Like so many others, I will begin 2013 with a self-improvement program. On January 2, I will undergo a Birmingham hip procedure or a total hip replacement. Almost three years ago, I first consulted with the surgeon, Dr. Anthony Shinar, from Vanderbilt, upon the recommendation of my rheumatologist, Dr. Susan Kroop. Rheumatoid Arthritis has been an annoying part of my life since 2001. I took Physical Therapy on my hip in 2003, the place the RA and old sport’s injures manifest the most damage. I hesitate to say I suffer from RA. I do not want to give RA that much space. I am fortunate to respond well to my medicines, swimming and yoga. I do miss running and playing basketball with the boys. Yet, I am grateful for my health care providers, insurance, researchers and medicine.
I might be worrying more about missing church than undergoing surgery. Yes, I realize my nervousness may indicate a need for deeper faith. Pray, for that too, as you lift up my surgery! For over one hundred and sixty years our church has served Tullahoma effectively. My time out is a blip on our historical radar. The staff joked that the church may run smoother without me! I pray their prognostication becomes prophetic. I hope I am missed, that we thrive and I quickly return!
I hate to step away because God is doing great things in our midst. Our recent Stewardship efforts demonstrate our deeper commitment to God’s work in 2013. As we finished 2012, ahead of our budget, new givers and greater pledges arrived for our 2013 mission and ministry budget. Thanks be to God for your generosity and commitment. I hope we add to our good work by stepping into “hands on” service to God in 2013. Please take a few moments to study the “Belonging Stewardship Catalogue”, which offers many “hands on” ways we can serve God here at church. On Tuesday Jan 15, our staff will tabulate and assign each of our cards to a ministry area. Please return your card indicating how you will uphold God’s work with your hands on prayers, presences, gifts, service and witness.
My rheumatologist, our SPRC and our District Superintendent all encourage me to focus on my health and full recovery. To allow time for recovery our January worship will feature an outstanding group of guest preachers and teachers. You will be enriched by their experiences, insights and varied perspectives. I hope you will not use the excuse of the preacher being out to dodge the fifth commandment!
On January 6, we welcome Brad Fiscus, the Director of Young Peoples Ministry for the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. Brad is a former middle and high school science teacher, wrestling and football coach, and student leadership advisor and consultant. Brad is an excellent preacher. He also oversees events like Warmth in Winter and has created new ministries like Project Transformation. Brad will share about “Community through Communion”
On Sunday Jan 13, our own, Tammy Mentzer Brown will share with us from her book “A Teacher’s Prayer”. Since publishing her book in January of 2012, Tammy has spoken across the country to different church groups. You will be enriched by this special Sunday as Tammy shares at 8am and 11am. Jenny Youngman, a recording artist and former TFUMC member, will share music from her upcoming album and Kris Roberts will preach at our 9am First-Light service. This is a great Sunday to invite someone to join you for worship!
On Jan 20, Debbie Robinson, Executive Director of Miriam’s Promise our Conference’s pregnancy, counseling, and parenting and adoption services ministry will grace our pulpit. Debbie’s preaching will move you.
On Jan 27 Rev Michael Ratliff, Associate General Secretary of Young People’s Ministries of the United Methodist Church will preach about the future of the United Methodist Church. Mike has written several books about Christian education, discipleship and young people’s ministry. Mike and Lynn worshipped and served at Hillcrest UMC in Nashville, my appointment before Tullahoma. Mike taught youth Wednesday Bible Study. In the past six years, Mike has traveled all over the world working with the worldwide UMC youth efforts. Mike is a spiritual church leader who will bring a thought-provoking forward leaning message.
Feb 3 Rev. Dr. LeNoir Culbertson, our District Superintendent will open God’s Word and lead holy communion. LeNoir is a gifted preacher and church leader.
In addition to our pulpit guests, Rev. Mark Ashley, our part-time visitation pastor will take on additional hours and guide 11am worship. Esther Sims, our children’s minister will help shepherd 8am services. We also welcome our own, Sharon Austell, a recent Vanderbilt Divinity School graduate, to our staff as a part-time interim worship pastor. Sharon is a candidate for the pastoral ministry. Sharon will serve as the First-Light Worship leader in conjunction with John Cook, who will continue as First-Light Band Director. This arrangement parallels our sanctuary services were Don, Michelle and Chris combine efforts to lead our music. The rest of our staff is committed to pitching in and assisting with your needs. Please, don’t hesitate to contact, Rev. Ashley or any staff member if you have any pastoral needs, prayer concerns or questions.
Please feel free to send me a card or give me a call. I appreciate your kind words and prayers. I hope to be checking email once I am walker and pain med free. I pray I am back at work, sooner rather than later and experience firsthand some of our guest preachers and not just listen on the internet. You can listen to our TFUMC sermons online at tullahomafumc.com. I hope I do not limp back from surgery but jump back in with both feet.
It is a great honor to serve with you as pastor. Tullahoma needs our church to lead our community in worship, giving, praise and service to God and neighbor. May 2013 mark a year of continued church growth, expanded ministry, and deeper connection to God. May we be a city set on the hill, shining God’s light by our good works and grateful hearts!
Grace and Love