Back in March, as we began the Stay-at-Home campaign to “flatten the curve” and reduce the rate of coronavirus spread, I asked myself ‘How Long?’ Well, it’s early July and we are in a more severe condition of viral spread and increased hospitalizations.
It seems now that question is not the correct question for our situation. Maybe instead, I should be asking another question. The problem is I do not have a clue what question to ask.
I am in uncharted territory as you are friends. Maybe for today, we can agree that this thing called pandemic is here for longer than any of us would choose. And maybe we can agree that grace and peace are most cherished blessings to receive.
Pastor Paul Harris
As I sit today in the church office provided for your pastor, I pray for each family of our congregation by name and ask for a blessing of faith, hope, and love for each. I include your connections in the community by which we extend our reach into the world. I also pray for the numerous persons who have joined our ONLINE WORSHIP community in the last two months.
We have experienced a very different springtime here in our hill country hamlet. On March 19th, we made the decision to close our church facilities to IN-PERSON Worship and Fellowship pending the growing pandemic, a potential of community spread of the coronavirus, and the impact of COVID-19 to the more vulnerable among us. Two months have passed.
I have learned so much about the Church. For one thing, we can adapt. We do have the capacity for change in our lives whether it is comfortable or not. I have witnessed so many of you being willing and patient in the process of adaptation, Thank you! For another thing, we can care for one another. When the hospitals closed to visitors and families except in dire situations, pastors and care visitors found themselves unable to visit those in the hospital. That was tough on this pastor. My own Dad spent some time by himself at Peterson RMC during this time. And so many of you offered care to one another in a variety of ways during this time: writing cards and letters, making telephone calls, sending text messages, and using email effectively to share information. Some of you volunteered to coordinate a new Local Food Pantry ministry for those in our community needing support in difficult times.
WE CAN ADAPT AND WE CAN CARE! This proves to me that this local church congregation has what it takes to survive what comes next. What comes next? Your guess is as good as mine. No, really; no matter how much we desire our daily routines to return to what they were, I believe that our future is one that will require us to utilize our best skills of adaptation and care.
Your pastor and your worship music leaders and teams are planning a summertime worship experience at both 8:30 am and 11:00 am which is tailored for ONLINE WORSHIP AND LIMITED INSIDE SEATING. We begin that experiment JUNE 7th.
I buried the lead, but if you read this far you found a nugget of information. More importantly, I hope you know how much this pastor and family love you and miss seeing you regularly. May the blessings of adaptation and care guide us all in the days to come.
Along the Way
Rev Paul Harris
Hunt United Methodist Church
This year Mothers’ Day celebration will be different. But then, there are so many things different about our current situation. I am sure there is a season of grace in how we ritualize the day.
I will not be able to bring my mother flowers on May 10th. We won’t be dining together. My card will be mailed instead of delivered in person. Well all that is okay because so many have had to deal with this many times before. Celebration from a distance. What I will be doing is sitting on my truck tailgate curbside while Mom sits on her apartment balcony. We have to speak rather loudly. It’s a workable solution to be present with each other for a little while.
That’s the thing about a celebration of Mothers’ Day - we remember the presence of someone special in our lives that has provided mothering love to us. Holy and sacred is the celebration of God’s presence with us. Not far from that is the relationship many of us have been blessed to experience in a MOM.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mothers, and to all those who have graciously served in that role!
Hugs on the horizon,
April showers bring May flowers! And very few people are noticing because there is something else happening in the world - COVID 19.
Here in Hunt, Tx we are receiving a good rain. And we give thanks! Sitting on the front porch and noticing the benefits of this rain will bring great joy during this April Stay-at-Home campaign.
From my family to yours, may peace come to our world.
Along the Way
I give thanks today for the opportunity to experience the Psalms. I write of Psalm 130 and what it speaks to me now. Be well friends...
From Pastor Paul Harris
Along the Way
Written March 24, 2020
From the loneliness of the current stay-at-home recommendation (order depending upon where you live), I reach out on social media. Can you hear me? Can you see me?
Lord, are you there? Which platform would yield the best connection? Is there an APP for me to use as I search?
I admit it has been (awhile, too long, you fill in the term) since I last asked of you Lord. My self-reliance has been ingrained in me since my youth. I am wondering now though... I think I need you. No, I am sure now. Please Lord, do you hear me?
This social distancing has caused me to feel differently about everything. Is there something I (we) can do now to make it all better? I am watching health workers afraid for their own safety. I see wealth accumulation slipping away. So many are being furloughed or laid off from their jobs. I need some hope that this wave of uncertainty will pass!
Is that you Lord? Can you speak up please! Wait? Wait for what?
Love, mercy, grace, forgiveness...found in the promises of your creation...redeemed in the hearts of all your people...at first distant, and now so clear I hear Lord, I see!
You are with us! My soul is given hope!
Waiting... at curbside for groceries to deliver to my elderly parents. Supplies and medicine too. I promised to be here for them!
Oh... you promise to be here for me? Help me believe Lord. Help me trust you. Help me know your truth.
As we wait now, I pray with you friends and neighbors. I pray for our world. Teach us your ways Lord. Fill our hearts with your Spirit. Love us so we can love each other.
The groceries are here. Time for my delivery. Time for deliverance of us all.
Thank you Lord.
God is saving all creation.
God is with us, now and forever.
God is love.
Good Morning neighbors,
You may be a part of the congregation I serve as Pastor. You may be a Facebook friend from somewhere Along the Way. You may be tuning into this site for the first time.
WELCOME! I pray that the Peace of the Lord shall be with you all...
And you would say... "And also with you!"
We invite you to join a small group of worship leaders who will be present with you this Sunday March 22 at 8:30 am on www.facebook.com/HuntUMC to provide our faith community and those connected virtually an Experience in Grace.
Tune in and join us. You can also watch the facebook feed anytime later and you can find the video posted later to www.pauleharris2017.com
May the blessings of peace be with you!
Pastor Paul Harris
A mid-week Homily for Lent
March 18, 2020
Rev. Paul Harris
Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
You may be watching a Facebook Live broadcast today at www.facebook.com/HuntUMC or you may be reading this text on my Journal page available on my website www.pauleharris2017.com or on the home page of Hunt United Methodist Church at www.huntumc.org
Welcome to a time of uncertainty! I demand security in my life to function well. It is part of who I am. So the fluctuations and variables introduced into our conversation today brings anxiety. There is Good News for me and for you!
I speak today about a spiritual discipline referred to as SIMPLICITY. And one of my favorite authors and teachers on this discipline is Richard J. Foster. This morning, I re-read the chapter on Simplicity in his book Celebration of Discipline.
Foster says that the “Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle. Simplicity begins in an inward focus and unity. Thomas Kelly is quoted as coining the phrase to describe this inward focus – it is The Divine Center.”
In my words, when we practice a spiritual centering that helps us focus mind, body, and soul in obedience to God and in alignment with the teaching of Jesus Christ – we are given the capacity to trust God completely for all things, for all time. But sometimes, I need to be reminded. Especially when something like a new and much unknown virus threatens my security. I can imagine you may have similar feelings.
I believe that a heightened need for security in these frightening times can lead to an irrational desire for objects, assets, and stockpiles. We covet things when we get scared. We want to be assured that our supplies will be available and in abundance.
Before corona virus, a life in simplicity had been emphasized in the voice of Marie Kondo. Younger generations were leading all of us toward the notion that de-cluttering our lives could lead to a more simple life. And a more simple life could lead us to new ways to share community and life. Now, this concept in simplicity seems inadequate. How is my giving away material goods and possessions going to provide more security in my life? Simplicity – no thanks!
I wonder, what do we need to survive this time of self-quarantine, homebound isolation, social distancing, travel restrictions, and so on…? I asked myself this morning: What is essential for my physical well-being and my spiritual health? And beyond that – what does my congregation need from me, their pastor? What do my aging parents now in a locked down senior living center require? How will it be provided? If not careful, a simple focus can be quickly overcome by ALL that screams at us in light of the worldwide health scare. How do we maintain a discipline of Simplicity in these days?
Richard Foster says, “Covetousness we call ambition. Hoarding we call prudence. Greed we call industry.” Please Lord, do not allow me to act in these ways. Lead me on the path of simplicity. I pray.
Foster’s chapter on simplicity yielded some important insight as I re-read it this morning.
First, Simplicity sets us free to receive the provision of God as a gift that is NOT ours to keep, and that can be freely shared with others. Secondly, the Bible speaks about simplicity throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament. The concept of the Jubilee Year in fact called the people of Israel on occasion to return land rights to original owners lost in debt. Jesus taught that a disciple could not follow both God and mammon. Foster says, “Jesus challenged the rich young ruler not just to have an inner attitude of detachment from his possessions but literally to get rid of his possessions if he wanted to experience the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19)
DO NOT COVET. A strong command given in the Torah that disciplined a wandering people to respect one another and the needs of the community.
Certainly Foster suggests that God intends that we should have adequate material provision. So what do we make of the simplicity called for when it comes to material goods and our false understanding of scarcity?
What is enough? Why are people in their fear buying up all of the toilet paper on the shelves of our grocery stores? Maybe it has something to do with our fear of supply interruptions? Or just a basic fear of whether or not the financial crisis will worsen and cause companies to go out of business and folks to lose their jobs?
Everybody breathe… Let us take a pause…
Security is one of my strongest needs, both physically and spiritually. I don’t think I am alone on this. The days we now live can lead me to be anxious. And yet, as a pastor, I am called to be a no-anxious presence in my faith community. The practice of this spiritual discipline called Simplicity is made easier and certainly makes more sense in terms of the words of Jesus when he said,
(Matthew 6:25-33 CEB)
25 “Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? 27 Who among you by worrying can add a single moment to your life? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Notice how the lilies in the field grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. 29 But I say to you that even Solomon in all of his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these. 30 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, won’t God do much more for you, you people of weak faith? 31 Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The central point for the discipline simplicity is to FIRST seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of his kingdom. First things first friends. What do we need to thrive in the days ahead?
I say to myself and I say to you, Let us follow best practices for individual and community health. AND in terms of spiritual health, DO NOT WORRY. Help others to discover this spiritual practice by enacting it in your own life. I will do my best to be non-anxious. I will do my best with God’s help.
God loves you and so do I.
More soon on the details of this practice, stay tuned…
Along the Way
Pastor Paul Harris
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, Richard Foster, Harper & Row Publishers, 1978.
Simplicity, Wendy J. Miller, in the Series Holy Living Spiritual Practices for Building a Life of Faith, Elaine A. Heath, General Editor, Simplicity, Wendy J. Miller, Abingdon Press, 2019.
UPDATE 1:45 PM MARCH 17, 2020
After consultation this morning with our Methodist Healthcare Ministries (Wesley Nurse) partners and with guidance from protocols issued by CDC, Kerr County, and City of Kerrville, and Rio Texas Conference UMC, and because we often exceed 50 persons in our worship gatherings and coffee hour, we are:
SUSPENDING ALL ACTIVITIES AT HUNT UMC UNTIL APRIL 6th
THIS INCLUDES FACE TO FACE SUNDAY WORSHIP AND FELLOWSHIP ACTIVITIES
for MARCH 22, MARCH 29, and APRIL 5
In the interim, we are offering virtual worship experiences via Facebook Live
We encourage you to participate from home and invite your friends to participate from their homes; Sunday March 22nd LIVE at 8:30 am.
Times for LIVE broadcasts for subsequent weeks shall be posted in future updates.
The video can be accessed at any time either LIVE or later.
Your worship planning team and this pastor are working out details for offering this worship experience utilizing volunteers from the music staff and team members. We will keep the number of us in the sanctuary to less than 10 persons at any one time and use personnel safety precautions in the video production.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW:
1. Help us notify others in our faith community of this news, especially those in your small groups who may not monitor email.
2. Alert the Church Office staff by telephone (830) 238-4360 before dropping by the office. Let us know how we can continue to be of service and help us keep each other safe.
3. Watch for email newsletter.
4. Monitor Hunt UMC webpage at www.huntumc.org
5. Reach the pastor at email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WAYS TO WORSHIP WHILE YOU WASH YOUR HANDS
see attached .pdf format document
CARE FOR ONE ANOTHER
BUILD COMMUNITY IN NEW WAYS
Update March 17, 2020
Rev. Paul Harris
Weekly Briefing from Pastor Paul
March 12, 2020
I write today to inform our faith community and its partners of steps being taken to provide for the health and safety of Hunt UMC, its members and partners, and outside groups using facilities.
For worship services, we are continuing the gathering and worship at 8:30 and 11:00 am on Sunday morning. This will be a week to week decision. We are taking steps to provide extra cleaning of surfaces this week and going forward. Doors will be propped open for entry. We are suspending Passing of the Peace and Sharing of the Bread and Cup (at 8:30) for this week. We may find alternatives for weeks to come.
Our guidance on handling of food by Hunt UMC (or outside groups using Hunt UMC Fellowship Hall) is to limit meal sharing to "served food only." This will impact our Coffee Bar this Sunday. Patrick Fitzgerald is organizing servers to handle coffee and goodies at the fellowship time. This will impact our end of month brunch buffet. We will either change the way we serve or suspend that event. More to come on that. Outside groups using our facilities are advised to follow CDC protocols and to have gloved servers handle food service.
We are providing a means by which you can participate in worship gatherings from home. Bill Booker, Hunt UMC Communications, is sending out instructions today on what to do to connect.
If you feel sick, please stay home. If you choose to stay at home for your protection, we understand. We will be increasing our email traffic with opportunities to build community.
Scripture readings for this week March 15:
Much love and many blessings!
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend