for Iraqi Christians.

Be Still . . .

Be Still“Be still and know that I am God.”

I have cited that verse many times in the past, often in the context of our need to slow down the rapid pace of our lives in order to leave time and space for God. Well, this past week, I had the opportunity to live out that verse after my shoulder surgery. The surgery went well by all accounts, but even so, the doctors told me – and my body reminded me – to take it easy and rest. So for a couple of days after the surgery, I literally had to be still!

It was hard being forced to be still and to do nothing but think. At first, all I could think was “be still and know that I’m falling behind on my emails and church work.” It made me realize that much of my identity is still wrapped up in my work. By Sunday however, I slowly came to remember that University Baptist is not solely dependent on me, and that God ultimately is the leader of the church.

I’m grateful for church leaders who led so capably during our church conference on Wednesday.

I’m grateful for the staff and Rev. Bill Smith for their leadership in worship Sunday.

I’m also grateful for the cards, emails and Facebook comments praying for my recovery.

As I’m back in the office this week, I’ll still have to take work slowly. I hope I will continue to carry the lesson that God is ultimately in charge.

I’m called to be still and know that God is God.

~Blessings, Michael

One Last Thing….

An Open Letter to the Youth of UBC:

Hello Friends,

Well, this is it. I’ve handed over the keys and turned in all my receipts. By chance, I came across a quote by Azar Nafisian, an Iranian writer and professor of English literature best known for her book, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – that best sums how I’m feeling right now:

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” – Reading Lolita in Tehran

It’s not a sad, mad, or other highly charged emotional feeling (those are the bottom of the pond) – but it is strange. I know that we’ll all continue to be friends and see each other around town, in school, or on Facebook – but it’ll be different. I would almost equate it to the same feeling I had when completing the Harry Potter series. I was big into Harry Potter and as it so happened I was, regretfully, going to be at camp when the final book came out – so I asked Ellen, ever the dutiful girlfriend, to mail it to me. She did. Between the designated camp times and late into the night I would read – page after glorious page. And suddenly… it was done. It was great, amazing, and inspiring. I laughed, I cried, and then – all too quickly – it was over. I would have to find something else to give my energy and attention to…

I remember how all of my campers were riddled with jealousy and upset that their parents wouldn’t mail them their own copy. I remember how they would ask to borrow it just to get a taste of what laid in store – it was really a great allegory for drug addictions. But secretly, behind my dropped comments about what may or may not have happened and hidden under my exclamations that it was the best book I’ve ever read – I was actually envious of them. I envied the journey – the thrill of experiencing it all again for the first time and I felt… strange.

And that’s almost exactly where I am now. Feeling accomplished but somehow lost. Knowing that my heart has expanded exponentially over the past three years with love and hope for every single one of you – knowing that through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit we have accomplished so many great things together – knowing that you will continue to do wonderful and holy things – I am still so very very envious. To watch you grow, learn, mature, engage, and outwardly demonstrate your faith will forever be one of the greatest chapters in my life – and I simply don’t have the words to express my unending gratitude.

And so here’s the part when I talk about how much you’ve grown and changed – and then say no, it’s me that’s grown/changed the most. I’ll follow it up reminding you of all the wonderful things you’ve accomplished on mission trips, your impeccable leadership, and how mature you all are in your faith. I’ll wrap it up with some standard quote from somebody’s graduation speech about making the most of the time you’re given and then knock it out of the park with a bible quote… because after all, this is church stuff we’re talking about.

But we know each other too well for all of that – don’t we…

So, there’s this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5hdiEO_T8M

Which is perfect because even though we’re saying goodbye for now – we’re all going the same way…

:)

Phil

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