Dear Centenary Family,
Many of us have been watching closely events in Charlottesville, here in Richmond, and around the country as communities have started to have difficult conversations about how to deal with statues and symbols that commemorate prominent southern leaders during the Civil War. I must confess that reading reports of the conflict anticipated in Charlottesville this weekend and the contentious discussion that took place here in Richmond this week at the Virginia Historical Society are sobering if not heartbreaking.
I have been thinking a lot about the power of symbols. As these recent events demonstrate, symbols have great power because they communicate to us on several different levels. It is easy for us to assume that we know what a symbol means, what it stands for, and what those who created it meant to communicate. But then we find that symbols don't communicate the same message to different people. And it becomes clear that symbols communicate beyond the level of our rational minds. They connect with us on an emotional, visceral, and sometimes subconscious level.
I suspect that is part of why it is hard to have civil discussions about the meaning of these Civil War era symbols. Clearly, the wounds from that era are still with us.
I do not know how this problem should be resolved in our city. There is no one solution that will make everyone happy. However, this is an opportunity for us as people of God to consider what symbols are most important to us and to decide what symbols we will allow to shape us, inform us, and guide us in the interpretation of all the signs and symbols the world holds up as important.
It helps to remember that we come from a tradition that didn't like physical symbols much at all. Among the first commandments God gave to Moses were the commandments to have no other gods and to refrain from making graven images with human hands that become objects of veneration and worship. No idols!
So as Christians, we learned from our Jewish ancestors, that we have to be very careful about the images we pay attention to. We have learned that the reality by which all other realities are judged is unseen, transcendent, and beyond our ability to depict using human means. Be suspicious of symbols. They can become idols!
With that strong warning, though, Christians have found that some symbols can point us to an encounter with the unseen reality of God. For people of God, then, the question becomes, "What symbols will we allow to define who we are and who we become?"
For instance, our sanctuary is a precious place, in part, because it is full of symbols. Some time, come and sit in silence in our sanctuary and reflect on all the symbols you see and ask yourself what they are trying to say and then ask yourself how your life would be different if you lived into the reality those symbols are trying to communicate. If you need help, let us know!
Several symbols are central to our self-understanding as Christians. Look at the baptismal font. That is a many-layered symbol. For instance, it reminds us that we are sinners but that our sins have been washed away. It reminds us that we have been plunged into the water, that our old self-centered inclinations have been destroyed, and that we have come up a new person, empowered to love as God loves. It reminds us that no matter what, we belong to God, and that we have a place in the family of God we did nothing to earn. How do we see other symbols in relation to that one?
Look at the altar table. There we place the elements for Holy Communion. We come and receive the bread and wine and remember that God's love was so great that the broken body and shed blood of Christ was not too extravagant a gift to offer us and the world. When we receive the sacrament, we receive Christ - the Christ who gave himself for all people. We receive the power of God's Spirit to live a Christ-shaped life. And we could go on and on, unraveling the deep meaning of this symbol.
Think about the cross. The meaning of that symbol is hard to put into words. The cross reminds us of God's love and God's gift. It reminds us of Jesus' suffering, human cruelty, the use and abuse of the power of religious and political leaders who were determined to put an end to Jesus' preaching and to frighten anyone who dared to believe that Jesus' kingdom of justice and love would displace the rulers of the present order. The cross tells us so much about God, and ourselves, and it challenges us to consider whether our lives will follow the pattern of Jesus' life of self-giving love, or whether we will choose some other pattern for our lives.
Last week, we included a letter from our bishop about events coming up in Charlottesville this weekend. As things have unfolded this week, it is not clear how those who want to bear witness to God's love can best do that. And so, I'd ask you to do one thing we can all do as we confront these difficult matters. Let's pray. Would you set some time aside tomorrow to pray for the people in Charlottesville - all the people - who will congregate there to express their opinions? And would you pray for our own city? Would you pray for all the people of our city? Would you pray that Richmond will become known not only as a prosperous city, but as a good city?
If we as Christians have anything to offer the world in these contentious times, perhaps it is to humbly remind the world that no symbol made with human hands is worthy of our ardent devotion unless it reminds us of the one whose nature is inexhaustible, universal love. We haven't discussed or formally approved a new mission statement yet, but I love what's been offered by a team who's been working on that project: "The mission of Centenary United Methodist Church is to change the world through love." That's the kind of church I want to be part of, and by God's grace, I think that is what we're continually trying to become!
This Weekend at Centenary
8:40 am - Informal Worship Service
10:00 am - Sunday School for all ages
11:00 am - Traditional Worship Service
Senior Pastor Matt Bates will preach "The View from the Pit" based on the scripture reading Genesis 37: 1-4, 12-28.
A Challenge from Bishop Lewis to Read the Bible with Her in 2017
This week's readings:
A pink rose will be placed on the altar on Sunday, August 13, to celebrate the birth of Sadie Ella Brooks, on July 22. She is the daughter of Michael and Brittany Brooks, and the new little sister to Penelope Brooks. Brittany had been our soprano section leader for 9 years. We welcome Sadie to our Centenary family!
Want a minimum of 10 months of "feel-good" moments?
Join the Outreach Committee today. If interested, please let Nancy Cook (email@example.com) know as soon as possible. A small sampling of Outreach's projects: Rise Against Hunger (2x yr), golf tournament (2x yr), Walk-in Ministry, donations to Richmond incarcerated, support for refugee family, Thanksgiving food donations, and more! Outreach would enjoy your participation. As my granny used to say, "Many hands make small work." Thanks for your consideration.
Altar Guild Volunteers
Interested in serving? We are in need of a few willing and eager volunteers to help with the altar guild duties. If you feel lead to help and would like to serve, please contact the church office at
Items for School Kits
With back-to-school sales already starting in the stores, this is the ideal time to pick up items for the school kits we will be assembling for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) this year. The items we really need to complete kits are: pads of wide ruled paper (spiral or top bound pads 150 sheets or less, can also be packages of loose leaf paper 150 sheets or less), pencil sharpeners (handheld - must be at least 1 inch long), 24-count boxes of crayons (must be 24 count),
30 centimeter ruler (hard or flexible, no advertisements), u
nsharpened pencils (no advertisements, religious, patriotic, military or camouflage symbols, cartoon characters are acceptable), and
2 ½ inch erasers (no advertisements, religious, patriotic, military or camouflage symbols, cartoon characters are acceptable).
Read more about the school kits here.
The UMW Annual Pecan Sale is here! To order, sign up on the list on the bulletin board across from the kitchen. Please note - extras bags of pecans will not be ordered this year so be sure to get in your order.
Sunday, August 27 at 12 noon: Discover Downtown Eateries
Join us for brunch following the 11:00 am worship service at Chez Foushee. The restaurant is located at 203 N. Foushee Street, on the corner of Grace and Foushee Streets. Everyone will order from a select menu (see bulletin board) and we will each pay for our own meal. Please sign up by August 23 on the bulletin board outside of the kitchen or call the church office at 804-648-8319.
Monday, September 4: New Shoes for Back to School
Children in the Richmond Metro area are gearing up to go back to school. It's a very exciting time for many children! However, many families are not able to afford comfortable, solid footwear for their children. When shoes are worn out, too tight, or otherwise uncomfortable, children have difficulty focusing on their studies. At Centenary, we have the opportunity to do something about this problem! One way we can help is by donating new shoes for these children. All sizes are needed. Children from kindergarten to high school need to start the new school year on the "right foot." There is a table in the sanctuary for donations to the Richmond Partnership of Churches Annual Shoe Drive. Shoes must be new, and sneakers are preferred (please no high heels, sandals, or bedroom slippers). If you prefer, there is a piggy bank where money may be placed for Centenary staff to purchase needed shoes. Another way you can help is to sign up to volunteer to help with the shoe drive on Labor Day. he drive will be held in two locations this year; Centenary volunteers will be helping at the downtown location at Third Street Bethel AME Church. There is a sign-up sheet on the bulletin across from the kitchen downstairs. If you have any questions, please contact Cheryl Owen-Watson at
. Thank you in advance for helping our children start their school year with a comfortable, solid foundation!
Thursday, September 28: Centenary Travel Group Trip to the Eastern Shore
You are invited to join the Centenary Travel Group for a "Behind the Scenes Tour" of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We will be leaving Lakeside UMC, via Winn Motor Coach, at 8 a.m. and will arrive at Cape Charles at 11 a.m. for a tour of Northampton County with life-long residents. Then, we will have a delicious lunch at "The Shanty" with Eastern Shore Winning Clam Chowder, Oyster and Shrimp Po-boys, as well as gluten free and vegetarian options. Next we will journey to discover a history of the Eastern Shore with a bus tour of Northampton and Accomack counties and the Barrier Islands of Machipongo, as well as visiting the Virginia Institute of Science in Wachiponga. Finally, we will finish our tour with a buffet dinner at the Island House and will arrive back at Lakeside UMC at 7 p.m. See the bulletin board across from the kitchen for more information, including an itinerary and a reservation form for the trip. All forms, and questions concerning the trip, can be submitted to Bob Almond, 804-833-3355. The cost of the trip is $128.00 per person and forms must be submitted to Bob no later than Tuesday, August 15.
Please Remember in Prayer
The family of Ryland Bailey, Sr. who passed away June 15
Rev. Bill Brown, Jr. and family (in the loss of his wife, Rev. Judy Brown)
Joe Ciucci Jr.
Bobby Davis (now a patient at Hanover Health and Rehab)
Susan Hill (in the loss of her father, Frank Hill III)
Jack & Lois Hinerman
Jennifer (friend of Nancy Grand with lung problems)
Kassi (niece of Nancy and Vic Grand who has blood clots in lung)
Mary Mismas' sister-in-law, Mary
Linda Vegas (friend of Doug and Patsy Wilson)
Celebrating Birthdays in August
Mary Beth Siddons
Anne Harrison Beck
Photo of the Week
A thank-you note from Guest #45 at our Walk-In Ministry lunch.
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