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.
    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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                  Experience God’s Love as Grace
                    Let me begin this week’s message by sharing some very good news with you. Our associate minister Elizabeth Byrd has been approved for ordination as an elder in full connection in the North Georgia Annual Conference. She met earlier this week with the Board of Ordained Ministry, and they saw the gifts for ministry in her that we have seen since her first year of seminary as an intern here Peachtree Road! This is a milestone mark in Elizabeth’s life, and we celebrate with her and Philip this good news. She is set to be ordained at a worship service in June, and we will share information on how you can view the service when plans are announced. Please join me in celebrating with Elizabeth.
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                    A Light at the End of the Tunnel
                      Last Sunday’s worship service offered a welcomed return to a sense of normalcy form me in at least one way – I held a baby for the first time in over a year as I baptized him! I am sure some who were watching may have freaked out a little bit when they saw me take the child in my arms, sprinkle water on his head, and kiss him on the cheek. I haven’t done that since the pandemic began. However, the parents who brought that child to the altar are my son Will and daughter-in-law Gina, and the baby I baptized is my grandson Billy. It really felt good to hold a baby at the font again!
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                      The Endurance Journey
                        On Sunday we will bring to a close our stewardship emphasis for the month of February. You may remember that one of our goals for 2021 is to finish the year with a balanced budget. As you can imagine the pandemic has created a great deal of uncertainty for our Finance Committee as it tries to project giving for this year. So much of our planning is based on historical trends, but we find ourselves in unchartered territory these days. Some of you are hurting financially and have seen your income drop significantly in the last year. We understand and want to support you every way we can. Please feel free to reach out to me or any of the other ministers on our staff.
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                        Grow Stronger in God’s Love
                          Lent has begun, and I believe this will be a most meaningful season as we intentionally set out to remove the distractions of our lives and make time for spiritual growth in our relationship with Christ. Our theme for these forty days is “Suffer and Grow Strong.” During this season we will follow Christ’s journey to the cross and discover that not only can we live through days of suffering but we also can grow stronger. Each week, we will consider ways in which Jesus and those around him suffered and how their faith sustained them.
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                          Join Us on This Faith Journey
                            We continue to bask in the mountaintop experience of Youth Sundaylast week here at Peachtree Road. A representative group of our youth consisting of seniors and members of the Doxology Youth Choir led us well in worship. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and the eight seniors who shared faith testimonies inspired us all. A retired minister friend of mine who lives in another part of the state texted me right after the service to share this message: I chose to worship this Sunday with you at Peachtree Road and was disappointed when I saw you were not preaching. I stayed on anyway and was anything but disappointed! What a great group of youth you have!...Give them my appreciation.
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                            Celebrate the Ministry of Our Youth
                              I understand that one of the emerging trends in early 2021 is a yearning for “hybrid normalcy.” What that means is we are becoming anxious for some aspects of our lives to return to normal. We want to be able to get out and go to restaurants, movies, concerts, and sporting events with our friends and not worry about catching a deadly virus. We want to be able to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and other special occasions with family members. And we want to be able gather in person for Sunday School and worship with our fellow believers. A return to “normal.” However, we also don’t want to lose some of the conveniences we have gained during the pandemic.
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                              Love God and Love Neighbor
                              I hope you are well, and I really mean that! We are seeing a surge in new COVID-19 cases like never before, and I hope you are staying safe and healthy. We here at Peachtree Road understand how important this community of faith can be to your spiritual and mental health and are doing our best to offer ministry opportunities in ways that mitigate the spread of the virus. Please do not let your guard down in these days as we wait for as many people as possible to be vaccinated.
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                              It Will Be All of Us
                                Today we come to the close of an extraordinary week. On Monday, we commemorated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a national holiday and day of service. At historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter’s House church in Dallas, Texas offered the keynote address for the King Day festivities. He rhetorically asked, “Who will step forward to take the place of Dr. King and slay the giants of systemic racism, economic opportunity for all, homelessness, mental health struggles and anxiety, and a host of others that threaten our communities?” Then, answering his own question, he observed, “There will never be another Martin….It will not be one of us, but all of us!” And he’s right. 
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                                God Has Prepared Us
                                  Today is the beginning of the holiday weekend marking the 92nd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As we prepare to celebrate MLK Day here in the city of his birth, I have found myself wondering what Dr. King might say to us as we survey the landscape of America in the early days of 2021. In my imagination, I can almost hear him groaning in observance of the hurt, pain, and suffering of so many – especially those of color who, even a half-century after his death, are experiencing the effects of systemic racism.
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                                  A Call to Prayer
                                    I hope you are safe, healthy, and well. Let me begin this week’s note by issuing a call to prayer. The sanctuary will be open today, Friday, January 8, between 10 am and 2 pm for you to join with others in praying for peace in our land. We are living through some extraordinary days, and I would like to mobilize our congregation to pray for our country – its leaders and all its citizens.
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                                    Begin with Prayer
                                      Happy New Year! I hope this note finds you well. The past year was as difficult as any I have encountered in my 40 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.
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                                      Offer Christ’s Light
                                        I hope this note finds you well. We are less than a week from Christmas Eve and our celebration of the birth of Christ. Normally, Christmas Eve at Peachtree Road is the grandest celebration of the year. The sanctuary is filled to overflowing with worshipers at five services; the room is alive with the energy of excited children dressed as angels, shepherds, and wise men; and the music is joyful as we sing our carols and then light our candles. As you can imagine, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration will be more muted.
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                                        Bringing the Light of Christ
                                          I hope this note finds you well. I don’t know about you, but the pandemic has just about worn me out! For nine months we have been riding this healthcare roller coaster, watching the number of COVID-19 cases in our community rise and fall. Currently, the numbers are rising, and health officials fear that trend will continue throughout the holidays. So, they tell us to be diligent in wearing our masks, keeping our distance from one another, and avoiding gathering in large crowds. While we know they are right, we yearn for something else – a sense of normalcy. We long for our traditional Christmas services in the sanctuary, surrounded by fellow worshipers from throughout the city and singing our familiar carols.
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                                          Our Advent Journey Has Begun
                                            Our journey through Advent has begun and we are well on our way toward Christmas. As I mentioned in my sermon last Sunday, our celebration of the season is shaping up to be more muted this year. With the cancellation of special worship services and concerts as well as the observance of health protocols that require smaller gatherings and physical distancing, we just can’t safely do the things we have done in years past. At Peachtree Road, your safety and good health are our top priorities. Thank you for observing these important protocols.
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                                            Happy Thanksgiving! 10 Suggestions
                                              Happy Thanksgiving! I am writing you on this Thursday morning to wish you a wonderful holiday. This has been a challenging year in so many ways, but your faithful support of Peachtree Road’s ministry has made a difference. On this day of celebration, please protect your health by taking all the necessary precautions as you gather with loved ones.
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                                              Thankful for All God’s Blessings
                                                Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and I really am looking forward to worshiping with you as we celebrate Harvest Sunday here at Peachtree Road. It will be a special day as we sing, pray, welcome new members, and count our many blessings. Over the course of the next week, I hope you will take some time to make a gratitude list of things for which you are thankful from the last year. Today, in this most unprecedented time (and I’m about ready to live again in some “precedented” times!) and to prime the pump, let me share with you some things for which I am thankful. 
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                                                Hope for the Future
                                                  Did you see the news earlier this week? Pfizer announced that initial Phase 3 clinical trial results show its potential COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective, and the CDC has asked states to be ready to receive the vaccine later this month. That’s great news in the fight against the pandemic that has gripped our nation for the last 8 months, and it leads me to hope we can recover some sense of normalcy in our ministries of worship and fellowship sometime in 2021.
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                                                  Become Peacemakers
                                                    This has been an extraordinary week as we have waited for the results of Tuesday’s election. The tightness of all the races seems to demonstrate just how divided we are in this country. Regardless of when a candidate is certified the winner, now is the time for our church to look for ways to bridge the divides.
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                                                    Reflect His Light Upon Our World
                                                      After one month of offering in-person worship on a limited basis, we are very pleased with the results. Folks were able to gather safely at 11:15 am during October to enjoy the music, fellowship, and beauty of our sanctuary first-hand. No, it’s not like it used to be pre-pandemic, but it is an enriching experience.
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                                                      Politics and Peace
                                                        As you read these words, Election Day in America is less than two weeks away. Are you struggling with anxiety about the election? Are you concerned about the divisions we experience in this nation on many fronts? What are your hopes and dreams for when you wake up on November 3?
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                                                        Humble Obedience to God
                                                          I hope this note finds you well. If you have not joined us yet for our limited number in-person worship in the sanctuary at 11:15 am, I hope you will consider registering to attend a service soon.
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                                                          A Sense of Gratitude
                                                            Last Sunday was a great day at Peachtree Road as we welcomed a limited number of worshipers in the sanctuary for the 11:15 am service. I am so grateful that we are able to share the service virtually each week by livestream, but you know as well as I that there is nothing like being in the sacred space in person – the music, the beauty of the sunlight shining through the stained glass windows, and the fellowship of being with others you know and love. It was an emotional day for me.
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                                                            Listen Together to the Words of Jesus
                                                              I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to welcome folks back to in-person worship beginning this Sunday, October 4, at 11:15 am. To provide for proper physical distancing, attendance is limited to 220 in the sanctuary, and reservations are required.
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                                                              Gratitude in the Moment
                                                                At the close of worship last Sunday, I made the announcement that we are planning to make provision for in-person worship on a limited basis beginning Sunday, October 4. We have seen marked improvement in the number of new cases of COVID-19 in our community and have learned a great deal about how to mitigate the risks of being together in worship.
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                                                                Center Your Life in Christ
                                                                  Do you remember where you were 19 years ago today? I don’t think any of us will ever forget the day our world was brought to a complete stop by the attacks of that fateful morning. We remember and give thanks for the lives of those who died that day and especially for those who died trying to help others. Our world is a different place because of that day.
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                                                                  Study, Enrichment, & Support
                                                                    As one member suggested in a note to me: “I hope you are staying positive and testing negative!” I want to begin this week’s message on a sad note by letting you know of the death of Karen Greer, the wife of Ron Greer who is the director of the Pastoral Counseling Center here at Peachtree Road. Karen was an extraordinary person who served as one of our church’s ambassadors each Sunday and was blessed with a double-portion of the spiritual fruit of loving-kindness. We will miss her light. Please remember Ron and family in your prayers.
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                                                                    Grateful for Your Prayers
                                                                      I hope this note finds you safe and well. At the close of this note, I want to share several important updates from Monday evening’s Administrative Board meeting. First, I want you to know how much I am looking forward to worshiping with you on Sunday. We are bringing our series of messages entitled “Grace for Every Time of Need” to a close.
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                                                                      Connected to God’s Grace
                                                                        I hope you are well. I want to begin this week’s note by announcing the death of two of our finest members. Bob Hunter was a long-time member of Peachtree Road who served as the chair of the Administrative Board in 1977. He and his wife Barbara have been members for nearly 60 years and have been very faithful in their support of the church’s ministry. Randall Rollins also was a long-time member. He and his wife Peggy joined Peachtree Road over 40 years ago, and they have enthusiastically supported every good cause championed by this church ever since. I have no words to describe how much I will miss these two saints of the church. Please remember their families and dear friends in your prayers.
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                                                                        Into the Household of God
                                                                          I hope you are well. This has been a really good week around the church. For me it began last Sunday with the incorporation of the baptism of the daughter of Liz and JR Wright into our Sunday morning service. Though we have baptized a number of children during the days of the pandemic, this was the first in the midst of the online worship service since mid-March. I was delighted to baptize Elizabeth Holt and know that you all were there with us – affirming your faith along with the family and welcoming “Birdie” into the household of God. It just felt good…a sense of normalcy returning.
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                                                                          Respond to God’s Grace
                                                                            I hope you are well. Let me begin this week’s note by informing you of a change on our Youth staff. Grace Nadeau, one of our associate directors, has accepted a position with the Gwinnett County Public Schools as a high school Spanish teacher and will be leaving our staff. Grace grew up here at Peachtree Road, is a product our church’s youth ministry, and married her husband Zach in our sanctuary.
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                                                                            Recognize the Presence of God
                                                                              I hope this note finds you well. This Sunday, August 2, we will kick-off a new sermon series entitled “Grace For Every Time of Need.” You have heard me talk about a lesson I learned early in my ministry – there are things that we want and then there are things that we really want. For example, what we want is independence, good health, and safety and security for our loved ones. However, what we really want is God.
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                                                                              Give Fully to God
                                                                                I hope this note finds you well. Thank you for your faithfulness in so many ways. You have continued to stay connected to the ministry of Peachtree Road throughout the summer through worship, Zoom prayer groups, Bible studies, and outreach opportunities, and I am grateful for you.
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                                                                                A Gift From God
                                                                                  I hope you are doing well on this hot summer day. I want to begin this week’s note by telling you how much I miss seeing you. Each Sunday morning I step into the pulpit to preach, look into the camera on the front wall of the balcony, and imagine seeing your faces on the other side of that lens.
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                                                                                  Christ is Our Solid Rock
                                                                                    I hope you have had a good week. I know the outside temperature, the humidity, and the calendar suggest this is July; however, in many ways it just doesn’t feel like summer. My life has a certain rhythm to it. Usually, I move from through the days of Lent to a glorious celebration of Easter to special times like Confirmation Sunday, seeing my mother on Mother’s Day, and watching the parade of veterans on Freedom Sunday.
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                                                                                    God Is at Work
                                                                                      I hope this note finds you doing well. Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and I hope you will have a wonderful day with loved ones. As we come to the 244th anniversary of the founding of our nation, I want you to know that I am more hopeful than ever before about our future.
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                                                                                      Return to the Essentials of Our Faith
                                                                                        I hope this note finds you well. This Sunday is our annual Celebration of Freedom Sunday. While we will not be gathering in-person for the service, we will have the opportunity to sing patriotic hymns, hear inspirational music from our choir, and give thanks for our veterans through segments taken from last year’s celebration.
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                                                                                        Give Thanks and Rejoice
                                                                                        I hope this note finds you well. As I mentioned in the sermon last Sunday, it almost feels like we are living in the midst of a perfect storm. Three months ago, we were hit by a hurricane of a health crisis. Then, another storm appeared on the horizon and headed toward us in the form of an unprecedented economic and unemployment crisis.
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                                                                                        Adapting to Change
                                                                                          I hope this note finds you well. Earlier this week it hit me. The new decade of the 20’s is less than six months old and already we have dealt with more crises and strife than we would hope to encounter over the next 10 years! As a result, our ability to adapt to change and deal with adversity has been challenged like no time in my 39 years as a pastor.
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                                                                                          Offer Your Presence and Compassion
                                                                                          I hope this note finds you well. Let me begin with an apology to all who tuned in to watch last Sunday’s service on livestream at 11:15 am. There was a network error that caused the system to crash, and I understand viewing was impossible. I am grateful to our dedicated AV team who did record the service, and it is available in its entirety here. This is a critical time in the life of our community, and I encourage you to set aside about fifty minutes this weekend to watch the service, hear the beautiful music, join in the liturgy and prayer, and consider the message of the day. By the way, the network problem has been repaired, and we are ready for Sunday!
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