Letters from the Council Chair and the Pastor

June 23, 2019, by Emily Penfield            From the Pastor

Peter, Paul and Persevering

When conflict arises, do you fight or take flight?  Most of us handle stress, anxiety or other emotions that conflict or tension create, by staying with it and pushing through, OR running away.  Sometimes, depending on the situation, backing away is appropriate.   But when we think about ministry, justice work, courageous conversations, or working on healthy relationships what is usually called for is perseverance.

When I was a young adult, I was definitely a runner.  And also an avoider.  I would go way out of my way to avoid a tough situation.  If I felt someone was upset with me or I had done something wrong, I would ignore it and hopefully it would just go away. In my 30s, I began to be bolder in addressing or receiving tension, criticism, and controversy.  But if it didn’t go well, I’d explode in anger and then flee the situation. I even did that at a Church Council meeting once.   It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I grasped the importance of perseverance – in conflict and stress, in relationships, in hard or painful conversations, in a differing of opinion and perspective.  I hope I’m still maturing and evolving and someday get this perseverance thing down.

There are many Bible stories and people we can learn perseverance from – Jacob, Moses and Esther are a few in the Hebrew Scriptures.  During July and August we are going to look at some stories in Acts of Peter and Paul demonstrating perseverance – especially perseverance to share the gospel of Jesus.  I hope you’ll be with us on Sundays for this series, or catch up with our worship podcasts.  I’m planning to address perseverance with clenched teeth, and other creative forms of pushing through barriers and conflict.  Peter and Paul have a lot to teach us whether you’re one who usually fights or take flight.



Council Chair’s Letter

Dearest Friends,

It has been a privilege to serve as Council Chair these past five months.  During that time, I have seen firsthand the many ways in which our church is making a difference in individual lives, in our community and in our city at large.

“We are small, but we are mighty,” 

I’ve said that phrase. I’ve heard many of you speak it. I’ve heard Emily proclaim it.  But sometimes, I wonder if we know how mighty we are.    As I thought about that question, three events came to mind.  I want to share them with you.

When many of us woke up to rain on the Saturday of the Easter Egg hunt this year, we groaned.  I was afraid we would have no Easter Egg hunters at all!  Yet, 25-30 children showed up to hunt eggs, play games, and enjoy some special treats.  Along with those children came several mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and older siblings.  I happened to be standing with a young mother when Andy’s gorgeous Easter cupcakes made their appearance.  She looked at them for a long minute and then commented on how beautiful they were.  She asked, “Where did you get them?”  When I replied that our choir director made them, there was a look of wonder on her face.  She replied, “Someone would do that for us?”  Where I saw cupcakes, she saw love and respect.

We are small, but we are mighty.

At Trunk or Treat in 2017, we asked our community participants what programs or events they would like to see our church provide.  Unexpectedly, the most prevalent answer was that they would love to have a community Juneteenth celebration because it was hard for residents and their families to get downtown to the celebrations there.  Flash forward to Juneteenth, 2018…our church along with the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association, put on a Juneteenth celebration.  A good time was had by all.  However, we will not be sponsoring Juneteenth, 2019.  The Woodlawn and Oak Hill neighborhood associations will be sponsoring it.  Not because we are unwelcome….but because we were able to empower these neighborhoods to work together to develop their own celebration so desired by their residents.

We are small, but we are mighty.

This past April 12, how many of you woke up to texts chiming or Facebook notifications going off?  Certainly, when the Council agreed to take out an ad in the Birmingham News, no one anticipated front cover status!  Yet, there our words were, as bold as love and as beautifully illustrated as any Renaissance manuscript.  No Matter! 

We are small, but we are mighty.

We are small in numbers but mighty in the power of the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  I can’t wait to see where He takes us next.

Love to all,