We said goodbye to Ashten and Matt Webb last year. Ashten did a great job as our children's minister, but her husband, Matt, took a job in Huntville, Alabama and hey had to move. We were so please to welcome Joanna Scruggs as our new children's minister over the summer. Joanna, Kelly, Eden, and Hank have been members of our church for a long time, but it has been wonderful to welcome them into this new ministry role. Joanna started off by plainning in just one month the best organized Vacation Bible School we've ever had. we avereged around 40 kids each night of the week this past July during VBS. Then she jumped right in, doing a wonderful job, planning our annual Trunk or Treat. We saw nearly 1,000 people from around our commuity come for fun, safe Halloween fun. Many expressed how much they appreciate our church offering this for our community. And of course, Joanna has been doing a great job leading our weekly kids program, planning and leading lessons and organizing volunteers. We are very pleased to have Joanna on staff and look forward to a great year with her and the kids in 2020.
Walk to Emmaus and Chrysalis
Now, I would like to share some highlights for the coming year. Our focus, as it has been since I became pastor in the summer of 2010, will be to seek the Kingdom of God and His right righteousness in all that we do (see Matthew 6:33). We will continue to be guided by our long range goals to give hope to the hopeless, build new relationships, and help our community. The success of everything we do will be measured by these three overarching goals. We will have several new opportunities in 2020.
A suggestion was made during a finance meeting last year that we offer a course to help church members better manage their finances. The Bible teaches that all that we have is a gift from God. Our finances and other resources belong to God and are entrusted to us to use for the good of God's Kingdom. Therefore, we want to be good stewards and PGUMC wants to equip you to be the best steward of your finances as possible. Therefore, I have decided to offer Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace university to teach you the financial chronicles you need to achieve your financial goals. This course is excellent for everyone. Whether you struggle with money or are already very good at managing your finances, FPU will help you be the very best you can be.
Dave Ramsey's course is also in line with two other initiatives for PGUMC in 2020. Last year, PGUMC established the early mortgage retirement fund and members have been contributing. This month, we will make our first extra payment toward the principle of our mortgage with the intention of paying off our building loan early. We will continue to make extra payments throughout the year as we are able according to the congregation's extra giving to this fund. Paying off our loan early could save tens of thousands of dollars in interest. Imagine how much more ministry we can do with the elderly, with children and youth, and outreach in our community when we are free from the burden of a $5,000 per month mortgage.
In December, we also established Sara Brooker Memorial Children & Youth Fund with donations from Sara's estate as from extra contributions from members and a Christmas Eve offering. We currently have $13,700 in Sara's fund to help with children and youth ministries. How fitting that Sara's legacy of teaching children and youth about the love and salvation of Jesus Christ will live on through this effort.
The United Methodist General Conference which regularly meets every four year will be May 5-15 this year in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This may be the most pivotal General Conference since the denomination's founding in 1968.
Our denomination is bitterly divided over issues of human sexuality, homosexuality, and transgenders. Because our nation's ideas about human sexuality have been changing, many in the UMC believe the denomination should change too and allow the ordination of homosexual pastors and same-sex marriages. Others, like myself, believe that the Bible is clear that we are love everyone but not condone what the Bible clearly defines as sin contrary to God's will. The disagreement threatens to divide the UMC. You may have heard or read news stories about this issue. I want to make a few things clear to dispell any misunderstandings. First of all, no decisions have been made yet and none can be made until the General Conference on May 5-15. Even after that, it may take months or even years for any decisions to take affect. In the meantime, we must calmly pray for God's guidance for our families, our church, and the delegates from all over the world who will meet at the General Conference to debate and make decisions for the United Methodist denomination. Furthermore, please feel free to ask me any questions you have. This is a complex and emotionally charged issue that requires more time to discuss than we have time for in this short address. So, let’s sit down together sometime and talk.
As I close this address, I invite you to affirm or reaffirm your faith in Jesus Christ and your commitment to serve him. Please read through the following questions and answer them in your own heart.
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
Will you nurture your fellow Christians in the Christian faith and life?
Would you affirm the following commitment?
With God’s help, I will proclaim the good news and life according to the example of Christ. I will surround my brothers and sisters in Christ with a community of love and forgiveness, that we may grow in our trust of God, and be found faithful in our service to others. I will pray for them, that we may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life. As a member of God's Church, I renew my covenant to faithfully participate in the ministries of the church by my prayers, my presence, my gifts, my service, and my witness, that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.