A Message from Centenary
Dear Centenary Family,
What are you reading this summer?
Over the last couple of years, I've gotten hooked on a series of novels by a writer named James Lee Burke. The main character in this series is a Louisiana detective named Dave Robicheaux. Dave is a wounded Viet Nam vet who has endured a number of tragedies and injustices in his own life. He is flawed in many ways, but always on the side of those who have been treated unfairly by people in power. Dave lives his life among unsavory characters-pimps, prostitutes, shadowy organized crime figures, corrupt politicians. Dave is not perfect. He often bends the rules to pursue what he thinks constitutes justice for wrongdoers. He's a struggling Catholic who attends mass every week and an alcoholic whose sobriety is always teetering on a thin edge, only maintained by his frequent attendance of AA meetings.
I just finished the novel entitled Crusaders Cross in this series. In this novel, Dave tries to untangle the relationship of a girl who saves him and his brother in their younger years from a shark attack in the Gulf of Mexico just off the shore of Galveston. He suspects a large, politically powerful family with connections to organized crime has drawn her, like they had many young, poor girls, into a life of prostitution. As the mystery unfolds, Dave confronts the reality that this powerful family is able to maintain their power and wealth by bribing politicians, profiting from the vulnerabilities of the poor through the drug trade and prostitution, covering up the actions of a suspected serial killer with ties to their family, all while keeping their own family's depraved conduct form public view.
Throughout Burke's novels, he is wrestling with larger questions, theological questions, I'd say, of whether human beings are good or evil, whether or not evil is ever truly overcome by justice. In theological terms, these are not only moral questions but eschatological ones. Does the arc of history really bend toward justice?
In the epilogue of Crusaders Cross, Dave Robicheaux gives voice to what I imagine is a core conviction for James Lee Burke. Reflecting on all that has happened as this narrative has unfolded, Robicheaux says, "My experience had been like George Orwell's, that human beings are possessed of much more courage and self-sacrifice than we give them credit for, and when the final test comes, they usually go down with the decks awash and the guns blazing." And then these words which have made me stop and reflect, "Our moral failure lies in the frailty of our vision and not in our hearts. Our undoing is in our collective willingness to trust those whom we shouldn't, those who invariably used our best instincts against us. But as a police officer, I also learned long ago that justice finds us in its own time and of its own accord, and in ways we never, and I mean absolutely never, anticipate."
It seems to me that's pretty good theology. It's at the heart of Christian faith-the conviction that no matter how bleak things look, no matter how many times it seems that people in power use their place to manipulate the desires and frustrations of others not so privileged, that goodness will finally prevail, the unjust will be exposed and receive their due, and God's goodness and justice will prevail.
The next several weeks, the Old Testament readings will give us a sense of the ways this conviction shaped the message of the great prophets of Israel. Their message, of course, shaped Jesus' message. In this week's reading from Amos 7, the great prophet uses the image of God setting a plumb line in the midst of Israel to reveal how far the people have strayed from keeping the covenant God had made with them. Prophets like Amos sound harsh-they are hard to hear! But their words of judgment, I believe, always come from a place of confidence that one day, God's will, rule, reign, and purpose will prevail.
I need to be reminded of this truth. Sometimes, I am tempted to believe that morality itself no longer exists. If there are any moral rules, principles or virtues that prevail today, it seems, at least in the public sphere, they are derived from some form of psychological egoism which asserts that the only way to determine what is right is to determine what is best for my own self-interest. Sometimes, I am tempted to think that, even among people of faith, we do not really believe our security and safety are things to be entrusted to God's care, but things to be grasped and gripped by the conviction that unless we bear arms, erect borders, and build fortresses, we cannot be safe.
But I am caught up short of discouragement by the hope of the message of people like Amos, and yes, Jesus, that my life and yours, and the life and well-being of this planet are things that are ultimately in God's hands. Yes, we have work to do. We are called, as our baptismal vows remind us, to resist evil and injustice in all its forms. And that is hard work, difficult work, sometimes suffering work. But we do it in the conviction that in God's time, God's way, God's purpose will prevail.
I'm very excited about hearing Drew Willson preach this Sunday. One of the texts he'll be holding before us is from Amos 7. This will be a great time as we formally welcome Drew and his family and pray that God helps us all be open to the new thing that God wants to do with, in and through us here in downtown Richmond!
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
Sunday, July 14, 2019
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
8:40 a.m. Early Service
9:45 a.m. Welcome Brunch for
Rev. Drew Willson and
There will be no Sunday School this Sunday.
11:00 a.m. Traditional Worship
Rev. Drew Willson will be preaching this Sunday and his sermon is entitled "Jesus on the Plumb Line" based on the scripture readings
Amos 7:7-17 and
Did you miss a service? Would you like to listen to a sermon again or share it with a friend? You can now listen to the sermon or the entire 11 a.m. service. The services are posted on our church website,
(Click on this link to go to the church website.)
. Each sermon
is normally available Sunday or Monday afternoon and remains available for later listening. Please tell anyone who might enjoy listening.
The Rose on the Altar
The single-red rose on the altar this upcoming Sunday, July 14, is to celebrate the birth of Desmond Liam Muse on July 5th. He is the son of Chrissy and Todd Muse, grandson of Sharon Steele and Bill Muse and nephew of Juliana Steele & Nick Gray and Matthew & Sarah Anzelmo-Steele.
Congratulations to the Muse-Steele Family!
Welcome Brunch for Rev. Drew Willson
We invite you to join us for a brunch THIS SUNDAY, at 9:45 a.m., in lieu of Sunday school, as we welcome Rev. Drew Willson as our Minister to Young Adults. This will be Drew's first Sunday to preach in both of our services. We look forward to getting acquainted with Drew, his wife Shea Tuttle, and their two children.
Centenary United Methodist Church and
Virginia Reconciling Congregations & Communities
A gathering of the Virginia Reconciling Congregations and Communities will take place here at Centenary on
Saturday, July 20, 2019,
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This meeting will be an opportunity for us to share in conversation around the theme, "What is the Role of a Reconciling Congregation following General Conference 2019?" We will have opportunities to learn about recent developments since GC 2019, to hear from persons who attended GC 2019 as well as those who have attended subsequent national meetings. Helen Ryde, the Southeastern Regional for the Reconciling Ministries Network will be joining us. We will share responses from our various congregations to these recent developments, consider marriage policies and practices, discuss ways we might mutually encourage and resource one another as well as ways we might collaborate in ministry and witness. Members of Centenary are certainly invited to join us. If you plan to come, please contact the church office at 804-648-8319 or
Altar Flower Openings:
hanks to all who help sponsor our altar flowers each week! As part of Centenary Downtown's Worship Committee, I keep a rotating calendar of our sponsors, but do get "openings" from time-to-time.
We have a few up-coming "open" dates and would love to include anyon
e who would like to help with this ministry!
Altar flowers are $50 on communion Sundays (2 arrangements) and $25 for all other Sundays. They can be given in honor or memory of loved ones or to celebrate special birthdays or anniversaries! If you would like to share in this important ministry, please let me know! Thanks. Sharon Steele - 912-2549, or
The Bob Evans Lunch Group will now be meeting on
Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m.
Our Hymn Festival is Returning!
Mark your calendars for Sunday, October 20. Keith Benniston will return and there will be a guest Choir and orchestra to accompany the singing of some of your favorite hymns.
December Centenary Travels Trip to Selma, NC:
Live Musical Christmas Jubilee at the Rudy Theater in
Selma, North Carolina on
Thursday, December 12, 2019.
Take a nostalgic trip back to an innocent age when anticipation of Santa's visit made the holidays magical. Enjoy gospel favorites and the contemporary beat of hits like "Christmas in Dixie." A
rrive at the theater by 12:30 p.m. for Matinee that starts at 12:45 p.m.
The cost of the trip is $112.00 per person and payment is due by July 15, 2019.
This is an all-inclusive trip with motor coach transportation; snacks on the bus, door prizes, Chick-fil-A box lunches, theater admission, dinner at Fred Chason's Grandsons' Restaurant, (all-you-can eat buffet) and all gratuities.
There is a minimum number of participants of 40 for the trip to make
. It is on a first-come-first reserved basis. Make your decision quickly to ensure your space.
Sunday School Summer Study:
Join us, Sundays this summer, for a study in the fellowship hall open to all Centenary adults in which we will be studying the book
The Old Testament-Course Guidebook
written by Professor Amy-Jill Levine.
See description below:
The Old Testament - written in ancient Israel by many different authors over the course of a thousand years - has had more meaning to more people than any other book the world has known. Its influence, whether you consider it scripture or literature, is evident everywhere in our culture, from medieval mystery plays to modern novels, art, music, theater, film, and dance. What can this work teach us about those who wrote it? About the people we once were? And can new academic understanding also speak to faith? As Professor Levine observes: "The Old Testament is endlessly fascinating because it offers everything to explore: myth, saga, and history; tragedy, comedy, and farce; economics and politics; literature and poetry of surpassing beauty; court intrigue and prophetic morality; heavenly miracles and sometimes heavenly silence; questions of theodicy; answers that satisfy and answers that may not; destruction and rebuilding; despair and hope."
In a series of 24 lively lectures, she takes you down all of these avenues, exploring selected passages from the texts known as the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, and the Tanakh, revealing how fresh research and findings from scholars of archaeology, cross-cultural studies, and comparative religion can deepen your understanding.
And though the focus of her lectures is on historical and literary issues, Professor Levine does not shy away from issues of religious concern, maintaining that the goal of an academic course is not to undermine religious faith, but to use that academic knowledge as a new source of insight into the writings that form a believer's spiritual bedrock.
Rev. Kathy Talley- recovering at home after shoulder surgery
Mary Alice Nesbitt
Lucille Hunt- at Morningside at Bellgrade
Jane Grand- in rehab after a recent fall
Walt Prestwood- uncle of Suzanne Ray
Riley Davin- niece of Vic and Nancy
Bob & Leah Hundley
Shannon Conway requests prayer for Charles Sherman, Peter Oxborrow, Leon Beale and Family
Nancy Penman- Wendy Smith's mother who has had a stroke and lives in New Jersey
Les Dobbs- is at home now.
Gary Motley-recently diagnosed with cancer and will be having surgery on July 25
A.J. & Phil Crick- at Morningside at Bellgrade
Justin Laman- nephew of Lucy Hottle, a young father who has cancer
Charles Mills- brother of Jimmy Mills, home recovering from heart surgery
Jenny Bush- friend of Leah Hundley, is diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma
Wendy Tisdale- family friend of Agatha and Christina Kidd, diagnose with staged 4 lung cancer
Mary E. Vetrovec
Bob Hundley, Sr.
Mary Alice Nesbitt
Ryland Bailey, Jr.
Photo of the Week!
Thanks so much to our wonderful office volunteers this week, Florence, Winki, and Goldie, as well as Gary and Heidi, who have helped with items for our next bulletin board! Thank you to all the volunteers who help make Centenary a special place to be and worship.
Visit Us: 411 E. Grace St., Richmond, VA 23219