A Word from Us…

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

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

Welcome to the Neighborhood!

UBC-UVAHave you noticed how the Corner is beginning to bustle with foot traffic and activity?  UVA move-in weekend is coming up, and it’s time for us to welcome back students.  This Sunday, Jubilate will sing, and there will be a welcome back luncheon for students and any UBC members who would like to serve as table hosts.  If you can help, please contact Sue Walton (293-5106).

As students return to town, I hope we will learn more about our neighborhood — not only the University, but also the hospital, the streets around Venable Elementary, and the 10th and Page Street areas.  The heart of our Wednesday night programs this fall will focus on the theme, “Welcome to the Neighborhood!”

Having said all this, our first few Wednesdays will not fit into this theme!

Week 1 in September will feature a piano duet concert by Jack Averill and Barbara Moore.

For week 2, we’ll learn about the dire situation of Christians in Iraq from former Ambassador Nat Howell (husband of UBC member Margie Howell).

In week 3, Dr. Tracy Hartman of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond will display and talk about the St. John’s Illuminated Bible.

After these sessions, we’ll explore questions of neighborhood.  The first Wednesday in October, Dr. Travis Collins, former pastor of Bon Air Baptist in Richmond, will describe how established churches can start “Fresh Expressions” of faith communities primarily to benefit neighbors who are not yet members of any church.

Then our guest speakers will include:

Rev. Hodari Hamilton, pastor of First Baptist Church, West Main;
Venable resident Garrett Trent on Habitat for Humanity;
Holly Edwards on parish nursing;
Officer Joe Brown of Charlottesville’s Police Department on community policing;
and Corbin Breaud to talk about AHIP’s “Block by Block” housing renovation program for the 10th and Page St. neighborhoods.

I hope you’ll join us on Wednesday evenings this fall as we get to know each other and our neighbors better.

~ Blessings, Michael

P.S.  I’ll be in Atlanta next Monday and Tuesday to chair CBF’s Ministries Council meeting.  On Wednesday, August 27, I will have minor shoulder surgery.  I hope to be back in church on August 31.  I appreciate your prayers for both of these events next week!

Ministry Residency Documents

documents_folderLast Wednesday night after our pot-luck supper, Debra Bryant (Chair of Deacons), Ed Smith (Chair of Church Council), Alan Hendricks (Chair of Personnel), Larry Martin (Chair of Finance) and I presented a proposal for a UBC Ministry Residency Program.

Three documents were distributed in the meeting:

1) A “Frequently Asked Questions” document explaining what a Ministry Residency Program is.

2) A description of the specific Ministry Residency Program to be proposed here at UBC.

3) A flow chart describing the process by which this program will be proposed, considered, and decided by the congregation.

Printouts of these documents will be available next Sunday; in the meantime, you can download them using the links above.

I encourage you to read through these documents.  If you have additional questions, please email the church office and your email will be forwarded to church leaders and to me.

 We’re hoping to put this proposal forward for a vote following further discussion at the Church Conference on August 27 (begins at 6:15 pm).

Thank you for your participation in this process — and thank you for your prayers as we seek to clarify our mission and enhance our ministry.

 In Christ, Michael

Notes from Church Council

Editor’s Note: This column is written by Ed Smith, Chair of Church Council.

Note from Church CouncilAs you know, we will have a church-wide potluck supper this Wednesday evening, August 6, followed by an update on several matters and possibilities before the church.  In advance of that meeting, I wanted to give you an update.

Many thanks to Debra Bryant, Chair of Deacons, for convening a meeting of church leaders to recommend a process whereby we collectively make a decision regarding the proposed Ministry Residency program and consider our church’s mission statement going forward.

The joint meeting of staff and lay leadership proved to be so productive and beneficial that Church Council has affirmed and unanimously supported the recommendation that our church move ahead with the proposed Ministry Residency program.  Specifics related to this program will be presented at the Town Hall meeting this Wednesday for discussion and input from the congregation.  If there is support by the congregation for the Ministry Residency program, a vote on it will be taken at the August 27 Church Conference.

Given the success of the joint meeting noted above, Church Council asked that a similar group of lay and staff leaders be convened by the chair of Deacons to make recommendations regarding a process which we might follow as we consider whether or not our present mission statement needs to be revised, expanded, and updated and whether new ministries, worship services, etc. need to be recommended to the congregation.

Church Council felt it important that we have a clear and well delineated process, which involves significant input and support from the congregation, as we consider these important topics.  The congregation will be heavily involved as this process moves forward.  More details will be provided on Wednesday evening, but we wanted to share with you the direction in which Church Council, the lay leadership and staff are moving together.  We look forward to your thoughts and input on Wednesday evening.

Ed Smith, Chair, Church Council

P.S. – At our Aug. 6 town hall meeting, we will hand out a “Frequently Asked Questions” document and a program description of the Ministry Residency Program.  Click on the links to download these PDF documents.

We hope to model our Ministry Residency Program on the one pioneered by Wilshire Baptist Church.

Back from Vacation

I'm BackIt is good to be back at UBC after my two-week vacation. I spent the time doing a lot of reading, watching a few movies, and taking some naps. Our family also spent time relaxing at the beach. It was wonderful to take time off and know that the church is in the good hands of Alba, Bob, and church lay leadership. Many thanks also go to Elizabeth Rickert Dowdy and Lynn Litchfield for filling the pulpit so capably and creatively.

But all vacations must come to an end, and Monday I was back in the office. That evening, I met with a group of church leaders to determine a process for deciding the merit of a ministry residency program at UBC. In a residency program, a church welcomes a recent seminary-trained minister to join the staff for a two-year period. The church offers a stipend, ministry experience, and supervision, while the resident brings skills and talents to the church.

The church members who met to discuss this program and a process for considering it were Debra Bryant (Deacon Chair), Ed Smith (Church Council Chair), Larry Martin (Finance Chair), Alan Hendricks (Personnel Chair), Brent Wilson, Jack and Jo-Ann Averill, and me.

Following the church’s potluck supper on August 6, the congregation will hear about the potential program, have the chance to ask questions, give input, and learn about the process for deciding whether UBC should create a two-year pilot for such a residency program.

Once we have completed this process, we will then follow a similar process as we consider refining the mission of UBC, which may lead us to develop a second service of worship.

Please pray for God’s leadership as we consider these possibilities. And while we’re praying, let’s not forget our youth and adults who are in West Virginia this week, engaged in missions and learning to be the presence of Christ.

                     ~ Blessings, Michael

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