June 10, 2022
Dear Peachtree Road Family,
I hope you are well. I want to begin this week’s note by offering a quick word about events occurring in our denomination. As a result of misreporting by the secular media, some of you may have gotten the impression that there has been a change in our United Methodist Book of Discipline regarding church teaching on human sexuality. That is not the case. Only the General Conference can make such changes, and the next General Conference is not scheduled until 2024.
The media is trying to make sense out of the fact that 70 churches here in North Georgia disaffiliated from the United Methodist Church last week. It is important to note that over 90% of these are small membership churches with part-time pastors. The media assumes there must have been some major change that brought about this reaction. The reality is these churches left for a variety of reasons. While I respect the decision they have made, I do not agree with their action to disaffiliate. Let me remind you of something I wrote in this space last month:
…this should be a time to come together at the center, engage others who think differently, reason with one another, and work toward becoming the fruitful church we are called to be. Christ prayed that the church might be one just as the Father and Son are one. I believe we should strive to live into that prayer.
Certainly, I also believe this is a time for reform in the church and am hoping the General Conference scheduled for 2024 will make the changes needed. I learned a long time ago that the Holy Spirit is like electricity. In order for the Spirit to flow efficiently in us and through us, there needs to be maximum contact and minimum resistance. I am praying every day for the Holy Spirit to stir up a revival within the people called United Methodists that we might exude holiness of heart and life. In the meantime, please join me in being faithful to Christ’s command to love one another, and do not get distracted.
God is at work in our midst and good things are happening. We just need the eyes to see Him, and ears to hear His voice speaking to us. I want to invite you to join me in daily prayer and weekly fasting for the rest of this year as we strive to be more like Christ. Pray for our church (its leaders and ministry each day) and select one day a week on which to fast from food (John Wesley advocated fasting from sundown on Thursday evening until 3:00 pm on Friday) in order to make more room for the Holy Spirit in your life. The verse I cling to in my prayer life sustains me: “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be to all people!’” – Luke 2:10
Speaking of good news, Rev. Carolyn Stephens is set to be the pastor-in-charge of St. Mark UMC here in Atlanta at the end of this month. She will be a great leader for that congregation, and I am excited that she will continue to be our partner in the work of offering Christ to folks here in the city of Atlanta. This Sunday, June 12, will be Carolyn’s last day as our associate minister, and I have invited her to preach at all morning services – 8:45 am, 10:00 am, and 11:15 am. I am so grateful for the leadership Carolyn has brought to Peachtree Road UMC the last 5 years, and we have been blessed by her presence in our midst. I hope you will be present on Sunday as we express our gratitude as a congregation and send her and her husband Anthony off with our blessing. A reception will be held in their honor in Grace Hall at 12:15 pm. Please join us in person or online at www.prumc.org.
In other good news, you may have heard that our church has helped to create the “Welcome Home” House for returning citizens here in Atlanta. Members of Peachtree Road UMC came up with a “big idea” to build a safe home for women who are returning to society from prison and found excellent partners in Habitat for Humanity and City of Refuge to make it happen. Jesus is smiling!
Each Sunday in June is a special Sunday here at Peachtree Road. Last week we celebrated the 97th Anniversary of the founding of the church on Founder’s Day, and this week we will honor Carolyn Stephens. Please note that the following Sundays will be special as well:
- 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.” (If you would like to join the volunteer choir for that day, a one-time rehearsal is being held Wednesday evening June 22. 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!
Opportunities to Enrich Your Life:
- Reimagining Life: Fallout from COVID-19 – this event, hosted by the One Lamb Mental Wellness Initiative, is set for 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.
- The Elizabeth B. Stephens International Organ Competition Finalists Recitals – Friday, June 17, in the sanctuary. This competition is bringing 6 gifted organists from around the world to play our sanctuary’s grand Mander organ. These young organists are joining us from South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Poland, and Italy. The recitals will be performed Friday at 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 6:00 pm, 7:00 pm, and 8:00 pm. The announcement of the winners and a reception will talk place at the church later that evening, and we hope that you will join us in person or by Livestream for this inaugural competition.
- Journeys of Paul Cruise – Jamie Jenkins and I will lead a group to visit many of the sites the Apostle Paul visited on his missionary journeys: Athens, Corinth, Philippi, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and others. The trip is set for October 23-31, 2023, and the unique feature of this cruise is that it will be a “United Methodist only” trip. We are joining with Adam Hamilton and members of Church of the Resurrection UMC in Kansas City, Davis Chappell and folks from Brentwood UMC in Nashville, Bishop Bill McAlilly and members of the Tennessee Annual Conference to sail on a chartered Azamara small ship to explore the life and journeys of Paul. Please add your name to the list to receive more information as it becomes available by clicking here.
- Hospitality Ministry – as I mentioned two weeks ago in worship, one of our goals as we approach the fall is to ramp up our ministry of hospitality. We want to invite our neighbors to join us for worship and to welcome them with the warmth we all have experienced here at Peachtree Road UMC. As we look to enhance our ministry of hospitality, we want to add parking lot greeters and pew greeters to our teams of ushers and ambassadors. If you are interested in volunteering once a month to be a greeter, usher, ambassador or join one of our worship guilds and help us welcome folks to our campus on Sundays, please respond here.
Finally, let me offer a word of appreciation for your generous giving. We remain ahead in our projected giving for the year, and I commend you for your faithfulness. The ministries of the church could not go forward without your financial support. As you can imagine, inflation is wreaking havoc with our budgeted expenses, and we have seen rising costs in energy and security as well as everyday supplies. Our best hope is to outgive the inflation! Thank you for your generosity and faithful giving. It makes a difference!
I am grateful for all you do to help our church be a beacon of light to the community. If you would like to talk with me about any concerns you may have, please do not hesitate to call me.
Grace and peace,