September 5, 2023
Prayers and blessings to all students, teachers, school staff, bus drivers, and parents as you head back to school this year! We so appreciate all you do and how hard you work to provide quality education, music and arts appreciation, creativity, efficiency, the investment you’ve made in the students, and the risks you take to help grow up a new generation of thinking human beings.
I always feel the “perpetual student” pull of a new academic year. The more appropriate term is “lifelong learner,” and this year is no exception. The type of learning is not theologicaal this time, but more biological as I learn new habits and life rhythms to take better care of my body, heart, and voice. I’ve been a workaholic forever, buying into the career success cultural norm, and I am not proud to confess that. My recovery has given me time to think, new routines of exercise, measurements (I got a Fitbit device), nutrition, more sleep, and better health in general.
These new rhythms are building my stamina, clarifying my focus with determination, reducing stress, and yielding good results. It is out of gratitude that I share this information, and preached an August sermon series on healing stories in the Bible. There were too many for just five weeks, but we discussed some good ones: Blind Bartimaeus, Elisha and the Shunamimite woman’s dead son restored, Jairus’ daughter Talitha brought back to life, the man with leprosy, the speech impaired deaf man, and Peter’s mother-in-law. If you’d like to learn more, please note that these sermons are posted on our website at this link: https://www.theunitedbaptchurch.org/services
From these stories and several accompanying Psalms of petition and praise, we learned lessons about our own healing needs, God’s power and grace, and Christ’s mercy and unlimited compassion. Some of the folks were faithful believers and some were not. Some were vulnerable victims and some were not. Our faith is bigger than just problem solving; please do not assume being healed means you are weak. And remember, we cannot “earn” God’s grace or healing through religiosity, institutions, bargaining, or moral living. We all need Christ’s authority to heal us in some way, whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, psychological, or spiritual.
Many come to church for fellowship, some for serving those in need, some to be healed or served, and still others attend church as a lifelong learner—to dig deeper into the Word of God, seeking direction and life application. The United Baptist Church and Mission Center is a good place to learn through relationships and unified spiritual strength. Hope to see you soon!
August 1, 2023
I’m baaaack! And boy, did it feel good to see you Sunday, to hug you, and to feel the Lord’s presence in the building! I have missed you all, even those who subscribe to our newsletter but cannot be here in real life. Most of you have heard that I had unexpected mitral heart valve surgery on May 24th, and I am back to work part time now. The Inova Fairfax Heart & Vascular Institute (& Virginia Heart) treated my situation, and because I was pretty healthy, all went well. Thank you for your prayers, visits, texts, calls, flowers, coloring books, and cards! While I was at home recovering, of course, I worshipped online or with an occasional TV preacher, but it’s just not the same. I am so grateful for our church’s leadership initiative to welcome Mrs. Katie Harding, Rev. Dr. Jim Weaver and your flexibility worshipping with New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church! We have expressed our gratitude to all. I like to say that the end of May, June, and July were one big unintentional “Divine Experiment” as you adapted to our needs. So, pat yourselves on the back for sustaining our worship, Bible Study, fellowship, and community services while I was out. Well done everyone!
Because of your adaptive leadership and resilience, I found myself calm, knowing you and the Lord had it all in hand. I leaned on His many blessings and chances to share his love and strength with others (future sermon stories). My recovery was easier because of hymns I knew and Scripture: Psalm 23, 40, 103, 121, and of course, the Lord’s Prayer and the Serenity Prayer were my familiar go-to’s when I didn’t have my Bible close by. I give the doctors, nurses, and staff a lot of credit for my comfort and treatment, but I give God all the praise and glory for his healing and restoration! I let him know though that I had much more Kingdom work to do here on earth, and so far, He agrees! Pastors are human too, and we must remember that our bodies are temporary yet deserve good stewardship. Please read all the Parish Nurse articles; I responded well and was better informed because of them!
In Psalm 103 NIV, the writer David cries out: “20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. 21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.” Let me remind us all that through the salvation of Jesus Christ, we are called to servanthood, leadership, evangelism, hospitality, various ministry gifts, generosity and willing service to others!
There were no blogs in June or July while Pastor was out on sick leave.
May 2, 2023
Happy 20th Anniversary, United Baptist Church! On April 30th we celebrated with church family, friends and former members our 20 years since the 2003 consolidation. It was a joyful day to remember our purpose for bringing First Baptist Church of Annandale and Boulevard Baptist Church together, with our Co-Pastors, Rev. Dr. Wayne Yawn and Rev. Dr. Gerald Young and both congregations. National Gardens members joined us soon after. We have affirming letters from both founding pastors and from myself if you were not here and would like to read them; just call the office. I would love to share more of this special milestone with you! Enjoy just a few of the photos from that day; 30 more are on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TheUnitedBaptistChurch.
All three churches that united in 2003 were separately birthed in the 1940’s; and although times and culture have changed, our Mission and Vision have not. The words and documents were updated, but the essence of Christian Kingdom work is still The Great Commission, in Matthew 28:16-20.
The consolidation facilitated a freedom to serve in new ways and to steward our resources more efficiently. The “weight” of three multiple facilities, the culture’s declining interest in church attendance, and the desire to meet the needs of our communities in a pro-active, missional way became a reality. Since my tenure which began February 2019, despite pandemic setbacks, we are continuing to re-engage with one another and the community, build up our Mission Center partnerships to serve the needs of Annandale and Fairfax, to grow spiritually, and to reassess/update facilities and programs. This year’s theme of “Divine Experiments” reminds us that our foundation is Christ; our wisdom is our faith and experience; we have many spiritual gifts to share; we are resilient and learning to innovate; our strengths are both material and spiritual (resources, strong prayer lives, and reliance upon the Holy Spirit); so our future is limitless. With your help, prayers, resources, affirmation, and encouragement, we will serve for many more years to come. Thank you.
April 4, 2023
Happy Spring & almost Easter! I do hope you’re having a blessed Holy Week. On Palm Sunday, I surprised our congregation with a Shofar Call to Worship, thanks to David Evans’ skills. A “shofar” is an ancient musical horn typically made of a ram’s horn, used for Jewish public and religious occasions. In biblical times the shofar sounded the Sabbath, announced the New Moon, and proclaimed the anointing of a new king. This shofar and Jewish prayer shawl journeyed safely here from Jerusalem, Israel -- praise God for their beauty and sound!
The photos on page 1 are of the Garden Tomb, Golgotha (Aramaic: skull) or as we know it, Calvary (Latin: bald head/skull). Although we think of a hill with three crosses as seen in the movies, there are two possible locations of Christ’s tomb. Both I visited in Jerusalem, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and The Garden Tomb. There is evidence for both, so the Biblical Archaeology Review 12:2, March/April 1986 article is worth reading. Both places have merit, and both are meaningful locations to be with God in meditation or contemplation. Our group read the crucifixion and resurrection accounts while celebrating the Lord’s Supper together.
As I pray and work through our church prayer list this season, I am moved by the fragility and awe of life itself. We celebrated Hazel Ball’s 101 years of life, family, and service and Sue Korcel’s 91 years of art, painting, children, grandchildren, and neighborhood evangelism. Both women of strong faith did not seem too fragile, yet our moments of memory do seem fleeting. We must be present to one another as we go! The Mid-Atlantic Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Clergy/Chaplain Retreat in February and MACBF Annual Meeting in March reminded me that caring for others requires humility, spiritual work, and physical care of self, and that the injustices of the world do need our attention, in small and big ways. Several national CBF staff came to speak and teach (we do support them financially). Peer support was evident and appreciated, especially during recent responses within the Southern Baptist Convention. There will be an attempt at the June meeting to de-fellowship any churches with women in leadership. Please know that although we are listed as SBC, it is a clerical error; we have not financially or theologically supported SBC in decades. It will easily be corrected, but sister churches need our prayers on this. I personally thank UBC for your affirmation and support of God’s calling and direction in my life. Good things are happening for our Mission Center, too, so plan to attend our next Membership Meeting on Sunday, May 7th! Blessings . . .