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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                    The Coming of the Holy Spirit
                      Last Thursday, the CDC released updated guidelines for fully-vaccinated people which no longer require masks. This caught us off-guard here at the church as we had just relaxed some of our protocols by dropping the requirements to make a reservation for worship or having a temperature check upon entering the building. Our intent has been to open our campus as safely as possible by gradually relaxing guidelines as the CDC and State allow. However, as I told the staff on Tuesday morning, I feel like I’ve got one foot in the air and am not sure where to come down with the other!
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                      Give Thanks to God
                        I want to begin this week’s note with a reminder that the memorial service for our Senior Minister Emeritus Don Harp is tomorrow, May 15, at 11:00 am in the sanctuary. The story of Peachtree Road UMC cannot be told without the acknowledgment that Don’s twenty-years as the Senior Minister are the most consequential in the church’s history. Through his inspirational leadership, he set this great church on a solid foundation, and its outreach is felt not only here in Atlanta but around the world. Tomorrow we will gather to celebrate his life and give thanks to God for sending him our way. The service will be livestreamed through the church website.
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                        Worship, Grow, Serve & Share
                          Over the course of the last 14 months, we have done our best to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and guard one another’s health. Now, with so many of our folks having been fully vaccinated and hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus in steep decline, we are gradually beginning to re-open our campus. Beginning this Sunday, May 9, we are following some new protocols: 
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                          Growing in Faith
                            I want to begin this week’s note by letting you know that last week we were pleased to welcome this year’s Confirmation Class. It happened during a special service at 10:00 am in the sanctuary at which we hosted these sixth graders and their families for a meaningful time of worship. Nearly 70 students made a profession of faith in Christ and joined the church, and it was so wonderful to have them together at one time. They especially are to be commended because the entire class was conducted virtually. For nine months, they met every Sunday morning, participated in break-out groups through Zoom, and grew in their faith. I am so grateful to Chris Mucha, his associate youth directors, and the lay leadership team that led this effort. The future of the church is bright!
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                            Faith, Hope, and Love
                              Our hearts are heavy this week as we grieve the death of Don Harp, our Senior Minister Emeritus. Don was appointed to Peachtree Road in 1988, fell in love with the people of this community, and caught a vision of what this church could become. Through his tireless work and larger-than-life personality, he strived to make that vision a reality. Today, every facet of this great church’s ministry bears the mark of his faith, hope, and love. A graveside service is set for this Sunday, April 25, in Inman, Georgia, and we will celebrate his life here at Peachtree Road with a memorial service on Saturday, May 15, at 11:00 am. Please remember Mary Ellen, Robin, Allen, and their family in your prayers in the coming days.
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                              What We Do Here Makes a Difference
                                I really am looking forward to Sunday as we continue our celebration of Easter. This week we will be considering a strange post-Easter story from Luke’s Gospel in which Jesus proves that he is not a ghost by eating some leftover broiled fish from a meal prepared for the disciples (Luke 24:36-43). Do you ever find yourself wondering if Easter is real? Do you find yourself wondering if it’s just a metaphor for new beginnings or a legend meant to inspire us to live our best? Well, there is nothing more essential to the Christian faith than our belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Each Sunday, when we affirm our faith by reciting the Apostles’ Creed, when proclaim:
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                                The Blessings We Enjoy
                                  If we have learned nothing else in the last year, we have learned this lesson: do not take a single day of life for granted. Last Sunday, I made that observation at the close of our Easter worship services. 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 many of us saw each other for the first time in a year (at least the part that wasn’t covered by a mask)? Well, as you can imagine, all of those things and more were on my mind. I hope we will not take the blessings we enjoy at Peachtree Road, in the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and in this great [...]
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                                  The Message of Hope That the Resurrection Brings
                                    As we come to the close of Holy Week, I still am reflecting upon last Sunday’s image of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Was it a parade or a funeral procession or a protest march? Was it a time to celebrate or mourn or get mad and demand change? As we concluded last Sunday, the answer largely depends upon the individual’s perspective. However, the message of Palm Sunday is that, regardless of how you view your circumstances, God is about to act in a decisive way that will change everything.
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                                    Our Lives Are Often a Mix
                                      As I write these words, we are merely hours away from the beginning of Holy Week. This Sunday has two names (Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday) and two moods – joyous as we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem and somber as we commemorate his suffering and death upon the cross. And I am okay with that because you and I know that our lives often are a mix of different moods. For example, last year we found ourselves celebrating the gift of time with family members as we “sheltered in place.” At the same time, we groaned with the psalmist and wondered, “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13:1) as we dealt with the uncertainty of the pandemic, the anxiety of an economic crisis, and the ugliness of racism. Even now, as we optimistically look forward to the return of a more normal routine, we have witnessed two mass shootings [...]
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