A Word from Us…

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

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

Sunday Funday

As the youth leader I often struggle with ideological practice of having everything we do relate back to a religious idea or practice. I will ask myself, “Does this further the Kingdom of God?” Most often the answer is a resounding YES! But as I strolled through the Wal-Mart aisles picking up dish soap, a few buckets, and tarp – I couldn’t help but think that the 45-foot-super-awesome-slip-and-slide might just be for our own enjoyment.

Ultimately, we could have connected our journey downhill to the concepts of hope, courage, and God’s divine protection. Like – I hope I don’t break my leg, or I will take courage and get a running start, or “Oh Mercy!” this is super fast (Jesus, take the wheeeeeeel ♫)! We could have also used it as an invitation tool to help facilitate other youth joining our group – which we tried! There were a few neighborhood children that came over to see what we doing but I think they were too overwhelmed at all of the awesomeness that was taking place and really only came over to get a closer look. A small number of my other neighbors also came outside to openly view our craziness, but most stayed indoors away from all of our giggling and screaming – I imagine they were all peeking out of their windows like Jimmy Stewart’s character L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries in the movie Rear Window, waiting for one of us to slip up (pun intended).

It wasn’t all fun games though… well… yes it was. There was pizza, water balloons, water slingshots (although they didn’t work too well), card games, some sidewalk art, and of course the biggest slip-and-slide in Charlottesville (at least for today), and after all was said and done there were only a few grass scratches and bumped knees – but as I explained to the kids, that’s how you know you had fun! And honestly, that’s really what it was all about – having fun. And you know what else? Having fun is great. I highly recommend it. In fact, I’m fairly sure 9 out of 10 doctors recommend having fun on a daily basis.

Now, if only we could find some biblical basis for all the fun we had…

(insert dramatic pause)

Boom. King Solomon comes through.

Yes, according to rabbinic tradition, the book Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon in his old age and I quote:

Ecclesiastes 8:15: So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. (NLT)

There it is.

“Have fun.”

So much of what our youth have to look forward is not always going to be fun – being an adult is hard. You can ask one, I’m sure they’ll tell you all about it! Jobs, money, bills, work, etc. Think about the first things that adults talk about when they see each other! They are very rarely in the market for having some fun. There’s a great quote from the children’s book The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that illustrates the adult conundrum:

“Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead, they demand: “How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?” Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

If you were to say to the grown-ups: “I saw a beautiful house made of rosy brick, with geraniums in the windows and doves on the roof,” they would not be able to get an idea of that house at all. You have to say to them: “I saw a house that cost $400,000.” Then they would exclaim: “Oh, what a pretty house that is!”

Now, I’m only 30 years old – but this already hits home with me and speaks to how I sometimes view the world.

Thankfully, I have a job – well, 2 jobs actually – that keep me young. I am regularly reminded of the necessity to not take things too seriously or get too upset about the adult method of doing things and I am so very thankful that in this moment, on this day – we can fly down the hill and roll over backwards with laughter. Thankful that we are able to create memories that will bring a smile to our face when we’re feeling down and when we’re working hard – because, ultimately, God does want us to work hard. I dare say he needs us to work hard – we are told that the mountain is steep and the path is narrow.

So for now, while we can, let’s have some fun.

Funday 1 Funday 2

Funday 3

 

Report on Church Council Meeting

Last Sunday, I met with our Church Council and Deacons, and together we discussed the job descriptions of a “Ministry Resident” (a two-year position for a seminary-trained graduate to explore and gain experience in congregational ministry) and a “Director of Creative Arts” (a part-time position for a musician with theological training that can assist in the musical, audio-visual and participatory aspects of our creative service).  I also presented an initial description of the creative worship service that I’ve been proposing. Those who attended the meeting asked good questions and provided valuable input.

One point that was made repeatedly was the importance of providing more information to the congregation and garnering wide support for this venture. Our leadership is working on revising the job descriptions, and they will be distributed in time for a church-wide town hall meeting in August.

Stay tuned for more details later.

I will be on vacation from July 14-27. While I’m away, please welcome our guest preachers, Rev. Elizabeth Dowdy on July 20 and Rev. Lynn Litchfield on July 27.

~Blessings, Michael

 

Thinking Out Loud

thinking-out-loudWhat a wonderful morning of worship we experienced last Sunday at our Summer Choir Program! I am so grateful that four of our former Ministers of Music — Carl Beard, Len Willingham, Mike Norris and Kevin Holland — spanning three decades of service, all returned to UBC last Sunday. What a joyful reunion to see them and their families! These four directed our Sanctuary Choir in an “extended musical sermon” preaching the love and grace of God in Christ! Also, many thanks to Alba Beasley, Barbara Moore, our Summer Choir and instrumentalists for their leadership in worship. We are blessed to have such musical talents at UBC!

In other matters, I want to give you an update regarding my proposal for a “creative worship service.” As I continue to receive feedback, you have helped me realize that I had been unclear regarding why I spent two sermons giving details about this proposal before the Church Council had given its approval. While the ministerial staff, Deacons, and members of the Personnel, and Finance committees were already engaged in conversation with me about this proposal, they too have not given me their final approval. That gave the perception that I was not following our usual process for congregational decision-making.

I want to affirm our church’s process for vetting and approving major, new endeavors through both the Deacons and the Church Council before bringing it up to the church for a discussion and vote.  That is our standard process of congregational decision-making and it is a good one. We take a question or issue, step back and take time to process it, and then come back with an answer or well-thought-out and detailed plan. As an introvert, that’s my default methodology. read on

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