Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
I hope the first week of 2018 has been treating you well.
I want to start this week’s eNote by encouraging you to join us on Sunday (January 7) for the first sermon in a new series called, Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope. In this series, we will explore some of the most common worries and fears that we experience today, consider practical steps for overcoming these fears, and reflect upon fear in the light of Scripture and a faith that promises again and again that we don’t need to live in fear. The good news is that, with God’s help, we can live with courage and hope. If you know someone that might be helped by these messages, please let them know and encourage them to worship with us at St. Matthew’s on Sunday morning.
The new sermon series is one of many upcoming opportunities you will have to deepen your relationship with God in the coming weeks. The weekly announcement emails we send out on Wednesdays and Sunday bulletins have details about the programs, activities, and events that are happening at St. Matthew’s in the next few months. There are programs for children, youth, and adults. Whether you are newcomer to the church or a life-long member, I think you’ll find at least one way to grow closer to Jesus and to other people who are on the same journey of faith that you are on.
In my sermon last Sunday, I talked about how the start of another year is a prime time to make resolutions, set goals, and renew commitments to healthy, fruitful, and faithful living. I find the week between Christmas and New Year to be an excellent time to do some personal prayer and reflection and consider where I think God is leading me in the next year. I said that I’ve been revisiting the alternate ways we might measure our lives (from our fall sermon series). Thinking through the question—how will you measure your life?—has been helpful to me. You probably have some questions of your own, or aspects of your life, that are attracting your attention. Whatever they are, I encourage you to find some time for reflection. I know that it is hard to carve out extra time in our busy lives, but I find that it is worth it.
What I hope is that, as you think about the next year of your life, you will make your relationship with God a priority. Specifically, I hope you will make growing closer to Jesus one of your highest priorities. If you do, I think you’ll be blessed. I also think you’ll discover that the ministries of St. Matthew’s can help you on your journey: weekly worship (and special services at various times of the year) offer life-changing encounters with the living Christ; classes (Sunday School for all ages and a variety of short-term studies) and small groups meet to facilitate learning and growth; and mission opportunities (from our ongoing partnership with Weyanoke Elementary School to our upcoming week of hosting an overflow hypothermia shelter for Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax) connect us to God through our service to others.
Taking the next step can feel very scary; change of any kind is not easy. But as we will discover in the upcoming series of sermons, the Bible (from Genesis to Revelation) says very clearly, do not be afraid. The promise is that God is with us. And that is very Good News.
As we discovered this week, winter is (seriously!) upon us. We know that inclement weather can affect schedules for services, meetings, and events. During the week, we typically follow Fairfax County public schools and close the office and cancel activities when schools are closed and/or school activities are cancelled. But there are sometimes exceptions. On weekdays and weekends, we do our best to communicate schedule changes through our website, email, and social media, but when conditions change quickly, that may not always be possible. So, if the weather is bad or conditions are uncertain, please do two things: 1) double-check with the program or ministry leader about the status of your meeting or event; and 2) use good judgment and discretion if you venture out.
If winter weather affects Sunday morning worship services or Sunday School classes, we will make decisions about schedule changes by 7:00am. We will announce the changes on our website, our Facebook page, and Twitter account. We will also send out a special eNote with details about the changed schedule. Again, please use good judgment and be very careful if you decide to come out. Don’t forget that our worship services are live streamed (audio only) through our website if you are not able to join us.
You may be aware that the St. Matthew’s Trustees contract for snow removal in the church parking lot, but the contract does not include the sidewalks. That means that we rely on volunteers to make sure the sidewalks are clear of snow and ice, making them safe for church services, events, programs, and the weekday school. When winter weather hits, your help will be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance for your willingness to serve.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas celebration with family and friends and are enjoying the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
To start with, I want to thank everyone who helped with our worship services on Christmas Eve. It takes an enormous amount of effort to hold these special services and many of you gave up valuable time and energy to prepare and participate. Please know that your efforts were greatly appreciated by the 1,500-plus people who attended services on Christmas Eve. A special word of thanks to the Worship Committee and everyone else who offered wonderful food and hospitality on Christmas Eve for those of us who were at the church all afternoon and evening. We were blessed by your graciousness and your generosity. Thank you.
On Sunday morning, we resume our regular worship schedule with traditional services at 8:15am and 11:15am and modern worship at 9:45am. Please note that there will be no children’s Sunday School or youth Sunday School this week. In this week’s services, we will read Isaiah 60:1-6 and Matthew 2:1-12 and consider the Magi who followed the star to worship Jesus. The title of the message is A Star is Born. I look forward to seeing you if you are in town.
Looking ahead, I’m excited about the new sermon series that will be starting next Sunday, January 7. It’s called, Unafraid: Living with Courage and Hope. In this series, we will explore some of the most common worries and fears that we experience today, consider practical steps for overcoming these fears, and reflect upon fear in the light of Scripture and a faith that promises again and again that we don’t need to live in fear. The good news is that, with God’s help, we can live with courage and hope. If you know someone that might be helped by these messages, please invite them to join us.
Next month, I will give you an update about St. Matthew’s financial status at the end of 2017. But I can tell you that, thanks to your generosity, the church is financially healthy. The good news is that God has used the resources we have returned to God to not only bless our lives through the ministries of the church, but also to bless people in our own community and around the world.
As 2017 draws to a close this weekend, I want to remind you that Sunday (December 31) is the last day for 2017 offerings. If you elect to mail your year-end offering, please ensure it is postmarked on or before December 31. Don’t forget that you can give online or by text message.
We are continuing to receive Estimates of Giving (EOG) for 2018. In November, when we kicked-off our 2018 stewardship campaign, it was connected with a sermon series called, How Will You Measure Your Life? Over the course of the series, we described five (5) alternative metrics for living a life that pleases God:
• By how much joy you experience
• By the relationships you cultivate
• By the people you bless
• By what you give away
• By the risks you take
As we prepare to turn the calendar from 2017 to 2018, you might want to find a few minutes to answer the question: how will you measure your life next year. I think you’ll be blessed if by what you give away is one of your personal metrics for the next twelve (12) months. One way to change the metrics for your life is to turn in an Estimate of Giving (EOG) for the church. If you haven’t turned in your EOG for next year, you can download the form here and bring it with you on Sunday or mail it to the church office. You can also complete the form online.
Finally, on behalf of St. Matthew’s pastors and staff, I want to thank you for the generous love offering you gave us this year. As you already know, we (the pastors and staff) believe that we have been called to serve God through the ministries of the church and are blessed to be partners in ministry with you. We are looking forward to working on our Next Level Innovations and discovering what God has planned for St. Matthew’s Church in 2018. Thank you very much for your continued support of our calls to ministry and for the generosity of the love offering.
Anne, Rob, Andrew, and Emily join me in wishing you and your family a blessed Happy New Year.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
I hope this week’s eNote finds you well.
After weeks of anticipation and preparation, the time has come to celebrate the birth of Jesus. On Sunday morning, we will have a single service at 10:00am. We will light the fourth candle on our Advent wreath and continue our God With Us sermon series. The Sunday morning message will remind us that Jesus comes, Saving Us From our Sins. The Scripture readings will be Isaiah 7:10-16 and Matthew 1:18-25. The nursery will be open and Children’s Worship will be available (for kids 4 years through 2nd grade.)
Then, on Sunday afternoon and evening, we will have four Christmas Eve worship services:
• 4:00pm: the Family Worship features our children’s choirs and a very special telling of the Christmas story. Every child who attends the service (from infants up to and including 6th graders) will have an opportunity to participate. Arrive early to choose a costume in the Commons and find a seat. (The costume shop will open at 3:15pm.)
• 6:00pm: the Modern Worship service of Scripture and song will include the Christmas message — Shining Light Into Darkness — candlelight and Holy Communion. (Nursery will be available.)
• 8:30 and 11:00pm: the Traditional Worship services will include special music, the Christmas message — Shining Light Into Darkness — candlelight and Holy Communion. (Nursery will be available for the 8:30 service.)
• A Handbell Prelude will start approximately 15 minutes before the 8:30 and 11:00pm service. You will want to arrive early to find a parking place and a seat in the sanctuary and let the beautiful music prepare your heart and mind for worship.
No matter what your schedule this weekend might be, I hope you will attend (at least) one worship service. Even if you’ve heard the Christmas story many times before, God can use the familiar words and songs to touch your heart in a fresh and powerful way. So bring your family, invite a friend, and join us at St. Matthew’s. If you are traveling, find a church nearby: this website will help you find a United Methodist Church anywhere in the United States.
On Christmas Eve, we expect to have many guests worshipping with us and our parking spaces and pews will fill up quickly. I hope you will be careful as you drive around the church and patient as you find a parking place and a seat in the sanctuary. I also hope you will be intentional about offering the kind of hospitality and welcome for which St. Matthew’s is known. Please be sure to welcome and introduce yourself to the people sitting with you in worship.
Don’t forget that overflow parking will be available at Wakefield Forest Elementary School (which can be accessed from Virginia Avenue). If you are able, please consider parking at the outer edges of the church parking lot (or at the school) so that spaces closest to the church will available for our guests and for our less-mobile members.
We will be receiving funds for the Advent Offering through the end of the year. The offering will help provide meals for hungry children in our community through our partnership with Weyanoke Elementary School; and through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), it will help families recover from the hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico this fall. Don’t forget that 100% of our offering will go directly to those in need. We’re going to share some information about our partnership with Weyanoke during our morning service on Sunday. I am proud of our partnership with these two organizations and I’m thankful for your generosity. Don’t forget that you can use your smartphone and give by text message. Go to this link to find out how HERE.
Many thanks to everyone who donated to the playground fundraising project. Thanks to your generosity, we met our goal of raising $10,000! A new piece of equipment has been ordered and will be installed sometime this spring.
Finally, we are continuing to receive Estimates of Giving (EOG) for 2018. We have received 207 so far. Our goal is to receive at least 260 EOG’s by the end of the year (which would match the number we received in 2017.) If you haven’t turned in your Estimate of Giving for next year, you can download the form here and bring it with you on Sunday or mail it to the church office. You can also complete the form online.
Anne, Rob, Andrew and Emily join me in wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
A lot has been said (and written) in the past week about the events that took place in Charlottesville last Saturday. Like you, I am deeply saddened by hate-filled rhetoric and violence and stand with those who reject all forms of racism, bigotry, hatred, and white supremacy. I appreciate the diversity of God’s creation and to the best of my ability will work to ensure that St. Matthew’s Church—and all the churches that I serve—reflect the Kingdom of God, where, by the grace of God, I believe everyone is welcome and included.
I will also, to the best of my ability, lead the Church to fully live into the vows we make when we profess our faith and are received into the Body of Christ. For me the words are a powerful reminder of who we are. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say, who we aspire to be, with God’s help. These vows inspired me when I participated in the community vigil on Easter Saturday after the Jewish Community Center and Little River UCC were vandalized with hateful graffiti, and they inspire me now. So, let me encourage you to remember and reaffirm your baptismal vows right now:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,
put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord,
in union with the Church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations, and races?
A number of United Methodist leaders have published statements and/or reflections about what happened in Charlottesville last week. Here is a statement by Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops. Reverend Jeff Mickle, who is the Alexandria District Superintendent, and was in Charlottesville last weekend, also shared his thoughts this week. I encourage you to read both pieces, but I highly recommend Jeff’s article.
As people who confess Jesus as our Savior, trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as our Lord, we believe that the teaching and example of Jesus, which are revealed in the New Testament Gospels, speak to all aspects of our lives. But the truth is: sometimes it is (relatively) easy to understand what Jesus wants us to do; sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we try to compartmentalize our faith and only apply Jesus’ teaching and example to selected parts of our lives. But that’s not the way I understand Christian discipleship. Some people think that following Jesus’ teaching and example is naïve. I confess that at times I’ve wondered about that myself, but I always come back to Jesus. I need—and I think the world needs—what Jesus offers: God’s love and grace. That’s why I keep reading the Gospels and why I think our summer sermon series on the parables has been so important. Jesus challenges us, encourages us, and most importantly, teaches us what we need to know.
The series concludes this week with a message entitled: “A Man Going on a Journey.” The Scripture readings will be 1 Corinthians 4:1-7, Matthew 25:14-30. This is the Parable of the Talents, which includes the words of the Master that we all long to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, ESV.) I hope you’ll join us on Sunday and learn more about what leads the Master (in the parable) to offer that blessing and why it is relevant to our 21st century lives.
Looking ahead, don’t forget that next Sunday – August 27 – is Youth Sunday at St. Matthew’s. At all three services, our youth will share testimonies about the Handbell Tour, the Appalachia Service Project, and the Jeremiah Project. You’ll be blessed and inspired. You don’t want to miss it.
It’s not too late to donate to our school supply drive for Weyanoke Elementary School. Here is a list of the supplies that we are collecting: backpacks, glue sticks, two-pocket folders, colored pencils, pencils, composition books, and loose leaf paper. You can put your donations in the marked bins in the church library. Thank you for helping kids in our community get off to a great start to the school year. The drive ends on August 27.
One last note for today: If you are a member of St. Matthew’s and would like to be nominated to represent the Alexandria District at Annual Conference next year, let me know and I will send you an application form. The application is due in the District Office by September 7. (Note: district delegates who attend Annual Conference will be reimbursed up to $300 for expenses.)
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family:
It’s good to be back at the church this week after spending last week in Fentress County, TN with our Appalachia Service Project Team. For me, it was a great week of Christian fellowship and hard work. I was proud of the way our youth and adults pulled together to make the homes we worked on warmer, safer, and drier. I was also proud that we could partner with Woodlawn-Faith UMC in Alexandria to help them take the first steps on their own ASP journey. Many thanks to Mike Fee and Shane Hartzler for their leadership and to the entire ASP Team for giving valuable time and energy to serve Christ through ASP.
The need for mission projects like ASP was driven home to me last week when Abraham McIntyre, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for ASP visited our center. He told us that the ASP summer program was working on 500 houses across Appalachia this summer (which I think is an amazing number), but he went on to tell us that ASP received 6,500 applications from homeowners for 2017. When I remember that these numbers only represent people who learned about ASP and were able to apply, I am painfully aware of how many people in our world are hurting. I am also aware that God is calling The Church to do something about it—and I’m thankful that St. Matthew’s Church is answering God’s call.
Another way that we have answered God’s call is by hosting close to 200 children from the church and community for Vacation Bible School (VBS) and Kids & Mission Projects (KAMP) this week. It’s been a great week of learning and fun. The VBS theme this year has been Maker Fun Factory, and we’ve learned a lot about God’s love through Bible stories, songs, videos, and service projects. Many thanks to Carrie Schwab, Sarah Harrison, Christine Moser, and Christine Marucchi for their leadership and the many youth and adults who have served Christ through VBS and KAMP.
Our summer of mission and service continues next week. On Sunday morning, our Jeremiah Project (JP) team will leave for a week of service in the Winchester, VA area. Twenty members of the church family will be participating. Please keep them in your prayers as they travel and serve. Pray that they will draw closer to God and closer to one another. But most importantly, pray for the families they will be serving; pray that God will use the JP Team to bless their lives in a meaningful way.
Don’t forget that Sunday, August 27, will be Youth Mission Sunday. During all three services on that day, our youth will share experiences from the Handbell Tour, ASP, and JP. You don’t want to miss it.
Finally, our summer sermon series on the parables of Jesus – Tell Me a Story – continues on Sunday. This Sunday’s message is entitled: “Which One of You, Having a Hundred Sheep.” The Scripture readings will be Luke 15:1-7 and Luke 19:1-10. As we consider the parable of the lost sheep, we’ll discover just how much God loves us and reflect on what Jesus’ life and teaching (in parables) tells us about God’s priorities.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family:
I hope you are all staying cool during this very hot summer week!
As many of you know, Pastor Neil and 64 of our youth and adult volunteers are spending the week in Fentress County, TN with the Appalachia Service Project. So far this week, our ASP teams have dug drainage ditches, laid insulation, patched roofs, built ramps, solved plumbing projects, among many other projects to help build warmer, safer, and drier homes for our neighbors in Fentress County. We are so proud of our youth and adults that take seriously what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in our world. Neil and the ASP teams also wanted to pass along how grateful everyone is for the congregation’s prayers and support. Please continue to pray for our ASP team as they return home this Saturday.
We continue this week in our sermon series called Tell Us A Story, about Jesus’ parables. Parables were Jesus’ preferred teaching style and Jesus often used familiar images to explain and clarify unfamiliar concepts. This week’s sermon is called “Someone Gave a Great Dinner” based on Isaiah 25:1-10, Luke 14:15-24. If you pay attention in the scriptures, some of the most important and unexpected events happen around an important meal and this week we will look at how through a great meal, God’s table extends to all.
When you come to church on Sunday, the sanctuary will look just a bit different! We are preparing for our Vacation Bible School and KAMP (Kids and Mission Projects) week, and our sanctuary is set up to welcome the nearly 200 children from around our community to our church starting Monday, July 17th! This year’s theme is Maker Fun Factory and we will teach our children that we are ‘Created by God’ and ‘Made with a Purpose’. Many thanks to Carrie Schwab and all the coordinators and volunteers who have stepped up this year to lead, it is only through your gift of presence that we are able to live out what it means to be people of Jesus Christ. Finally, if you haven’t registered your children yet, it’s not too late! Plan to show up at 8:30 AM on Monday, July 17th and sign up at the registration table.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family:
Bright and early on Sunday morning St. Matthew’s Appalachia Service Project (ASP) team will leave for a week of service in Fentress County, TN. I have the honor of participating in ASP again this year and I’m looking forward to making a difference in the lives of the families we will be serving. According to the ASP website, close to 400,000 volunteers have made much-needed home repairs for more than 17,000 families in Appalachia over the past 48 years. St. Matthew’s has a long tradition of participation in ASP. It has been an important part of our youth ministry program for many years. I can only imagine how many lives have been blessed by St. Matthew’s commitment to youth ministry and youth mission trips.
I’m very proud of the fact that St. Matthew’s is partnering with Woodlawn-Faith UMC for this year’s ASP trip. This will be Woodlawn-Faith’s first ASP experience and we are helping them get started on their own ASP journey. Between the two churches 64 youth and adults will be heading out on Sunday morning. Please keep the entire ASP team in your prayers this week as we travel and serve. Pray that we draw closer to God and closer to one another. But most importantly, pray for the families we will be serving; pray that God will use us to bless their lives in a meaningful way.
I hope you will also keep Michelle Peters and Nancy Cappel in your prayers. They are currently in Swaziland, serving at-risk children through the Michelo Project.
Our summer sermon series on the parables of Jesus – Tell Me a Story – continues on Sunday. This Sunday’s message is entitled: “A Man Had a Fig Tree Planted in His Vineyard.” It is based on Ezekiel 17:1-10 and Luke 13:6-9. We know that Jesus used a lot of agricultural images in his parables (seeds and soil, weeds and wheat, mustard seeds, fig trees, etc.). When Jesus preached and taught in the Galilean region of Israel, he would have been surrounded by lush green fields and the people he was teaching would have understood what it meant to sow seeds and harvest crops. They would have known that you would not plant a fig tree unless you expected the tree to bear fruit. Even if we don’t live in an agricultural area, I think most of us understand Jesus’ point. We wouldn’t plant and cultivate a garden unless we wanted blooms on our flowers or tomatoes on our vines. My hope is that, as we listen to Jesus’ parables, we will allow God’s grace to nourish our lives so that we will bear the fruit of God’s Kingdom as individuals and as God’s Church.
This coming Sunday, we’re going to start a new sermon series that explores some of the most familiar stories in the Bible: the parables of Jesus. The series is called Tell Me a Story. Through his parables, Jesus taught about God, the Kingdom of God, God’s grace, and faithful living. I am convinced that Jesus’ parables are as relevant today as they were the day Jesus first spoke them, but I know that we sometimes struggle to understand them. Each week, we’ll consider one of the parables and listen for the message that Jesus would have us hear. The series starts with the parable of the weeds in the wheat, which is found in Matthew 13:24-30 and Matthew 13:34-43. These are very important (and sometimes challenging) messages and I hope you’ll join us for worship every Sunday if you’re in town. If you are traveling, don’t forget that you can listen to an audio live-stream of our worship services on Sunday morning, or catch-up on previous sermons later in the week.
To complement the sermon series, help you take a deeper dive into Jesus’ teaching, and look at some of the parables that are not covered in the sermons, my wife Anne will be leading a discipleship study called Pondering the Parables. Starting this Sunday, she will offer the class two times each week: Sunday mornings at 9:45am and Wednesdays at 7:00pm following Wednesdays on the Lawn. (The first Wednesday class will be July 5.) No previous Bible study experience is necessary and there is no preparation required for the weekly classes. You can come to as many classes as you are able. If you need childcare for the Wednesday evening class, please contact the church office.
Several important summer ministries are in their final stages of preparation. The Michelo Project team leaves for Swaziland on July 5; the Appalachia Service Project team will leave for Fentress County, TN on July 9; Vacation Bible School (VBS) and Kids and Mission Projects (KAMP) starts on July 17; and the Jeremiah Project team leaves for Winchester, VA on July 23. Please keep all of these groups in your prayers as they prepare to bless people in the communities they are serving.
Finally, I’m pleased to tell you that, at the Church Council meeting on Wednesday evening, our Finance Committee reported that St. Matthew’s finances are strong and healthy. As a result, the Council approved a slight increase in our 2017 operating budget, so that we can expand the impact of St. Matthew’s ministries, improve and maintain the church facility, and support the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church (UMC) in Virginia and around the world.
The positive tone of the meeting and the Church Council’s willingness to take these faithful next steps is a sign to me that God is at work in our lives in a powerful way. I am thankful for the ways that God is blessing our lives and I am thankful for the ways that you are responding. God is using your generosity to: accomplish the mission of The UMC, which is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world; and to accomplish the mission of St. Matthew’s UMC, which is to be a welcoming community, nurturing and serving God’s children so that all may find meaning and purpose through Jesus Christ.
We find meaning and purpose for our lives as followers of Jesus and help others do the same through worship; discipleship programs for children, youth, and adults; and opportunities for Christian fellowship. God uses our time, talent, and treasure to change the world through ongoing ministries of outreach and service – like the walk-in ministry, service days, and partnership with Weyanoke Elementary School – as well as the mission projects and programs I mentioned above. Your willingness to respond to God’s grace through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness is changing the world. Thank you!
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, but if I don’t, I hope you have a safe, healthy, and happy Independence Day celebration.
Dear St. Matthew’s Church Family,
Last weekend Anne and I, along with the rest of the St. Matthew’s delegation, attended the 2017 session of the Virginia Annual Conference in Hampton. Grace Han’s ordination as an Elder in Full Connection in The United Methodist Church (UMC) on Saturday evening was the highlight of the event. It was an honor for me to stand with her during the service and I look forward to continuing to share in ministry at St. Matthew’s with Grace and with Bill Moberly in the coming year. Their ministry, in addition to their friendship and support, is a blessing to me and to the church family.
Many thanks to Scott Bach-Hansen for sharing a powerful message at St. Matthew’s while the pastors were in Hampton. I hope it was a Happy Father’s Day for all of the Dads.
Every year, as I sit in Annual Conference sessions with close to 3,000 other United Methodists from around Virginia, I am reminded that the connectional structure of the UMC is one of its strengths. I firmly believe that our theology is faithful and Biblical, and that our mission has never been more relevant or more important. But I also believe that the unique connections within the UMC make every congregation more effective than it would be on its own. The ministry we accomplish is multiplied around the world by our work together. Through the United Methodist connection, churches across the globe are working together to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the world. Think of it this way: in 2015, we reported that St. Matthew’s ministries served more than 37,000 people in our community and around the world. That is a lot people and is worth celebrating, but as a United Methodist congregation we don’t stand alone. In 2015, all of the churches in the Virginia Conference served more than 1.5 million people. By God’s grace, United Methodists in Virginia blessed a whole lot of people in Jesus’ name. We are stronger together than we are on our own.
On Sunday morning, Grace Han will be sharing a special message entitled, The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Us, based on Psalm 121:1-8 and Luke 4:14-21. The following Sunday, July 2, we will start our summer sermon series about the parables of Jesus: Tell Me a Story. As we read the Gospels, we discover that Jesus used stories called parables to teach about God, the Kingdom of God, God’s grace, and faithful life. Each Sunday, during the summer, we’ll look at one of the parables and consider its meaning for our lives today. I believe Jesus’ parables are just as applicable today as they were when Jesus first told them. Please plan to join us in worship every Sunday when you’re in town.
To complement the sermon series, my wife Anne will be leading a discipleship study called Pondering the Parables. Starting July 2, she will offer the class two times each week: Sunday mornings at 9:45am and Wednesdays at 7:00pm following Wednesdays on the Lawn. (The first Wednesday class will be July 5.) No previous Bible study experience is necessary and there is no preparation required for the weekly classes. Come to as many classes as you are able. If you need childcare for the Wednesday evening class, please contact the church office.
Our summer tradition of gathering on Wednesday evenings for an informal time of food and fellowship resumes on June 28 at 6:00pm. Even though we call it Wednesdays on the Lawn, we meet in the Fellowship Hall for dinner. The main dish and drinks will be provided by one our leadership groups and everyone else is asked to bring a side-dish or dessert to share. There will be games and activities for kids (outside on the lawn if the weather permits). These are relaxed opportunities to enjoy good food and fellowship with church friends and I hope you’ll plan to join us on Wednesday evenings if you’re in town.
On Sunday morning our youth Handbell Choirs will leave St. Matthew’s for their annual tour. They will be participating in a Handbell Festival in Amherst, MS and playing concerts in churches along the way. Please keep them in your prayers as they travel and share their love for God through their music. You can see (and hear) their tour concert in the St. Matthew’s sanctuary on Saturday, June 24, at 6:30pm.
Vacation Bible School (VBS) and Kids & Mission Projects (KAMP) will be held at St. Matthew’s from July 17 – 21. Invite your friends and neighbors to this great week of learning about God’s love for kids from 3 years old through 6th grade. You can click here for more information and registration.
That’s all for this week. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.