One Month Already!

Brothers and sisters,
It is incredible to me to think that my first month as your Senior Pastor has almost already come and gone! I am enjoying getting to meet new people and getting to know every-one here more fully. Thank you all for continuing to be patient with me as I learn names and learn how different things operate here at Hope Valley. I am grateful to be a part of this community of believers.

As we do get to know each other better, I wanted to give you all a bit of a preview of what’s to come in worship during this summer. All my life, the churches that I have either at-tended or worked in have had pastors who preached sermon series. Typically, a series would last anywhere from four to twelve weeks, depending on what the topic being considered was. I, myself, tend to think that sermon series are really helpful in worship because it allows us all to spend a longer period of time considering either an important figure in the Bible, an important image or set of images, or an important idea. I have always felt that sermon series give us a way to think about our faith together as a church family.

So, over the next nine weeks, we will be taking a look at King David. The series will be entitled, “The Man After God’s Own Heart” and will be a series focused on the complexity of David’s character and the goodness and mercy of God’s character. To me, David is such an interesting figure because he so fully embodies what it means to be human. David is someone whose actions can reach the heights of goodness and faithfulness, but can also fall to the depths of corruption and sin. And yet, somehow, David is still referred to as “the man after God’s own heart.” He is still included in Jesus’ genealogy to the point that Jesus is sometimes referred to as, “the son of David.” He ends up embodying this tension that Christians always live in—that while we are saved, we are still sinners.

Thus, David’s character ends up asking us a lot of interesting questions that I hope we can explore over the next nine weeks. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be faithful? What does it mean for God to be faithful to us? How should our faith affect our relationships with other people? How should our faith affect our relationship with God? These are not always easy questions to answer, but I think that so much of growing in our faith and learning to be disciples comes from wrestling with tough questions.

As we move into this series and into the summer, my prayer is that we will be able to glean wisdom and instruction from the life of David. My prayer will also be that we will continue to meet the challenges posed to us by the pandemic. Even as things begin to open back up and life begins to resemble something like normal for us, let us continue to pray for those in our own society for whom the dangers of the pandemic are still very real. And do continue to pray for health and peace for all God’s children in every nation.

Grace and peace to you all,
Ben

A Wonderful Start

Brothers and sisters,

At the time that I am writing this article, I have officially been the Senior Pastor here at Hope Valley for a little over a week. And what an eventful week it has been! Between preaching twice, moving from Raleigh to Durham, and meeting so many of you, I have had a wonderful start to May! As I am settling into my office and my apartment, as well as settling into the rhythm of Hope Valley, I would greatly appreciate your prayers. I am so grateful to be here. I am looking forward to getting to know you all better and walking alongside you as we seek to serve God faithfully each day.

I did want to let you all know some of the ways to get in touch with me if you need me during this time of transition. My office email address has gone live now, so you can email me at [email protected]. I check my email throughout the day, so if you want to send me something feel free to send it to my office email. As we continue to be cautious in regard to the virus, please feel free to reach out to me and let me know about any cares and concerns you have within our community. I am still learning people’s names, trying to figure out family connections, who is in the hospital, who is in extended care, etc. Any help you can offer me to help me learn where the cares and concerns are in our congregation would be greatly appreciated!

I know that this has not been an easy time for any of us as we continue to deal with the challenges presented by the pandemic. I am so hopeful, though, that we are getting closer and closer to turning an important corner in all of this. As we do, I am looking forward to getting to meet you all under more normal circumstances. Until then, I continue to have faith that the Holy Spirit will connect us and draw us closer together. I am reminded of the old Baptist conviction that the church is not a building. It is not four walls and a roof. It is the people of God, worshiping in truth and goodness. As Paul writes to the church in Ephesus, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Even in the midst of this pandemic, as we continue to keep some distance between ourselves, we are connected to each other. We are bound to each other by the God “who is above all and through all and in all.” The miracle of the Holy Spirit maintains that bond and will continue to refresh and revitalize it as need be.

Grace and peace to you all,
Ben

A Holy Week

For the ancient Israelites, Passover was THE Holy Week. It was instituted in Egypt on the night of the tenth plague. That original event was commemorated each year as they remembered and reenacted the ritual. For them, the Exodus from Egypt was the defining moment that galvanized their identity as the people of God. It was a sacred time. In their reenactment, the fine line between then and now was blurred. They were being redeemed from slavery. They were being rescued. It was not just their ancestors who were delivered. The Passover was a time to remember God’s love for them.

Next week, we will have a Holy Week. We will remember the events of Palm Sunday. We will remember the Upper Room. We will remember Good Friday. We will celebrate the Risen Lord. We will remember that God loves us. The fine line between then and now will be blurred. This is sacred time.

Bill Pyle

Baptist Women in Ministry Month of Preaching

This year, we will once again partner with Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) for BWIM Month of Preaching. Participating churches typically invite a female preacher to lead in worship during the month of February. This year, Rev. Emily Davis will preach on February 28. Emily was raised in Person County, North Carolina and graduated from Person County High School; Emily received her Bachelor’s Degree from Wingate University; she received the Master of Divinity Degree from Wake Forest University School of Divinity. She currently serves bi-vocationally as a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher and the Interim Minister of Youth at Roxboro Baptist Church. I welcome Emily to HVBC and look forward to her leading us in worship.

Bill Pyle

Beginning a Lenten Journey

In two weeks, we will begin the season of Lent as we begin the Lenten Journey to Holy Week. This season is a preparation for Holy Week and a reminder of its significance for us as Christians. On Wednesday night, February 17, we begin the season of Lent with our Ash Wednesday service. This will be a service of word and song. In the place of our normal Wednesday night prayer service, this service will be available through YouTube.

This is the beginning of a season of contemplation and reflection. In the midst of our busyness, this season is an opportunity to slow down and think about our faith and the spiritual practices that could facilitate our growth. I am challenged to move beyond my shallow spiritual life and commit to spiritual practices that will deepen my spiritual walk. Perhaps this will be the Lenten Season where you recommit to deeper spiritual growth and more consistent ministry to others. May this be a Lenten Journey that changes our lives!

Bill Pyle

Happy New Year!

Well, we did make it to the end of the year! It has been an unpredictable year. I doubt 2020 has turned out the way we imagined it would unfold, on last New Year’s Eve. But then that is al-ways the case, at least to some extent. But 2020 was an extraordinarily unpredictable year, with more surprises, disappointments, and uncertainty than normal years. While change and disruptions are normal; this was unprecedented. We are living in what they call a once-in-a-lifetime event. As we close the book on 2020, perhaps we are turning a corner.

2021 offers hope that we will finally begin to slow the pandemic; hope that we will begin to re-turn to a new normal; hope that we will soon be able to enjoy activities that we once took for grant-ed. Family gatherings and church activities will once again be cherished events. I suspect that many of us will appreciate them more and value them more. Until that day arrives, we will continue to do the things that are necessary to keep each other safe. May God grant us courage and determination as we face the challenges and opportunities of 2021.

Bill Pyle

Christmas Past and Present

Friends,

This season brings back so many memories of Christmas past. Childhood memories with my parents and sisters; adult memories of when our children were at home. Those memories are a treasure that I cherish as I remember what used to be. They were the relationships that shaped me and they are the heritage that I take with me on this journey. And I am grateful for these memories.

This season will be different for many of us. The realities of this world-wide crisis will mean that many of our normal events and celebrations will be curtailed. With all that will be different, I am grateful for the Advent Wreath and its reminder of the gifts that Christ brings this season. As in previous years, we need Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. May you receive these wonderful gifts as we anticipate the entrance of the Christ Child into our lives.

Bill Pyle

With a Grateful Heart …

Friends,
During this month, my attention turns to thinking about all the ways I have been blessed. Family, friends, meaningful work, a measure of health; I am grateful for the ways that my life is enriched by these blessings. God has been good to me, and I am grateful. Being grateful is an important spiritual discipline that affects the way that I look at and experience life. I am better able to enjoy prosperity and success, and I am better able to tolerate disappointment. Challenges and obstacles are not insurmountable when my spirit is grateful. As we approach this holiday season, I want to be grateful for all that is right in our lives and in our world. And it may be that this change in orientation is good preparation as we begin the season of Advent on the 29th. With a grateful heart, may we experience God’s presence in our lives. May God’s richest blessings surround you this season!

Bill Pyle

All Saint’s Day

Several years ago at Hope Valley, we began a tradition of celebrating All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday in November. All Saints’ Day may not be familiar to everyone, but it has deep roots in Christian history. In the early church, it became customary for the believers to set aside time in worship to remember those brothers and sisters who had been martyred for their faith. Over time, as the list of martyrs continued to grow, the church began setting aside one day a year to remember those “saints” who had suffered and died because of their faithfulness. By 835 A.D., “All Saints’ Day” was celebrated annually on November 1 in an effort to remember the martyrs and canonized saints of the church. It became something of a Christian Hall of Fame day.

In recent years, many Protestant traditions have rediscovered and given new shape to this ancient holy day. Recognizing that the New Testament uses the term “saints” to describe all Christians, “All Saints’ Day” has become an occasion to remember and celebrate the lives of those “saints” within one’s own church who have passed away during the previous year. On Sunday, November 1, during our “All Saints’ Day” service at Hope Valley, we will call the names of those church members who have passed away during the last twelve months. We will have a special time of prayer for those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.

This day has become a wonderful opportunity to thank God for those faithful servants who have made such positive contributions to the life of Hope Valley Baptist Church. Remembering their example also inspires and challenges me to greater faithfulness. As God’s Word reminds us, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….Hebrews 12:1-2

Bill Pyle

World Communion Sunday

The first Sunday in October, October 4 this year, is World Communion Sunday. This has become a time when Christians in every culture break bread and pour the cup to remember and affirm Christ as the Head of the Church. On that day, we remember that we are part of the whole body of believers. Whether shared in a grand cathedral, a mud hut, outside on a hilltop, in a meetinghouse, in a store-front, or in your home, Christians celebrate the communion liturgy in as many ways as there are congregations. During a “normal” year, we would celebrate in our sanctuary mindful that we are interconnected with Christians around the world. Even though we could not see them, we knew that we were bound together by our common commitment to Jesus as Lord. And this year, we will follow our tradition and practice. We will celebrate the Supper in the safety and privacy of our own homes. And as you eat the bread and drink from a cup, you will know that you are connected; with other members of HVBC, and with Christians around the globe. Bless be the tie that binds!

Bill Pyle