The Future of the Church is Bright!
Let me begin this week’s note by encouraging you to pray for Scott Atchison, our director of music and organist. Scott’s mother Jo Atchison died last Sunday at the age of 95. A memorial service for Jo, who was known for her love of family and Georgia Tech athletics, will be held on Friday, May 6, at 11:00 am at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church. Please remember Scott and his family in your prayers.
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Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit
If we have learned nothing else in the last two years, we have learned this lesson: do not take a single day of life for granted. Last Sunday, I began the Easter message at each service with the statement: “Never take this for granted!” Was I referring to the opportunity to worship together in our beautiful sanctuary? Was I thinking about the gift of being able to lift our voices with one another to triumphantly sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!”? Was I reflecting upon the fellowship we enjoyed as some of us were seeing each other for the first time in three years?
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An All-Out Celebration of Easter!
Let me begin this week’s note by thanking all who participated in worship on Palm Sunday at Peachtree Road UMC. It was an emotional experience to see the sanctuary filled to capacity again after so long — the first time we’ve had over 1,000 people in the sanctuary for a service since December of 2019! We ran out of worship bulletins, ran out of room on the steps for all of our new members, and ran out of food at the luncheon in Grace Hall. You exceeded all our expectations! The energy you brought to the church campus made it a Palm Sunday to remember. Thank you and welcome back!
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An Invitation to a Special Day
As I write these words, we are merely hours away from Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. We have designated this as “back to church” Sunday at Peachtree Road UMC. Please accept this note as your invitation to join us in person for worship at 8:45 am, 10:00 am, or 11:15 am this Sunday. Palm Sunday always has been one of our favorite Sundays of the year here at Peachtree Road; however, the pandemic has made our celebrations the last two years more somber. Well, the celebration is back! With the children entering the sanctuary waving their palm branches, the beautiful music offered by the choirs, and, yes, our favorite donkey “Jerusalem” leading the procession at the 11:15 am service, this Palm Sunday will be extra special.
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Back-to-Church Sunday!
Sunday, April 10 (Palm Sunday) as “back-to-church” Sunday at Peachtree Road UMC. Members of our church plan to reach out to offer a personal invitation to every family to make an effort to worship with us in person that day. It will be a grand day of celebration as we gather to remember our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem and reflect upon his death on the cross. Our children are preparing to sing at the services, new members will be received into the church, and our favorite donkey “Jerusalem” will lead the procession at the 11:15 am service. Following worship, we will gather for a delicious Palm Sunday meal in Grace Hall. I hope you will make your plans to attend one of our services on Palm Sunday as some of us come back to the sanctuary for the first time in two years.
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Be True to the Faith
I am looking forward to worshiping with you this Sunday as we continue our Lenten series “Following Jesus.” We already have followed Jesus to the banks of the Jordan River where we have witnessed his baptism, into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan, and onto the mountaintop where he taught his disciples to bless the lives of others. This week we will overhear Jesus as he continues his Sermon on the Mount by teaching the disciples what it means to be authentic and to be true to the faith.
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Being Blessed
I hope you are well. As I write these words, I am preparing to return to Atlanta from the Holy Land with our group from Peachtree Road UMC. We have spent the last 10 days following in the footsteps of Jesus from his birth in Bethlehem to his baptism in the Jordan River to his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing in Galilee to his arrest, trial, and execution in Jerusalem. We even experienced a rare day of snow as we toured the Old City of Jerusalem! Yesterday we completed our journey as we worshiped together in the garden tomb and celebrated Christ’s resurrection from the dead. I look forward to being back in Atlanta this weekend and worshiping with you at Peachtree Road UMC.
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Prayers and Hope
As I write these words, I am in the Holy Land with a group from Peachtree Road following in the footsteps of Jesus. We already have worshiped in the church of the Nativity (the church built on the site on which tradition claims Jesus was born), remembered our baptism as we waded into the Jordan River, and ascended the mountain near Jericho on which many believe Jesus spent the forty days during which he was tempted by Satan.
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Work for Unity in Christ
Earlier this week we began our Lenten journey. “Journey” seems like the right word, doesn’t it? No doubt you have the sense that following Jesus is full of twists and turns, peaks and valleys. We often cannot see around the next turn; but, just as Jesus trusted in his Heavenly Father to be with him on his journey to the cross, we trust that the one who is “the way and the truth and the life” is with us on our journey through the season of Lent.
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Change and Gratitude
Let me begin this week’s note with some news about changes coming to our church staff. After over 32 years working at the church in some capacity or another, Martha Christopher has announced her retirement, effective March 31, 2022, as the Director of Children’s Ministries here at Peachtree Road UMC. She began working with The Preschool in 1989, became the church’s Associate Director of Children’s Ministries in 1992, and has served as our Director of Children’s Ministries since 1997. Just imagine the thousands of children’s lives she has impacted over the years! Words cannot adequately express my gratitude for Martha’s leadership, but we will try in the days to come as she prepares for the next chapter in her life.
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Laying a Spiritual Foundation
Last Sunday was Youth Sunday here at Peachtree Road UMC, and our students led us well in worship – their enthusiasm was contagious, and 10 of our seniors offered inspirational testimonies of how their faith has grown through their participation in this ministry.
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Seek to Follow Christ
I also hope you are planning to join us for worship this Sunday as we celebrate Youth Sunday here at Peachtree Road UMC. Our students will be leading us in worship, and several high school seniors will share reflections about their faith. I am grateful to our youth director Chris Mucha and his assistant directors Mary Allred and Ryan Holder. They, along with a host of volunteers, do an amazing job to help our middle and high school students grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. Please join us at either 8:45 am or 11:15 am in the sanctuary (or online via Livestream) as we celebrate our church’s ministry with youth. Thank you for your support.
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Sharing & Inspiration
If you were not able to worship with us last week, I encourage you to go back and view the service. Particularly, I would want you to watch the inspiring testimony offered by Jeff Upshaw (linked in full article). I very much appreciated the way he began: “I love this church. I really do. I know it’s not perfect, but I love it anyway…”
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All Are Welcome
It was good to see so many folks in person last week for worship! Though it was cold here in Atlanta, there was a warm spirit present in our worship services as we sang our hymns, joined our hearts in prayer, and allowed God’s Holy Spirit to draw us together. I found myself humming our closing hymn “Wonderful Words of Life” all Sunday afternoon and especially enjoyed welcoming new members into our congregation. We’ve made a good start to the year!
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Connect and Care
After last week’s “perfect storm” of a long holiday weekend, COVID, and a winter storm, I am looking forward to seeing folks back in worship this Sunday. It was a bit lonely in the sanctuary and chapel without you! We will continue with our series entitled What Keeps You Up at Night? Each week we are considering the stresses on our lives that rob us of restful sleep and searching the depths of our faith for inspiration that brings peace.
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Guard Your Heart and Minds in Jesus Christ
According to the health care professionals with whom I have talked, this week should mark the peak of COVID cases of the omicron variant sweeping through our city, and we could begin seeing a significant drop in reported cases beginning next week. That would be welcome news!
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Unwavering Faithfulness
Happy New Year! I hope this note finds you well. The past two years have been as difficult as any I have encountered in my 41 years as a pastor in the United Methodist Church. The challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have been great, but your faithfulness has never wavered. I am grateful for you!
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Renew Our Covenant with Christ
Let me begin this year-ending note by glancing back at 2021. Though we were limited in many ways by the two-year pandemic, there is much we accomplished here at Peachtree Road UMC. The year was dedicated to living out Christ’s admonition to “Love Your Neighbor,” and we strived to do just that:
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Thank You!
Thank you for joining us at Peachtree Road UMC for the Christmas Eve service. You honored us with your presence, and it was a joy to celebrate with you on that holy night. I don’t know if it’s the music, the reading of the Christmas story, or the lighting of the candles as we sing our carols, but this is my favorite service of the year!
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There Is Nothing Like Christmas at Peachtree Road!
Merry Christmas! As I write these words, we are just hours away from our Christmas Eve celebration! The church has been buzzing with excitement as members of the flower guild, altar guild, usher teams, hospitality volunteers, children’s choir moms, and pageant helpers all have been making their final preparations for the big day. The church is at its most beautiful, and I am grateful to all who have helped. There is nothing like Christmas at Peachtree Road UMC!
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See the Glory of the Lord
I don’t know about you, but I am becoming very hopeful about the future. Maybe it’s the season; maybe it’s the crowds I am beginning to see at our worship services (I have seen some folks this month that I haven’t seen in two years!); or maybe it’s the message of Advent – “Light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.” These days have been just what my soul has needed.
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The Light of Chris in Our Midst
It has been good to see many of you in person the last couple of weeks in worship, and I hope you are planning to join us this Sunday as we continue our series entitled “Hope Is on the Way!” This week we will light the third candle on our advent wreath as a sign of God’s love for us and will consider the question John the Baptizer sent his disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?” That’s an important question we all need answered, isn’t it? If Jesus indeed is the Messiah, then God’s kingdom has come upon the earth, and hope is blossoming everywhere. Do you see it? Are you experiencing it? Join us on Sunday as we look for the light of Christ in our midst.
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The Presence of Christ on Our Midst
Advent has begun and I hope you are experiencing the joy of this season. We made a great start last Sunday morning as we remembered that this is a time to be fully awake to the presence of Christ in our midst, and then on Sunday evening, our children led us in the Great Tree Lighting Service. It was so good to be together in the sanctuary and to celebrate this season of joy. We have begun decorating our home for Christmas, and that always includes placing a book entitled “The Little Book of Christmas Joys.” It offers 432 suggestions of things to do to make this “the best Christmas ever.”
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We Are Abundantly Blessed
Happy Thanksgiving! I am writing you on this Thursday morning to wish you a wonderful holiday and express my gratitude for your faithful support of the ministry of Peachtree Road. As was clearly evident last Sunday, we are abundantly blessed!
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Counting Our Many Blessings
As you read these words, I am returning from the overnight “Executive Sleep-Out” to benefit Covenant House of Georgia. I joined with other pastors, rabbis, and business leaders to sleep outside on the Covenant House campus last night to raise awareness and funds to support this local agency with whom our church partners to help homeless youth. This ministry seeks to provide young adults with shelter and a network of support to give them the resources they need to thrive in life. Though sleeping was difficult as the temperature dropped into the 30’s, I am keenly aware it was only for one night. For hundreds of young people in our community, that is not the case. I am thankful for this wonderful ministry and for your generous support of our efforts to help young adults who have few options in life.
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Leading Us to a Life of Joy
Earlier this week Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms shared the good news that the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations here in Atlanta have dropped significantly in recent weeks, and in response she has dropped the city-wide mask mandate. This really is good news and represents another step forward as we move toward the end of the pandemic that has gripped our world for the last 20 months. While a mask-mandate no longer exists in Atlanta, we still want to keep one another safe. Therefore, we are suggesting that masks for those who are fully vaccinated are optional. Per guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those who are not fully vaccinated and are over 2 years of age should wear masks when on the Peachtree Road UMC campus. Also, if you are not feeling well or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please refrain from attending church and plan to [...]
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Love, Gratitude, and Joy
Are you going to the parade today to celebrate the Braves winning the World Series? I am still trying to catch up on my sleep, but this run to a championship has been so much fun to watch! A great deal has been said and written about this team and how they turned their season around after August 1, but I was caught off-guard by the post-game interviews in which player after player commented about how much they love each other. I guess I’ve heard teammates say it before, but somehow this seemed different, a real thing.
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Responding to God’s Blessings
I don’t know about you, but the World Series is taking its toll on me. These late nights watching and cheering for the Braves have robbed me of sleep; but, oh my, it is fun! I love the way supporting a sports team can bring a community together. This is a wonderful time to be an Atlantan, and the next three nights with the “Fall Classic” being in our city should be exciting. Go Braves!
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Responding to God’s Blessings
Are you feeling under pressure these days? If you are, please know that you are not alone. A recent survey conducted among 1,000 Americans discovered:  
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Enduring Patiently
On Sunday we will continue our series entitled “Under Pressure” as we focus upon how to cope “When You’re Experiencing Burnout.” In my study for this week’s message, I came across an article that posed the following questions:
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Love God With All Your Heart
Sometimes we get so busy and distracted that our lives become a whirlwind of activity and the pressure builds up. Getting back to the basics oftentimes is a good first step toward relieving that pressure. I look forward to us thinking for a few minutes about the basics on Sunday, and I hope you will participate in one of our services – 8:45 am, 10:00 am, 11:15 am or 5:00 pm. I remind you that each of these is available by livestream through our church website.
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Faithful Blessings
This week we begin a new series for the month of October entitled “Under Pressure.” The stress we all are feeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is real. Many of you are facing big changes in your life. Worrying about the future and sensing you have little control can be overwhelming at times. Expectations at work may be very high. The uncertainty of it all makes it difficult to plan for the future. Many of you have lost a regular routine that has served you well for many years, including Sabbath rest and a day of worship with other faithful Christians. How are you handling your stress?
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Grateful Joy and Prayers
Let me begin on a joyous note. Our associate minister Josh Miles is getting married tonight, Friday, September 24. Many of you know his bride-to-be Emily Rivers – she was an intern for us a few summers ago when she was a student at Candler School of Theology. Josh and Emily will exchange their marriage vows this evening in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I wanted you to know so you could offer a prayer for them today. Congratulations, Josh and Emily!
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Children of God
Last Saturday, September 11, we held a prayer service in the Moore Chapel to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of 9/11. We sang, prayed, and reflected upon the promises of God during that service. I left the chapel with the prayer of St. Francis in my heart:
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Offering Grace, Peace, and Purpose
The last two years have been some of the most challenging many of us have ever experienced – a health pandemic that continues to circle the globe, an economic crisis that has brought into question the viability of many businesses, and social unrest that is tearing at the very fabric of our communities. It feels like a perfect storm has rocked our world. Yet, over the years my faith in Christ has taught me that God often does some of His best work in times such as these. When people are fearful about the present, anxious about the future, or sense that they are alone, God shows up and offers grace and peace and purpose. I believe this is one of those times. Please be open to the presence of God – stretching your faith, shaping your future, and granting you peace.
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Do Good and Love Others
Earlier this week our Administrative Board met, and we were privileged to have Peachtree Road member Carissa Holmes who is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention speak with us about the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s face it. We have heard so much conflicting information that it’s difficult to know what to believe. Carissa, while not speaking for the CDC, offered good information and helpful suggestions for managing these challenging days, and I want to share some of what we learned with you today.
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Heart and Life
Last Sunday was a good day as we promoted elementary children to the next grade of Sunday School, welcomed sixth graders to the Confirmation Class in the Harp Student Center, and celebrated the return of several adult Sunday School classes to campus here at Peachtree Road. In addition, we experienced an inspiring time of worship, heard heavenly music from our choir, and enjoyed fellowship around the tables in Grace Hall at a barbeque luncheon. I am grateful for those who wore masks and observed physical distancing throughout the day, and our gathering seemed to represent a small step toward a more normal routine. I hope you are finding ways to stay healthy in the midst of this most recent spike in the number of COVID-19 cases and are keeping those dear to you safe as well. Together, and with God’s help, we will get through this time!
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Comfort, Promises and Common Faith
I don’t know about you, but I need to be in church Sunday. I need to draw near to God in worship and hear words of comfort from the scriptures. I need to sing hymns that remind me of the promises of God who never leaves us or forsakes us. I need to be in prayer with others who share our common faith in God who works in the midst of life’s tragedies to bring healing and restoration. On Sunday, I need to be in worship!
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Assurance and Celebration!
On Sunday, our associate minister Elizabeth Byrd will be preaching as we continue with the third message in our series entitled “Methodists Believe in Assurance…” John Wesley taught that assurance is a gift from the Holy Spirit that leads us to “know that we know that we know” that we are the children of God. Not only will assurance be the subject of Elizabeth’s sermon, but it also will be the thread that runs through our singing and praying on Sunday. I hope you will make your plans to participate in worship either in person in the sanctuary at 8:30 am or 11:15 am or online at 11:15 am.
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Tranformative Community
As you read these words, I am on my way to Petoskey, Michigan to preach at the Bay View Association, a Methodist campground in northern Michigan. I will preach on Sunday, lecture Monday through Thursday, and have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of summer in in that part of the world throughout the week. Please pray for me as I pray for you in these days.
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The Healing Power of Kindness
Sunday promises to be another good day in worship here at Peachtree Road as we bring our “Summer in the City” services to a close. Our theme for the month of July has been “At the Movies,” and each week we have considered the biblical themes found in some of our favorite films. I don’t know about you, but I have found this to be a fun series. We have reflected upon the eternal battle between good and evil in “Independence Day,” the power of hope in “The Shawshank Redemption,” and the beauty of unity in the midst of diversity in “Remember the Titans.” (Our new associate minister Josh Miles preached last Sunday and did a marvelous job of inspiring us.
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Offer a Warm and Gracious Welcome
Sunday promises to be another good day in worship here at Peachtree Road as we continue our “Summer in the City” services. Our theme for this month is “At the Movies,” and each week we are considering the biblical themes found in some of our favorite films. “Independence Day” reminded us of the eternal battle between good and evil, and “The Shawshank Redemption” left us with the memorable line: “Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
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Celebrate God’s Redeeming Work
On Sunday, July 11, we will publicly introduce our new associate minister Josh Miles and welcome him to Peachtree Road. Josh arrived ready for work on Tuesday morning and is beginning to find his way around our church campus and meeting people. He is an outstanding young man. (I have known him and his family for nearly 25 years!) One of the first traits you will see in Josh is his passion for Christ, and I want to warn yo
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A Wonderful Celebration
Let me begin by thanking all who helped make Freedom Sunday a grand celebration. It was wonderful to see so many folks in church as we sang patriotic hymns, honored our veterans, and offered prayers for our nation. The music was especially moving as we welcomed folks back to the choir, and I noticed more than a few tears as Timothy Miller led us in singing “God Bless America.”
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The Importance of Our Spiritual Community
This Sunday is our annual Celebration of Freedom service. Once again we will be singing patriotic hymns, hearing inspirational music from our choir (welcome back!), and honoring our veterans. For many, that moment in the service when the veterans march down the aisle to the expressed appreciation of our congregation is one of the highlights of the year at Peachtree Road. Almost none of our marching veterans are from World War II (even the youngest of them would be 95 years old), and that makes my heart sad.
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Worship Together, Remember, and Give Thanks
For the last three weeks, we have been considering the story of Noah and discovering lessons for life in a post-pandemic world. Two weeks ago, we observed that Noah and his family immediately built an altar and worshiped God upon leaving the ark. When your life has been disrupted in a major way, worshiping God is the first step toward reorienting your life and spiritual growth. Last week we heard God’s command to Noah and his family to “be fruitful and multiply.”
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Living Intentionally Fruitful Lives
Let me begin this week’s message by sharing the good news that our associate minister Carolyn Stephens is getting married this evening (Friday, June 11)! She and Anthony Drummer are preparing to say their vows to one another, and we are pleased for them. I especially am excited about welcoming Anthony to the Peachtree Road family and invite you to pray for God’s blessings to be upon them as they begin a new life together as husband and wife.
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Our Faith Can Lead Us
Many of you now are beginning a summer routine, and, after the last fifteen months, you deserve a time to relax and recharge. The question with which many of us wrestle now that the pandemic is receding is, “How are you handling your re-entry anxiety?” I recently read an article by Elizabeth Bernstein in which she suggests the goal in re-entry is to intentionally plan for life to be “better” after the pandemic – not just focused upon surviving, but thriving.
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Move Forward with Intentionality
Today marks the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, and I hope you are well. In keeping with the reason for this holiday, during Sunday’s worship services, we will pause to remember those who have given their lives in service to our country by placing a wreath at the altar in their memory. I remind you that, if you have been fully vaccinated, masks are optional. We continue to offer two worship services in the sanctuary (8:30 am and 11:15 am) in addition to the online service at 11:15 am.
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