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the Psalmist reminds us that our help doesn’t come from anywhere or anyone, but God alone

Dear Church Family,

 

I want to begin this email with a word of Scripture.

 

1 I look up to the mountains-

   does my help come from there?

2 My help comes from the Lord,

   who made heaven and earth! 

Psalm 121:1-2 (NLT)

 

I’m finding solace in the Psalms these days, particularly the one I just referenced, in which the Psalmist reminds us that our help doesn’t come from anywhere or anyone, but God alone. Rest assured that God has not left us or abandoned us, and that God is indeed going to get us through these difficult days. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to the day when we can all be together again in person. Until then, I’m grateful for the opportunities we have to connect online.

 

Some of you have asked me what you can be doing during these tough days to support the church. I would encourage you to do at least three things:


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Jesus as the Good Shepherd

Dear Church Family,
 
Though we’re not able to be together in person, we as a congregation are finding other ways to stay connected. For example, we livestreamed my Lenten Bible study last night. (If you’d like to join the next session, which will take place on Thursday, March 26 at 6:30PM, please send me an email at cjones@communityoffaith.org. I’ll send you the link as well as a copy of the handout.) We’re also going to upload a prerecorded service and livestream it at our regular weekend worship times of 6:30PM on Saturday and 8:30AM and 10:30AM on Sunday.  Feel free to join the service via Facebook (www.facebook.com/cofumc/ ) or on our website (www.communityoffaith.org/livestream-services/). We need each other now more than ever, so take advantage of every opportunity you can to stay in touch with us virtually. And, if we can help along the way, let us know! Though the building is closed, the work of the church continues.  
 
As you’re well aware, this is a vulnerable time for so many of us, which is bound to have an impact on the church. That’s why your ongoing financial support of Community of Faith is so critical. If you haven’t set up an online giving account, now is the time to do so (www.communityoffaith.org/giving). Or, if you prefer, you can mail in your offering to our address (9120 Teacher Lane, Davenport, FL 33897). The other day, one of our church members came by the office and dropped off a larger than normal offering. When I called her to thank for her sacrificial generosity, she said to me something to the effect of, “I know it’s going to be hard for so many people during these weeks. However, my income isn’t affected. Therefore, if I can go above and beyond to fill in the gap, I’m going to do it and encourage others to do the same.” I was inspired by this woman’s comment and blown away by her commitment to look beyond herself to the needs of others. Again, your financial support of Community of Faith is what keeps our ministry running. Thank you for your faith-filled giving!  

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An Important Note from Pastor Chris regarding COVID-19 (the Coronavirus)

Dear Church Family,
 
I’ve shared with nearly every person with whom I’ve talked over the past week that these are unique times in which we’re living. I’m sure you’ll agree. Every day we’re learning new information regarding the development of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. One thing seems to be clear: as much as we might desire otherwise, the coronavirus isn’t going to go away apart from swift and decisive action on our part. This action includes ceasing all forms of public gatherings. For this reason, Community of Faith (at the strong recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and our Florida area Bishop) will no longer host in-person worship services at least until the end of March. In addition, we will no longer host the Easter Egg Hunt and are suspending building activities such as Bible studies and other programs. Please know I struggle as I write these words because I value our corporate time together. However, the health and safety of our community is of utmost concern. 
 
In place of in-person worship, we will pre-record our service for the weekend and then upload the service on livestream on Saturday night at 6:30PM and on Sunday morning at 8:30AM and 10:30AM. In addition, we are going to explore other ways of staying connected virtually. For example, I will livestream my Thursday evening Bible study at 6:30PM, and Kathy Beuttenmuller (Director of Children’s and Families Ministries) and David Stump (Youth Director) are going to send devotional type videos. The latter will ensure the ongoing spiritual development of our kids, students, and their families. If you’d like to be included on their list, please email them directly (kbeuttenmuller@communityoffaith.orgdstump@communityoffaith.org).

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I can do all this through him who gives me strength

Dear Church Family,

The other day, I enjoyed a phone conversation with a dad in our congregation whose son is going to be baptized and confirmed this weekend. This father told me how much Community of Faith has meant to his family over the past 2 years since they’ve been attending, and how excited he is for his son to take this next big step in his journey of faith.

This weekend at our Sunday 10:30AM service, we have 6 youth who will be confirmed, 3 of whom will also be baptized. I’m so grateful for Kathy Beuttenmuller (Director of Children’s and Family Ministries), David Stump (Youth Director), and all our children and youth volunteers who continue to invest in our young people, making sure our church is reaching the next generation for Christ. What’s more, I’m grateful for all of you who donate to Team 3:16, our youth scholarship fund, which makes sure our youth can fully participate in all the events of the ministry (camp, mission trips, etc.). You’ll hear more about Team 3:16 this weekend as well as other ways to support our youth.

Thank you, Community of Faith, for being the kind of congregation that you are. I’m proud to be your pastor.


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7 – the biblical number of completion

Dear Church Family,

Seven. That’s the biblical number of completion/wholeness, and it seems to be the special number for our church this Lent.

Last weekend in worship, for example, we kicked off a new series focusing on the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Then in our Thursday evening Bible study, we’re unpacking the seven last words/phrases of Jesus from the cross. (By the way, 81 people have signed up to attend that study!) I hope that this series and study are meaningful to you as you seek to enrich your journey with God this season.


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I AM

Dear Church Family,

Two days ago we kicked off the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday. Thank you to all of you who joined us for worship that night and for Pastor Mary Downey of The Community Hope Center who delivered the message. Also, a word of thanks to those of you who provided soup for the soup supper beforehand.

We’re officially in Lent, the 40-day period (with the exception of Sundays) leading into Easter.


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Celebrating Trace Rudolph

Dear Church Family,

This Sunday marks an exciting time for our congregation. Immediately following the 10:30AM service, we’re holding a special Charge Conference in which members will vote on the candidacy of Trace Rudolph. Trace is a member of Community of Faith who literally grew up here. What’s more, as of late, he has been discerning a call to ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. Trace is a recent graduate of Florida State University and plans to attend seminary at Candler School of Theology at Emory University later this fall. He was unanimously recommended by the Staff Parish Relations Committee of our church to pursue the candidacy process, and his next step is to receive approval from the members of the congregation. So make plans to attend the special Charge Conference this Sunday. Also, take pride in what you’re doing as a church to raise up the next generation of pastoral leaders!


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thank you for your faithful giving

Dear Church Family,

I want to thank you again for your faithful giving to Community of Faith. Not only are you generous to our operational budget, you’re generous to the various causes we promote on any given weekend. Last month, for example, you gave close to $1300 to our Florida United Methodist Children’s Home. And two weeks ago, you gave $636 to my pastoral colleague in South Florida who will be travelling to Haiti next month to provide training to local church leaders down there. Thank you again! Your generosity is inspiring.


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What about Evil & Suffering?

Dear Church Family,

Eleven people decided to join our congregation following our new members class on Tuesday night. We’ll receive these new members at all of our worship services this weekend. I want to thank you for continuing to invite your friends and family to Community of Faith. We’re a growing church and we’re always anxious to receive more folks into our Motley Crew.

This weekend in worship we’re going to be assisted by our Boy Scouts – Troop 444 – at our 10:30AM service. In addition to helping me greet, our Boy Scouts will be passing out bulletins and serving Communion. If you’re planning on worshipping at that particular service, make sure to thank our Boy Scouts – not just for what they do for our church (and they do a lot!), but for what they do for the Four Corners community.


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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.

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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: https://www.umcmission.org/umcor/give/how-to-give.
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: https://vimeo.com/357222940. 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!
 
Blessings,
Chris


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 umw@communityoffaith.org
 
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!
 
Blessings,
Chris