July 2020 Connection

Greetings in a Strange Time

Greetings, church!
 
It’s hard to believe that it was nearly six months ago that I received a call from the East Winds District Superintendent, Rev. Hice, letting me know that I’d been appointed to Grand Blanc UMC on July 1st. Well, that time has come, and I trust that these last six months have been just as much a whirlwind for you as they have for me. While some of that whirlwind has been joy-filled, it’s still hard to ignore that much of what has taken place since March has been devastating for so many. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to quickly learn how to do much of church in a new way. We’ve all had friends and family – or perhaps you, yourself – lose jobs, experience pay cuts, and certainly many have faced the insecurity of essential needs such as healthcare, transportation, or even things like food. Personally, I am currently awaiting the details of memorial services for the grandparents of a close friend, both of whom passed away from COVID-19. I suspect that many of you are experiencing a similar grief. Add to all of this, we’ve all witnessed through video the death of George Floyd on May 25th in Minneapolis, exposing and magnifying for the whole world the all-too-common reality faced by our brothers and sisters of color here in the United States. The anger and hurt felt by so many has rightfully placed a pall over an already suffering world.
 
In moments like these, its all that I can do to maintain Christ as my firm foundation. But just as it seems that I’ll lose my footing, I’m reminded of these words: “Now, know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 (CEB). In the midst of COVID-19, we have much work to do to care for our neighbor, conveniences to lay aside, and sacrifices we’ve never anticipated that we must now make. Globally, as we’ve also become witnesses to the plight and suffering of our brothers and sisters of color, we have a long hard road of growing and learning, repentance and healing that we must accomplish and own. But in the midst of the calamity all around us we can remember this assurance:
 
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Psalm 139:7-12 (NIV)
 
As Stephanie and I move into the parsonage and I receive the baton that is being graciously and faithfully handed to me by Dr. J, I come to you with the sincere desire to come and serve alongside each one of you, walking with you in our journeys of faith and discipleship. While the circumstances surrounding this pastoral transition are less than desirable, especially with respect to our continued need for social distancing, online worship, etc., I am trusting that the same God who has compassionately and faithfully guided us all through the last six months will continue to guide us as we continue the good work that God has begun in this beautiful body of Christ!
 
I’ll have the chance to share more about who I am in the coming weeks and months, and to share with you what my journey of faith and ministry has been thus far. But for now, let me simply say that Stephanie and I, along with Matthew, Micah and a little baby girl arriving in August, are excited to be welcomed here in Grand Blanc, and we look forward to getting to know our new church family in the coming days!
 
With peace and joy,
Pastor Brian
 
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goodbye friends

June 2020 Connection

goodbye friends

To God Be The Glory

I can think of no better way to say goodbye than through the words of a song by Andre Crouch.  The song is called MY TRIBUTE! Here it is! 
 
 “How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me? Things so undeserved. Yet, you give your love for me.  The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude – all that I am and ever hope to be, I owe all to thee. To God Be the Glory. To God be the glory, to God be the glory for the things he has done.  With his blood he has saved me. With his power he has raised me. To God be the glory for the things he has done. Just let me live.  Let it be pleasing Lord to thee. And should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary.  With his blood he has saved me.  With his power he has raised me.  To God be the glory for the things he has done.”  
   
It’s all about gratitude. You have been the most loving, helpful and supportive congregation I have experienced since my arrival in Michigan in June of 1998. I have every reason to believe that the best days are ahead for Grand Blanc United Methodist Church. Reverend Laurie is very grateful to the staff, the prayer group, lay leadership and congregation for the love she felt from all of you.
 
I LOVE YOU!  I WILL MISS YOU! 
 
Julius E. Del Pino, your Minister and servant leader  
 
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May 2020 Connection

Unexpected Loss

In the past few weeks so much has happened that has impacted all our lives in significant ways. We will never be the same again. Why should we? There has been and continues to be change all around us. Many of us for the first time are dealing with unexpected human anguish and grief. Whoever thought we would be living through a pandemic. We feel the shock, the pain, the anger, and sorrow of such massive human loss. And so, we will not sugar-coat our blessings. We will not ignore the pain and minimize the bewilderment that comes in the “wake of wrenching death.” It has come and will remain with us for some uncertain time.
 
From what is happening in our world, may we as the body of Christ cling to hope and allow Christ to meet us in our deepest need…the need to be healed, encouraged and strengthened as we take this walk of faith together. That is the key….to take this walk holding hands with your neighbor as Christ leads us to a new awareness of truth and love. The truth is that God promised to never leave or abandon us. The Apostle Paul said it this way: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. ( NLT, Romans 8:38)
 
Rev Laurie and I had just finished our morning Bible Study of the Book of Exodus with our nephew in Japan, Michael. Laurie called me into the room when she got an unexpected message to please call –from a family friend, Dawn, in Vancouver, B.C. Dawn is the sister of Erin, the young mother who lost her husband Mike and sons Liam and Quinn in a vehicle accident at the end of February. Here is the heartbreaking, unexpected news. Erin took her own life.
 
After much wailing, sobbing, crying, heartbreak and pain, Dawn explained that Erin had traveled from her home town south of Calgary after the memorial service to visit her sister Dawn for a period of time, then to Ontario to visit her older sister Heather, then to North Bay ON to stay with her father Ron. She had with her the remains of her husband and two children. She requested to be alone during this deeply personal and solemn occasion of burial. After she buried those remains at the family lake home where she had grown up and her children had played every summer with their cousins, she decided she could not be without her children.
 
Some would say, well that’s not a surprise – who would blame her – how could anyone live without their entire family having been taken from them? The reality is, this was totally and completely unexpected by her father, her sisters, her extended family and her friends. Dawn tells us that Erin had tremendous support from extremely skilled friends who were also grief counselors and others who were psychologists. She had visited with her childhood friends. She was happy and in a very good frame of mind when she went to the lake house. Her father was stunned.
 
It was totally unexpected. Erin’s mother was a pastor. Erin’s sister Dawn is a pastor. Erin had the very best spiritual support as well as psychological support. Help us, Jesus, to cope with this unexpected loss and wisdom to minister to this family. Lord guide Erin’s soul to your side, guide her spirit to meet with her children’s spirits. Lord comfort each of us in our unexpected grief and loss as we know ONLY you can do!
 
Unexpected loss comes in many forms: sudden death, sudden change of life routines that we are all experiencing now, sudden loss of income, sudden hardships. In the name of Christ we pray that you show yourself to us. Forgive us in our humanity – our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. We are weak. Help us to Trust you – to lean on You during times of upheaval and heartache. Amen!
 
May love and mercy of Christ guide your steps in the days and months ahead.
 
Julius E. Del Pino, Pastor
 
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April 2020 Connection

HOPE In Uncertain Times
Most of us are familiar with the 13th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. I believe it is the most extraordinary description of love anywhere. Note how it begins.
 
“If I speak with tongues of humans and of angels but have not love, I am like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…..”

He goes on to describe the selflessness and faithfulness of love, that love is patient, kind, humble and sensitive; and at the end of the  passage he says, “now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

I don’t think anybody will disagree with Paul’s claim that love is the most important. Love is the foundation of everything we say and do.
 
What do you think is next in importance, faith or hope? Many people will say faith is the next important. And they do have a point. WE NEED FAITH TO give meaning to life. Faith opens the door to new possibilities.

As important as it is, however, I think it takes third place. How long can we survive without hope? It is hope in a merciful and loving God that has and will carry us over the deepest abyss. It is the bridge for tomorrow. And that is what I want you to remember as we manage the unexpected
complexity of living in these times.

Easter comes again on April 12. Whenever Christians are gathered there will be learned discussions about theologies, dogmas and doctrines. But they all can be condensed into one small word —hope —which is what Easter is about.

We all know how confused and faltering the disciples were during the difficult last days of Jesus’ life. Yet something happened to them on that morning and the days and weeks that followed. Everyone of the
disciples came to life and spent the rest of their lives in sacrificial service to Jesus. Something happened. The disciples experienced a resurrected Jesus. And that resurrection gave them hope and it can do the same for you. Believe in hope and believe that hope is of God. ….hold on to hope, Even if it’s a tender thread…” Even during these challenging times, hold on tightly to hope and experience the power of God’s grace holding us together.

To God be the glory,
Julius Del Pino, Pastor
 
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March 2020 Connection

A Pastoral Letter –  Lent/Easter 2020

Dear beloved:
 
In a world riddled with violence, paralyzed by self-interest, and numbed by despair—where do we turn for comfort, for direction, for hope? The Jesus we celebrate in the season of Lent is our companion as we move in an environment of a violent world.
 

In recalling the biblical story, storm troopers seized Jesus outside the Garden of Gethsemane. They interrogated him, beat him with a leather strap studded with fragments of glass, and spit on him. In mock homage, they draped him in a purple robe, pushed a crown of thorns deep into his forehead, and pushed him out before the crowd who cried for his blood, and then they nailed him to a cross where he hung, suffering until he died.

Three years of ministry healing, teaching, and empowering, and reconciling people….three years of preaching the good news of God’s love and peace, had come to this. This man, Jesus, drew the crowds and performed miracles….Jesus whom thousands of people had wanted to proclaim King, was not perceived as failure. The despair was fathomless. The world on Good Friday was bleak beyond imagination.

 
But the final word was with God. They had seized Jesus, they had crucified him, but they could not hold him down. In the rumbling of the earth, God moved with the power of love without limits — a love so strong and mighty that all human experience was transfigured….so powerful that life overcame death. On Sunday morning the tomb was empty. What the world had judged as a failure became a victory that changed the world forever, and if we believe in resurrection faith, our lives can and will be changed as well. GBUMC WILL BE CHANGED TOO!
 
The resurrection was God’s validation of life the life of Christ—forgiveness triumphs over hatred…compassion over self-centeredness, and confident love over brutality and violence. As we prepare to take the Lenten journey, may each of us come to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection. May we come to believe that we are empowered to love…to heal…to put an end to violence of the body, mind and spirit….to be willing and able to keep justice alive for the oppressed, marginalized and forgotten. I invite each of you to take the victory of Easter into your soul and let it strengthen you to live with the power of Easter.
 
To God be the glory,
Julius E. Del Pino, Pastor
 
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February 2020 Connection

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Turning The Page

Many of you may know that Reverend Laurie and I officiated the interment of brother-in-law, Bill John Shoults on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at the family plot in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto Ontario, Canada. It was a sacred and memorable occasion as Bill and Laurie’s sister, Debra Joan, were reunited in death.

Present were Bill’s former co-worker and fellow Native Canadian, Desiree, two sons, Ryan, from Kitchener, Ontario, Michael and Ayumi from Japan, Gwen and Alice, granddaughters, Laurie and myself, sister and brother-in-law to Deb and Bill.

 
Laurie thought it was appropriate to begin the service incorporating some of the Manitoba Cree traditions as this is the tradition Bill was born into. When it came time to pass the Native talking stick, their son Michael bent down to brush the snow away from the grave marker. He pointed out the image of an open book with pages turning that were on the marker. He remarked that this service signaled the end of his mother and father’s earthy story and the beginning of their time in eternity.
 
Our page here at GBUMC is also turning. The chapter of Grand Blanc United Methodist Church being lead by Reverend Dr. Julius E. Del Pino is coming to an end. A new chapter will begin July 1, 2020 under the guidance and leadership of Reverend Brian West. The history of this congregation will continue to unfold in a way that God will have it be. So let it be done.
 
My heart feels both gratitude and joy for what has been during this amazing chapter and what will be in the future for this new and exciting chapter of Grand Blanc. Let us rejoice!
 
To God be the glory.
Julius E. Del Pino, Pastor
 
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January 2020 Connection

Happy New Year!

Believe it, a new year has just started. New hopes and dreams will be cast in 2020. New ideas will surface to sustain the vision of GBUMC. Expect change to occur.
 
As we contemplate change, I encourage each of you to begin thinking about how we can become more clear and committed to making new disciples for taking Christ’s love, justice and healing into this community. Perhaps one area of emphasis will be to compassionately represent our vision to those who have left the church—-not just this church —-but any church.
 
A colleague of mine sent me the following diagram that offers reasons why people have left the church. George Barna, a reputable church consultant and researcher gathered this statistical data that has significant merit and is credible. Please take the time to study it carefully.
 
In closing, I want to have this last thought for your prayerful reflection. Stay hopeful and positive. Keep reaching out to this community. Continue to exude a gentle and loving spirit to all who come through these doors. Talk about how much God is blessing this congregation and not be reluctant to share those blessings with strangers and friends. And be prepared to step up to lead in an area of ministry that feeds your soul! Be ready to change and grow!
 
In the Name of Jesus!
Julius E. Del Pino, Pastor
 
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December 2019

Joy, Joy For Christ will be born

Greetings to all of you in this most blessed season. Advent is here!
 
The season of Advent (coming, arrival) is a time of preparation and inner exploration. The coming of the Christ child brings hope to all Christians around the world, for what we and the world might become. The retail stores usually begin advertising for Christmas before Halloween, but the church’s time of preparation focuses on the four Sundays that precede Christmas.
 
The altar paraments are purple, the liturgical color for the penitential, preparing seasons of Advent and Lent. Advent lessons and prayers are filled with images of light and watchfulness. Remember, the theme of Advent is repentance and change. As we change our lives to meet the Christ child, we experience the blessed assurance that no matter what difficulties we face in life, God in Christ will always be there for us and will see us through. We can claim that promise, and we can live in that confidence. This is the “Good News” of Advent and Christmas – God’s seeking, sustaining, sacrificial love.
 
Make worship your priority during Advent. Be more generous with the resources God has given to you. Join an adult Bible class and be sure and invite a friend or a stranger to attend one of our Christmas Eve services. Pray for your church that God will use each of us to take the spirit of Christ out of the manager and into those places where people are hurting and yearning for love, grace, and hope.
 
God be with you on this Advent journey!
 
Rev. Julius E. Del Pino
 
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November 2019 Connection

GRATITUDE

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the word “gratitude” these past few weeks. I have been thinking how God continues to bless my life in so many ways. What about you? “There is gratitude all around me” to quote the singer, Karen Drucker, who I listen to at least once a day! I see more clearly the face of God in so many places and in so many faces. I now start each day thanking God in moments of prayer, solitude and meditation. It brings joy to my heart to thank God each morning and to recognize all the blessings that I have. What about you? I have given myself permission to live in the promises of Jesus the Christ. We were born to love, not in fear – but in hope, gratitude and freedom.
 
I awake each morning feeling the Spirit opening my eyes to joy, peace and love that I have not experienced in many years, if ever. For the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to visit with two of my beloved sisters: Juanita who lives in Tennessee and my twin sister, Judy, and her amazing husband, Melvin, in the twin cities. Juanita and I are in the photo below on this page. Judy and Melvin have worshiped at GBUMC since my appointment there. Judy and I celebrated our birthday together for the first time in over thirty years! It was another memorable time where we shared common stories and said to each other, To God Be The Glory. Tears and laughter filled the room as family and friends sang happy birthday. My little great-grand niece, Vivian, who I had the joy of baptizing in 2018, also sent me a video of her singing “Happy Birthday.” And joy upon joy our two granddaughters, Sydney and Reese, and their mother, my daughter Tera, were able to visit their grandfather for hugs, funny-faced photos and memory-making!
 
With both sisters, my daughter and granddaughters, I was reminded of how important it is to capture those moments of family and to realize that staying connected in faith, we come to be thankful everyday for the gift of relationship and unconditional love. These two beautiful sisters have taught me so much about love and spiritual wellness. They have helped me to see the beauty and strength in me, and thus embrace the beauty and goodness in life. I am so grateful to God for blessing my journey to be with my sisters. It is really all about gratitude!
 
I am also grateful for having taught in the Native American Course of Study held in Minnesota. It was another rich blessing that reminded me GOD IS MY SOURCE OF STRENGTH, WISDOM AND GOODNESS. I encourage each of you to begin each day thanking God for giving you everything you need and more. You are loved by the Creator! I now entreat you to go and return that blessing of kindness with others.
 
Julius E. Del Pino, Ph.D.
 
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October 2019 Connection

Cultivating Generosity
 
It was on September 17 that I had the opportunity to attend a clergy workshop on Cultivating Generosity. Clergy from the East Winds District gathered in Marlette, Michigan to gain new and exciting ideas that may prove helpful to most local churches. A special thanks to Rev. John Hice, District Superintendent of the East Winds District, for responding to our need for clergy to grow in our understanding of generosity.
 
John Laster was our leader/trainer. What was most helpful to me was his introducing ideas for increasing generosity. Here are a few:
  • Pastor/leadership should make every effort to tithe.
  • Encourage leaders to tithe
  • Always talk ministry when talking about money
  • Say thank you often
  • Create new traditions with regular on-going Christian financial planning classes
  • Be aware of the reasons people give
  • Have at least 10% of church membership involved in ‘hands-on’ missions
  • Make it convenient to give
  • Remain positive and hopeful
  • Remain open to change and remember the words of General Eric Shinseki: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
As we continue to gear up for the Fall and Winter, please remember your church leadership is already planning for ministry needs for 2020! Please remain open to how God has blessed and will continue to bless this congregation in its efforts to make disciples of Jesus Christ! Bless each of you for your strong commitment to be relevant, vibrant and growing in Christian faith!
 
Your Pastor,
Julius E. Del Pino
 
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