Happy Thanksgiving (A few days late)!
Hello First UMC Alachua!
I know that today may not look the way that you had hoped it would look. Today, along with the rest of 2020 is remarkably different than previous years. Like many of you, my normal Thanksgiving plans have changed drastically. Even as I write this (on Tuesday), our plans have changed, and we will not be going to visit family and friends. Normally, we would be at a large gathering of friends who have become family over the years. As much of our family is scattered across the US, we were lovingly adopted into a large family in Melbourne. They called us a couple of weeks ago and broke the news that they were going to need to change plans and we would not gather, in person as in years past. They did have a wonderful idea for us to do a “Dessert & Zoom” this weekend so we could all catch up together. Another friend of ours is meeting us halfway to pick up Christmas presents and see each other’s wonderful smiles.
If we have learned anything this year it is how to adapt. We have been adapting and changing, sometimes at rates more than we could ever believe we were able to do. We have learned that physical contact is important, but so is the need to care for our vulnerable and loved ones. We have learned that community is vitally important to our lives and that community can be done in many ways. Our worship has been a prime example of this kind of adaptation. We moved from being a primarily on-campus worship service to streaming our service in HD quality around the world on Sunday mornings. We have adapted and each one of you has meet this challenge with perseverance and Grace.
Grace, what a wonderful word. If you grew up like I did, Grace is what is spoken over the gathering and the meal before partaking of all the delicious dishes on the tables. Grace was usually spoken by my Uncle Harold as the oldest son of the family. I remember that it was a huge honor to have the role of saying Grace over the gathering. I’ve had that honor once or twice amongst the Allen family gatherings. As much as I revered that role of speaking the prayer of Grace over our gathering and mealtime, how little did I really understand that word as a young person.
In these times of change, adapting and looking to make the best decisions possible for our families and friends, I think we need to remember to speak Grace over whatever our gathering looks like. Grace for times where our words are driven by our feelings instead of the spirit. Grace for decisions that may look different than our own and Grace for our relationships that have been impacted by the current climate of conflict.
To me, the holiday season kicks off this week with Thanksgiving and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The kids and I will look for Santa to come down 5th avenue and usher in the holiday season. On Sunday, in worship, we will begin the work of preparing for Christmas. While this is a unique year in the way we gather and celebrate the holidays, it is no less important in how we prepare our hearts for the miracle of life that is going to be ushered in. This week we will begin the work of preparing our hearts to receive the gift that is in the manger.
As this is my first Christmas with you all, there is a special feeling to it. While I have been a part of pastoral team that oversaw the Advent and Christmas season, this is my first Christmas as the lead pastor. There is a special kind of hope and joy to that. It is humbling and yet rewarding. It is a pleasure to serve you all this year, no matter the circumstances. To God be the glory for this opportunity to shine hope, faith, joy, and peace in the midst of this world. We have the opportunity to give testimony to who Jesus is and what that Grace means to us.
I look forward to Sunday with an eager heart for what God is doing with us here at First UMC Alachua. Today though, I will give thanks to God for my wife, my kids, our puppy, all of you and the many times Grace was spoken over our gatherings. May God’s Grace continue to flow through us all in this holiday season.
With Grace & Peace,
Movie on the Lawn – December 6th at 6pm – Join us under the tent for “Elf”, a fun Christmas movie! BYOD – Bring your own dinner, blankets and/or chairs. We’ll be sure to use good social distancing and enjoy a movie in the open air!
FL UMC Children’s Home – The 5th Sunday is traditionally used to take up a special offering to support the ministry of the FL UMC Children’s Home. For this Sunday we would like to do so in honor of the passing of Paul Ley and his love of children as a retired Principal. You can put an offering in the special envelopes available with the ushers or make a check out to the church and note “FL UMC Children’s Home” in the memo line.
Staff Appreciation – December is Staff Appreciation month. This is our opportunity to show our love for the staff of our church and their hard work this year. Pastor Augie and Mary would like to thank you for an amazing contribution to our family through your support in October for Pastor Appreciation month. With that, we are asking that the focus of these monies be contributed to the other five members of the staff. If you would like to thank an individual, please do so with a card of thanks, with your contribution given directly to that person. Thank you for loving our team of wonderful servants!
Thank you to everyone who has helped us connect with people who don’t use electronic media! We send out the E-Letter via mail each week! Let us know if there’s someone we could be connecting with.