Sunday, December 3, 2023

Christmas Comes Early

 


May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13


Hope is the word heard and used on the First Sunday of Advent as we light the first candle of this treasured season.  When Danny and I prepare to attend the service, where we've been asked to play two songs, hope is not at all the feeling I'm entertaining in my heart.

Our church, now known as Shiloh Community Church, recently votes to disaffiliate from the United Methodists.  November brings the hard truths of having to remove any and all insignias of the UMC denomination, including our hymnals, from the church premises.  Finding replacements is a costly endeavor, so we will be dependent upon someone typing the lyrics for a power point presentation each service going forward.

Disaffiliation is anything but an easy process; we are grateful for all the purchases and donations during our annual Pumpkin Patch sales, as we pray to have enough funds to completely free ourselves from the debt in which we find ourselves.  Unless we can pay it off, the UMC could possibly revoke our choice to leave that denomination.  I'm certain that God will help us find a way.

By far, the most difficult aspect of the whole ordeal is the thought of losing our beloved pastor, Jared.  Even though he has another full-time job, we fear he will leave us by the end of November.  Imagine my delight when I enter the sanctuary this past Sunday and find him there!  Ever curious, I intercept him to ask about it; I'm surprised by his answer that clergy is given a one-month reprieve from having to leave their flock.  "Oh," I think to myself.  "With Christmas coming, maybe those Grinches had a change of heart."  As we prepare for worship that morning, I sense the first glimmer of hope rising within me.

And with the church announcements, that hope fully blossoms.  Jared has chosen to disaffiliate along with us, a small congregation, determined to stick by us and help us navigate the inevitable changes that will continue to come.

What an unexpected surprise!  What a blessing!  It's truly nothing short of miraculous!

Christmas comes early for Shiloh Community Church as hope is rekindled, shining as brightly and clearly as that first candle lit in Advent.

One more of the many reasons to rejoice during this precious season, and to look forward to the coming of Christ in the manger and into our hearts this Christmas.

Amen!

For those of you keeping score, I know my comment about the Grinch is not very charitable.  I hope you will forgive me as the Lord has forgiven me and you.

57 comments:

  1. I won't pretend I've understood this fully. Why if your church is leaving the UMC would the UMC revoke the decision. Is it not like a divorce? One party wishing to leave the union?

    Best wishes for Shiloh Church into the future which starts here - at Christmas.

    God bless.

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    1. I didn't quite understand it either, Victor, but those congregations that were quite large were often denied exit due to the loss of revenue it would create for the UMC. Sad to say, but money talks, even in the church. The land upon which our church sits has an estimated value of $5 million because of its location. A long-time member shared with me that the UMC would like nothing better than to shut us down and make that land grab. How sad is that?
      Love and blessings!

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    2. Victor - The United Methodist Church has decided to depart from biblical standards and writings pursuing a liberal view of marriages, relationships, and clergy embracing LQBTQ+ into the church. Nearly 300 churches in Georgia alone do not agree and thus the disaffiliation. The North Georgia Conference for the UMC has been less than cooperative and has made the process as onerous as possible. The congregation had to vote on the disaffiliation and to do so needed a 66%+1 vote to do so. After being granted the split all references to the UMC have to be removed and funds are owed to the UMC even if the property is debt-free. Some of this has to do with staff pensions. I hope this helps you understand better.

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    3. Thank you Martha and Danno for your response.

      Not too dissimilar from over here. We have the Catholic Church with its priests, bishops etc ... up the hierarchy and then other denominations like Baptists, Methodists, Anglican Church etc ...

      In the Catholic Church the buildings/lands are owned by the Church as an institution/organisation. So if a priest or members of the congregation leave they just leave and go elsewhere. The buildings/lands remain the property of the Catholic Church. There may be a pension arrangement for leaving priests - e.g. if they decide to leave to get married.

      It's the same for other denominations. Other denominations have also embraced "liberal tendencies" and have lost their vicars and members of the congregations. For example, a number of Anglican priests have left their Church and joined the Catholic Church. Some were married when in the Anglican Church with children and grand-children. The Catholic Church accepted such married ex-Anglican priests and yet, existing priest and newcomers into the vocation must be unmarried.

      The Catholic Church has married Deacons but not priests; unless they are those who came over from the Anglican Church.

      Thank you fro your time. God bless.

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    4. Thanks for your explanation regarding the Catholic Church, Victor, and I'm glad Danny's clarifying remark answered your original question so well. I was aware that Anglican priests have been joining the Catholic Church for quite a long time now, due to the more liberal bent in the Anglican/Episcopal Church. I'm so grateful to the Catholics for being so welcoming to these priests!
      Love and blessings!

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  2. Disaffiliation is a terribly difficult thing to experience, for both large and small congregations. God honors faithfulness. And he's given you a shepherd who chose to remain with his flock.

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    1. And I'm so, so grateful and happy that the Lord has encouraged Jared to stay with us. God willing, he will help us to grow and be a light to the surrounding community. Just this Sunday, we had more new faces in the congregation, and another person joined the church. How amazing is that?
      Love and blessings!

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  3. Dearest Martha Jane,
    The purchase of new hymnals would be insane... What a stupid 'power game' this is! At the Church where I joined the choir, we also lost a fine pastor! Hard to cope with that and even harder to accept...
    Looks like they now got two pastors—husband and wife... She talked about the poinsettas instead of the poinsettias.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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    1. We have no immediate plans to purchase new hymnals, Mariette. We can simply put words on the power point to meet our needs. We are much more concerned with raising the remaining funds to insure that our church will successfully disaffiliate. These are painful and uncertain times for all of us who love Shiloh.
      Love and blessings!

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  4. Matha Jane: My church disaffiliated this past summer. It was a lot of work on our office staff. I realize each conference had its own rules for the process. I don't believe the UMC can undo the disaffiliation. I will ask my pastor about this. I believe that all the members of our church have been thankful for the change. Our pastor chose to retire from the UMC and join the GMC right along with us. Peace and blessings to you and yours.

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    1. Yes, Cecelia, please do ask your pastor about this. I just know that the delegate we sent to represent us came back with some credible stories of certain churches being denied the ability to disaffiliate even though the congregations had voted otherwise. Not at all above board!
      And yes, the process is a LOT of hard work.
      Love and blessings!

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  5. All the best coping with the changes in your chuch Martha -Christine cmlk79.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Christine! Yes, all well wishes are most welcome.
      Love and blessings!

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  6. Very sad situation. You would think churches would be above this kind of nonsense, I guess not.

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    1. You would think that would be the case, Bill, but we have to remember that every church is made up of sinful human beings who all need redemption and forgiveness.
      Love and blessings!

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  7. Oh Martha, so thankful for God’s provision. He will uphold His faithful.
    Blessings
    Lulu

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    1. Yes, He has, and we can always count on Him to continue to do so, Lulu. What a mighty God we serve!
      Love and blessings!

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  8. Hallelujah! While still members of our congregation, friends Frank and Cindy have been travelling around to minister to smaller congregations whose pastors have felt it necessary to leave. He explained, most have families to support and are unable to continue serving on an unpaid basis. Thankfully Robinson Springs was able to secure a bank loan to cover disaffiliation costs. What a mess!

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    1. It is a mess, Myra, and I'm glad to hear that Frank and Cindy are taking it upon themselves to minister to congregations that have had to say farewell to their pastors. I don't know if Shiloh has looked into taking out a loan for the cost, but they have asked all of us to make a sacrificial gift. Danny and I are planning to do just that.
      Love and blessings!

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  9. I feel for you and Danny and the Shiloh church. but this is just another reason why I am so glad I am not part of a denomination. I agree with the comment above that says, "You would think churches would above this." Yeah...one would think. But like you said: "Money talks" and the UMC sees their money taking wings and flying out the window. I believe the Bible calls that Greed. I believe Shiloh is honoring God in their decision to stay the course and follow the Word. May you and the pastor and your tribe increase.

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    1. Not being part of any denomination is a blessing at this time, Bill, that's for sure. We are praying that it's God's will that our tribe will increase in numbers and those who truly wish to grow in their faith. The Bible is abundantly clear when it comes to greed and its perils. If we had all stuck with the Scripture, this disaffiliation would have never happened in the first place.
      Love and blessings!

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  10. Praise God for every provision, every miracle, every hope realized as this disaffiliation process has transpired. One UMC church I know was barely making ends meet 3-4 years ago. By God's grace and through the help of a new pastor they became much more financially stable. As disaffiliation loomed, they were required to pay $85,000 to the UMC in order to become a Global Methodist Church. Guess how much they had in the bank?!

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    1. $85, 000!!! God certainly works in wondrous ways, Nancy; He always does! We are believing that even in these times, God is upholding us with His righteous right hand. We are blessed, indeed!
      Love and blessings!

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  11. Oh Martha, my heart goes out to you and your congregation. We have just been "approved" by our district of the UMC to disaffiliate, and so now we are officially a Global Methodist Church. Yes, it was a costly and time consuming process. We are thankful that due to a sizeable bequest to our church several years ago there was enough money available to pay the fees required for disaffiliation. Our Pastor thankfully had no qualms about disaffiliating himself and later this month he, along with many other former UMC Pastors, will be ordained into the Global Methodist church. We are so thankful and excited to finally be "free" from an organization that has left its first love and has followed after other gods. I will keep you and your church and Pastor in my prayers. God is faithful and He will see you through this time of testing.

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    1. Thank you, Pamela, for keeping all of us in your prayers, especially through these times of troubled waters. I'm so happy to hear, too, that your pastor has decided to stick with his flock through all the changes, and that soon you all will be able to proudly assert that you are Global Methodists. And you are absolutely correct in saying that the UMC has forgotten its first love for the sake of cultural gods who wish to water down the message of Jesus. I'll keep you all in my prayers, too.
      Love and blessings!

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  12. Congratulations on leaving the UMC, and it is great that your pastor is staying with you. Not an easy transition for many but I sure understand the necessity and would be right there with you. God bless!! My church doesn't have hymnals. We have two screens (small) and the words to the songs and readings are projected there. It works. Do keep us posted. Praying for you and all choosing the Global Methodist Church.

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    1. Thank you, Terri! We did not choose to join the Global Methodists, though, but chose the non-denominational route; i.e. Shiloh Community Church. We will be depending on our screens for our prayers, songs and worship, too. It's a lot cheaper and works just fine. We also have a few hymn books that don't bear the emblem of the UMC, so we are free to use those, too.
      And yes, we are so grateful for Pastor Jared!
      Love and blessings!

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  13. Martha, this is a beautiful story of rekindled hope. Romans 15:13 is a favorite. Thankful to know the Hope-giver, I pray to trust Him more. God bless, dear friend. Karen Friday

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    1. Thanks so much, Karen, for your encouragement here today. Our God is the Lord of Hope, and we're truly trusting Him to provide for us in every way.
      Love and blessings!

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  14. Bom dia, Martha
    Que o Senhor abençoe grandemente a Igreja Shiloh e o seu pastor ficar com vocês foi bênção, um forte abraço.

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    1. It's a huge blessing for all of us, Lucinalva! With God's help, we can get through this rough patch together.
      Love and blessings!

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  15. In the end, sweet Martha, God will bless and reward those steadfast devotees to Him over all churches fallen into compromise with worldly systems and belief systems contrary to His Word. I pray for you and Danny and your flock who remain true to the gospel of Christ Jesus instead of "another gospel," a social gospel that has become the norm in this lukewarm age.

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    1. Yes, indeed, Debra! God knows His sheep and we know Him. The things of this world are but a flash in the pan; let's remain true to Him always.
      Love and blessings!

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  16. Dear Martha, I am so sorry for this church upheaval you are experiencing, especially during Advent. May you be delighted and awed at God's provision for your church as you move ahead with faith and trust in His promises. I'm praying ...

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    1. Thank you so much for your prayers, Linda! God will see us through the changes with grace and love; I'm sure of it.
      Love and blessings!

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  17. There is absolutely nothing to forgive regarding the inclusion of the Grinch in your comments about the situation. It was just a clever way of expressing your honest opinion. I am so very glad your pastor is sticking with the congregation and that you all are finding ways to cope with a difficult set of circumstances.

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    1. Thanks so much, Barbara, on so many levels here. Yes, there is no end of the gratefulness we feel as a church family that Jared has decided to stay with his flock. Blessings often come in way we could never expect.
      Love and blessings!

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  18. My prayers for you, Mr. Danny, Pastor Jared, and the entire Shiloh Community Church family Ms. Martha Jane. "Disaffiliation" as you call it sounds much like a divorce. In this case, your church has voted to divorce the UMC. My opinion is that the correct choice was made. Far too many churches, and manmade denominations have become apostate, choosing to align with the world instead of the Word of God. Those supposed leaders who have taken the Methodist denomination in that direction, much like the Roman Catholic church in many ways, will have to face God's judgment for their decisions, not mine. While I think the UMC is wrong-thinking on many things these days, it's not my place to judge, and I'll be praying that the Holy Spirit convicts them strongly and they are brought back into the fold of Christ. I hate that you have to pay "alimony" to the UMC, but divorces are ugly and often costly things. Remember this though my friend, the physical cost (money) is nothing compared to the rewards awaiting all y'all in heaven when Christ calls you home. You chose to follow God and not man. That's an investment into your SRA that will never be taken from you. Man, nor Satan, can steal, kill, or destroy God's glory, and when you obey God, that's exactly what you are doing. You are glorifying God, the only One deserving of glory and honor and praise. God's blessings and if I don't hear from you before then, Merry CHRISTmas dear friend.

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    1. J. D., I so very much appreciate your wise and kind thoughts here today! Yes, as much as we know we made the right decision as a congregation, it's sad to witness an entire denomination be fractured and hurt in the process. We are told repeatedly in the Bible that we are to follow God and His commandments; no others are permissible. It makes me wonder how so many professing Christians got duped into bowing to the current culture of opinions. I pray that all the lost will be found!
      Love and blessings!

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  19. I'm so sorry for this upheaval, Martha. I was rather shocked that your church would have to pay. Praying that Christ and God's infallible truths become the center of our hearts and churches! Love and blessings of strength and peace in this season!

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    1. Thanks so much for your prayers and kind words here, Trudy. Yes, it's a downright shame that congregations are required to "pay" because they've made a choice between following God or the whims of people who think culture trumps the Lord and His commandments. Yet another instance where folks are punished for having different, and crucial, views. Prayer is so welcome at this time!
      Love and blessings!

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  20. Sadly, money speaks everywhere, even in religion. Hopefully , Shiloh Community Church will be guided by God in the best direction of coping with the hard circumstances.

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    1. I'm trusting in God to do just that, Duta.
      Love and blessings!

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  21. Such a difficult season to walk through Martha - but doing the right thing is always the hardest thing to do. I'm thankful your pastor is supportive, what a blessing! The Lord will be the guide in these difficult circumstances! Many blessings to you dear friend!

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    1. Yes, it is a difficult season for our church family, Marilyn, but we are all in this together, trusting that God has our best interest at heart. We know He will part the waters and lead us through on dry land.
      Love and blessings!

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  22. I visited a couple of churches last week for my blog The Church Explorer and came across my first Advent Candels. Hope things work out for you

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    1. I'll have to check out your blog, Billy - sounds so interesting. I'm trusting in God to make a way for us. I know He can.
      Love and blessings!

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  23. such a difficult season for your church. Hope always surprises though. May it be so!

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    1. Hope certainly does surprise us, Jean, and I believe it will do so here again. We are determined to stick together in His name.
      Love and blessings!

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  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. It sounds like your holiday is off to a good start despite the monetary problems. So glad your Paster Jared is sticking around!

    Allie of
    www.allienyc.com

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    1. Me, too, Allie! He is a true gem and shepherd of his flock. We can't begin to thank him enough.
      Love and blessings!

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  26. What an emotional journey your church has been through! Your community's resilience and faith in navigating these changes together is inspiring.

    Hugs and blessings, Martha

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    1. Thank you so much, Veronica, for your kind and encouraging words here. With God's help, I feel sure we will get through this journey together.
      Love and blessings!

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  27. In a few days we will arrive to Christmas. Merry Christmas with LOVE and Joy, and Happy new year.

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    1. Christmas is, indeed, upon us, J. S. May yours be merry and bright.
      Love and blessings!

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  Do not be wise in your own eyes;  fear the Lord and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment for your bones. ~Prove...