May 27, 2022
Dear Peachtree Road Family,
I hope you are well. This has been a very difficult week. On Tuesday our nation was rocked by the news of another tragic shooting, this time at an elementary school in Texas. We have learned that nineteen children and two teachers were killed after a gunman barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom in Uvalde, Texas. I cannot imagine the depth of the grief the families of the victims are experiencing. Closer to home, I learned later Tuesday afternoon that one of the teenagers our church helps through our Agape ministry committed suicide. We have reached out to the families of that community and are supporting them as they wrestle with unanswerable questions.
There are many who desperately are calling for action in the wake of these tragedies. Some are demanding that Congress act in a bipartisan way and write gun safety laws that make sense for all Americans. I could support that. Others are suggesting that we beef up the security at our schools to make them safe zones for children and teachers. Our nation did pivot very quickly after 9/11 and made our airports safer. And, here at the church, the fastest growing portion of our operating budget is for security. So, I certainly am in favor of investing to make our school campuses safer. Still, others point to these mass shootings as symptomatic of a mental health crisis. The profile of the shooter from earlier this week is depressingly familiar: a teenage loner with a disruptive family life, bullied as a child because of a speech impediment, and immersed in video games and other virtual reality. What would it take to identify and help young men (it always seems to be young men) who are struggling socially and mentally before they snap? Maybe a nationwide mental health education campaign would help. The reality is that the problem is complex, and our nation is deeply divided on how to solve it. Progress remains elusive.
On Wednesday we held a prayer service at noon in the Moore Chapel. We sang hymns, reflected upon the scriptures, prayed for those who are grieving, and considered ways our church can be a light in these dark days. And maybe God is calling us to encourage our leaders to do all the above – work to change laws to make sure guns are handled responsibly, invest in school security to make them safer, and offer the mental and spiritual guidance folks need to live healthy lives. Do you have other ideas? I would love to hear them.
When I pray, I hear the voice of the Lord reminding me, “Do not be afraid. I am with you. I will bless your efforts as you care for my children.” I hope you will join us here at Peachtree Road UMC as we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking for the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon us and enable us (in the words of our baptismal covenant) to “accept the freedom and power that God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they may present themselves.” This is the ministry to which we have been called, so let us be about it!
Speaking of accepting freedom and power, on Sunday, May 29, our associate minister Josh Miles will be preaching at all three services (8:45 am, 10:00 am, and 11:15 am) on the topic “Clothed in God’s Power.” In preparation for the message, please read Luke 24:44-53, the story of Jesus’ ascension and promise of “power from on high” for his disciples.
Also, in keeping with this Memorial Day weekend, during Sunday’s worship services, our congregation 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. If you are worshiping online this week, please know that we will be celebrating the Sacrament of Holy Communion, so you will want to prepare bread and wine at home prior to the beginning of the service. Please join us for worship at Peachtree Road UMC this Sunday.
Let me call to your attention special celebrations set for the month of June:
- Founder’s Day (June 5) — On June 7, 1925, the first public worship service of Peachtree Road Methodist Church was held in a partially completed chapel. From those humble beginnings our church has grown to become one of the largest in Methodism with an influence felt around the world. I hope you will make your plans to participate in the celebration of Peachtree Road UMC’s 97th birthday.
- Reception for Rev. Carolyn Stephens (June 12) – Our associate minister Carolyn Stephens has been appointed to be the senior minister of St. Mark UMC here in Atlanta, and June 12 will be her last Sunday with us. I have invited her to preach at the three morning services that day, and a reception will follow at 12:15 am in Grace Hall. Please join us as we send Carolyn off with a blessing.
- Father’s Day (June 19) — As we have done in recent years, we will recognize the oldest father present and the newest father present at each service. I have been thinking about the “good men” in my life (my dad, pastors, coaches, and teachers) who have been influential in my life. As we worship together, you will have an opportunity to remember and give thanks.
- Celebration of Freedom (June 26) – In a return to tradition, we will sing patriotic hymns, honor our veterans, pray for our nation and world, and give thanks for God’s many blessings. And Timothy Miller will be with us to sing “God Bless America.” To cap off the morning’s celebration, we will join together for a picnic featuring fried chicken and all the fixings in Grace Hall. This is a Sunday you will not want to miss!
Finally, let me make you aware of an upcoming event being hosted by the One Lamb Mental Wellness Initiative:
- Reimagining Life: Fallout from COVID-19 – Wednesday, June 15, 11:00 am until 2:00 pm, in the Harp Student Center. Has the pandemic left you feeling empty or grieving the loss of a sense of meaning? Rev. Dr. Susan Anne Bennett will facilitate this interactive conversation about how you can reclaim your losses, gain emotional wellness, and develop a healthy spirituality from the pandemic experience. Lunch will be provided. You may register at email@example.com.
Thank you for your support of Peachtree Road UMC. I am grateful for all you do to help our church be a beacon of light to the community.
Grace and peace,