Though not a religious holiday, Indendence Day in America is a time to think about more than one aspect of freedom. The colonists rebelled against the Crown for taxation without representation. But they originally left because of the dominance and oppression of the state religion. When they arrived on these shores, they were free to establish their own religion or none at all, should they so choose. And so it has remained throughout our history.
Lest we take this freedom for granted, consider the recent ordeal of a Sudanese woman, Meriam Ibrahim. Her father, who abandoned her at age 6, was Muslim. She was raised by her Christian mother and last month was convicted of apostasy and sentenced to hang. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery after a court ruled her marriage to Wani, a Christian, was invalid. Under Sudan's penal code Muslims are forbidden from changing faith, and Muslim women are not permitted to marry Christian men. Ibrahim insisted she had been brought up as a Christian. Ibrahim and her family are now "safe" in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum.
We have much to be thankful for on this Independence Day.
From the Pastor
As we begin our second year together, let me express my sincere feelings for the blessings that each of you has brought into my life. We have grown comfortable with each other, trusting and more caring for each member of our extended church family. The Holy Spirit is in our sanctuary every Sunday morning; otherwise there would not be the joy, kindness and love that is so apparent. Personally I have grown in my spiritual life as we work together in our worship services, our fellowship together, our Bible Study, our planning together, our community projects, working together to revitalize the fellowship hall, our special worship services, and all the activities that have made us a true church family. We may be small in number, but we are powerful and strong in our love and in our faith!
At our planning meeting on Sunday, July 13 we will outline some activities that we want to continue and possible undertake some new activities – these are for discussion, along with ideas that each of you has – 5th Sunday evening Gospel Singing – perhaps invite the community; Bible Study on the 1st Sunday of the month at 10:30 am, before Worship Service; lite breakfast before church every couple of months or so; plans to encourage "old" members and others to attend Worship Services; etc.
In last month’s newsletter, I indicated that I would share some possible ideas for bringing in “old” members and encouraging others to attend our Worship Service. One that stands out from the School of Pastoral Ministry is that we do not toss out the extra Sunday morning worship bulletins. Instead, our members who attended the Sunday Service will take one or more of the extra bulletins and deliver them to someone in the community during the following week – whether it be a former member or someone else. The emphasis was on the idea of members delivering these bulletins to let folks know that they are welcome, and in some cases, missed at New Hope. If you will recall the statistics that I shared last month: 79% of people who attend church were invited/encouraged by a member friend. That is an amazing concept: only 6% came because they like the pastor; only.5% to hear the Gospel; 5% because of Bible Study / Sunday School; and the others were walk-ins / visitors or had special needs. To make our church grow in disciples for Christ, we all need to work together. Next month, I’ll share a rather outrageous idea to encourage others to attend.
Blessings to each one,
A New Year at New Hope
For those of you keeping score at home, the Methodist year begins in June after the pastor appointments at Annual Conference. This can be a bit confusing as our financial business is on a calendar year. We got the church year off to a rousing start by celebrating the reappointment of Pastor Sandra on Pentecost Sunday. The occasion was marked by a special service featuring our District Superintendent, Brother Frederick Yebuah, who brought us the message of Pentecost. I think we all felt the Spirit on that Sunday in June. It was made even more special by a wonderful dinner, hosted by Cliff and Elaine Eslinger.
Can it be only a year ago that Brother Frederick introduced Sandra to us as our new pastor? Folks, we still have a ways to go, but we surely have seen how God can pour out His blessings on a congregation.