pastor’s corner


For those we have lost

Dear Church Family,
Let me start by saying that we offer our love and prayers to our sisters and brothers in the Manchester area of England. No doubt you heard the news about the bombing that took place at the Ariana Grande concert, which claimed the lives of at least 22 people. We have a number of folks in our congregation from the UK, and I know this tragedy hits close to home for them. We weep with those who weep, and pray that God would comfort all those affected by this horrible event, as only God can.
Last weekend, we welcomed Griffin Sinclair to the team as our interim worship leader. Griffin did a great job leading us in our 3 services, and many of you expressed your gratitude for his talents and skill set. I’m confident that God will use Griffin in a powerful way during these summer months. We are certainly blessed to have him!
We are going to take a break from our “Say What?: Wrestling with the Bible’s Strangest Stories” series this weekend to hear a message about the “new creation” God calls us to be in and through Jesus. So, come hungry, expecting to hear a word from God that will hopefully fill your soul! We’ll resume the “Say What?” series the next weekend.
Also, this Monday is Memorial Day, so in worship we’ll recognize the military women and men who have given their lives in service to our country. Indeed, without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedom that we do-which we so often take for granted.
That’s all I have for today! I figured since my messages the last couple of Fridays were longer, I would try to make this one shorter. Hopefully I succeeded!
Have a great a weekend! It’s an honor to be your pastor.

Graduations, Church-wide Cleanup, VBS, Say What?

Happy Friday, COF!
We have lots going on in our church, so be sure to thoroughly read this email!
First, Learning Center graduation is happening later this morning. We are graduating seventy-five kids out of our VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) program. I’ll be attending the ceremony later today and inviting families without a church home to visit COF. My favorite part of the ceremony is hearing what the kids plan to do when they grow up. Most of the kids will say something like “doctor”, “police officer”, or “firefighter”. But then there’ll also be the occasional “stormtrooper” or “ninja”! I am proud of the excellent work our Learning Center does to foster creative thinking in these kids.
Second, our Church-Wide Clean Up Day is happening tomorrow from 9:00-noon. Even if (like me) you’re not a handy person, there’s something for you to do. So, join us as we spruce up our building and property and make COF a more hospitable place for all!
Third, this weekend in worship, we’re welcoming our new interim worship leader, Griffin Sinclair. Griffin is a young man who comes to us from First United Methodist Church in Winter Park, where he plays in the contemporary worship band. In addition to playing guitar and keyboard, Griffin is a gifted vocalist who sings extraordinarily well. Our Staff Parish Relations Committee (personnel committee) was extremely impressed with Griffin’s talents and skill set. I know you’ll be blessed as he leads us in worship over the summer months.


Mother’s Day and a new search

Dear Church Family,
What a great time of worship we had last Saturday and Sunday. In addition to inspiring fellowship, we were blessed to have Bryant Manning, Associate Chaplain at Florida Southern College, lead music for us at our three weekend services. Bryant wanted me to let you know how much he enjoyed himself, and how he hopes to be back with us one day in the future. I trust you would very much welcome that opportunity
This weekend, the members of the worship band are going to grab onto the musical reins at our contemporary services, while the choir will resume singing for us at our traditional service
Earlier this week, the members of the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) met to appoint the members of the Worship Arts and Discipleship Director Search Committee. The membership is as follows
  1. Lori Austin (Lay Leader, Volunteer Choir Director, 8:30 service
  2. Beth Berner (SPRC Chair, 6:30 service
  3. Frank Bernoi (Choir member, 8:30 service
  4. Tom (T) Gamache (Band member, 6:30 service
  5. Chris Jones (Pastor
  6. Tina Sheppard (Band member, 6:30/10:30 services
  7. Sandra Vazquez (Band member, 6:30/10:30 services
  8. Betty Wilbur (Choir member, 8:30 service
  9. Joe Wolfe (SPRC representative, 6:30/10:30 services
I am proud of the intentional thought and effort that went behind the membership of this Committee. As you can see Committee is diverse, with folks properly representing all the services where our Worship Arts and Discipleship Director is going to lead
The next step is for the membership of the Committee to receive applications for the position (which, truthfully, they’ve already begun doing). They will then prayerfully review those applications in light of our worship and discipleship needs here at Community of Faith. Once the Committee has a group of candidates with whom they’re comfortable, they will pass off those candidates to the members of the SPRC, who will then make the final decision
In the meantime, the SPRC has selected somebody to serve as our interim Worship Leader. However, since that person’s first weekend with us won’t be until May 20/21, I am going to hold off on announcing that person’s name until next Friday, so be on the lookout for my email


Faith is a Journey

Dear Church Family,
I hope you’re having a great week.
By this point, I’m sure you received the communication that our Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) delivered on Tuesday regarding Chet Turk’s resignation. It’s hard to say goodbye to somebody we’ve grown to love-especially someone like Chet who has blessed our church with his gifts for almost three years-but we trust that God has a wonderful future in store for Chet and his family. I hope you’ll join me in picking up a card and offering a word of thanks (and maybe also a gift of appreciation) for Chet and his ministry. We’ll have a box in the lobby area over the next two weekends where you can drop those cards off. We will then forward those cards to Chet’s home address.
As far as this weekend goes, we’re going to be led in musical worship by Bryant Manning, who serves as the Associate Chaplain at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Bryant and I entered FSC together as first-year students where we lived in the same hall. We also served on the Team together at the Warren Willis Camp where he led Praise Time and Middle School Worship. Bryant is a gifted musician who will do a fine job as he leads us in worship at all three services (on the guitar at the contemporary services, and on the keyboard at our traditional service.)
I’m sure some of you may have questions regarding what’s next in the worship department at Community of Faith. Fortunately, for us, the summer months are upon us, which means college students are out of school. The SPRC’s plan, at this point, is to hire a young person who can work with the choir and the members of the band on the weekends. Meanwhile, as we have this interim person, the SPRC will put together a committee made up of music team members from all 3 services who will start the process of reviewing resumes and screening candidates for a full-time worship leader. This committee, which will be called the Worship Leader Search Committee, will then pass off their pick of top candidates to the SPRC for a second round of screenings and interviews. After that, the SPRC will make the final selection. It might seem like long and drawn out process to some, but it will ensure that the decision is a shared effort, and that we get the best person possible for our church.
Of course, if you have any questions about this process, feel free to reach out to me.
I look forward to seeing you in worship this weekend as we continue in our series, The Gospel in Pixar. The movie we will be looking at is Monsters, Inc. We’ll draw out gospel themes from this Pixar movie and then apply those themes to our lives today. So, it should be a good weekend all around!
It’s a privilege to serve as your pastor!

Story Time

We continue our series “The Gospel in Pixar” this weekend. In case you missed last week, we are looking at four popular Pixar movies-WALL-E, Toy Story, Monsters Inc, and Finding Nemo-and exploring the gospels themes we find in them. This series offers us the chance to learn about the gospel of Jesus in a fun and different kind of way.
 imagine that some folks might question the spiritual depth of a message series like this one. “The Gospel in Pixar? Really? Kind of fluffy stuff. Sermon light, right? Those aren’t real messages.”
If that’s what you’re thinking, here is the way I look at it. When Jesus taught, he used stories to which people could relate. Jesus didn’t say, “Now, I’m going to give a long lecture about this text from Leviticus for the next thirty minutes.” No, he said, “There was once a man who had two sons…..A king threw a big banquet….A man had a barn and put all of his possessions in it.” He told stories and talked about everyday things to which people could relate in order to illustrate his lessons. Jesus knew that truth is often wrapped up in a story. And that’s what we are doing in this series. We are taking wonderful and meaningful stories which everyone can relate and reflecting on how the gospel is illustrated in these powerful stories. And if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us, too!
So, with all that said, make plans to join us tomorrow night or Sunday as we discuss the gospel themes we find in the movie Toy Story. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Earth Day & New Sermon Series

It’s hard to believe that Easter was almost a week ago. I’m still drawing from the energy and excitement of last weekend, which I’m sure will continue to happen in the weeks and months to come.
I’m pumped about the brand new message series we’re kicking off this weekend called “The Gospel in Pixar.” As most of you know, Pixar is a computer animation film studio based in Emeryville, California. The company was founded in 1979 and partnered with Disney in the mid-1990s in the production of a number of different computer-animated movies. (Disney later bought Pixar in 2006 for more than seven billion dollars!) Thus far, there have been seventeen full-length Disney-Pixar movies. We’ll be looking at four of these movies in this series: WALL-E, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Monsters Inc.! Yes, there are definitely gospel themes in these movies! What we’re going to do is draw out these themes, and of course tie them together with Scripture.
In truth, my plan was to follow these movies in chronological order, which would include starting with Toy Story. But since tomorrow is Earth Day, we’re going to start with WALL-E. After all, the movie deals with themes of caring for our planet.
So join us tomorrow night or Sunday, as we see what WALL-E has to teach us about the gospel of Jesus Christ. You won’t be disappointed!

Spoilers Ahead!

When it comes to movies, TV shows, and books, most of us get pretty serious about spoilers. We warn folks not to spoil the ending of a story for us, lest they endure our wrath, right?

However, we might be surprised to know that a study from two researchers at the University of California, San Diego suggests that spoilers don’t spoil stories. Instead, contrary to popular wisdom they might even enhance our enjoyment of a story!
The study ran three experiments based on 12 short stories. Each version of the story was read by at least 30 people. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the study participants preferred the “spoiled” versions of suspenseful stories. For example, in one case, participants were told before reading the story that a condemned man’s daring escape is all just a fantasy before the noose snaps around his neck. That spoiler alert helped them enjoy the story even more.
One of the researchers had an interesting theory about why people liked getting a spoiler alert. He said, “It could be that once you know how [the story] turns out…you’re more comfortable processing the information and you can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.”
Well, here we are in Holy Week. We just finished Maundy Thursday and now we’re in Good Friday. We’re currently reliving what’s been called, “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”


Holy Week

As many of you know, the message series we are journeying through right now is called “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.” It’s based on a book of the same name by Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist pastor in the Kansas City area. Recently, I came across this quote in the book:
It is traditionally thought that Jesus’ public ministry, from baptism to crucifixion, was a period of three years – 156 weeks, or roughly 1,000 days. While the Gospel writers attempt to summarize this entire period for us, they clearly believe that the final week, the last seven days of Jesus’ life, was most important. We call this Holy Week, and Matthew devotes nearly 30 percent of his Gospel to this week and the events that followed it. Mark allocates nearly 40 percent of his Gospel to Holy Week. Though only 20 percent of Luke’s Gospel is dedicated to the last week of Jesus’ life, when we include Luke’s account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, leading up to the last week, 62 percent of the Gospel is focused here. And 47 percent of John’s Gospel describes the events of Holy Week and beyond. Clearly the events of this final week are of utmost importance in the story of Jesus
(Adam Hamilton, “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.”)
This weekend marks the start of Holy Week, which is the most sacred time of the year for us as Christians. It’s when we remember and reflect upon the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.


Much happening along “The Way”

Happy Friday, Church! I hope you’ve had a great week.

As usual, we’ve got plenty of things going on at Community of Faith, so make sure to read this email to stay informed.

We’re now in part-5 of our 7-part message series called, “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.” Last week, Shawn Klein, a college student who literally grew up at our church, preached a phenomenal message where he highlighted some of the more important elements of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. If you missed the message, make sure to go to the “Media” section of our website, where you’ll find it posted. I promise you that won’t be the last time I invite Shawn to preach at our church. He certainly has a gift!

This weekend, as we continue in this Lenten series, we’re turning our attention to one of the more endearing, and yet controversial, aspects of Jesus’ ministry: Jesus’ association with the marginalized, the people whom everyone else wrote off and excluded. If at any point in your life you’ve felt like an outcast or a misfit, this weekend’s message will likely resonate with you. So, don’t miss out!
Also, don’t forget about our Easter Egg Hunt, which is happening next Saturday (April 8th) from 10:00-11:30 a.m. here at the church! We’ve received lots of candy donations already, but we’re still in need of some more. So, bring your donations with you to worship this weekend. They’ll be put to good use!


What’s Your Covenant Group

Earlier this week, I had the chance to go on a retreat with the members of my Covenant Group, which includes three other United Methodist pastors from around the state of Florida. Ben (who’s led our past two Church Conferences) serves a church in Deltona, Michael serves a church in Wildwood, and Trevor serves a church in the West Palm Beach area. The four of us try our best to touch base at least once a month by video/Skype. In addition, we meet twice a year, in the fall and spring, for a more extended period of time to check in on each other and see how we are doing in our lives and ministry. I left the retreat on Wednesday, after breakfast feeling grateful for the time I had with these three men, all of whom (individually and collectively) have been an amazing form of support to me over the years. My prayer is that all of us have those kinds of people in our lives, people we can count on no matter what.


Dear Church Family,

I hope you’ve had a great week. It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through March!
This weekend, we continue in our Lenten message series called “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.” We’ll be taking a closer look at the preaching ministry of Jesus, in particular the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus laid out the ideals and ethics for the kingdom of God. Many people believe the Sermon on the Mount to be Jesus’ most famous sermon, so it’s worth exploring what Jesus talked about therein. In addition, we’ll be welcoming in 2 new members at our Saturday night service, which is always a joy!
As you already know, Holy Week is just around the corner. Therefore, I want to make you aware of the services we are offering that week. I hope you’ll make plans to join us at some (or, better yet, all!) of these services:
Maundy Thursday Service (April 13th @ 6:30 p.m.)
Good Friday Service (April 14th @ 6:30 p.m.)
Coffee House Easter Service (April 15th @ 6:30 p.m.)
Easter Sunrise Service (April 16th @ 6:45 a.m. in the parking lot by the cross)
Traditional Easter Service (April 16th @ 8:30 a.m.)
Contemporary Easter Service (April 16th @ 10:30 a.m.)
Comunidad de Fe Easter Service (April 16th @ 12:30 p.m.)
Holy Week is, without a doubt, the most sacred time of the year, so please don’t miss out on experiencing God’s presence and power through the above worship gatherings.
Finally, since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d end this note with a portion of the prayer traditionally ascribed to the patron saint of Ireland himself. Enjoy!
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.


refuel at COF

On Wednesday of this last week, we kicked off our Refuel service with around 30 or so people in attendance. Our gathering involved a great time of worship, prayer, reflection, and learning. If you’re free on Wednesday nights, I hope you’ll make plans to join us over the next few weeks. The service starts at 6:30 p.m., and lasts for about an hour. One thing we forgot to mention in our announcements about the service was to bring your Bible as we do have a time of Bible study. But don’t worry…even if you forget your Bible, we have some extra ones available in the lobby area.

This weekend, I continue in our message series for Lent called “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.” My message this weekend is going to focus on what is perhaps the most confusing aspect of Jesus’ public ministry-the fact that he cast out demons. I mean, what are we-as modern, 21st century people with an understanding of science and how the world generally works-to make of the fact that Jesus cast demons out of people? What are demons anyway? And how is Jesus as an exorcist relevant for us today? That’s what we’re going to talk about this weekend, so you definitely don’t want to miss out.