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

Moving Forward

Friends,

Life has turned out to be rather unpredictable these past six months; our assumptions about how the spring and summer would unfold have fallen through. And even though we were not prepared for the chaos and uncertainty that this worldwide pandemic has produced, we have survived! We are still standing upright and moving forward, we have learned to adapt to changing conditions and circumstances beyond our control.

And even though we cannot predict when the infection rates and death rates will begin to decline, we hold out hope that we will get though this crisis. We can begin to plan for the processes that we will implement in the reopening of our church campus. The Church Council appointed a “reopening work group” to begin this process of developing guidelines to be implemented when it is safe for us to meet again for in-person services or events at the church. Even though we do not know when the plan will be implemented, we want to be prepared with clear procedures and guidelines for safe reopening. We will keep the Church Council and Deacons updated on the process and will publish the guidelines churchwide prior to the reopening of the campus for in-person events.

Bill Pyle

Thank You

Almost every week, we receive a thank you note from one of our ministry partners. Often, it is a Divinity School, like Campbell, that you will find in this week’s Illuminator. Sometimes, it is an agency, like the North Carolina Children’s Home or the North Carolina Baptist on Mission. Sometimes it is a denominational partner, like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or Baptist World Alliance. I always read the thank you notes as a reminder of our continued ministry that remains a critical part of our identity and mission. We cooperate with a wide range of ministry partners. And while our gifts may be just a small part of their over-all budget, their thank you notes remind us that they could not do their ministry without the sustained support of thousands of churches like Hope Valley.

While our local congregational ministries continue during this extraordinary time, our world-wide impact continues as well. Missions and Ministry continue! Thank you for your continued support of our ministry and missions.


Bill Pyle

New Routines …

Friends,
During these past four months, we have been adjusting to a new normal. Social distancing and careful attention to safety precautions are becoming second nature. I automatically put on my seat belt when I get into the car and I put on my mask when I get out of the car. When I stop to get gas, I automatically reach for the disposable gloves. In some ways, I am beginning to settle into new routines. What once seemed foreign, is now becoming the new normal. I hope that you are finding new routines and patterns that provide structure to your days and weeks. It could be that you will find new patterns that you will want to keep as you move into the future, I know that I have.

And while our campus is closed, we are still discovering and experimenting with ways to continue to be church to one another. Since I do not have a crystal ball, I cannot predict when this pandemic will ease. At this point in time, we are continuing to monitor the trends within our county and state. Based on current information, the Church Council has made the decision to continue the HVBC campus closure through the month of August.

Bill Pyle

Why do I need the church?

In the Zoom Sunday School class, we have been focusing on “Living with hope in a broken world.” We have been studying the little letter called First Peter and contemplating the role of hope in our lives as Christians. This series has been timely as we face our own challenges as we come to grips with this pandemic and the ways it has disrupted our lives. The writers had no way of knowing what we would be struggling with when they wrote the lessons months or years ago. They could have predicted that we would be facing challenges, they just didn’t know the particulars.

As I was looking ahead in the Sunday School literature, we will spend August reflecting on what we receive from our participation in a local fellowship of believers. Of course, the lessons were written assuming that we would be discussing the lessons around the table and then walking to the sanctuary after the class was over. And while this pandemic has changed a lot of things, it has not changed why we need the church. As we study the lessons and reflect on the benefits of being a part of a faith community, our challenge will be to transfer and adapt these benefits to our new normal; our new ways of doing church. And while the medium and technologies are evolving, these benefits continue. If you do not have a quarterly, contact the church office or Mike Dossett.

See you in Sunday School!

Bill Pyle

Three Things I’m Learning From This Pandemic

I want to be a good student. I want to learn from the events and experiences that I encounter. A crisis, like this pandemic, provides opportunities to learn new things and discover new truths. I suspect that we will be learning from this crisis for a while. But already, I am discovering new lessons and a different perspective.

One thing I am observing is that no one has done this before. As I listen to pastors, presidents, and governors, I realize that they are all having to find their way as they go. We are all flying by the seat of our pants. We are all rookies; learning as we go. And as we stumble along, we are figuring it out as we go. We do not have a roadmap that provides all the answers. Each day brings its own set of challenges, and we are figuring it out as we go. We keep adjusting to new circumstances as they arise. While we have always done that, during this crisis the rate of change and the complexities of the variables is multi-plying.

And during this crisis, I am relearning the value of competent leadership. As I watch political leaders or pastoral leaders lead their groups, I am reminded that a crisis shines a spotlight on leadership characteristics. No political or pastoral leader will be unaffected by this crisis and the leader’s response to the crisis. Their management of the crisis will either enhance or diminish their standing as a leader. I suspect you are seeing this as well. I see this on a congregational level. I am observing lay leaders who are paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision, and others who recognize that being second-guessed goes with any leadership role. I am grateful for the leaders at Hope Valley who continue to lead and serve during challenging and difficult circumstances. Thank you for your service!

Bill Pyle