This Week at Centenary
Dear Centenary Family,
 
There is no doubt that these are challenging times in which to live. They are challenging times in which to be a Christian. We are still struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic, wondering when, or if, life will ever return to some sense of normalcy. We are being forced to look at problems in our country that have long, difficult histories behind them—racism, police brutality, and injustice in a variety of forms. Some of us find ourselves torn between support for the goals of protests for more justice but uneasy about outbursts of violence and destruction of property. And all these things are happening as we in our denomination are in the midst of our own division and uncertainty about our future.  We want the world to be more just and caring, but have to confess that often we as a church often can’t live up to the ideals we wish others to embrace.
 
One of the problems we as a mostly white congregation probably need to wrestle with is our white privilege—living in a culture where we do not have to worry about many of the things people of color have to worry about every day—things like how one will be treated in an encounter with police, or how lack of access to health care might impact one’s prognosis if you do become infected with the Coronavirus.
 
I was in a discussion yesterday where one Episcopal attorney I admire very much for his willingness to look at his own racism, and that of his congregation, acknowledged that one of the things that keeps us from making progress in our discussions about race is what he called the problem of white guilt. He elucidated. If we look honestly at the history of our country, and realize the intentional methods of discrimination people of color have faced—things like the denial of benefits of the G.I. bill to black soldiers who fought in World War II, and the intentional practice of red lining certain neighborhoods by banks to prevent African-Americans from having access to credit, thus contributing to our current disparity in wealth—it is almost too much too handle. It is too painful to look at. I think that’s right.
 
I’ve been trying to reframe some of the challenges we face right now in terms of our Wesleyan heritage and theology. First of all, while honest repentance is always involved in the process of redemption, we don’t need to let guilt stop us in our tracks. For one thing, we believe we’re all guilty! We’ve all sinned. Racism is certainly a problem for those who suffer its consequences. And it’s a problem for those of us who consciously or unconsciously harbor racist attitudes. (We all do, if we’d just be honest!) But theologically, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about our racism. It’s just another form of our sinfulness. If self-centeredness is one way to talk about the problem of original sin, well, we’re all struggling with that. What does God do with sin? We believe as Wesleyans, that through God’s preveneient grace, God makes us aware of our sin and need for a Savior. We believe that as we put our faith and trust in Christ, we are justified, or made right with God and accepted, in spite of our sin. But then, we also believe that God begins a work of grace within us to help us grow in grace so that the image of God in which we were created, marred and defaced by sin, begins to emerge more clearly over time. That image is seen most clearly when we begin to love like God loves.
 
So, one way to think of this time, is that is full of opportunities for us to experience God’s love for us in spite of our sin. But it is more than that. It is a time full of opportunities to move on toward perfection as Wesley would put it. And that perfection is a perfection in love. We have the opportunity to see God’s grace miraculously transform us from self-centered people to people who love without condition.
 
I’ve seen that kind of transformation take place in people’s lives. I’ve seen that grace at work here at Centenary. Think about our historical trajectory. One of the once leading churches in the Methodist Episcopal Church South, a denomination formed because of racism, now aspires to be a church that bears witness to God’s love for all people. Wow! I think Wesley would say that is an example of God’s sanctifying grace at work. 
 
Let’s not fool ourselves. We’re not there yet. All of us, myself included, are struggling to know how to love more fully, to become aware of our blind spots, our residual sin, our clinging self-centeredness. 
 
As we worship, pray, and continue to serve together, we can help one another continue to grow in our capacity to love. I believe that in the days ahead the world is going to need healthy doses of God’s love. My prayer is that we will continue to be a congregation willing to examine our own struggle with sin in its many forms, humbly acknowledge the truth that we are all sinners, and joyfully accept God’s grace so that we might move beyond the paralysis of guilt and be transformed by the love that we’ve been freely given. 
 
The sermon I’m working on for Sunday is based in Genesis 22:1-14 and my title is, “A Long Walk Home.”
 
I look forward to worshiping with you Sunday, and continuing this journey, even in these challenging times. Let’s see where God takes us, and how God changes us on this journey together!
 
Peace,
 
Matt
Online Worship
Join us on Facebook Live for worship this Sunday at
11:00 a.m. This is the time and place that we gather to worship together. We will also be posting a recorded audio version of the service on our website , which you can access any time. (when available) 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 A Long Walk Home.

Tips for Online Giving
Thank you for continuing to support the ministries of Centenary during this time. Check out these tips that will make online giving easier and ensure that your contribution is credited to the proper fund.
Wednesday Morning Bible Study
Join us on Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m.
for our Bible Study via Zoom. 
Watch for your Zoom invitation to join us on Tuesday!
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Tea with Tim
Thursday, July 2 at 4:00pm

Join us as we to check in, catch up, and chat a bit. Rev. Tim Gerde will host our time with his usual wit and wisdom! We look forward to delightful conversation as we share our lives together via Zoom. Look for the Zoom invite on Wednesday of next week!
The Upper Room now
available as a PDF
From The Upper Room:

"During this time of anxiety and isolation The Upper Room wants to make it as easy as possible for people to find resources to support spiritual health. We are providing the July/August 2020 issue of The Upper Room magazine, both in English and Spanish , for download at no cost to our standing order partners and subscribers."

Centenary is a standing order partner, and we have permission to share the PDF with you! You may download your copy here .
Celebration Sunday Spring Plants
A variety of spring plants will adorn our sanctuary in celebration of our first Sunday of worship following our closure! If you would like to order a plant in memory of or in honor of a loved one, there are two ways to order. Plants are $12.50/each. Checks should be made payable to Centenary UM Church. Please put "Spring Plants" on the memo line or you may pay online using the directions in the article above and put "Spring Plants" in the Optional Memo line.

  1. Complete this online order form. Remember, you order is not complete until the church receives your payment.
  2. Print out and complete this order form. Send the order form & your check to:

Centenary United Methodist Church, 411 E. Grace Street, Richmond, 23219

We will have an insert on Celebration Sunday with our donors listed and plants can be picked up following the 11:00 service.
Birthdays This Week

June 28 - Anne McCutcheon
June 28 - Florence Clay Bishop
June 29 - Warren Hottle
June 30 - Connie Bennington
July 1 - John Ford
July 2 - David Jarvis
R.B. Bennington
Betty Brown and family - in the death of Betty's brother-in-law, Bill Glaze who passed away on June 26
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
Riley Davin  - Niece of Vic and Nancy
Les Dobbs
Serena Durst Edwards
Lorraine Grand - Vic Grand's aunt recovering from surgery for hip fracture in Chicago
Vic Grand and family - on the death of Vic's mother, Jane Grand, on June 17, in
Peoria, IL.
Jeff Hatch
Megan Mattax -   a friend of Miranda Clayton, pregnant and diagnosed  
with breast cancer
Patti Oman  - health concerns - friend of Beth Hensley
Irene Pier --sister of Alfonso Baker, Stan Baker's husband--at home in Asheville, NC in
serious condition with cancer
Earl Siddons
Phyllis Stump - at Lakewood Manor
Wendy Tisdale  - family friend of Agatha and Christina Kidd, diagnosed 
with stage 4 lung cancer
Ben Toro and family --Ben's uncle, Valentin Hernandez, passed away this past week in
Mesa, Arizona.
Bernice Walter - medical issues