As has been discussed in several settings, we are beginning the process of revising our church constitution and will also be adding bylaws. This will be a fairly major revision and one that will take some time, perhaps as much as a year. This process grows out of our recognition that some normal updating needs to take place and that our church’s organizational structure needs to be made more clear and effective as we move into the future God has in store for us.
I have organized a committee of people with an interest in doing the necessary hard work in this lengthy process. In our first meeting, we affirmed and emphasized that the committee is committed to making sure this will be a transparent and open process. Our desire is to ensure that we hear the ideas and opinions of all church members and that we encourage and facilitate conversations on topics that may spark differences of opinion. As the revision work gets going, we will provide times for feedback and conversation that will allow everyone who is interested to share thoughts and preferences.
I also invite you to speak with me or with members of the committee if you have ideas or suggestions that you would like to have considered during this revision. The members of the committee are: Ramsy Boland, Toby Bowen, Marie Bush, Mike Dossett, Dave Dugan, Amy Herring, and Nicole Rogers. I was impressed by the spirit and commitment evident in our first meeting. Each member of this committee recognizes that this is an important and much-needed task as we seek to affirm and continue the good things we are doing at HVBC while adding some clarification and updates that will allow for visioning and growth.
As this work begins, I ask that you join me in prayer for this committee and for the work that needs to be done. It is certainly not the most fun thing that we do as a church, but it is important work that will allow us to be more clear and open in our organization, structure, and decision-making process. I believe that God has exciting plans for Hope Valley Baptist Church and trust that this effort will help us affirm the good elements of our church while allowing us to grow and improve in other areas.
I hope that you all are enjoying a good and blessed beginning of 2015. During the course of this year, Leigh and I will be hosting a monthly Birthday Club dinner. On a designated evening each month, all persons who have a birthday that month will be invited to a covered dish meal and time of fellowship. For example, all persons with a birthday in January are encouraged to join us on Monday, January 26th at 6:00 p.m.
To help make this idea work, we ask several things:
- We ask for your help with the food. If your birthday is between the 1st and 10th of the month, we would like for you to bring an entree. If your birthday is between the 11th and 20th, please bring a salad. If your birthday falls between the 21st and the 31st, we would ask you to bring a vegetable. Leigh and I will provide a birthday cake each month. If the church office has your birthday on file, you will receive a postcard invitation with a reminder about what you should bring.
- We would welcome any one who is school age or older. If you are a parent of a school age child or a youth, we would love to have your child come get to know some of the children, youth, and adults in the church during the month of his or her birthday.
- This gathering is only for those who have birthdays during the month. Spouses should not come together unless both persons have a birthday in the same month. While this may seem unusual, it will give us an opportunity to get to know each other in some different groupings.
- Reservations will be needed so we might be adequately prepared. Please pay attention to the Illuminator each month to see when the deadline for these reservations will be. If you want to come, but will need a ride, please call the church office so that we might work out transportation for you.
I am looking forward to these gatherings. This will allow us to bring people together who may not normally cross paths very often and build some new and meaningful relationships within the church. I hope each of you will make a special effort to be present during your birthday month.
Grace and Peace,
In his wonderful book, Reflections on My Call to Preach: Connecting the Dots, one of my favorite preachers, Fred Craddock, tells stories of his family and the abject poverty they faced during his early years. One December, when the Depression was at its worst, the family purse was truly empty. Though the family always made a big game out of trying to catch Santa in the act of delivering presents, Craddock had overheard his mother telling his father that they couldn’t afford anything for Christmas that year. There was just no way to buy anything. On Christmas morning, however, the shoeboxes that had been set out in expectation of Santa held their annual goodies. Each one had an apple, a tangerine, raisins still on the stem, a box of sparklers, and a packet of Black Cat firecrackers. It may not seem like much to most of us, but it was a normal Christmas for that family at the time.
Craddock didn’t learn until at least 10 years later how they were able to afford gifts that year. His father had used a pair of pliers to pull out one of his molars. That molar had a gold crown that had been put there by an Army dentist during World War I. His dad had removed that crown on his own and gone to town to sell the gold in order to get enough money to afford Christmas presents for his family.
Reading this story of a father’s sacrificial generosity helped me think afresh of the sacrificial generosity of our Heavenly Father who sent His only Son into the world. As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us remember and give thanks for God’s wonderful and life-changing gift. What a wonderful Father we have!
Furthermore, as we recall God’s great gifts to us, may we be motivated and inspired to give faithfully ourselves. We have so many opportunities to be generous this season – giving to Global Missions Offering, bringing food for the Yates Association Food Pantry (which continues to have a desperate need for food), donating homemade cookies for inmates at the women’s prison, and supporting various ministries that support families in need. I was pleased by how many toys our church donated to the Yates Association Toy Store and appreciate the faithfulness I see in you all. As the season continues, let us keep in mind the message of Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
July is certainly a crazy, busy, and even weird month around Hope Valley Baptist Church, but even though I am feeling tired in the midst of VBS week, I am truly thankful. Each night in Bible School, the children share “God sightings,” and it is interesting to hear the answers they offer. As I write this article during the early part of VBS week, let me say that I have had so many God sightings already this month as part of my involvement with this wonderful church.
- I have seen God in the smiles, laughter, and enthusiasm of more than 100 children who have attended VBS in the first two nights.
- I have seen God in the energy and creativity of our HVBC family as you have decorated, prepared, taught, and loved the children who have been attending VBS. I am thankful beyond measure for the ways I see you making God’s love and presence visible in this vital week of ministry. It is truly a privilege to be pastor of a congregation that invests so generously of time, talents, and re-sources in the children of this community. There are simply too many people who deserve thanks to list in this column, but I am so grateful for the leadership and time that Amy and Jonathan Herring have given to make all these details come together.
- I have seen God in watching adults of all ages involved in working with VBS. What a gift it is for our children to see young adults, middle-agers, and even older adults giving of themselves to serve and love children. Similarly, it was a treat to hear that the recent Bridal Shower for Hannah Stoops brought church family members from age 7 to the middle to upper 90s together to celebrate a happy time in the life of one of our members. I love serving a multi-generational church and think this serves as a wonderful reminder of how church ought to look
- I have seen God as I have watched children dance and jump with joyous abandon during VBS songs, praising God with not only their voices, but also with their whole bodies. Though Baptists have traditionally been known for their support of dancing, I can’t help but think that dancing King David would smile at the scenes I see in our sanctuary each night.
- I have seen God as I have heard children tell with great detail the Biblical stories they learned earlier in the evening in their VBS classes. Amidst all the wiggling and seeming distractedness, many kids are hearing and learning the stories and message of Scripture.
- I have seen God as our youth shared on Sunday morning about their experiences at Passport Missions Camp last week. I was privileged to drive up and spend a day with the youth, and I felt extremely blessed to be able to watch our youth working hard at mission sites, laughing together during free times, worship-ping together, and sharing with each other the ways God is working in their lives. We are blessed with a remarkable group of young people who are growing in faith and in their commitment to serve God collectively and individually.
- I have seen God as I watched our youth open their “Camp Buddy” letters on the night I was with them. I sensed that they really appreciated the support of the adult members of this congregation and understood the significance of knowing that their church family prays for them and supports them.
I see God at work in many ways and am blessed by the ways I see you using your gifts and talents to serve God, the church, and this community. Thank you for the opportunity to walk with you through life and ministry.