Category Archives: Pastor’s Ponderings

Pastor’s Ponderings

Looking To Find Grace

Almost all of 2020 is behind us and in just a few days a new year will begin- 2021. 2020 has had its long shadows which at times have been difficult to overcome. Early in 2020 we began to hear the term “Covid-19” and we did not fully understand how it was going to affect our lives so dramatically and take so quickly the earthly lives of so many. Covid-19 created much sickness for so many and lingering effects on health which are still being measured and sought out. Our daily routines have been affected and adjustments have been made. As our life continued on with many alterations we still feel the many obligations that must be satisfied and standing on the sidelines at times has been very difficult. Many in our community, country and around the world have felt the losses of lives near them, loss of employment, and the struggles of putting food on the table, paying the rent or mortgages and the utility bills. Our social life has changed dramatically as we only gather in small groups, social and family pods, wear face coverings, keep a social distance and practice many other health-related activities to protect our families, loved ones, friends and our community. We interact in new ways such as in Zoom meetings and Facetime. We spend much more time with our phones in conversation, checking our messages, working with email and spending more time in Facebook than ever before. While all these possibilities for interaction have allowed us to stay in touch with each other, we miss the personal direct human contact that we have experienced throughout our lives which now has become very limiting.

It is possible that the absence of these things has limited the inertia that we bring to a new year and may be sweeping away the excitement we have when a new year approaches as it does beginning in January of every year. Let us not forget what Scripture tells us – that “God’s grace is sufficient” and that is essential in our lives. God’s grace is transformative in the renovation of our hearts and minds as we look to fulfill the expectations of a new year. We know as followers of Jesus Christ that He will never leave us alone or forsake us. Let us not dwell so much on what we have lost during 2020 but look at how 2021 can move us to the better places for our lives. May we learn to respect and appreciate life lived more fully, appreciating the small things that we see and do, thanking God for what has been provided to us by recognizing that God’s grace was sufficient to get us through this past year and we will experience the abundant sufficiency of God’s grace in 2021. Yes, we all know life will be different as we go forward.

Our families may be somewhat different, for sure our gathering in church worship as we enter a new year will be different for a period of time, other activities will still need to be adjusted. Yet, it is through the love that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ that we recognize the grace that Jesus will provide us is more than enough grace for the living of our lives more fully in the upcoming year.
Blessings and stay safe until we can gather together once more safely in community and let’s stay in contact with each other. Happy New Year!

Pastor Gary

Pastor’s Message

I’m sorry to say that we most likely will not be able to return to indoor in person worship in the near future. The Claybanks United Methodist Church and the Michigan Area United Methodist Conference are being diligent in meeting the recommendations set forth by our state and county health department. It has been and will be difficult for us to not meet together in worship and participate in other activities that we as a church family Have been blessed to be able to do together.

Sunday, November 29th is the beginning of the Advent season. To prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior on Christmas we light Advent candles, read scripture and join in meditations of Advent. These practices are important to us as Christians to be ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Preparation is important and so that you might be able to prepare I would like to have you participate in Advent by making a home Advent Wreath with candles and engaging in Advent readings, meditation and prayer. To do so please make a special place in your home where you can celebrate Advent.

Find a location in your home where you can place an Advent Wreath.
Get some fresh boughs from your yard or use some from your holiday decorations. Place them in a circle. Place four tea candles or other candles in a circle within the wreath. Place one candle in the middle. If colored candles are available, three of the outside ones should be one color (purple) and the fourth (pink or rose) and the center candle white. On each Sunday of Advent light one candle for each week as we progress through Advent with the center fifth candle to be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning. For our Advent practice use these Advent readings including Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. First light one or more of the candles depending on the number of weeks into Advent. Read the Scripture provided. I would suggest maybe one scripture each day. Read the response and meditation followed by prayer for each of the Advent Sundays or days during the week and Christmas. Following with a time of quiet and reflection

Please be sure for safety to extinguish the Advent wreath candles. Know that many of our Claybanks United Methodist Church Family are joining you as we honor the Advent season.

Week One – Sunday November 29th

Isaiah 64:1 – 9, Psalm 80:1 – 7, 17 – 19, 1 Corinthians 1:3 – 9, Mark 13:24 – 38
In God there is always hope that a new reality might be created. May God’s hope for the world become our hope as well.
Meditation followed by prayer

Week Two – Sunday, December 6th

Isaiah 40:1, Psalm 85:1 – 3, 8 – 13, 2 Peter 3:8 – 15, Mark 1:1 – 8
God’s vision for the world is one in which all creation is at peace. May this vision guide our lives as well.
Meditation followed by prayer

Week Three – Sunday, December 13th

Isaiah 61:1 – 4, 8 – 11, Psalm 126, Luke 1:46 – 55, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 – 24, John 1:6 – 8, 19 – 28
We anticipate with joy God’s presence breaking into our world each day, as it did long ago.
Meditation followed by prayer

Week Four – Sunday, December 20th

2 Samuel 7:1 – 11, 16, Luke 1:46 – 55, Psalm 86:1 – 4, 19 – 26, Romans 16:25 – 27, Luke 1:26 – 38
As we journey into the last week of Advent, we prepare our hearts to receive God’s love made incarnate in the birth of Christ. Let us be inspired by the traditional words of, “O come, O come, Emmanuel”. Meditation followed by prayer.

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day December 24th – 25th
Isaiah 9:2 – 7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11 – 14, Luke 2:1 – 14, 15 – 20
Today we recognize the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we continue to express our longing, and may our reflections and prayers prepare our hearts for Christ coming. May you and your loved ones experience the fullness of Christ’s presence this Christmas season and God’s peace in your heart as you enter the New Year.

Additional Advent Activity
Cut paper strips (Colored if available) you choose the size. Print on each strip one of these Advent words: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Each day in Advent attach one of the strips to extend your chain making an Advent Chain hanging in a prominent place in your home. Maybe on each chain link, write a word that best reflect your meditation from your Advent Scripture reading of the day.

It is the prayer of Reba and myself that in this most unusual year of 2020 that we are able to recognize the blessings that God has given us and that we are able to use the blessings that God has in store for us in 2021 in our lives as we continue to make Disciples for Jesus Christ.
Be safe and stay well!
Pastor Gary

Pastor’s Ponderings

November 2020

I am in awe of Bishop David Bard the Bishop for the Michigan Area United Methodist Conference. Bishop Bard has a real appreciation and concern for the Michigan churches and pastors that he shepherds. He is in touch with our needs. In the first part of October Bishop Bard sent a message to us as clergy and churches for a reminder of the rules related to political activity of congregations and pastors concerning our 501(C) (3) tax exempt status.

I along with many other pastors have struggled this fall with how we are able to express our personal political views, for we are citizens of the United States and registered voters also. Yet because I am a pastor and at times looked to for leadership, I must still live under some much-needed rules so that I do not jeopardize our exempt status as a religious organization. As outlined by our Bishop, religious organizations such as the Claybanks United Methodist Church are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidates for elective public office. Nor as an institution we are not able to contribute to political campaigns or public statements of position in favor of or opposed to any candidate for political office. Voter education activities including public forums and publishing of voter education guides done in a nonpartisan manner are permissible.

Other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get out to vote drives would not constitute prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a nonpartisan manner. Individual expression by pastors on political matters or partisan candidates is not allowed if done during religious organized activities. Speaking concerning important issues of public policy are allowed under the tax-exempt rulings.

When I express my views on election matters or candidates outside of church activities I must make it clear that I am speaking as an individual and not as a representative of our church or our denomination. I have experienced this fall a real dilemma on how I can express my views and still meet the guidelines set forth to us as pastors. I do have some strong views about our politics and what is right and wrong as we approach our election day on November 3rd . Recently, I read an article written by one of the leaders of the John Wesley Movement concerning how John Wesley approached the political happenings of his day. John Wesley promoted these ideas. 1) Vote for the person you judge most worthy. 2) Speak no evil of the person you vote against. 3) Take care your spirit is not sharpened against those that vote on the other side of you. These three rules that John Wesley brought forward reminded me of my place, helped calm my soul and placed me back into a better presence as pastor. This newsletter message comes out right on the crest of voting on November 3rd and has implications for us not just prior and during voting but also after the votes have been counted and victory given.

So may my and your heart be strangely warmed as we call on the Holy Spirit to help us remember that God created us each with a free will and gifted each of us in many different ways.

I am allowed to encourage you to pray for our election, to go out and exercise your responsibility as a citizen of our great country, and vote on November 3rd. If you have not already exercised your right and privilege of voting please do not take this responsibility lightly.

Pastor Gary

November 1st Service

Claybanks United Methodist Church
November 1, 2020  10:30 a.m.
All Saints’ Day

Welcome and Announcements

Praise Song: “For All the Saints” #711


Processional (Altar candles to be lighted)

*Call to Worship
Leader: Let us bless God every chance we get.
All: We bless the God of our salvation.
Leader: Magnify the Lord.
All: We lift up God’s name in praise.
Leader: O taste and see that God is good.
All: Those who make their home in God are
filled with joy.
Leader: Magnify the Lord.
All: Lift God’s name in praise.

*Gloria Patri

Opening Prayer

Hymn: “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” #712

Recognizing the Saints – see insert

Prayers of the People – Joys and Concerns

Children’s Time

The Offering of Our Gifts and Ourselves

Prayer of Dedication

Hymn: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” #384

Sharing the Word –
Old Testament Reading: Revelation 7:9-17
*Gospel Reading: Matthew 5:1-12

Message: Blessed Are…… Pastor Gary

Words of Assurance

The Great Thanksgiving

Hymn: “Fairest Lord Jesus” #189



After using Hymnals and Bibles,
please leave on pew/seat for cleaning!
Thank you!!

Prayer Concerns


Tuesday, Nov. 3…………………….Election Day
Sundays in November……..Food Bank Mission
Wednesday, Nov. 11……………Veteran’s Day
Tuesday, Nov. 17, 4:30pm……Worship Design
7:00pm……… Ad Council

Office Telephone: 231-923-0573
Office email:

Pianist: Suzanne Bellrichard
Ministers: All People As We Live the Good News

Pastor’s Ponderings


Pastor’s Message

I am my Brother’s (Sister’s) Keeper. (Genesis 4:9)
Love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9)
Every so often I as your pastor must take
and use my pastor role to lead my
congregation in what at times can be a
very difficult position. I realize this writing
might be difficult for some who will be
offended but I must do this to meet my
promises made when I became a pastor for
the United Methodist Church, and I was
given a congregation to shepherd.

I along with many others feel that our
country has not done our best in keeping
Covid-19 under control. I know these
figures that I will use are only one source
from many, but they are generally the
middle of the road.

As I write this we have gone beyond the
200,000 count in loss of life in the United
States. My heart is in sorrow, my feelings
are heavy. I reach out to all who have lost
a loved one, family or friend. These lives
are not just numbers but God’s creation
with lives that have ended all too soon. All
of them beautiful lives lost long before
they should have been ended.

The United States has 4% of the world’s
population. We have experienced 21% of
the world’s death from Covid-19. While
our main focus is on the United States, the
world is hurting too with the loss of life.
The United States has arguably more
resources than any other country in the
world, yet we have fallen short in using
what we have been given by God to the
fullest for the good of all. When great and
tragic things happen in our country or the
world, the United States has been looked
to and has been a leader to overcome and
bring all we have to bear to end the bad
that has tried to overtake humankind.

We have been told to: Wash our hands
frequently, use social/safe distances and to
wear face coverings. I have been very
disappointed that we have resisted for
whatever personal reasons and that only
60% of our population wears face
coverings with continued focus and good
intent. It is not always easy to have a
covering at the ready, but it has to become
a habit. This health solution if done by
90% of our population will save by
estimates 115,000 lives by the end of the
year. If not done or if we stay at or fall
behind in face covering usage we will very
possibly double the loss of life in just a few
months bring the total to 378,000 deaths
in our country by January 1, 2021.
This is not a political issue – it is a moral
responsibility. We are not giving up our
rights – we are taking responsibility and
giving consideration to others because we
love as Jesus instructed us to do.

The United Methodist Church has for most
of our existence supported many different
social issues and the care of our sisters and
brothers health is ours to care for. We are
to make their health the most important
thing we can do for them right now and
until we have a vaccine for all and we as a
country and a world can return to a more
normal existence and way of life. Do no
harm, do good and pray as you stay in love
with God. John Wesley our founder
encouraged us to do all that we can for all
we can.

Stay healthy and in good spirits!

Pastor Gary

Pastor’s Ponderings

Pastor’s Message
September 2020

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4
Have you ever seen in the word PRAISE is the word RAISE.
Today I will raise to the Lord….
My voice
My hands
My family
My Friends
My Claybanks Church.

It has been five plus months since our world has been turned around, over, under and through. We have worshiped on the radio, on the web, in our living rooms, on our porches and decks and too many other places to count. Now Claybanks UMC is able to worship in a relatively safe place for a number of our church family. As of this writing we have been able to come together twice to worship outside of our church building on the drives and on our lawn with great enthusiasm and our hands raised in praise.

I cannot express in words how good it feels as your pastor to look out and see faces and hear voices. I am deeply grateful to Anne Riegler, Mears UMC, and Shelby UMC as they have allowed us to be a part of their worship on the radio and live streaming. On our last Sunday together on August 2nd following worship we were able to track the number of computers that were connected to our webcast. It was 172 computers that were participating in our livestream. It is not possible to determine numbers of listeners from radio but when we combine the membership of Mears, Shelby and Claybanks United Methodist Churches knowing that there may be more than one person watching the live stream on devices and listing on the radio we were exceeding the combined total of all three churches by a good margin. We raise our hands in praise!

It is difficult during these times to be a “Church”, but God is using us to reach those who may not ever or may only infrequently attend worship in our churches. With the assistance of modern technology we are reaching far and wide to those on the margins. Praise the Holy Spirit!

Now that we have returned to in- person worship at Claybanks for the next few weeks outdoors and when we return indoors to our sanctuary, we at Claybanks can offer something new for those who want to connect but need to remain at a distance. We have now a working transmitter that will broadcast our worship service for 1000 yards. So if you feel that you want to worship with us, you can do it in the safety from your auto. We will save the north side of the parking lot for those who like to be present yet keep a safe space. When we return to indoor worship sometime in the fall, we will continue to broadcast on 103.9 FM for those who would choose to remain in their autos.

Our Worship Design Team has been meeting and continually evaluating our worship service and will try to bring a spirit lead worship experience to as many as possible in ways that meet their needs. Please let us know if we can do anything in our worship more safely, uplifting, engaging and Spirit-led.

Pastor Gary

Pastor’s Ponderings

Returning to Worship Outdoor at Claybanks United Methodist Church

We have been blessed to worship with Mears and Shelby United Methodist Churches on the radio and on the web these past few months. It is believed now is the time for all three church to once again to gather with in person worship. Weather permitting August 9th into September we will worship outdoors at Claybanks United Methodist Church.

This is an alternative to returning to worshiping in the sanctuary during the present level of Covid-19. It is felt that with caution we can meet and worship outdoors. Worship will begin at 10:30 AM.

The drive between the building and lawn on the south side of the church will be where we are placing our Cross, candles, equipment, keyboard and podium.

Face coverings will be required all the time as we gather. When we arrive please keep physical safe distance. Please sit-down using lawn chairs that you have brought with you or folding chairs from our building will be made available. Look for markings for safe distancing.

Bulletins and music will be placed on tables to be picked up by those attending and wishing to do so. We would request those doing this maintain a minimum of 6-foot physical distance from those ahead of you as you pick up bulletins and music. Hand sanitizer, wipes and extra face coverings will also be available in the bulletin table areas.

Using the green space between our parking lot and the drive that goes along next to the building we will identify areas in which groups can sit keeping a six-foot interval between groups.

We can sing during worship temporary as we remain outside and given the particle airborne danger singing creates for spreading droplets beyond 6 feet even outside, face coverings need to be worn during singing. John Wesley normally encourages us to, “Sing with good courage” but he would be amendable for us during this time to sing with softer voices.

There will be offering plates placed in the area adjacent to the parking area on tables. Also baskets for prayer concerns will be on the tables.

The double doors of church will be propped open for those needing to use the restrooms.

Parking spaces along the north edge of the parking lot will be reserved for those wanting to stay in their vehicles and for those with physical limitations. We now have a limited distance FM Radio Transmitter so you will be able to tune your car radio to listen to the worship service. A station selection will be communicated to you at worship time.

Following worship those attending are asked to wear their face coverings as they leave the area.

These items of caution that we will be following are to help us have a safer worship experience and haven been determined and selected using an abundance of caution. The steps that we take now are being done to acknowledge that we care for one another. Because of the errors that have been previously made by opening too soon or not taking the correct cautionary steps have led us to places where we have unknowingly and unwittingly allowed the Covid-19 virus to spread. We are learning and planning not to repeat them. If you have any other possible concerns or ideas for safe gathering and worship, please bring them forward so that we can evaluate and place them within our structure to worship outdoors or when we move indoors.

Please be in prayer as you consider whether to return to group worship. I am praying for all in this matter. Health concerns, comfort levels and your personal wellbeing are our concern. We will not make any judgement nor pressure anyone to return to worship until they are ready to do so. Know that we will pray for all our Claybanks Family each and every Sunday.
Pastor Gary