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A Message from the Bishop

Following are messages from our bishop, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar and from Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling in response to yesterday’s events in Charlottesville, VA.

Aug. 13, 2017

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Where do we go from here?” That is the question being asked by the people of Charlottesville, VA, and those who are fearful and hurting in Kenya, in Venezuela, on the Korean Peninsula – anywhere hatred and violence are escalating. 

Today’s lectionary gospel text reminds us of an another storm brewing and one disciple’s fearful plea … “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30).

Jesus was right there in the boat with him, and reached out a hand of support and a word of calm. As people of faith, we remain steadfast in our belief that the one who was with Peter in the storm continues to reside with us through all the storms of life, no matter how chaotic they become.

And while we believe that with God all things are possible, and the storms will cease, as baptized Christians, we are called to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. When we are witnesses to storms of violence and hatred, what hand of support and word of calm can we offer? We must not tolerate or encourage the kind of behavior that we witnessed in Charlottesville or anywhere lives are devalued. 

Dr. Cornell West was present in Charlottesville yesterday, and during a morning prayer service at First Baptist Church said he had come “bearing witness to love and justice.” While our nation enjoys certain freedoms, we are also a nation that values justice. We cannot tolerate the injustice of those who would devalue the lives of some based on the color of their skin.

As Jesus’ followers may we honor the sacred worth of all God’s beloved and seek to live in love with one another. And as the storms of life rage, may we lend our hearts, hands and voices to build God’s beloved community here in our nation and around the globe. 

Of course we cannot do it alone. So may we join our prayer with Peter’s and say, “Lord, save us!”

In Christ’s love,

Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

And from Bishop Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Conference

Beloved,
 
I greet you in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. The wisdom of Scripture teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9). As we watched the rally unfold today in Charlottesville, Va., we were reminded that hate, bigotry, bias and prejudice are not new to the American landscape. These vile concepts have reared their ugly head in every generation. While we should not be surprised, those who are Christ-followers should find it repugnant and incompatible with our core beliefs.
 
Scripture expressly states that, “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27) These words captured in the first creation story proclaim that we are all created in the image of our Creator. This Scripture does not reserve that sacred image for a privileged group, or claim it for just a few; rather, it pointedly affirms that every human being on earth is created in God’s image. Out of this common heritage, we celebrate that we are one in image, likeness, soul, and spirit. Our sacred writ also calls us into practices of unity, fellowship, peace and reconciliation.
 
As United Methodists, we have also taken vows and entered into a covenant that compels us to act in the face of evil. In our baptismal vows we affirm, when asked:
 
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?              
 I do.
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
I do.
 
These questions do not presume that we will simply reject evil, injustice and oppression quietly in the confines of our own hearts and homes. Rather, these questions imply, in true Wesleyan fashion, that we will actively resist this wickedness. We are called to action through prayer, standing in solidarity with those being persecuted, preaching and teaching love and inclusion, and denouncing acts borne out of hatred.
 
Recently I read about the actions of one person leading to a collective movement to silence messages of hate. New Yorkers boarded a subway car to find swastikas and other symbols of fear and intimidation drawn on the windows and walls. As the passengers looked in quiet disbelief, someone said, “Well, hand sanitizer has alcohol, and alcohol removes Sharpie.” Soon everyone in the car was using this liquid on napkins and tissues to remove the symbols. The actions of one person led to a moment of constructive community activism and engagement. One person can spark a movement of love and healing.
 
I am attending the 25th celebration of the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, and the 46th Assembly of MARCHA. During our opening worship, we sang the beautiful song by Hezekiah Walker, I Need You To Survive. This gospel song reminds us that we are all a part of God’s body, and it is God’s will that we care for one another. May we all join in caring for, praying for, supporting, encouraging, and loving one another. But even more so, may we work, actively work, to resist hatred, prejudice and discrimination in our heads, hearts, homes, congregations and communities.
 
Your servant in Christ,
Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling

Good Morning!

What a beautiful morning at Hope!   Come join us each Sunday for a moment of joy, reflection, community, and worship.  The service starts at 10am.

Vacation Bible School

UPDATE:  We regret to say that VBS for this year has been cancelled due to low registration.  Enjoy your summer and stay tuned to see what is in store for children in the fall!

Vacation Bible School is coming!  July 31st to August 4th, 9 AM to Noon.  Children age 3 and up are welcome.  Now is the time to register and save your child’s spot! It’s sure to be a fun week.  Fill out the registration form and send it in today!   VBSForm2017

Our new pastor arriving soon!

Our new full time pastor, Rev. Joy Toll-Chandler, begins her ministry at Hope UMC on the first of July!  Here is a message that she wrote to us as she was preparing for her move.

Hello to all the folks at Hope UMC! I am excited to be packing boxes and getting ready to move to Belchertown where I can get to know you all, and serve our loving God together.

My husband, Paul, and I are moving from Punta Gorda, FL and are anxious to get back to New England. We went to Florida after my youngest graduated from high school, as I was ready for both some warm weather and a bit of a change in my ministry. God blessed us with 9 warm winters, and I had the opportunity to serve as a Minister of Music and as a Director of Worship Arts in Presbyterian Churches there.  I studied music as an undergraduate, and then did graduate studies in church music at Concordia University. I loved directing music and arts programs, and I learned a lot about ministry during that time.

However, I have missed the pastoral ministry, and I have missed my family, and am so grateful to now be appointed to Hope UMC. My previous pastorates were in Maine and Vermont where I served mostly rural churches, as well as co-pastored a more suburban federated church (UMC/UCC). I think my strong points of ministry are pastoral care, preaching and worship leadership, and planning/organizing. I try hard to listen well, to be adaptable, to be creative, and to care deeply for people. I have trouble remembering names, so please help me out there! I will also need your help in getting to know the New England Conference, as my past ministries were in the Troy and Maine conferences, and I have been gone since they joined with the rest of New England.

Paul and I will be beginning our 25th year of marriage this summer! He has 2 children, Becky in Arizona with her son Karston, and Jacob in VT with his wife Jada and son Jacob. I have 2 children also, Adam who lives in Reading, MA with his wife Kim and my brand-new grandson Lincoln, and Tim who lives in California.

Besides the joy of spending time with our families, we enjoy exploring places we’ve never been, going camping (although we didn’t do that in FL!), watching movies, playing games, and doing a bit of golfing. I also consider myself “crafty” – enjoying knitting, needlecrafts, and some sewing – and I like to play mahjong with friends. I love to shop, and I also try hard to take care of myself and get regular walks in – so I am looking forward to walking to work from the parsonage. I really enjoy cooking but I like to eat out for lunches, and am hoping to find some folks to meet and chat with over lunch in Belchertown. Obviously, I also love music, and my favorite instruments are the piano and handbells.

I am anxious to hear more of who “you” are, what it is that you enjoy, and how you serve God in your community. See you all soon!

This is THE week!

Dear Church,

You are invited to some truly special, powerful events this week that are all designed to bring you closer to the experience of a genuine Easter in your own life.

We begin with Holy Thursday, 6 p.m. at the church. A simple meal, a shared communion and the remembrance of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples is an opportunity to be in community with one another and be spiritually–as well as literally–fed. If you have never attended Holy Thursday before, I encourage you to come. There really isn’t anything else like it in our year of celebrations (and if there is, it’s always based on this service! :-)). It’s the perfect way to open your heart for the rest of the week.

The prayer vigil starts directly after. A wonderful email about that already went out!

Good Friday service begins at 7 p.m. on Friday. This time is set aside to hear the story of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. Even though this is one of the most challenging of events in the Christian calendar, there isn’t anyone who hasn’t endured their own “Good Friday.” To be present with hurt, betrayal, loss, unforgiveness and death is hard, hard, hard. But it is one part of Jesus’ story and one part of our own story. We come together as a community to remember that we are not alone in that pain.

Easter begins early with an ecumenical service at the Quabbin Tower. Reverend Clare Overlander, the interim minister at BUCC will lead this service and it promises to herald that divine sense of a dawning joy and freedom that Easter brings.

HUMC gathers at 10 a.m. for a beautiful celebration. Please bring your friends. We have many church members who struggle to get to church for various reasons. If you know anyone who could use some encouragement to come for Easter, or a ride, or assistance from their car (our handicap spots are limited), this is the moment to reach out. Reach out! Our liturgical dancers will uplift us, the music will transport us, the story will transform us.

I look forward to being in the rest of Holy Week with you! Know that all these services are created to serve you as you walk in faith, in doubt, in hope, in love, in forgiveness, in expectation, as you are, no part left out.

big blessings,

Pastor Sam

Reflection for the Third week of Lent

Dear Hope,

Now that we are well into our Lenten journey thinking about forgiveness, I want to share some thoughts on the practice to incorporate during the week as you “fast” from unforgiveness.

The first is that forgiveness is very hard–most of the time. In conversations with parishioners, the difficulty of forgiving has come up many times. We all know how challenging it feels to attempt to forgive someone who harmed us deeply. On the other hand, we often struggle to forgive petty injustices as well. As Steve’s forgiveness testimony so beautifully illustrated, even small infractions can have far reaching effects. I think we all related to that experience.

The second thought is that forgiveness is so hard because we, generally speak, don’t understand it and don’t do it for the right reasons! Most of us are taught that we need to forgive for the other person’s sake. In truth, forgiveness is an act that sets US free. It’s possible for it also to free the other person, but when we “do” forgiveness as if we are giving someone who hurt us a gift, we often still feel hurt and resentful, maybe even thinking, “why do I have to be the bigger person?” Well, nobody has to be the bigger person. If you choose that role, you operate out of your higher identity, Christ in you, which brings us back into right relationship with God.

This past Sunday’s Gospel lesson included these words spoken by Jesus: “I am fed by doing the will of the one who sent me and by completing his work” (John 4:34). That’s fantastic! What fed Jesus was doing God’s work. It also fed other people, of course, but it fed HIM. We are fed when we do “God’s work” by forgiving. Give yourself that gift so you can experience the spiritual sustenance that comes with letting go of angry, hurting thoughts that don’t cause anyone suffering but yourself.

This week as you explore forgiving yourself, God and others, imagine it as an act of self-kindness. Here is some more inspiration from religious writers and teacher !

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly. The hard truth is that all people love poorly. We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour increasingly. That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”  Henri Nouwen

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis Smedes

“People in general would rather die than forgive. It’s that hard. If God said in plain language. “I’m giving you a choice, forgive or die,” a lot of people would go ahead and order their coffin.” Sue Monk Kidd

“Forgiveness is not a one off decision; it is a journey and a process that takes time, determination, and persistence. Forgiveness is not forgetting; it is simply denying your pain the right to control your life.” Corallie Buchanan

Many blessings and keep letting me know how it’s going,
Pastor Sam