Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Camp Viola 2017

When you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

In case you’re not familiar with it, Camp Viola provides a safe camp environment for the spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional development of underprivileged, economically challenged children of Troup County and adjoining areas.

Each week during the summer, at least one of 12 area churches and organizations (including LFUMC) provides volunteers and leaders to supplement camp staff to host 40-50 rising 3rd through 5th Graders in experiencing programs for spiritual enrichment (such as Bible study and worship) and various outdoor activities (such as swimming, hiking, canoeing, and other sports). Through these experiences, the goal is that each participant will come to grow in or discover Christian faith, better appreciate nature, develop friendships, and enhance their own personal abilities, all within confines of a safe and caring learning environment.

This year, June 5-8th is the sponsoring week for OUR church, and our participation is one way that we carry out our mission of being “Christians SERVING in love, CARING with compassion, and SHARING Christ with boldness.“  For many years, Rick Free has done a wonderful job serving as the Director for our church’s sponsor/host week. 

In the stewardship article found in your most recent giving statement, Rick had the following to say, “Camp Viola… is the best chance we have each year to make a difference in the lives of children we do not know and would probably never know.  Our goal each year is give around 40 kids who have very little a week of love and care…Most of all, these kids love a little attention. That’s what we try to do… to let them know they are special and are cared for.”

If you’ve read the information in the latest issues of both our newsletter and Sunday bulletins, you’ll know that Rick is still in need of volunteers. At present, we still need…
            ● Volunteers in the kitchen to help prepare meals each morning Mon.-Thurs.
            ● Chaperones for activities each day and night Mon.-Thurs.
            ● Volunteers to assist children with Arts & Crafts on Monday and Tuesday.

Any help is needed for any of these times!  You don’t have to volunteer for the whole week…one or two afternoons, one morning, one evening, or whatever time you can give will be helpful and appreciated not only by Rick and the camp staff, but more importantly by the children campers.

So, I hope you will join me in volunteering to help out in some capacity that week (I’ll be leading one of the Bible study times). For more information or to volunteer, email Rick or call him through the church office (706-884-4635).  Remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 Bishop's Offering

“The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Many of you are aware that each year our Bishop of North Georgia United Methodism (Sue Harpert-Johnson) designates an annual “Bishop’s Mission Offering” to be collected by North Georgia United Methodist churches in the weeks leading up to Annual Conference, and then shared by each church’s delegates at a worship service during Conference.

This year, Bishop Sue has announced that our 2017 Bishop’s Mission Offering will support United Methodism’s Ministerial Education Fund (MEF) to provide educational funds for seminary students and licensed local pastors – resources to help train upcoming pastors and church leaders. This past year (since Fall 2016), 163 North Georgia seminary students enrolled in United Methodist seminaries and Asbury seminary received $430,010 in MEF grants for tuition and associated expenses.  And while it’s true that the main source of MEF is through General Church apportionments given by United Methodists in our local churches, this year’s Bishop's Offering will supplement the apportioned funds. Since a recent General Board of Higher Education commissioned study showed that a typical UM seminary student graduates with an average student loan debt of $50,000, these grants will enable some who are otherwise unable to attend seminary, and will enable others not to need to go into debt simply to receive a seminary degree.

Visit the following link to watch a short video featuring some of our North GA beneficiaries of MEF.  The need is great, the mission is worthwhile, and the results provide called, gifted and educated pastors for our churches throughout North Georgia United Methodism.  So, I invite you to give generously to help men and women around our state to answer God’s call to serve His church.  Make your check payable to LaGrange First UMC and designate either it or cash to “Bishop’s Mission Offering.” 

We’ll be collecting funds through June 7th, and will present our church’s combined check during the offering time at the Annual Conference afternoon worship service on Wednesday, June 14th.  Remember that God loves you and I do, too. 

(P.S., For more information visit HERE)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Psalm 150, A Paraphrase

"Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!" (Psalm 150:6)

At the last Church Council meeting, I  shared the following paraphrase of Psalm 150 that I wrote as a response to comments I've received over the last year or so.  I share them with you here for your own personal inspiration and challenge to remind us all of what we need to be focusing upon (the praise of God)...

"Praise God at LaGrange First UMC! 
Praise God with trumpet, handbells and pipe organ!
   Praise Him with electric guitar, bass and keyboard!
Praise God with reverence and awe that goes beyond words
   Praise Him with clapping, dancing, and bodies that move a beat!
Praise God while sitting in our pews, standing in our row, or kneeling at the altar.
Praise God if you've been the victim of someone else's selfishness, prejudice, pride, 
    and oppression.
Praise Him even when you wake up and realize that you're the one who's been 
    selfish, prideful and doing the oppressing!
Praise God through traditional affirmations of faith and formal liturgy, 
But praise Him also through informal ritual and spontaneous liturgy.
Praise God in English, Korean, Spanish, and any other human language.
    Praise Him through silence and meditation.
Praise God with the beauty of tradition and ritual at contemporary services.
But praise Him also with the use of video clips and multi-media at traditional  
     services... on Easter Sunday morning... at the beginning of the service... speaking 
     an emotional language that younger adults connect to in a way that traditional 
     liturgy alone does not always do!
Praise God with preaching that's done from the pulpit, from the lectern, from the
    middle of the chancel area, or even from the middle of the Sanctuary!
Praise God through the reading of His Holy word from a scroll, from a paperbound 
    book, or from an iPad!
Praise God at 8:45, 9:00 & 11am on Sunday morning in the Sanctuary, Chapel, and 
     Methodist Ministries Center. 
But praise Him also on Saturday night at a local pub, Wednesday night on the campus 
    of LaGrange College, 10am Sundays at West Point Lake during the summer, and 
     any other time and place where "two or more" of His people are gathered in His name.
Praise God when you've got your life together and everything is right with the world.
But praise Him also when your heart is breaking, your life is falling apart, and you're
    not sure if you can make it another day.
Whoever you are, however you experience faith, in whatever spiritual shape you find 
    yourself, if you have breath in you, then praise the Lord!
People of LaGrange First UMC... Praise the Lord!"

Always remember that God loves you and I do, too!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What's Your Dream for LaGrange First UMC?

“Where there is no vision the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18)

Vision is essential if any person or group is to ever achieve its fullest potential.  Having, sharing, and implementing a biblical Vision can give us a direction to shoot for, a goal to move towards, and can harness the energy and power of God to get us there.  And, as the scripture above indicates, the lack of Vision can effectively destroy us.

Since January, our church’s Long Range Planning (LRP) Committee has been working diligently to begin the process of discerning God’s Vision for LaGrange First UMC for our future.  When ready, that Vision will consist of input from at least three sources:  (1) our identity/mission; (2) our internal congregational needs and dreams; (3) the needs of our external community.

That’s why we need your help!  Coming up THIS SUNDAY & NEXT WEEK, we’ll be sponsoring a series of “Vision Input TOWN HALL Meetings” where anyone from our church is invited and encouraged to share their thoughts and input about the dreams and visions YOU have and needs YOU see for our church over the next 12 months, 5 years, and 10 years.  We’ll offer three, hour-long meetings on Sunday, May 7 at 10am, Sunday, May 7 at 4pm, and Wednesday, May 10 at 6pm, and will be guided in our sharing by leaders from our LRP Committee. All Town Halls will take place in the Fellowship Hall.

We invite and encourage each and every church member and friend to mark your calendar and attend one of these so that you can share your thoughts and dreams for our church over the next 10 years with our LRP Committee. This is YOUR chance to give input about our church’s future direction.  And while it won’t be the only source of input for that future, it is an essential and needed one.

If for some reason you can’t be present that day, have ideas that you think about after attending, or have details that you feel would be better shared in writing, please feel free to email (or mail them to the church office).

After this input is received, the LRP committee will also be researching the needs of our external community.  Then, later this summer and early Fall, they will work to bring all the pieces together to discern God’s overall VISION for our church’s future and bring an initial draft of that back to you as a congregation for you to give feedback about.

Until then, remember who you are (Christians… SERVING in love, CARING with compassion, and SHARING with boldness) and let that be a starting point for where we’re going and who we’re becoming.  And never forget that God loves you and I do, too!