Category Archives: Good News Letter

Good News Letter

Hey, how are you?

Reba and I are healthy and doing well during this time of sheltering in place. We had a number of opportunities to prepare for an extended period of time to shelter in place. We have been keeping a social distance which has kept us healthy and in good spirits. I pray that you are in a good place also.

During this past two weeks of isolation I have been spending a number of hours each day learning to do church differently. Our conference office is providing for us as clergy webinars that have given us ideas and practices to help us to continue our calling as pastors in many innovative and new ways. On Sunday, March 24th I was blessed to be able to share the web and radio broadcast from the Mears United Methodist Church with Pastor Anne Riegler. On Monday, March 25th the guidelines changed and we could no longer both gather at the Mears United Methodist Church to lead worship together. Anne will be leading worship on Sunday, March 29th from the Mears United Methodist Church sanctuary along with one technician to assist her. I will be leading worship on Palm Sunday, April 5th. Anne and I will be working together to develop an Easter Sunday worship experience for April 12th that Anne will be leading.

I will continue to use the phone and social media as well as postal mail as we continue to stay in contact with each other. I encourage you to contact me to share information, needs and concerns using the medium that you feel most comfortable with. I also encourage you to stay in contact with each other, your friends and family of Claybanks United Methodist Church. We need to communicate and be in relationship with each other as we work to support each other during this very unusual time that we are living in. By doing so we will get through the struggles together looking forward to the day when we can assemble to worship in our beautiful Claybanks United Methodist Church building. When that day arrives, we are planning some special activities to celebrate our connectional presence together.

John Wesley the founder of Methodism embrace three social principles that I find not only comforting but give me direction especially during this time. These social principles can be summed up by saying “Do no harm, do good and stay in love with God. First, “To do no harm” by sheltering in place we will not contact the corona virus nor open paths for its spread to others. Secondly, by “Doing good” we support those who are giving of their time, gifts, skills resources, health, and even possibly their own life so that we can remain protected from this deadly virus. Thirdly, by “Staying in love with God” means we take Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and trust in him to provide for our needs as we are given the opportunity to feed our faith through prayer, devotional time and by studying Scripture.

I look forward with hope and joy to the day when we can gather together and shout in unison, “Alleluia and praise to the Lord”!

Pastor Gary

Good News Letter

Pastor Ponderings March 2020

What is next for our United Methodist Church? Back in January, I preached a message concerning the state of the United Methodist Church and possibly where we were going. At that time a nine page document called “Protocol for Reconciliation And Grace Through Separation” had just been announced and was agreed upon by a coalition of global connected and advocacy groups within the United Methodist Church. This protocol was brought forward as a way to end or at least greatly reduce the denominations decades’ long struggle over how accepting we are to be of homosexuality. In March 2019 at the special called General Conference in St. Louis it became clear that a line in the sand had turned into a canyon and the impasse was such that we have come to realize that we just cannot stay this way any longer so the protocol was brought forward.

Since the protocol was released, it has been written up in a form that the United Methodist Judicial Council has approved and it now clarifies many of the questions brought forward since its release. In order for it to be brought to the 2020 General Conference to be held in May of this year in Minneapolis-St. Paul this proposal must be brought by an Annual Conference as approved legislation to be placed in front of the voting members of General Conference. Because the date to submit ratified legislation from Annual Conferences for General Conference was passed by last fall and no Annual Conference is meeting until after the General Conference the Michigan Annual Conference and the Sierra Leon Annual Conference have been selected to bring this protocol in front of the General Conference in May. These two conferences were selected with respect to the leadership that each conference Bishop has taken not only within their conference but in the greater United Methodist Church. A special session of the Michigan Annual Conference has been called to meet on Saturday, March 7th in the Goodrich Chapel on the campus of Adrian College with the sole purpose of this session to consider whether the Michigan Conference will approve and send the legislation based on the “Protocol for Reconciliation And Grace Through Separation” to the General Conference 2020 so that it might be considered by the delegates at the General Conference. To receive this approved legislation, the General Conference has said they will take it up as the first piece of legislative business. Only an approved piece of legislation from an Annual Conference can be brought forth to General Conference so one or both of the Annual Conferences must approve the proposed legislation.

Representing Claybanks United Methodist Church at the March 7th Special Session Annul Conference will be Edie Bogart who has been our Claybanks representative to Annual Conference for a number of years. Reba Peterson who is currently an equalization representative will also be attending. Myself, as clergy, will be attending and all three of us have been given by our positions voice and vote to the proposal. I would ask that you keep Edie, Reba and myself in prayers as we continue to research and try to understand all the complexities of this proposal. We understand what is about to take place is the most significant possible change in the life of our church since 1968 when the United Brethren Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church became the United Methodist Church that we have come to love and received love through in so many different ways.

Please keep our Methodist Church and its leaders in your prayers.

​​​​​​​​Pastor Gary

Good News Letter

Church Is Hard!

When we think of the church, it is not just the building that is the church. The Church is the people of God as individuals who come together as a community of believers, who come to together to worship God and live a Christ-like life through the power of the Holy Spirit. Whether gathered together or in the community, we must remember that we are all in different places in our life’s journey, and we are called by God to be sisters and brothers to each other.

Church is hard for the person walking through the doors, afraid of judgment.
Church is hard for the prodigal son returning home, broken and battered by the world.
Church is hard for the girl who looks like she has it all together but does not.
Church is hard for a couple who fought the entire way to the worship.
Church is hard for the single mom, surrounded by couples holding hands and having seemingly perfect families and lives.
Church is hard for the widow or widower with no invitation to lunch after worship.
Church is hard for the church leader with an estranged child.
Church is hard for the person singing worship songs, overwhelmed by the weights of the lyrics.
Church is hard for the person insecure in their role as a leader.
Church is hard for the person who longs to be led by a righteous person.
Church is hard for a nursery volunteer who desperately longs for a baby to love.
Church is hard for the single woman and a single man, praying God brings them a mate.
Church is hard for the teenager who is ashamed of the mistakes they have made.
Church is hard for the sinners.
Church can be hard for any of us.

It is hard because on the outside it all looks shiny and perfect, Sunday best in behavior and dress.
However, underneath these layers, you find a body of imperfect people and hurt souls.

But, here is the beauty to the church.
Church is not a building.
Church is a body.
Church is a group of sinners, saved by grace, living in fellowship as saints.
Church is a body of believers bound as brothers in sisters by an eternal love.
Church is a holy ground where sinners stand as equals before the throne of God.
Church is a refuge for broken hearts and training ground for mighty warriors.
Church is a conversing of confirmation and invitation. Where sin is confronted and hearts and souls are invited to seek restoration.
Church is a lesson in faith and trust.
Church is a bearer of burdens and a giver of hope.
Church is a family, a family coming together, setting aside differences, forgetting past mistakes, rejoicing in the smallest of victories.
Church, the body, and the circle of sinners turned saints, is where God resides and if we seek and ask, He is faithful to all.
So even on the hard days at church, the days when I am at odds with a friend, when I have fought with my spouse because we are late once again, when I walk in bearing burdens heavier than my heart can handle, yet masking the pain with a smile on my face, when I wear the scarlet letter and am under the microscope, when I long for a baby to hold or fought tears in the lyrics we have sung, when I walked back in, afraid and broken after walking away, I will remember God has never failed to meet me there.

​​​​​​​​​​​Pastor Gary

*Portions reprinted with permission from the Waypoint publication of the Wesleyan Church.

Good News Letter

You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness” (Psalm 65:11).

I remember when the Christian church used to celebrate New Year’s Day by attending worship services on New Year’s Day. In some denominations even today New Year’s Day considered a Christian Holiday. In the United Methodist Book of Worship it is still considered a special day so we should pay particular attention to the selection of New Year wishes that we extend to others. The New Year gives us an opportunity in 2020 to make new resolutions and continue a tradition that has long been a staple of how we greet others when we asked them, “What New Year’s Resolutions are you making for this year”? Or maybe we have an opportunity to tell them what is going to be different for you in 2020 than in previous years. For me I am going to try something different in my resolutions for this year. I am going to only make one resolution even though there could have been many others as in years past I believe that if I keep this one resolution for 2020 all of my thoughts and needs will fall into place. The resolution will be this, “Happy New Year, God is all I need”. I will let spirituality be my New Year’s resolution; for God is all I need to succeed.

Let us pray:
Thank you Lord for giving me
This brand-new year ahead.
Help me live the way I should
As each new day I tread.
Give me gentle wisdom
That I might help a friend,
Give me strength and courage
So a shoulder I might lend.
The year ahead is empty.
Help me fill it with good things.
Each new day with joy
And happiness it brings.

Happy New Year, “May God give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed” (Psalm 20:4) and “Let the favor of our Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands and heart.” (Psalm 90:17)