Friday, January 22, 2021
Dear Centenary Family,
 
Since the invasion of our nation’s capitol on January 6 in Washington, D. C., I have sat down numerous times to try to write something about how to comprehend the events of that day and consider what response Christians might make. I confess, I’ve gotten no further than a blank page staring back at me, either because my mind can’t slow down enough to find words worth saying, or my heart has been a tangled mess of sadness, confusion, and anger.
 
Since then, a new President has been inaugurated and a new Congress seated. I’ve realized that as your pastor, I don’t know all the answers.  But I have questions—lots of questions. Taking my cue from wise people who have counseled that often asking the right questions is more important than thinking you know the right answers, here are a few of the questions I keep asking myself.
 
  1. Why are so many people in our nation, a nation blessed with so many opportunities and resources, feeling so alienated from their fellow citizens?
  2. Why is it so difficult for us to agree on what the truth is, whether that truth is about the origins of Covid-19 or of the conduct our elections?
  3. Why do we have such starkly different visions of who we are as a people? Some of us see America as a country that has both great opportunities and great flaws and think that the way forward is to face our problems honestly. Others among us revere the past structures and want to hold on to what has been.
  4. Why do Christians have such different perspectives on these matters? Some among us believe the Gospel only applies to individuals and their relationship with God, and that talk of addressing systemic problems of racism or economic inequity is a corruption of the Gospel. Others among us believe that when Jesus inaugurated God’s reign on earth, that reign calls for transformation of all forms of sin—personal and corporate.
  5. Is democracy, a system of government that takes into account human sinfulness and seeks to disperse power, just too difficult for human beings? Some people think that is the lesson of the long view of history. Will we give up on the things democracy requires: truth, patience, compromise? Will we follow the authoritarian impulses among us? 

As I keep on struggling to understand my own response as an imperfect Christian to the times in which we live, I’ve turned back to something the theologian H. Richard Niebuhr said in his book on Christian Ethics, The Responsible Self. He believed that the way Christians should approach the moral and spiritual complexities of life was with this attitude: “God is acting in all actions upon you. So respond to all actions upon you as to respond to [God’s] action.”
 
If there is truth in Niebuhr’s approach, then the question for us is now that we are where we are, what is God calling us to do? Some would say, “Arm yourselves and get ready for more conflict. Others will say, “Do whatever you must do, say whatever you must say, for your position to hold sway or your party to hold power.” Others might say, “Retreat and find your own place of personal peace, free from the struggles, stresses, and challenges that rob us of serenity.”
 
But none of those responses would be fully Christian.   Like us, H. Richard Niebuhr, lived through challenging times. He was one of those Christians who asked what God was calling Christians to do in the face of the rise of Nazi authoritarianism and the horrors of the holocaust. At the beginning of The Responsible Self, he described a Christian as someone who had come under the influence of Jesus Christ and was called to bear witness to the fact that Jesus Christ has been among us. He wrote: “. . . I call myself a Christian more because I have both accepted this fateful fact and because I identify myself with what I understand to be the cause of Jesus Christ. That cause I designate simply as the reconciliation of [humanity] to God.” 
 
In all times, in all places, and in all circumstances, this is God’s business—and ours, the reconciling of a broken, warring humanity, to God. 
 
That is the hard, beautiful work and calling Centenary has said “Yes” to for a long time. That is, in my humble estimation, still the calling and work before us in these times. I pray that God gives us the grace and courage to continue to respond affirmatively to this great task.
 
We need each other on the journey.
 
Peace,
 
Matt

Online Worship
Sundays at 11:00 a.m.


Join us on Church Online Platform or Facebook Live as we gather together
for worship this Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
Invite others to join us this Sunday and on the Sundays to come!

This Sunday Rev. Matt Bates will be preaching.
His sermon is titled You'll Never Know What You Hear in the Silence.

RICHMOND’S UNRECONCILED HISTORY
An Online Book Study
Centenary United Methodist Church
Monday Evenings at 7:00 – 8:15pm
February 1 - April 5
How did we get here? 
Please join us for an exploration of Richmond’s history using the Rev. Ben Campbell’s book, Richmond’s Unhealed History.  This study will be guided by Pat Shipley, Karen Daly Junker and Barrett Brown -  with guest appearances by the author. 
 
To register, please email: Barrett Brown - jmibb@verizon.net 
or telephone: 804-651 -1560. 
Weekly Bible Study
Wednesday mornings at 10:00 a.m.

We are back! Starting Wednesday, January 27 we will meet together via Zoom for a time of study and fellowship. The Zoom link will be sent via email on Tuesday. We look forward to seeing you there.
Calling all educators, nourishers,
movers, and shakers...

On Sunday, February 14, we are hosting a post-worship Zoom reception to present our new ministry vision of Richmond as a community where every person is thriving and has access to nutritious food and learning opportunities. 

Not only are you invited, you are already involved! The vision comes from our Dream Like Jesus team, a group of laity and clergy, young and seasoned adults, who spent much of 2020 identifying community needs that came to light last year and congregational gifts in people like YOU.

At the reception, come learn about this vision's deep roots in Jesus's dream of heaven on earth... and how you can take part in our next steps together. Amen, and onward!

Meeting ID - 873 8132 0027
Passcode - 029290
Offering Envelopes
We know you may be wondering about how to get your offering envelopes. If you would like your envelopes, please email the church office or call 804-648-8319 and leave a message. While the office is closed, we are at the church on Thursdays and can make arrangements for you to pick them up. If that is not convenient for you, we will make other arrangements when you contact us. Thank you for your patience while we find new ways to get the business of church done!
The Upper Room
available as a PDF
The Upper Room is continuing to support their standing order partners with a PDF of the January/February issue!
You may download your copy here.
Upcoming Birthdays

January 22- Allan White
January 26- Butch Walter
January 27- Nancy Hill


Jan. 27 @ 10 a.m. Weekly Bible Study starts
Feb. 1 @ 7 p.m. Richmond's Unreconciled History
Feb. 14 @ 12 p.m. New Ministry Vision Reception
All events are on Zoom unless otherwise noted.
Ka Cheng - friend of Vicki and Phyllis Stump diagnosed with breast cancer.
Ronnie Clements
Shannon Conway - requests prayer for the Charles Sherman, Peter 
Oxborrow, Leon Beale and family.
AJ Crick - recovering from surgery.
Nancy Grand - recovering from knee surgery.
Jeff Hatch
Leah Hundley - recovering at home.
Heidi Kara - in the recent loss of her Great Aunt, Marion Oldenburg
Winki Lampe and family - upon the death of John Lampe on December 15. You can read John's obituary here. If you would like to send Winki a card, here is her address: 9900 Palmerston Rd, North Chesterfield, VA 23236.
Patti Oman - health concerns - friend of Beth Hensley.
Jerry Rodwell - Amy Bates's dad recovering from surgery.
Phyllis Stump - at Lakewood Manor.
Mariah Travis - Barrett Brown's sister, who in undergoing tests.