March 8, 2019

Dear Peachtree Road Family,

I hope this note finds you well. I realize some in our congregation have been out of town the last week on spring break. We have missed you and hope to see all of you this Sunday at Peachtree Road.

As we move into the forty-day season of Lent, I am sensing a strong pull by the Holy Spirit for our church to be a community of faith that helps others move beyond the divisiveness of our world and discover peace through Christ. Some have suggested the divisions in the American church of today can be traced back to the late 19th century as Protestants wrestled with the competing concerns of personal salvation and social justice. John Wesley’s theology stands at the extreme center of the theological spectrum in that debate, and our Methodist theology has been a strength for nearly three centuries. It’s time for us to reclaim our theological place.

You have heard me say that I am staking out a centrist position in the current church divisions. What I really mean is that I am taking a strong stand for the hard work of building relationships – the authentic kind of relationships with one another Jesus modeled for us. It is the kind of relationship that is unwilling to give up on others just because you disagree with them. It is a relationship that is built on unity in the essentials of the Christian faith – love, compassion, forgiveness, and grace. It is a relationship that grants others the freedom to see things differently than you do on issues that are non-essential to salvation. And it is a relationship that lives with an attitude of charity toward others in all things. It is a hard road to travel. It is the difficult road of building a community of faith that welcomes everyone and doesn’t degenerate into the “us-them” dynamic of tribalism. It is a pursuit of peace – not the kind that is devoid of tension and conflict. Rather it is the pursuit of a peace that comes from living authentically in a covenant community with others. It is what Jesus envisioned when he taught us to pray: “…Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I think the Lenten season comes at a most welcome time. During these forty days, we have the opportunity to slow down, reflect, pray, and breathe. I encourage you to do just that. And I also encourage you to refrain from judging, criticizing, and making emotional decisions. Let’s take the time to breathe and pray and seek God’s guidance for living together. Our theme for this season is “Faithful” and I believe that as we come together each week to worship, we will sense the presence of God in a powerful way.

In addition to weekly worship, I do invite you to consider practicing several spiritual disciplines during the season of Lent:

  • Fast – I will be practicing the Wesley Fast during this season by fasting at least one day each week. My goal is to not eat solid food from supper one day until supper the next day. John Wesley advocated fasting to the early Methodists as a way of remembering our identity. Food does not sustain us. God sustains us. I certainly commend fasting to you in this season.
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  • Pray – I encourage you to set aside regular time each day for prayer. Give thanks for the blessings of life, meditate upon the scriptures, and intercede for others. I also encourage you to come to the Moore Chapel every Wednesday at noon for the Midweek Prayer Service, or pray the “Stations of the Cross” found in the hallway between the Rollins building and the sanctuary on the second floor. Allow God’s Spirit to fill you through regular prayer and meditation.
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  • Give – Once again this year’s Lenten Offering will be used to support the agencies and ministries in the Greater Atlanta area with whom we partner to make a difference in the lives of others. You are encouraged to give something up during this season (I plan to fast one day a week and give up sweets) and give the money you would have spent to this offering.
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  • Serve – In addition to “giving something up” for Lent, how about “taking something on” during this season? What if you added something to your regular week this season and intentionally looked for ways to do something for others? Certainly, one way to serve is to join your friends at Peachtree Road for the Great Day of Service. Wendie and I already have signed up, and I encourage you to do so today here.

Finally, let me remind you of some other news happening at Peachtree Road.

  • Congratulations to the Timothy Class on being awarded the first annual Parson’s Cup for the Sunday School class having the highest percentage of members pledging to the church for 2019. The next four classes in order were: Family Builders, Blazers, Friendship, and Love and Fellowship. The Parson’s Cup will be on display in the Timothy Class for the rest of this year. Congratulations!
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  • If you have not signed up for the Great Day of Service set for Saturday, March 23, go to the church website today and register. The best way we can exhibit to the world our love is by joining together in humble service to improve the lives of others in our community.
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  • Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Jr. of the Candler School of Theology will be the featured speaker at this year’s Manfred Hoffman Memorial Lecture. You are invited to attend on Sunday evening, March 24, in Grace Hall as he offers a lecture entitled “Moral Leadership for Moving Forward on Race, Justice, and Healing.” Please join us as we remember and give thanks for Manfred’s ministry in our midst. You may register for the dinner here.
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  • If you would like to give to help those affected by the tornadoes that touched down earlier this week in Alabama, please make your check payable to Peachtree Road, mark it for “Tornado Relief” or give online through the church app or website. Your giving will support the efforts of the United Methodist Committee on Relief which is on site and offering assistance. Thank you for your help.
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  • I remind you this Sunday marks the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. Be sure to set your manual clocks forward one hour before you go to bed on Saturday evening so you will be on time for Sunday School and worship the next day.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we begin to tune out the noise of the world, tune into the voice of the Lord, and breathe in the Spirit together.

Bill