CONNECTION

 
Hold Her Hand

July 2018 Connection

Hold Her Hand
Ponderings On Annual Conference and Beyond
We have recently returned from the Annual Conference that was held in Traverse City, Michigan. Special thanks to Tom and Carol Cerny and Susie Hagenstein for being our Lay Members to this Conference, soon to become the Michigan Annual Conference in January of 2019.
 
The work of the Annual Conference includes numerous worship services, legislative sessions, plenary sessions, conference reports from different boards and agencies, and the reading of appointments of clergy to churches and ministries beyond the local church. The conference also votes on resolutions that cause lively debate as voices on both sides need an opportunity to be heard. It also involves a memorial time of remembering the names of those who have joined the church triumphant and retirement celebrations. Our very own Pat England and his wife Lisa were honored this year as they head off to retirement in Holland, MI. Reverend Laurie and I had a chance to chat with them both about their upcoming plans.
 
I was honored to share my experience at one of the legislative sessions that addressed funding grants for churches that are intentional in creating a plan for growth and outreach in their community. Susie and our District Superintendent, John Hice, were also in attendance at this same legislative session.
 
Recently, both clergy and laity of our denomination from annual conferences across the country have boldly made their concerns known about the current government policy and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ quoting of scripture to justify the treatment of separating children from their parents. The following is the statement made by United Methodist laity and clergy. I am quoting from the official United Methodist website:
 
“As his denomination, we have an ethical obligation to speak boldly when one of our members is engaged in causing significant harm in matters contrary to the Discipline on the global stage.” 
“More than 600 United Methodist clergy and laity say they are bringing church law charges against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a fellow United Methodist, over a zero tolerance U.S. immigration policy — a policy that includes separating children from parents apprehended for crossing into the U.S. illegally.”
 
The group claimed in a June 18 statement that Sessions, a member of a Mobile, Alabama, church, violated Paragraph 2702.3 of the denomination’s Book of Discipline.
 
Specifically, the group accuses him of child abuse in reference to separating young children from their parents and holding them in mass incarceration facilities; immorality; racial discrimination and “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines of The United Methodist Church.”
If you remember my sermon on June 17th, I referred to the Bible passage that Jeff Sessions used, Roman’s 13, “to obey the laws of the government.” It was taken from Roman’s and used by the Romans of Jesus’ time to attempt to enact the unjust laws of the land going against the morality of Jesus teachings. Let’s be careful not to proof text and quote scripture out of context for our own purposes.
 

We will see how this action by the United Methodist’s unfolds on the national stage. But please remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 19:14, “let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” It has been proven over a long period of time that children forcibly removed from their parents experience long lasting trauma. I reference you to history: the holocaust Children, the Native Indian Children, and the African American Children. The Consequences are deeply negative and life altering. Children must not be used as political pawns by adults in any context! Lord help us all!

Faithfully Yours, 

 
Rev. Julius E. Del Pino, PhD, 
 
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spiritual renewal 06-2018

June 2018 Connection

spiritual renewal 06-2018
Flowers are beginning to bloom. . .
 
Can you believe that the summer months are upon us? Warm weather has returned to stay for a while, or at least we hope so!
 
During the month of May I had the opportunity to take a week of spiritual renewal. Reverend Laurie, the Google master, found a place call The Colombiere Conference Retreat Center in Clarkson, Michigan. I spent several inspiring days in prayer, meditation, and worship. The uniqueness of this experience was that I was able to spend this sacred time with Jesuit priests. We discussed theology, the state of the Church and how God is still calling us to stand up for the oppressed and to care for our children. It was a delightful time of centering and listening to God’s gentle voice speak to me once more.
 
I learned that the Colombiere Center is one of the best kept secrets in Michigan! It is named after Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit scholar, teacher, and spiritual director who lived in France from 1641 to 1682. What you will find interesting is that from the very beginning, the Jesuit infirmary for sick and retired priests and brothers has been located in this very location. The Jesuits have been actively involved in the successful operation of Colombiere Retreat Center.
 
The Center, while Catholic in origin, extends it services and hospitality to other traditions and non-profit groups.
I hope that as we begin planning ahead, we will consider having church retreats at this beautiful location that offers many amenities and comforts. I can envision having a future confirmand retreat at this center, which is
only fourteen miles down the road off of I-75.
 
Bless you all as we move into the summer months. Let’s embrace new life and new opportunities as nature’s gardens and blooming flowers reach out for the sun to welcome new growth after a long, dormant winter season. Let us also remember how good God is in all seasons!
 
Blessings,
 
Julius Del Pino
 
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may 2018 cross

May 2018 Connection

may 2018 cross
A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM REV. RAHN
One of the gifts from having been hospitalized and then home after about seven weeks is that it answers the question I have asked all my working career: “what would I do if I had a week off?” Of course the other half of the bargain was that I was to be in perfect health, which wasn’t to be. So I received half of my wish. I have lots of time right now, but a lot less energy. So every day is a new beginning, a greater awareness of our need for help from each other, and our vulnerability even when we feel strong and self-reliant. Living by grace. I was in church providing the pastoral prayer (yes, once a pastor always a pastor) the Sunday prior to my surgery, and actually worked that Monday. Who would know?
 
At this point I want to thank everyone for your prayers and the actions that followed, the visits from you while in the hospital, as well as all the wonderful cards and notes. As the days rolled into weeks I enjoyed the visits each of you made, and the prayers that were offered. My wife Nan and our four adult children suddenly became my caretakers. I was reminded again of Reuel Howe’s observation that the divine story “was told to us by being incarnate in the life of another human person, Jesus of Nazareth, and it can be made known in our generation only by being incarnate in us.” The incarnation, the Easter message, came alive with your presence while I have been recovering. Health care staff members whether in the hospital or coming now to our home, have always used spiritual language in sharing their work experience. Blessings we have received from your visits and continued cards and messages have been uplifting. And your prayers, whether in public or in the privacy of your hearts, have been felt and helped restore my strength.
 
The month of May brings us the season of Pentecost, celebrated the seventh Sunday after Easter. As we prepare for this season of personal faith I encourage us to study Acts 2:1-21. The disciples are now without the presence of their Savior, and are seeking direction in their faith. The Christian community had been restricted to those in the Jewish tradition until this moment in history. Peter stood up among the 120 or followers of Christ (Acts 1:15) who were present and reminded them of their tradition of the Messianic Age, reciting from Psalm 16 and the prophet Joel: “Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” It was clear that the Gospel was not just for the Christian community, but for all languages and nations, all people regardless of their position in life or nationality. Please take some time to meditate on the Scripture. I am sure that our pastor, Dr Julius, will touch on this as well, but be prepared for Sunday, May 20, 2018!
     
Nan has been in a spiritual care group, and they have been reading James Bryan Smith’s book, The Good and Beautiful God. A wonderful book to help us focus on what is important. He encourages us to create more “margins” in our lives. He quotes Dr Richard Swenson, in his book Margin, who says that we need space in our lives for “leisure and rest and family and God and health.” The pages of this newsletter have margins and even spaces, blank areas where we can rest our eyes and our minds, perhaps write a note or pen a sketch. But in our own lives we leave so little for margins that we are moving breathlessly, with great effort to get through each day. We fill up our lives with so many things that we don’t have space for those persons and events that are critical to our wellbeing.
     
Well now, I have lots of margins in my life for a change. More time to think about important things, like how blessed I am with my family, our church family, work friends who still send me cards, people in the hospital and now at home who care for me.
I know that I have time to appreciate people like you who are reading this newsletter. Some day in the not too distant future I hope to see you in church so that I can thank you personally. In the meantime I will continue to celebrate the grace of God that abides with us through all things.
 
Rev. David Rahn
 
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confirmands 2018

April 2018 Connection

confirmands 2018
BLESSING IN ABUNDANCE
 
For the past four weeks, our 2018 Confirmation class of twelve has been meeting every Tuesday night. This past Tuesday was the last time we will meet as a group. Each week, we started at six o’clock with a delicious dinner provided by team leaders. Then, we gathered in the church library for reflection, study, and learning.
 
We were blessed beyond measure with the following:
 
        * Adult Team leaders provided a loving and welcoming atmosphere. They also participated by
developing the lessons for each week and in leading those discussions with joy and purpose.
 
        * The parents of each youth supported their children in this important step to becoming full members
of this church by providing their children transportation to and from each session. I can still hear their laughter as parents greeted their children in the hallway after each session.
 
        * The office staff was always available to assist the Adult Team leaders and your pastor in being
prepared to lead each Tuesday evening.
 
As a result, we will be blessed with twelve intelligent, creative, articulate, faithful, and dedicated youth who will say their vows and be received into full membership on Sunday, April 22 at the eleven o’clock service. In addition, four of our confirmands will be baptized.  
 
I can sense and feel that Spring is approaching because we, as a congregation, can now rejoice in the new life and hope that these twelve confirmands bring to GBUMC and to the world. The flowers will begin to bud and our days and nights will be warmer, reminding us that with every change in season comes the anticipation of new blessings in abundance.
 
Faithfully,
Julius E. Del Pino, Pastor
 
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passion 2018

March 2018 Connection

passion 2018
LENT AND EASTER : 2018
 
The Lenten journey is a season that invites us to speak to God and to receive the Easter experience into our
lives. As we prepare to make that journey in 2018, I would remind us of what happened at that first Easter. Because of Easter, Jesus Christ is alive in the world, present in every heart, ready to transform lives, and opens the gates of eternity; that is the foundation and conviction of the Christian faith. To be sure, without the resurrection of Christ there would be no Christian church. 
 
The longer I live with the Easter narratives, the more I believe they become blurred by the very brightness of that experience of the living Lord. My faith tells me the countless ways that there was not the slightest doubt, in those early Christians, about the central truth they lived and proclaimed. Death could not defeat Jesus. The greed and political mockery could not destroy his faith. Hate could not break him. Christ lives! Scholars and
preachers alike agree to a miraculous event following the crucifixion that radically changed the lives of the disciples.
 
My own belief is rather simple. I believe that something happened that changed the disciples from cowards into young men of grace, power, and faith. How did they change? They changed through their encounter with the living Christ.
 
The religious scene has changed over the years. I am amazed by the increasing number of Christians who claim to have all the answers to perplexing questions of our time. To offer neat, shallow, pat answers to the
ultimate mystery of religion is not faith at all, but an affront to all that is sacred and holy.
 
I do not have all the answers to what happened inside the tomb on that Easter morning. I don’t think anyone else does either. If you have to know every single detail and have all the facts about the tomb and the dead Jesus, and what eternity is like in minute detail….with complete accuracy, then you are encouraged by this pastor to return to those passages that detail this amazing story for new insights and learning.  Easter is not about what happened to the corpse of Jesus in a tomb, but what happened in the life of Paul and the other disciples and apostles afterwards, and what can still happen in you and in me because Christ lives. Easter is not magic but miraculous, not chemistry, but mystery.
 
As we take that journey to the cross, may we come to truly believe that Easter happens in us when we believe that the future is still open. The resurrection is God’s stand against despair, greed, dishonesty, and helplessness – the resurrection says God’s tomorrow is not confined to yesterday’s tragedy, but is open, free, moving and alive.
 
Please believe me. The Easter experience is filled with profound mystery as well as with deep commitment to the reality of Christ’s miraculous resurrection. Believe it! Celebrate it! Live it! Come to church during Lent so that you can genuinely celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday morning.
 
Yours in Christ love,
 
Julius E. Del Pino
 
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vision tiles 2018

February 2018 Connection

vision tiles 2018
Next Steps for Church Revitalization
 
First, I wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year.  I am so thankful to be able to lead you in this new year as we become more faithful in our discipleship walk.  God has blessed us beyond measure, and I believe new and abundant blessings will be showered on us in 2018. By now many of you have read or heard about our meeting in homes to hear from you what your hopes and dreams are for your church. Questions for discussion will include, but not limited to the following: Why do we need Christ?  Why do we need the Church?  Why do we need this church, GBUMC, in particular?  Your answers will help us form a vision statement that will be a light for the future.  Please make every effort to attend one of these zone home gatherings. What you believe is the driving force behind the ultimate vision. 
 
The purpose of the Vision Workshop is to create a vision statement unique to GBUMC.  Once crafted, the vision statement will function as the basis of all decision-making and ministry assessment for this congregation. While at the workshop, participants will be encouraged to do the following:
    1. Pray and Listen to God about the future
    2. Dream together about what God wants this congregation to be in our community
    3. Develop the seeds of God’s vision for the church’s future
    4. Learn to understand the difference between mission and vision
    5. Identify church values
    6. Become familiar with life cycle of a congregation
 
The church leadership and your pastor are encouraging every person to please be a part of sculpting your church’s vision by attending these events on Saturday, February 24 and Saturday, March 24th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. Patty Dennis, who trained at the Lombard Institute and has been mentored by Naomi Garcia, will lead us.  Please be prayerful from now up until the workshop times as we prepare to be involved in this visioning process.  Your spoken dreams and hopes are needed as we are lead by the Spirit to transform peoples lives. 
Faithfully and lovingly,
 
Your Pastor,
Julius E Del Pino, Ph
 
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vision january 2018

January 2018 Connection

vision january 2018
Happy New Year! 2017 is over and 2018 begins with an exciting, positive experience for our congregation.  Starting mid-January we will be conducting small group gatherings to finalize the collection of data as we move towards formalizing a vision statement for our Church.Happy New Year! 2017 is over and 2018 begins with an exciting, positive experience for our congregation.  Starting mid-January we will be conducting small group gatherings to finalize the collection of data as we move towards formalizing a vision statement for our Church.     
The process started shortly after the arrival of Reverend. Del Pino when he began having one on ones with members of the congregation and collecting information based on these questions:  What do you like about your church? What would you like to see changed? What do you expect of your staff to help this congregation carry out its mission: “TO MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WORLD?”     
 
When our pastor meets with small home groups in 2018, he will be asking you to carefully answer the following questions. What are you willing to do to help your church fulfill its new vision? What staff do we still need to help us carry out the church vision?  Why do people need Christ? Why do people need the church? Why do people need this particular church? What are your dreams? 
 
The data that will be gathered will be processed into a format that will be shared with the congregation.  Parts of the collected data have already been incorporated into the Sunday Services over the past year.  The effectiveness of the changes are being monitored and will be modified as necessary to provide a spirit-filled, meaningful and welcoming environment for ourselves and visiting guests.
 
We hosted various workshops during the year to prepare ourselves to communicate more  openly, honestly and effectively with minimal stress and hurt feelings during the process.  The workshops included:  Matthew 18, The Rule of Christ, which is the policy used by this church for issues of conflict and two additional workshops related to giving and receiving forgiveness.  The workshops were informative and well lead by Naomi Garcia and Patti Dennis.
 
By now you should have received letters asking that you prayerfully consider participating in the small groups as the input of each of us is important in developing an accurate, measurable, long term plan for ensuring a healthy, vibrant place of worship for future generations.  The questions we will be asking are similar to those Rev. Del Pino used in his early interviews:  What do you like about your church, what would you like to see done differently and what are you able to do to help.
 
We are also in the process of developing a list of people representing a cross section from the church to recommend the Vision Statement based upon the input from Rev. Del Pino’s interviews and the information gathered from the small groups.  These individuals will be in place by the time all data is organized and will start meeting in March 2018.
 
It has been a lengthy process getting to this point and it could not have happened without the tireless contributions of time and spiritual gifts of many of you.  Our heartfelt thanks to those people and our hope that the  small group meetings will provide positive, informative results leading to a viable Vision for the future of our church.  
 
Carol Capell    Mary Manning  Jim Scrimger  
 
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personal advent December 2017

December 2017 Connection

personal advent December 2017
A Personal Advent: 2017
 
The season of Advent is a time for deeply personal reflection.  It is both the source of great joy, looking back on the birth of Christ, and on the great abundance of blessings bestowed upon us all during the year. In varying degrees, we all have all been blessed with abundance.  It is also a time of horrendous pain for many as we reflect on the losses and suffering, both personal and global, that have been part if of our existence in the past year. 
 
This time of year is one of unrealistically huge expectations – that of finding exactly the perfect gift for those we love, of throwing the best party, sending the right cards to friends and relatives.  And it’s especially difficult to find time to reflect on the true meaning of Advent.  We get so lost and obsessive about trying to care for and please others that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we have to address our own needs as well: to find the quiet time to hear God’s still voice, to reflect on how we live our lives in response to God’s call, to nourish our own bodies, minds and spirits – and sometimes to let go and to grieve.
 
I am so aware of how difficult it is to do this work of God.  I know how easily we can be discouraged by the events of the world.  I know it is a struggle.  Yet, my friends, in spite of the conditions of the world, I believe with all my being God expects us to be faithful.  Is Advent a time of mercy?  A time for sparing judgment?  A time for allowing us to get it right?  A time to grow deep in faith and in obedience?   A time for preparation?   A time for renewed hope? 
 
Advent is about hope; hope that the wrong of this world will one day be made right.. Hope that the evil of this world will perish.  Hope that justice will finally be the order of the day. Hope that our personal plan will be less and less and less and God’s plan or God’s Will grows more and more apparent in our lives.
 
During this Holy season, we are reminded of our responsibility of being God’s presence in this community and world, each with our own work to do – the work of the kingdom of God – the work of witnessing to God in our daily lives, where we work and where we live.  In our grief and in our joy, Lord help us to wait in faith, to watch eagerly for the coming of the Christ child, to be our presence and relieve the fears of our hearts.  Make us people of peace, love, joy, and hope……a people of confidence…..a people unafraid to call on you… a people who proclaim the coming of a Savior who speaks for justice and love in the midst of pain and brokenness. So let it be!
 
Julius E. Del Pino, Ph.D.
Pastor
 
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vision November 2017

November 2017 Connection

vision November 2017
2017 Report to the Church Conference – September 24, 2017
 
Just what is the state of our beloved Grand Blanc United Methodist Church? I, as the appointed pastor of this congregation, have seen and felt an indomitable spirit moving and shaping the future of this congregation. Let me highlight the ways that we have answered the call.
 
We continue to meet, in full, our mission and apportionment giving. This congregation always responds lovingly and generously when there is a natural disaster and human devastation here in the US or around the world. This congregation continues to support and actively pray for our missionaries in the field. We have continued our tradition of community support, through our strong commitment to FISH and the monthly Soup Kitchen ministry faithfully every third Sunday of the month. Folk here at GBUMC are busy responding to human needs whenever, and wherever they are called upon to do so.
 
We have continued to promote small groups for all ages. Experts tell us that a growing church must continually launch new groups. We did that by offering Covenant and Renewal classes and by supporting a major effort to start a multi- faith interfaith group. The men’s group continues to meet on Friday morning for conversation and fellowship. A new mom’s group is starting at the church this fall, much to the delight of our new young mothers who have recently joined. We have had two members answer the call to jump-start new small groups to meet a variety of identified needs and wants.
 
We also started a Walkin’ and Talkin’ group that meets once a week to listen to each other’s stories and build community while taking the time to care for our physical selves.
 
The prayer group has been newly revived and continues to meet weekly.
 
We reached out and took a look beyond ourselves and expanded our knowledge and understanding of other cultures. We celebrated “Native American Ministries Sunday” by inviting the Reverend Fred Shaw, Director of the Native American Course of Study of the United Methodist Church, to educate us on Native Indian traditions, heritage and customs. And that he did!  This was a new experience for us. I was told by many workshop attendees and heard from many of the congregation after worship the following day how much they learned and appreciated Fred’s native storytelling and relating of history. 
 
For the second year in a row, we were blessed to have a successful Vacation Bible School with an attendance of seventy children and over forty adults who volunteered their time and energy. What an amazing display of our dedication to our children and young families. 
 
Every week as I drive up to the church I see individuals watering the grass, planting flowers, clearing away brush and other expressions of love to maintain the beauty of the church grounds. What a blessing it has been to see these servants caring for the church they love so dearly.  
 
Thanks to the leadership of this awesome congregation, we arranged for Naomi Garcia from the Conference office to lead a workshop on “The Rule of Christ.”  This workshop focused on Matthew 18 and provided concrete ways on how to manage conflict in the church as well as in our personal lives.  
 
Two devoted long time members visited the sick and shut-ins every week and took your pastor with them on many of these visits. This is a vital ministry for cultivating relationships and connection. We are thankful for our Care ministry group which keeps us informed about who is in need of our support and prayers. We must continue to build on this ministry in 2018.
 
The United Methodist Women, under excellent and faithful leadership, continues doing what they do best: expanding and growing in awareness, witness and discipleship. 
 
The volunteers who shared their gifts in our ministry to children and youth are to be commended. A dedicated, talented and gifted group of counselors make our youth program attractive and viable for our youth and their families. They continue to nurture our youth, and teach them how to help in our communities. I thank God for them and so should you!   This is an area of ministry that will require considerable attention and resources if we are to draw families with young children, singles and the millennial generation. I will say more about this in the next section of this report. 
 
I had the distinct blessing to lead the Lenten Study this past year and look forward to leading it again in 2018.
  
These are just a few examples of where the church is moving forward. Metaphorically, we have left the dock to launch out into deep waters of promise and new life. The waters will not always be still, but with clear vision, courage and bold faith, we, in the words of that old spiritual, WE SHALL OVERCOME!  
 
What’s ahead of us immediately as we move towards the successful effort of developing a CHURCH VISION STATEMENT?
 
We will have a Healthy Congregation workshop that will give us an opportunity to learn how negative behaviors can thwart organizational, personal and spiritual growth. Building on these skills, later in the month of October we will have a Forgiveness Workshop lead by Reverend Misty Tyme. This workshop will encourage individuals to exercise the newly acquired skills learned in the Healthy Congregations workshop.
 
In the first week of December, consultant Naomi Garcia will return to lead us in “Neutralizing Sessions.”  These sessions will afford participants the opportunity to reconcile with individuals whom they have unresolved issues, or conflicts with.    
 
We will invite individuals to serve on a Vision Team to develop realistic strategies to give life to the new VISION.  We need to make sure that we not only “see” our new vision, but that we here at GBUMC are living it out too. 
 
 We need to be better poised for attracting younger families. A wonderful example was shown by the great number of young people who signed up to volunteer at the Habitat For Humanity house building through the Multi-Faith Humanitarian Action Group.  This is in line with our reading about the millennials – they want to feel purposeful – what’s more purposeful than helping to build a house for a needy person?
 
The Staff Parish Relations Committee, in consultation with the Administrative Council, will need to identify funds to staff a Director of Educational Ministries.
 
While we are deeply appreciative for the time and energy that the education committee has devoted to keeping the programs we already have in place, this vital ministry needs someone who is able to dedicate their energies full time. The successful candidate would be expected to continue to educate, motivate and encourage laity.  
 
We need to offer leadership training for new and returning leaders that will incorporate the newly learned Healthy Congregation, forgiveness and neutralizing skills.
 
We will continue to train and encourage worship leaders to take on leadership roles in the service. Our theme will continue to be “excellence for God”.
 
We will enter a period of discernment on resurrecting The Stephen’s Ministry that was so successful in the past at this church. We need to continue to reach out to those who are not able to come to us. This important ministry would be a welcome addition to our Care ministry already in place. 
 
To the resourceful and talented staff of this church, I say thank you for being there when I needed you the most and for making my life less chaotic and anxious. How deeply blessed I am to work alongside you, to benefit from your expertise, skill, and knowledge. I am grateful for the journey we share together. 
 
This report would not be complete without acknowledging the support and love that I have received from Reverend Laurie and our daughter, Athena. Both have and continue to be a source of inspiration and strength while I am at work with you in the vineyard. 
 
And to all of you who labor with me in the vineyard to bring hope, love, and healing to a hurting world, I sincerely thank you for your partnership in this ministry and for the extraordinary ways in which you bless my life.   
 
The Season of Kingdomtide, 2017
Julius Ernest Del Pino
 
P.S.  As your pastor, I strive to be driven by vision, always looking forward, always with the people of God at the center of my actions and decisions.  Our new vision will be strong and guided by a strategic plan grounded in faith and courage to keep growing!!
 
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October 2017 Connection

Is our Church On Fire? 
 
As many of you know our church has been in the process of discovery. What do I mean by that?  For the past year, I have encouraged, and in some instances urged members and friends of this congregation to ask big questions……relevant, life giving questions….purposeful questions  about how we can be more “on fire” in our faith.  I have encouraged all of us to dream big as we create a vision that excites and motivates people to be a source of light and love in the world. One writer put it this way:  “Neither the past nor the present gives energy and direction for the church — only a vision of the future that is big enough to match the dreams of God.” 
 
In the very near future, your church will have a Vision Team.  This team of individuals will be working on your behalf to identify steps needed to revitalize the ministries of this church.  We will use the data that I have gathered from one-on-one conversations with you this past year. In addition, there will be zone groups established this fall as another way to hear your dreams for the future.  The new Vision Team will help us with the steps needed to create the fullness of a church on fire.  What does a church on fire look like?  It is a church that is growing and alive in discipleship, mission, worship, educational opportunities for all ages, and SPIRIT. 
 
As you return from the summer months and prepare to embrace the goodness and beauty of church life this fall, please consider and remember the marks of a church on fire listed below:
 
~ Genuine acceptance toward all. 
~Worship that evokes praise, repentance, thanksgiving and harmony with others.
~Life-changing connection with Christ, nurtured by personal and corporate spiritual disciplines. 
~Small groups for mutual encouragement, learning, and accountability.
~Ministry alongside the poor, the forgotten, and outcasts. 
~Joyful and generous sharing of resources.
~The conviction to stand against idols and ideologies of our culture.  
~An intentional mentoring of children, youth and new disciples. 
~An unwavering practice of forgiveness. 
~The ongoing training and development of leaders who can articulate the vision and invite every individual into an ever-greater faithfulness.   (Written by John Middleton and published by The United Methodist Board of Discipleship) 
 
I hope in the coming days and months you will read this list often and dream new dreams on how this church can more fully live out these marks of growth and discipleship.  Think about what you would add to this list as we begin a new journey together this fall.  Talk with family members at dinnertime.  Make a call to a fellow church member or friend. Attach a copy to the door of your refrigerator.  But please read it and pray over it as God leads us to dream big! 
 
Your Pastor,
Dr. J. 
September 19, 2017 
 
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