A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
Greetings to you with the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is with grace and honor that I write this newsletter article as we celebrate together my one-year-anniversary as Pastor of Hopewell United Methodist Church! Praise Be to God.
I can vividly remember the day we moved into the parsonage and so many of our beautiful church members waiting on the porch for us to arrive. We felt so welcomed and loved from the very minute we stepped onto this holy ground.
I’ll never forget the moving truck getting stuck in the driveway. I’ll never forget trying to order the pizza I had promised the moving guys only to realize NOBODY in Hopewell Borough delivers! (culture shock)
There was a basket on the kitchen counter with a stuffed bunny, stuffed puppy, and gift card to Antimo’s. Since the day we moved in, this bunny has not left my four-year-old Juliet’s side. Well, except for the fact we left it in Wildwood last month at the hotel we stayed in for the GNJ Annual Conference; it is currently en-route via USPS – stay tuned. We still, to this day, haven’t found out who left the basket. The bunny has helped my daughter transition and a deep, heartfelt, thank you whoever you are!
Moving has been hard for our family and especially our children, we had moved four times in four years when we moved to Hopewell. We are so happy we have found a home here and especially a home at HUMC. Watching my children grow and being unconditionally embraced by this church family brings me to tears. Most notably, when my husband Lou had a heart attack back in April, the church family stepped up and took care of us when we needed it most – the flock tending to the shepherd.
It has been a tough year for the United Methodist denomination and for many of us struggling to navigate what it means to be United Methodist in this moment in time. Although I too have struggled, I think back to the unbelievable miracles that have happened in our church in just one year: the water remediation project, Burton Hall renovation project, the Sunday School/Nursery renovation; we’ve hired an entirely new, gifted staff with Eva, Mary, Liz, and Rob; we added a new color copier, instituted online giving, we even got a credit card swiper for our various events!
Our ministries continue to thrive and make an impact on our church and community: Book Talk, Journey, Open Mic, Upcycling, the Community Closet all continue to grow.
Our UMW is always up to something and I am in awe at the change-making outreach and love our UMW pours into everything they do.
Our missions are stronger than ever as we’ve given to various organizations over the past year: Alex’s Lemonade Stand, Operation Gratitude, TASK, Neighborhood Center, Homefront, Maker’s Place, Arm in Arm, Mother’s Matter, Camp Moore, and on and on. We’ve celebrated special Sundays in the church by participating in Human Relations Day, Native American Sunday, Peace with Justice Sunday, World Communion Sunday, and Miracles Everywhere.
Our participation in the Council of Churches continues to bear fruits of witness to Christ through events such as the Sunday of Service, our combined Lenten services, and a new addition this year with the Empty Bowls event which raised over $2,000 for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. In all my years of ministry, I have never seen churches of different denominations come together to share the love of Jesus like I have seen here in Hopewell. What a gift from God!
Our Adult Bible Study class has taken the Wesley Challenge; Earned, Saved, and Gave; Scrooged it up at Christmas; challenged themselves to Living Faithfully when it comes to human sexuality; immersed themselves in the Miracles of Jesus, and are now lost in the Lost Books of the Bible! This group continues to grow in wisdom and insight and our classes have been one of my most favorite experiences over the past year.
We’ve added a Kids and Teens Open Mic, a Sunday Coffeehouse, a Concert Series; as well as looking to the future and how we are living out our five-year-ministry vision.
We’ve also said goodbye to a few good servants who made a lasting impact on our church over the years. They will be missed dearly, but their legacies live on.
Most notably, in the past year our worship attendance has grown by 16%. Why is this most notable? Normally, healthy churches see an increase of 5-12% yearly. Not only does a 16% increase indicate we are a healthy church, it says to me that we are more than healthy – that we are living out our mission in such new and radical ways that the love of Jesus is bursting through our doors and leading people to the cross. You, my friends, you are the ones bringing people to Christ. Amen, and praise God for your commitment to this church.
I’m sure there are some items I have left of the list, the list is long and there are so many miracles happening here at HUMC I can’t possibly capture them all. Have we had challenges over the past year? Absolutely! Denominationally, and as the local church we surely have faced some stumbling blocks. But one thing is for sure, we are moving our mission forward and the Holy Spirit is guiding us to bring hope to a hurting world. I cannot wait to see what the coming year holds!
If you’ve ever gotten an email from me, you know Isaiah 40:11 is my favorite verse. Grass withers and flowers fade, but God endures forever. Perhaps 20 years from now the church renovation will be getting old, perhaps the color copier will need to be replaced (Oh God, if it lasts that long thank you!) but one thing is for sure – the impact and transformation we are making on each other and the community in the name of Jesus, sharing the message of love and hope with the world, that my friends will last forever.
See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.
Thank you for welcoming us to your flock.