Daily Archives: October 3, 2022

Pastor’s Ponderings

The Claybanks United Methodist Church is a rural church. Recently, I have found myself thinking about how we, as Claybanks UMC, will continue to serve our community and selves into the future. I have found myself doing some reading and writing in preparation for an educational opportunity that I will be participating in come November. The last Sunday in August, we worshiped outside and celebrated our church’s history over the past many years of being a part of the Claybanks community. Many people come from rural church backgrounds and many people return to rural churches in the later stages of their lives.

Jesus was a country boy. He was a rural person who came from a rural place, the little hamlet of Nazareth which is thought to have had a population of about four hundred during Jesus’s time there. Jesus was known as “Son of Joseph from Nazareth,” which elicited the following jest from the would-be follower Nathaniel: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1: 46). Most of Jesus’s ministry took place in the rural context. And Jesus spoke in a language and in parables contextually appropriate for rural people.

When Jesus did notable healing miracles, many of them took place in small communities such as Capernaum. As soon as Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, real church began. As were many other stories where Jesus healed the sick, Jesus would heal those who had addictions and those who were spirit-possessed one by one, according to Mark in chapter one. Who knew that the Church of Jesus would take place in ordinary places like on a front porch or under a tree or on a hillside. So much of what Jesus spoke to people, his love actions and his healings, were expressed in a setting that we would describe as country. It has never been more evident to me that in our rural setting, where we find Claybanks United Methodist Church, we experience the circle of life.

From the Disney film “Lion King” hear these words of a song the “Circle of Life.”

Some say eat or be eaten. Some say live and let live. But all are agreed as they join the stampede. You should never take more than you give.

In the circle of life, it is the wheel of fortune. It is the leap of faith. It is the band of hope, till we find our place on the path unwinding in the circle, the circle of life.

Some of us fall by the wayside, and some of us soar to the stars, and some of us sail through our troubles, and some must live with the scars.

There is far too much to take in here, more to find than can ever be found, but the sun rolling high through the sapphire sky keeps great and small on the endless round.

In the circle, the circle of life on the path unwinding, yeah in the circle, circle of life.

Rural churches are not unlike the circle of life of people. We sustain hope, we stampede through life and at times we find ourselves trampled and trampling the land. In our rural communities, we work hard to build relationships in extended distances that we call neighborliness. We strive to live in harmony with the land and with our neighbors and we work hard to put food on the tables for our country by which we eke out a substance for living. Our life is not always like a bowl of cherries in the woodland. Some of the same problems that exist in the cities are parts of our lives here in the country. But there is also healing here too. We build circles of trust when conversation and care can take place. Jesus did some of his best work in the rural setting such as in Capernaum which was an isolated community. In that rural church setting, there was space for connection where people gathered and created church sanctuaries in their homes and out of the way places. As I have been preparing for my educational program in late fall, I came across an article that I needed to understand as I prepared. The article looked at three attributes of a community.

1. It must be accessible: communities form in normal spaces where people gather and speak plain truth for all people. The only requirement for membership is a desire to flee the wrath to come. The church is not closed to our neighborhood, and we speak a common language, just as Jesus did when he “Came and made his home among them.”

2. Communities must be safe: our communities meet in small, intimate groups. All people from all the different walks of life must be welcomed and harmful behavior will not be tolerated. It is a place of healing, not harm, an environment of grace, an inclusive space where the “Good News” is made available to all.

3. We must be people who are real. People are invited to come to terms with their lives in whole or as broken as they may be. We as a church community must be able to say, “How goes it with your soul?” People are to be invited to be a part of a community and must know there is mutual support. We must be willing to be a part of the pain that people in our community may feel by bringing love, prayer, and healing to them.

We know Claybanks United Methodist Church is a place that embodies hospitality. We are a community that is accessible, safe, and so that people know that there is space for their struggles, to find healing and express their joy of life. Rural churches are charged with providing persons in their community a place to be a part of the circle of life. We as a church, are a critical artery for the life of those in our community and we must be the Body of Christ to the community in which we live.

For the past six years, I as your pastor am blessed to serve in retirement at the Claybanks United Methodist Church and have tried to lead from the middle. Knowing that the members of our church have been and will be at the Administrative Council and Committees leading from the front and the members of the church, as a body, leading from behind with their encouragement for the whole church. By leading from the middle, I have tried to embody the life of Jesus as I have allowed the church to continue doing those things that Claybanks United Methodist Church has done so well over the years on their own. I have worked to insert myself only in the areas where there is a need and my abilities and strengths have added to who we are as a church. Scripture points out to us that first Jesus sent out twelve and then seventy-two ahead of him. Jesus was preparing those who followed him to continue his ministry. It has been, and will continue to be, my ministry to emulate Jesus by training, teaching, praying, and leading through scripture and by assisting and leading the Claybanks church community into the future. My prayer is that I will remain empowered to coach and encourage, to be a disciple and to mentor where needed.

The Claybanks church, like other congregations, is a community. When we become involved in our church activities, extend our involvement into other community events we become disciples of Christ in tangible ways. When we have Jesus Christ present in our lives and share him as we engage not only at church and our church functions but in other functions throughout our community, we are expressing to others in our community who we are as followers of Jesus Christ and committed members of the Claybanks United Methodist Church.

Announcements and Stuff

Movie and Potluck Night

Please note a date change. We have moved the dinner and showing of “The Shack” to Monday, October 10th to accommodate several members and pastor to attend the Love INC Annual Meeting and dinner, “Grinnin & Grillin.” Our movie night will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a potluck meal and the showing of the movie “The Shack.” Please come and enjoy a great meal, fellowship, and movie. Bring whatever you wish, we will enjoy it. Invite family members, friends, or neighbors!

Mission Committee

The mission committee has been hard at work this past year and is excited for the plans for 2023. We have met our commitment for the “Gathering” of serving meals on the first Saturday of each month for a year. Starting in January, we will move to serving meals at the Love INC ReNew program that we were a part of prior to Covid-19. This fall in October, we will be collecting food for the Trinity Food Bank in preparation for Thanksgiving. A table has been set up to receive your donations in the Fellowship Hall. A request has been made of us to provide the following items for the winter for the young children at the Montague Elementary School. They need: waterproof mittens for the very young students, waterproof gloves for the older students, leggings, and sweatpants for all youth along with socks and underwear. We will begin receiving your donated items in October and will continue through the winter. For the winter, we will also be collecting slightly used blankets for the Muskegon Rescue Mission that are given to those who need shelter and to take with them when they move from the shelter. Look for an announcement in mid-winter for a special mission project to take place at Claybanks in the spring.

A Special Sunday

Sunday, October 30th, not only will we remember the Saints for “All Saints Day,” we will have a Baptism of Dan Vickers, a church potluck meal and then our Annual Church Charge Conference to be conducted by our new pastor friend, Timothy Dibble from the White Lake United Methodist Church. Please give to Pastor Gary, the  names for “Honoring All Saints ” as we recognize the sacrament of Baptism with Dan, fellowship in a church community meal and then taking care of our church business at our Church Charge Conference.

It is hard to believe but our UMW year is rapidly coming to a close!  At our October meeting, we will discuss our giving commitments which we will select and decide on some new endeavors.  We have $3,012.40 in our treasury, so we hope to do lots of good and only keep “seed money” to start with next year.  We hope to present some new ideas to the Mission Committee so we can do more than just on our own. 

Our annual Pizza party and church decorating for Advent will take place the Friday after Thanksgiving, November 25th, which is just ahead of Advent that next Sunday.  With the trees still green, temperatures pleasantly warm, sun shining, it is hard to believe Fall will soon descend upon us!  Grab your coat and get your hat, early Fall is on your doorstep.  Just direct your feet to the Claybanks Methodist Church!


Upcoming Worship Schedule

October 2022 Worship Schedule

Sunday October 2
World Communion Sunday
Psalm 137
Luke 17:5-10
The State Of Our Faith Collectively

Sunday October 9
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-12
Luke 17:11-19
And He Was A Samaritan

Sunday October 16
Romans 1:18-25
The Shack

Sunday October 23
Laity Sunday
Witness By A Church Member

Sunday October 30
All Saints Day
Psalm 119:137-144
Matthew 3:13-17
Remember Your Baptism