ARTICLES FROM THE MAY 2020 MAPLE LEAF:
PASTOR’S NOTES 

STILL MORE ON HEBREWS 10:25

 [This scripture is the theme verse of a sermon I preached online near the end of March.  Links to that sermon are on the church webpage.  It was so long that I had to divide it into seven parts.  For those of you who have bravely ventured through all seven parts, I commend you, but I am finding I can still say more about the passage.]

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one   another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”   -Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

Through the month that we have been in a state of semi-quarantine, the scripture that has come back to me more than any other is the one above.  It is a scripture that many pastors (including me) use to remind people of our need to meet together if we are to grow in our faith.  When persons say to me that they do not need to come to worship services to be faithful Christians, I believe they are partly correct, but usually they are saying this because they have had bad experiences in churches that have led them to leave.  Also, it is very rare for persons on their own to grow to be more like Christ in their life.

I realize I am assuming something that our culture does not:  that to be a Christian is not just to say that I believe in Jesus Christ, but it means I intend to live with Him as my Lord (or Master) and to become like Him.  There are many people who assume they are Christian but they do not see it as a way of life, and this might not be their fault.  We preachers have emphasized what Jesus has done for us, and what He can do for us.  Many people have barely heard how wonderful our life can be if He truly is in charge and we are “following Him.”  

In the twenty plus years that I have lived in the Franklinton neighborhood of Columbus, we saw this firsthand:  when we would talk to neighbors, we found that overwhelmingly, the people around us saw themselves as Christians.  They could point to a time when at one of the altars of our churches they had come forward and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior (the one who rescues us).  However, we also knew a large number of them to be abusive to their children, having no qualms about taking something that is not theirs, taking and selling drugs, and even trafficking persons to provide income or support their addiction.  In other words, their life didn’t look much different than persons who told us that they didn’t believe in God or Christ.

 For our group of churches, I think our hope was that if we just got these persons into our church service, they would just “get it.” There would be something in the music or the sermon, or observing how we church people love each other, and they would see that there is a path in life they could take for themselves and enjoy all the blessings of Christ.  But in our experience, they didn’t just “get it.”  People on the outside would attend a worship service, sometimes once, sometimes up to six months, but would likely stop attending by then.  

So what is missing?  As a preacher, sometimes I’ve blamed myself for not being engaging enough for them from the pulpit, sometimes we blame the music or the enthusiasm of our leaders.  Sometimes there is some truth in those observations.  But I believe that it is far more likely that we have set ourselves up for failure from the beginning.  

This became clearer to me when we made the difficult decision to close our building for public worship last month.  We read the Bible passage above “Let us not give up meeting together,” but how are we going to do that without a worship service?  Some suggested that we go to online services, as many of our sister congregations have already been doing.  This is not a bad idea, and indeed several of us have been talking over the past year on how we could stream our regular service online.   However, I have come to believe that the Hebrews passage above was never    intended to mean public worship services.  For many years of Christian history, it COULD NOT.

This is not the first time that Christians have had to avoid public worship; even today in some parts of the world Christians risk being killed or arrested if they are caught meeting in a group larger than 10, and sometimes even that large a group is in danger.   So how have Christians met together and grown more like Christ, and brought more people into the faith under these conditions?  I am convinced it is because they focused on three basic parts of our faith: praying together, looking at the Bible together, and sharing our personal stories.  Any 2 or 3 Christians who come together can do these things; and for us today we can do this by phone or computer, or outside with a little distance between us.  But the important thing is to include these elements in our encounters with others.  You see, the passage above doesn’t just say that we should meet together, but that we encourage one another. We need to be able to talk and listen to each other to be able to do that.  Ironically, a gathering of 15 or more people is probably too many to be able to do this well, so for this our worship services are too big.  This doesn’t mean those services are unwanted; it means that they work best if the people participating are already doing the basic three at other times.

 I have told the story a few times about the Methodist Church in Angola.  During the civil war of 1975-1991, all of the church buildings were destroyed, and almost all the pastors were killed or imprisoned.  Yet during that time, the number of members went from 12,000 to 60,000!  People continued to grow in Christ and brought others in even when it was dangerous to do so, and they did so without church buildings and with almost no official leadership.  So how did they do this?  They did what they could do:  meet together in small groups, pray together, look at the Bible together, and share their personal stories.  It was risky then, but apparently they felt it was worth the risk.
 
Here and now, there is little danger in us meeting online or over the phone, but we still have an opportunity to focus on the basics.  I pray that this will be a time for you to learn a bit more about God and about each other.  When this pandemic is past, I am convinced that our Lord intends for us not just to feel stronger in our faith, but we will be able to see that stronger faith in each of us.

 In Christ,

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The “Pet Blessing” scheduled for May 2nd has been postponed. 

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MAY BIRTHDAYS and ANNIVERSARIES
BIRTHDAYS
   3       Marilyn Hock

   5       Devin Draper

   6       Nancy Ward

   7       Eric Snoke, Jackie Williams

   9       Sid Jones

 10       Bill McBroom

 11       Shot Reid, Mark Renko

 13       Jonathan Smith

 18       John Webb

 21       Ardis Howell

 26       Jackson Bosser

 31       Quadrea Slavens


ANNIVERSARIES

    16    Kaye & John Russo, Sue & Kevin Chambers

    20    Becky & David Francis

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The Staff Parish Relations Committee would like to introduce Mary Carl who will become our new Office Manager in a few weeks.

 Mary has lived in the Amanda area for 16 years with her husband, Jeff.  They have 4 adult children and 6 grandchildren and she has been babysitting some of the grandchildren since the onset of the pandemic.  Her interests and hobbies include  watching a good documentary, reading non-fiction and poetry, gardening, and camping.

 Mary was employed at Walnut Street UMC in Chillicothe for 9½ years.  She performed office duties and trained and coordinated the office volunteers.  Also, Mary handled all business contracts and worked closely with the Trustees.  In addition to those responsibilities, she processed semi-monthly payroll and accounts payables.  She is proficient in many Microsoft Office applications.

 After many years of working in Chillicothe, Mary had a desire to be closer to home.  She feels very blessed that the Lord has given her the opportunity to be the Office Manager at Maple Street UMC.  She appreciates our             involvement with outreach ministries for the community and cited Matthew 25:35-36 as spoken by Jesus:

 “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

 Mary will be replacing Sandy Wince who will be retiring so she can spend more time with her family.  Sandy will be working with Mary as soon as they can return to the church office.  

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 In keeping with the committee's plans, a Mission Moment about UMCOR was to be presented on March 22.  However, the seriousness of the coronavirus cancelled all church services until the month of May, if the virus has passed.

At this time of uncertainty, it's even more important we join together with all United   Methodist congregations and give generously to UMCOR.

 UMCOR Sunday is one of six church wide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church.

 UMCOR is the humanitarian area of The United Methodist Church. Their work reaches people in more than 80 countries, including the United States. UMCOR provides humanitarian relief when war, conflict or natural disaster disrupts life to such an extent that communities cannot recover on their own. MCOR (Methodist Committee on Overseas Relief) was founded in 1940 by Bishop Herbert Welch in response to displaced and vulnerable populations in the wake of World War II. The Bishop stated that MCOR would serve as a" voice of conscience among Methodists to act in the relief of human suffering without distinction of race, color or creed." This remains true today. The organizations' name was legally changed to The United Methodist Committee on Relief at the 1972 General Conference.

 You can donate to UMCOR by designating this on your donation to the church.  There is also a link directly to them on the webpage.  We thank you for your donation and hope to see you in church very soon.

 (Information for this article was taken from umc.org.)

                      Kaye Russo

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Organ Repair Fundraiser Coin Banks

The coin banks were to be turned in during worship on Easter. Please continue saving and the banks will be collected when church services resume.

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The Community Kitchen has been serving breakfast and lunch on Wednesdays and  Fridays to between 20—30 people during the pandemic    shutdown.  Most of these people are homeless. 

There have been many practices put in place to safe-distance and protect everyone.  The Community Kitchen is in need of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.  Please contact Marion Sherwood  or David Donald.

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Free Store - There will be a meeting in the middle of May to decide when and how to open the store back up.  The Store is in need of volunteers.  Please contact Barb Shaw Gillotte .