pastor’s corner


Charge Conference this weekend

Dear Church Family,
We’re gearing up for another busy fall here at the church.
The first thing I want to remind you of is Charge Conference is this Sunday (October 13) at Beymer Memorial United Methodist Church (700 N Lake Howard Dr Winter Haven, FL 33881). Charge Conference, which happens every fall, is when United Methodist congregations receive reports, elect officers, set the pastor’s salary, and evaluate the mission and ministry of the church. Community of Faith’s Charge Conference will take place in conjunction with the Charge Conferences of other United Methodist churches in our immediate area. Further, while everybody is of course encouraged to attend, only members are eligible to vote. I hope to see many of you at this Sunday’s Charge Conference.
we are in the process of receiving candy donations for Trunk or Treat. Thank you to those of you who brought candy last week. Please continue to pick up bags of candy at the grocery store and then bring those bags of candy with you when you come to worship each weekend. Additionally, we’re in the process of receiving sign-ups for Trunk or Treat
. Our goal is to have at least 50 trunks from which to pass out candy, and so far, we have about 18. Community of Faith has always been a congregation that’s prided itself in busting goals. So let’s bust this goal and get at least 50 trunks (even more would be better!).
Third, this weekend we’re going to launch into part-5 of our 6-part sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. For more than a month now, we’ve journeyed through the different lines of the Lord’s Prayer, trying to see what this prayer has to teach us about our faith. The line we’re going to unpack this weekend is the one about temptation and deliveranceLead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
 This line tends to spark a lot of confusion on our part. For example, why do we ask God not to lead us into temptation? After all, doesn’t the apostle James teach us that God doesn’t tempt us (James 1:13)? Further, what is temptation? And, practically-speaking, how are we supposed to avoid it? If you’ve ever struggled with temptation, this is definitely a sermon you don’t want to miss.
Don’t forget that our church-wide prayer service is set to take place Sunday, October 20 at 7:00pm. During the service, we’ll hear from Pastor Frank Adams, who serves New Horizon United Methodist Church in Haines City. Pastor Frank’s talk will be aligned with the Three Simple Rules Bible study many of you are participating in right now. The particular rule he’ll focus on is “Do no harm,”
 especially as it pertains to racism, prejudice, and discrimination. Pastor Frank is a gifted minister, and I know his presentation will bless us.

The final thing I want to let you know about is  we have hired a new worship leader . You might remember that a few months ago Justin Moore, our current worship leader, and his wife Ashley discerned that God was leading them to a new phase of their journey. Justin will be with us for a few more weeks, and then our new worship leader will begin sometime at the end of October. We’ll announce the name of the new person in services this weekend. We’ll also announce what we’re planning to do to properly celebrate Justin and Ashley’s ministry among us. So make plans to attend worship this weekend. I promise, you’ll be glad you did!


Pray Like This

Dear Church Family,
If you’re like me, your mind is all over the place right now. Waiting for a hurricane will do that to you.
At first, it seemed as if Hurricane Dorian was going to impact our area, which caused us to rush out, stock our pantries with the essentials, fill up our cars with gasoline, and prepare for the worst. But then just when we thought we had Dorian figured out, the storm headed east, thereby sparing our area a great deal of anticipated damage.
While we’re thankful that Hurricane Dorian bypassed the Four Corners, the sad reality is it didn’t bypass other areas. As I write this note, the storm is currently impacting those along the Carolina coast. And, of course, the Bahamas suffered the worst of Dorian.
If you’re interested in helping out the folks in the Bahamas (which I know many of you are), please consider making a donation to our United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Know that every penny you give to UMCOR will go directly to disaster relief. You can give in services this weekend by placing your donation in one of our 2 Voice of Hope Baskets. (If you pay by check, make your check payable to Community of Faith and then put “UMCOR” in the memo line.) Or, if you prefer, you can give directly to UMCOR online:
Thank you for your sacrificial generosity. As a church, we’ll continue to monitor the devastation in the Bahamas and prayerfully consider other ways we can be of assistance to God’s children down there.
I want to thank our youth who did an awesome job leading us in services last weekend. They courageously shared with us their experiences on their summer mission trip and at camp and how those experiences formed their faith. If you missed their testimonies, you can watch them here: I look forward to hanging out with our youth this Sunday as they join my family and me at the parsonage for a back-to-school BBQ!
As I close this note, I want to invite you to join us for services this weekend as we begin a new series called “Pray Like This.” The series title is taken from Matthew 6:9 where Jesus introduces the Lord’s Prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is a prayer that many of us memorized as children. We say it in services every weekend. However, we don’t always pay attention to what we’re saying when we pray this prayer. In the series, we’ll break down the Lord’s Prayer and carefully examine each and every one of the petitions we find therein. The series will go as follows:
1. Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name
2. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
3. Give us this day our daily bread
4. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against      us
5. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
6. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
I hope to see you this weekend as we focus on the first three parts: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” There’s more going on in these words than we often suspect! By the way, when you come to service, make sure to bring your donated items for Be, Go, Do and sign-up to help out at Be, Go, Do, which will be the last Sunday of September.
See you soon!

Into the Wild

Dear Church Family, 
When I initially wrote this email, it was Wednesday afternoon. As we have monitored what is now Hurricane Dorian – we’ve had to revise this message – just because of how quickly things have changed in so short of a time. The hurricane is now being forecast to impact Florida, the full extent of which is not yet known. What we do know is that now is the time to prepare, and that our state will be impacted in some way. Please keep everyone involved in Dorian’s path in your prayers, and be safe as you make preparations for the storm. Once everything settles and Dorian passes, our church will offer whatever help we can to those impacted.
That said, if you’re just itching to help people out, one thing you can do is join us for Coalition for the Homeless later this afternoon. As always when we serve at the Coalition, we’ll meet at 3:00pm in the Publix parking lot at Berry Town Center. We’ll then carpool over to Orlando where we’ll prepare and serve a meal to a few hundred homeless men. I hope many of you will join us later on today. 
Also, don’t forget that tomorrow (August 31st) at 11:30am our United Methodist Women (UMW) will be having lunch at the Olive Garden located at 8136 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee. If you’d like to RSVP, or if you have any questions at all, please send a note to Diane Abresky at
Thank you for your generosity as we continue to collect items for Be, Go, Do, our church’s annual day of service.
 Make sure to bring your donations with you as you head to the building this weekend for worship. You can place those items along the far wall with all the others. You’ll be amazed when you see how many items we’ve collected so far!
By the way, we have a special treat for worship this weekend that you don’t want to miss! As of now our regular worship services will be held as planned. 
Please keep an eye on our Community of Faith Facebook page for updates as the storm’s path is finalized in case of any changes or updates, as well as news about resuming activities after the storm has passed. Please also share any news with any of your COF friends who may not have access to Facebook so that we can keep everyone informed. 
See you soon and stay safe as you prepare!

We Will Grow Up

Dear Church Family,
I appreciate the time and space you gave me to enjoy a 2-week vacation. It was nice. I read, prayed, reflected, spent time with my family, and got to watch and finish all 3 seasons of Stranger Things on Netflix (you know, the spiritual stuff you’d expect a pastor to do). Amanda and I also visited Fort Meyers for a few days, where we ate lots of excellent seafood and went to the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. 
I am incredibly grateful to Pastors Fernando Malave and John Adams for the messages they delivered while I was away. I’m also thankful for the hard work of our staff and lay volunteers, who made it possible for me to temporarily detach from the day-to-day operations of the church.
All that being said, I missed you and look forward to being back in the pulpit this weekend. I’m going to be preaching a stand-alone message (in other words, the message won’t be part of a series) titled “We Will Grow Up!” The message will touch on a topic that I preached on almost 3.5 years ago called “Peter Pan Christianity.” In recent weeks, God’s been leading me to speak on this topic again with some new material to consider. So I hope to see you in worship either on Saturday night or Sunday morning as we learn and grow together! 
Until then, please know I hold you in my prayers. 
p.s., On Sunday at our 10:30am service, I’m going to be baptizing 2 persons, both a father and a son. (This family found our church via the Learning Center.) Baptisms are always special, so I hope we have a great crowd to celebrate the occasion.

Respond as followers of Jesus Christ

Dear Church Family,
Last week’s events have weighed on me, and I’m sure they’ve weighed on you, too.
Of course, a huge part of this heaviness is due to the fact that many of our recent mass shootings, including the one in El Paso, TX, are fueled by a growing tide of racism, xenophobia, white nationalism, and white supremacy, all of which are repugnant to us as Christians. Indeed, we worship and follow Jesus, who came among us as a brown-skinned Middle Eastern man and spent his earliest years of life as a refugee in another country (Matthew 2:13-18).
I was struggling to think through what I wanted to write in this email, but then I realized I wrote a similar note exactly two years ago in the aftermath of the events that rocked Charlottesville, VA. I share these words again to remind us of our common task not as Republicans, Democrats, Independents or even Americans, but instead, as Christians, followers of Jesus.
I never met my grandfather. He died in 1969 in an automobile accident when my mom was only 14. When I was young, my mom was upset that my siblings and I would never personally know her father. So she made a point to tell us stories about him, including how he had fought in World War II.
It’s disheartening to think that the ideals my grandfather and others like him fought to preserve and protect are under attack right now in America. As you know, last weekend, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and white nationalists showed up at an alt-right gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia to spew messages of hate, bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance. The tragic aftermath of that gathering resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was killed when a car driven by a man from Ohio plowed into a crowd of demonstrators protesting the rally. 
How are we as a church to respond to these events? 
To begin with, we don’t respond as Republicans, Democrats, or Independents. We don’t even respond as Americans (as much as we value our citizenship in this country). Instead, we respond as followers of Jesus Christ, as people whose primary allegiance is not to a flag or a country, but to the King and His Kingdom. 
The first page of the Bible-the book of the Church-tells us that all people, regardless of skin color, have been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27); therefore, all people possess intrinsic worth and value. Furthermore, when Jesus came, he came for everybody. And when Jesus died, he died for everybody. In the book of Revelation, John of Patmos paints a vision of heaven that includes people from every tribe, nation, and language worshipping at the throne of God (Revelation 7:9). 
Given the inclusive nature of God, for us as Christians to say that racism is wrong or bad doesn’t even begin to get at it. It’s disgusting. It’s repulsive. It’s abhorrent. It’s repugnant. It’s evil in every sense of the term. 

In our membership vows for joining the United Methodist Church, of which Community of Faith is a part, we are asked this question: 

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression

in whatever forms they present themselves?

We saw evil, injustice, and oppression present themselves in the ugliest of forms this last weekend. We can’t turn a blind eye to these events. To do so would be evil. Instead, we must speak out. We must stand up for justice. We must denounce racism and bigotry in no unclear terms. And we must show ourselves to be an alternative community where all people are loved, honored, and respected. The gospel of Jesus Christ demands no less.
Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of the classic book Treasure Island, spent his childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century. As a boy, Robert was fascinated by the work of the old lamplighters who went about with a ladder and a torch, setting the streetlights ablaze for the night. One evening, as young Robert stood watching with fascination, his parents asked him, “Robert, what in the world are you looking at out there?” With great excitement he exclaimed, “Look at that man! He’s punching holes in the darkness!”

That’s our task, church – to punch holes in the darkness; to let our love radiate and shine in this world darkened by sin, this world that God so deeply loves.

I close with these words from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NRSV).

God’s Economy of Abundance

Dear Church Family,
We recently had a person in our Motley Crew who sold off some land and decided to give a portion of the proceeds to the church. While this person had originally determined to give a certain amount of money, she suddenly felt moved to double it up! In other words, she felt the Spirit of God leading her to give twice of what she was planning to give. Since that happened, she shared with me last Sunday, God’s been doing unexpected things in her job—awesome things that she never anticipated. 
I hesitated to share this story with you, because I don’t want to give the wrong impression. To be clear, it’s not that when we put God first in our finances, God’s going to suddenly bend to our will and do things we’ve always wanted God to do. God doesn’t work that way! However, what does happen, when we put God first in our finances, is God ultimately provides for our every need. And, not only for our needs, God also supplies for the needs of the kingdom.
I’ve shared before that too often we Christians operate from an economy of scarcity rather than an economy of abundance. An economy of scarcity declares there are only so many resources to go around; therefore, we need to hold onto our money as tightly as possible and not give that money over to God. However, an economy of abundance states that, if we give our resources over to God, as God commands us, then God’s going to take those resources and multiply them in ways we never imagined (Ephesians 3:20-21). I’m remined of the gospel story of the young man who gave his loaves and fish over to Jesus. By giving his loaves and fish to Jesus, this young man was essentially giving up his lunch. However, by giving up his lunch, not only was he fed, Jesus fed thousands of others as well (John 6:1-15).
So my question is, which economy are you operating from? An economy of scarcity or an economy of abundance? Are you trusting God enough to let go of your money? Just imagine what God can do.

p.s., Join us for worship this weekend as we launch into part-2 of our 3-part series on Jonah. We’re also going to celebrate an infant baptism at our 10:30am service on Sunday morning. As usual, it’s going to be a great weekend, and I hope to see you there.

p.p.s., Don’t forget about our back-to-school drive. If you happened to pick up school supplies this week, you can drop them off either this weekend or next. We’ll have bins set up in the lobby area. Thank you, in advance, for your generosity!

The Final Chapter (of Superhero Summer)

Dear Church Family,

As I write this email, it’s Wednesday afternoon. I recently got done meeting with a family who found our church via the Learning Center. It was nice to visit with this family and hear about the amazing things God’s been doing in their lives. In a few weeks, I’ll be baptizing both the son and the father. I’m so grateful for the way God continues to lead new families to our church and for the chance we have to partner with God in shaping people’s stories. It truly is awesome!

This weekend we’re wrapping up our four-part message series called “Superhero Summer.” This has been a fun series that’s given us a chance to explore faith lessons and biblical truth through the lens of some popular DC superheroes. 
Our superhero for this weekend is the Flash, aka the Scarlet Speedster, aka the fastest man alive. Indeed, the Flash’s main superpower is running at an incredible speed. And, believe it or not, the Flash’s story has a lot to teach us when it comes to running the race of faith. That said, I hope to see you on Saturday night (6:30pm) or Sunday morning (8:30am, 10:30am) as we dive into this message and close out the series.
Don’t forget that if you’re not able to make it to worship this weekend you can watch the service live on our Facebook page ( or on our website ( I’ve had several people message me this week to express gratitude for the livestreaming option.
The last thing I want to let you know is that, as part of service, we are going to hear an important word from our Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) chairperson, Ami Sinabaldi. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the SPRC, the committee basically acts as our church’s “HR committee.” In other words, the SPRC deals with personnel matters and serves as a liaison between the pastor and staff and the rest of the congregation. Ami has an important word that she’ll share with us toward the very end of service. So don’t leave after Communion-make sure to hang in there until the very end!
Be sure to check out the rest of this email for a sense of what else is happening in the life of our church.
See you this weekend!

Looking Ahead

Dear Church Family,
I’m writing this email a few days early because of the 4th of July holiday. By the time you receive this email 4th of July will have already passed. That said, I hope you enjoyed the festivities of yesterday and felt a profound sense of gratitude for the freedom we enjoy here in the United States. We truly are privileged to call this place home.
Because of the recent holiday, some of you may be travelling. However, if you’re in town, I hope you’ll join us for what’s sure to be an inspiring time of worship. We’ll worship God through song, and then we’ll launch into part-3 of our 4-part series called “Superhero Summer.” In this series, we are exploring the points of connection between popular DC superheroes and the themes of Scripture. Our superhero for this weekend – the most famous heroine of all – is Wonder Woman! So come to worship and be ready to discover what the story of Wonder Woman can teach us about our faith.
I want to end this email by asking you for a favor. 
After we conclude “Superhero Summer,” our next series for the summer is going to focus on the Old Testament story of Jonah. We’re calling the series “Deeper Than a Fish Story,” because there’s a lot more to the story of Jonah than most people realize. (You’ll see what I mean by that last statement in a few weeks!) In the meantime, here’s where I need your help. The Worship Design Team and I would like to decorate the sanctuary with props that align with Jonah’s story. Therefore if you have anything fish-related (a paddleboat, a rope fishing net, etc.), please let me know ( I promise that if we can make use of these items, we’ll return them once the series is over.
It’s a joy to do ministry with you. Have a great Friday, and I hope to see you either tomorrow or Sunday. 

COF’s newest Superheroes

Dear Church Family,

We had a new members class this past Monday in which 6 people decided to join our Motley Crew. Praise God! While 2 of those people will join a weekend in late July, the other 4 will join this weekend. 

We’re so grateful not only for the way God continues to lead people to Community of Faith, but for the folks who then decide – after much prayer and thoughtful consideration – to make this place their official church home. Our church is only as strong as our staff, leaders, members, and attendees who are invested here and dedicated to our God-given mission of making disciples of Jesus!
This weekend we launch into part-2 of our 4-part sermon series on superheroes. Last week we saw what the comic book hero Superman has to teach us about our faith. Now we turn our attention to Batman, the winged crusader of the night, to discover the spiritual lessons that lie hidden in his story. Batman’s story is fairly dark. However, the lessons we find in his story shine light on our faith. I hope you’ll bring a friend and join us for what’s sure to be an awesome weekend of worship.
Please continue to hold our youth and their leaders in prayer as they head back on Sunday from a mission trip to North Carolina. We definitely look forward to hearing stories about where they saw God on their trip.
To get a sense of what else is happening in the life of our church, check out the rest of this email. 
See you this weekend! 

Superhero Summer is here!

Dear Church Family,
I can’t wait for this weekend!
As we announced at our Vacation Bible School service last Sunday, 
we’re launching into a new series of sermons for the beginning part of summer called “Superhero Summer.”
 What we’ll be doing in this series is we’ll be exploring Scriptural teaching through lens of 4 different DC superheroes. The superheroes we’ll be looking at are as follows:
  1. Superman (June 22/23)
  2. Batman (June 29/30)
  3. Wonder Woman (July 6/7)
  4. The Flash (July 13/14)
I hope to see you either this Saturday (6:30pm) or Sunday (8:30am, 10:30am) as we discover what the comic book character Superman can teach us about our faith! It should be a fun sermon chock-full of important truths about Jesus.
By the way, don’t forget that 
our United Methodist Women (UMW) are hosting their Game Night later on TONIGHT at the building from 6:30-11:00pm!Everyone is welcome to attend Game Night, including us guys. If you have any questions about this free social event, simply email Diane Abresky ( or Kimi Lloyd (  
Finally, I want to let you know that 

our next new members class will take place on Monday June 24th at 6:30pm. That’s this Monday! If you’re somebody who isn’t yet a member of Community of Faith (COF) and you want to make COF your official church home, make plans to attend this class. You’ll learn all about COF’s history, mission, values, and what it means to be a part of our Motley Crew. I hope to see you many of on Monday night. If you’re interested in attending, simply drop me an email ( 

Have a great Friday!



News from the Florida Annual Conference

Dear Church Family,

As many of you know, I attended Annual Conference in Lakeland last week. Annual Conference, which happens every June, is when United Methodists from around the Florida Conference (which spans from Tallahassee to Key West) gather to discuss the business of our connection. Bishop Ken Carter, our resident bishop, has provided of helpful summary of what took place at Annual Conference. I share this list with you so you can know what we accomplished.

  • The election of our 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conference Delegations – led by Alex Shanks and Molly McEntire. (Some of you may remember that Molly McEntire served on staff at Community of Faith years ago as our Director of Children and Families Ministries. In addition, Alejandra Salemi, a recent graduate of the University of Florida who grew up at Community of Faith and still holds her membership here, will be serving as a delegate to Jurisdictional Conference. These are tremendous honors for both Molly and Alejandra.)
  •  The Ordination, Commissioning and Licensing of 52 persons. (Mary Downey, who was mentored by Community of Faith and continues to occasionally preach here, was one of the persons ordained.)
  • Over $37,000 given to the Bishop’s Offering in order to start a new church within the Lowell Correctional Institute in Reddick and the revitalization of FAMU Wesley in Tallahassee. (Community of Faith contributed $1,125 toward this amount!)
  •  We now have 301 Fresh Expressions in Florida and we chartered a new church (Good Samaritan UMC in Tallahassee).
  • Over the last year, 14 new churches became involved in ZOE and over 1,000 children have entered the program.  A new challenge grant of $42,000 will hopefully double the number of children supported by ZOE.
  • Apportionment giving increased last year, and we reduced our 2020 Conference Budget to return more resources to the local churches to make disciples.
  • We enthusiastically approved a new ministry plan for Latino/Latina ministries.
  • We engaged in dialogue about our church’s social teaching and public witness and approved funding for seminary scholarships for the next five years.
All in all, it was a great conference. I left Lakeland encouraged by what our churches are doing on mission together.
As a reminder, we won’t have our Saturday night service this weekend, nor will we have our 8:30am service on Sunday. Instead we will have 1 combined service on Sunday at 10:30am. Make sure to join us for this special service as we celebrate what our kids learned at Vacation Bible School.
See you Sunday!


Summer Bible Study – Tackling the Taboos

Dear Church Family,
Happy Friday! Hope your week has gone well.
First, I want to remind you that Coalition for the Homeless is this afternoon!If you’re available to help out, please make sure to meet us at the Publix parking lot at Berry Town Center at 3:00pm today. From there, we’ll carpool over to downtown Orlando and feed several hundred hungry people. As I mentioned in an email a few days ago, we’re not expecting our normal number of volunteers given that it’s summer and people are travelling. So please, if you’re available today, make sure to help us out!
Second, I want to let you know about an upcoming study I’ll be leading called “Tackling the Taboos.” In the study, we’ll take a thorough look at different topics that our culture generally considers too “taboo” to discuss! The topics include: 1) the separation of church and state and prayer in public schools; 2) creation and evolution in public schools; 3) abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty; 4) immigration; 5) gun control; and 6) human sexuality. At the beginning of the study, I, along with everyone else, will sign a covenant agreeing to be respectful of, and open to, others’ viewpoints. Above all, the study will explore how Scripture might inform our opinions on these topics. The 6-week study will meet on Thursday evenings (beginning June 13) from 6:15-7:30pm in Room 110. If you’d like to attend, simply send me an email ( or call the church office (407-809-2030).
Third, this weekend in worship we’ll wrap up our current message series called “Including the Excluded” in which we’ve been examining the inclusive ministry of Jesus as presented in Luke’s gospel. (By the way, I hope you’ve been taking the time to read Luke as we’ve been journeying through this series! It truly is an inspiring gospel.) We’ll also be recognizing 5 high school graduates at our 10:30am service on Sunday. All of us, I’m sure, are proud of these students, so let’s celebrate and pray for them as they begin this next stage of their journey.
As I think about these high school graduates, I’m also reminded of our church’s strong commitment to children and youth. That said, I hope you will sign-up to volunteer at Vacation Bible School, which is happening from 9:00am-noon every day from June 10-14. We’re expecting a large number of kids (perhaps larger than previous summers!), and right now our volunteer base isn’t matching the number of kids we’re anticipating. So please sign-up to volunteer when you come to service this weekend or by emailing Kathy Beuttenmuller (  
That’s all for now. I hope to see you at Coalition for the Homeless this afternoon or in service this weekend!