June 14, 2019

Dear Peachtree Road Family,

I hope this note finds you doing well. I am writing you from Athens where our appointed clergy and lay delegates are attending the North Georgia Conference. It has been a good week of renewing acquaintances with friends and colleagues, worshiping with United Methodists from across the state, and conducting the business of the church.

Since the beginning of the Methodist movement, delegates have come together to pray and to learn. This year we have been blessed by the teaching of the Rev. Dr. Gary Mason. He taught out of his own experience of mediating the peace process in both the Middle East and his homeland in Northern Ireland. Gary is no stranger to us here at Peachtree Road as he has been a guest teacher in Sunday School. His lectures this week were entitled “One with Each Other,” and he offered the theological and biblical foundations for peacemaking, conflict resolution, and reconciliation. I found myself reflecting upon the lessons we learned this past Lent on the journey toward racial reconciliation through our partnership with Cascade UMC and finding them reinforced in Gary’s teaching. I share with you some of his final words of advice:

  • Why forgive? Because Christ preached forgiveness
  • Only be critical of others when we have been critical about ourselves
  • Repentance precedes reconciliation
  • Reconciliation means dialogue
  • The gospel of grace can bring about reconciliation
  • Focus on hearing each other better and learning to “disagree better”

In other news from the Conference, our associate minister Geoff Beakley was commissioned as a provisional elder and Jessica Ethridge Chicken, daughter of John and Cindy Ethridge, was ordained as full connection deacon. The service was held last night in what I consider to be a high and holy occasion. Geoff and Jessica have worked so hard to get to this point and are so grateful for the support of so many of you on this journey.

Finally, I report to you that Bishop Haupert-Johnson “fixed” the appointments this week and announced officially that all of our ministerial staff is returning for another year. I look forward to another year working with our associate ministers Geoff Beakley, Elizabeth Byrd, Daniel Ogle, Carolyn Stephens, Leslie Watkins, and Julie Wright and you here at Peachtree Road. As I mentioned earlier, it has been a good week.

This Sunday, I will be preaching a message entitled “Hope Does Not Disappoint Us.” In preparation, I encourage you to read Romans 5:1-5 and reflect especially upon these words:

“…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us…”

Life certainly is full of disappointments; however, Paul wants us to know that the hope we find in our relationship with Christ never disappoints us. I look forward to thinking with you about that this Sunday.

This Sunday also is Father’s Day, and we look forward to recognizing 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 and inspirations in my life. As we worship together, we will have an opportunity to remember, give thanks, and rejoice.

Of course, next Sunday (June 23) is our annual Celebration of Freedom Sunday. This is one of the most anticipated services of the year, and once again we will be singing patriotic hymns, honoring our veterans, and praying for our nation. I will be preaching on the topic “The Soul of America,” and we will reflect upon that which is at the heart of our nation. The service will conclude with Timothy Miller leading us in singing “God Bless America.” I hope you are planning to be present and encourage you to invite someone to come with you!

Finally, on a personal note, Wendie and I are grateful to be appointed to serve with you here at Peachtree Road for a twelfth year. This is an outstanding church, and we count it a privilege to serve with such wonderful staff and laity in this community. Thank you for your support in so many ways – prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness! We are blessed.

See you Sunday!