Message from Pastor Bryan 12/1/2021
The Gift of Waiting
We have entered once again the wonderful season of Advent. But, unfortunately, it appears every year that as soon as Thanksgiving is over and even before it arrives, Christmas, not Advent, is thrust upon us. Of course, it is. It is the way businesses tell us that we need to get ready for Christmas and that we must “DO IT NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.” After all, we don’t want to miss the latest gadget or stand out like a sore thumb because we are not wearing the newest fashion. However, over the last few years, the poor economy has slowed everyone down, whether we like it or not. As a result, people are less likely to rush right out and buy that newest gadget or the latest fashion. Yet slowing down and learning to wait is what Advent is all about. If we allow ourselves to go through Advent, we begin to learn how to wait without the prompting of poor economic times. Advent is not about arriving at the destination. It is about the journey. Advent is a lot like life itself; as we anticipate the glorious kingdom of heaven, life is the journey that prepares us for it. So too, Advent prepares for something very special. It is the arrival, the coming of Christ the King, God in the flesh. Think about it; we remember that God chose to come and dwell with us in the form of a human being, Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph. For something like that, we want to be prepared. We want to tidy up and put out our very best. If this were an earthly king or, say, a head of state, we would most likely be putting on our best suit of clothes or put out our best dishes, as well as have the professional cleaners come to clean the carpets and clear away the hidden cobwebs. Well, in preparing for the coming of the one who gave us life, the one who came to save our souls, we need not rush our crazy lives any faster. Rather we need to slow down and take the time to prepare our hearts more so than our houses, that we may receive the Christ Child in the best way that we can and with the best attitude that we can have. This is not about putting on airs or pretending to be something we are not. It is about recognizing God for who God is and for what God has done for a world that has always been in too much of a hurry, too caught up in putting on a façade, and stopping to give to God the honor and glory that is due him. When we take the time to slow down and patiently journey through Advent without rushing through the journey to see this thing that God has done, the gift that we wait patiently to receive in our hearts will be worth the time. And it will far exceed any gift we have hastily unwrapped from under the tree. If you have not attended worship in a while, I want to encourage you to consider coming to worship with us at WSUMC through the rest of Advent to prepare your hearts to receive what is truly most important and valuable to us all in hopefully new and meaningful ways. So let us all prepare to receive Christ! In peace, Pastor Bryan
Previous Pastoral Messages:
Unity in the Community For the better part of this past year, I have been involved with a group here on the Northern Neck known as Interracial Conversations. This group originated in Northumberland County with several churches from both the black and white communities and individual businesses and organizations coming together to find ways to come together create a real sense of community. Much of this was and continues to be by just getting together and having conversations. (thus the name) Those conversations may have come about from watching a movie about race or about situations that dealt with racial problems. These were honest and heartfelt discussions not to point a finger for blame but to look at how we as a community might strive to reduce the tensions we witness and to help us move forward as one community of people in the sense that we all must live and work in a shared space called the Northern Neck. So what has led me to become involved with the ‘Interracial Conversations of the Northern Neck’? The answer is that having grown up in the deep south, where its segregationist past continues to impact present-day issues in both subtle and not so subtle ways, I continue to witness, both in my home state and as well as here in Virginia, how smaller communities struggling to create a better life for its citizens are crippled even further by thinly veiled racist tendencies that linger from long-held beliefs in myths and stereotypes. The United Methodist Book of Discipline states in its constitution Article 5 that as United Methodists, we are to be about racial justice. “The United Methodist Church proclaims the value of each person as a unique child of God and commits itself to the healing and wholeness of all persons. The United Methodist Church recognizes that the sin of racism has been destructive to its unity throughout history. Racism continues to cause painful division and marginalization. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate racism, whether in organizations or individuals, in every facet of its life and society. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of racial justice at all times and all places.” The Unity in the Community event to take place in October is the work of not one racial group or the other but of the ‘Interracial Conversations Group of the Northern Neck.’ It was initially planned for last year in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. The event is not a Black Lives Matter movement, though several who support the Black Lives Matter movement are involved with the Unity in the Community Event because, like so many others who live here on the Northern Neck, they want to live and work in a community that seeks to stand by one another regardless of race, sex, and even age. The ‘Interracial Conversations Group’ is a group of people made up of black, white, and other ethnic backgrounds who genuinely seek to live just as our Pledge of Allegiance says, “One Nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.” It is my hope and prayer that you will choose to come out and see what Unity in the Community is all about and what more it can become because you are there.
Prayer Vigil with Pastor Bryan McClain and Julie Williams George, Lay Leader to pray for God’s help with crushing this COVID virus and the animosity this nation is experiencing.
Message from Pastor Bryan 3/29/2020
Luke 9: 1-6
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money- not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere.
While the majority of us are not doctors, nor do we play them on T.V., and we may not be able to come up with a cure for the Corona Virus, we all can be healers of demons and diseases that plague our hearts and our spirits. During this time of having to stay home, rather than filling our minds with questions, doubts, and fears about what might happen. Let us hear the voice of Jesus who called the twelve to “Go Out and proclaim the Gospel.” That good news that let people know that an amazing God was on their side. That God’s love would prevail over even the worst plagues and the demons of doubt, fear, shame, and evil.
That power given to us to bring healing to others is none other than God’s grace, and affirmation that we can and should help one another. Rather than being one of those who see the glass half empty when you are speaking to someone who is also dealing with depression, and loneliness, fear, instead, pick up a Bible and read God’s story of hope in Jesus Christ together. Look for hope together rather than problems. Pray with and for each other. In these ways you do in fact become a spiritual healer, one who shares hope and the certainty of God’s love as you share yours.
In light of this, I like the words of the hymn, Christ for the World We Sing, by Samuel Wolcott; “Christ for the world we sing, the world to Christ we bring, with loving zeal, the poor, and them that mourn, the faint and overborne, sin sick and sorrow worn, whom Christ doth heal.”
When we spread the message of hope and joy, we receive the same. So, go out over the internet, over the phone lines, or just drop a line in the mail and share the love of Christ with someone who you know is needing it. You will need nothing but the love of Christ.
Bryan McClain, Pastor
White Stone UMC
Message from Pastor Bryan 3/24/2020
Hello to all and The Peace of Christ be with you.
I hope everyone is doing as well as you can in these circumstances and that your faith is sustaining you.
There are a few things that I want to update you on as far as our church and the denomination is concerned.
First – The 2020 General Conference that was to be held in Minneapolis has been postponed to an indefinite date due to the Corona-Virus Pandemic. Until I hear further news on this, we will go on about being the church the way we always have with one exception and that, of course, is dealing with the pandemic.
As of now, the cancellation of In-place worship meaning congregating inside the sanctuary has been extended to March 29th. With the Governor’s announcement this afternoon closing the schools for the rest of the school year, I am under the impression that will also include religious worship services. With that, the limitation on gatherings of more than 10 people is still prohibited. We have tried to address this problem of not being able to gather for worship by posting my sermons on our website at whitestoneumc.org and also recently on our Facebook page. But I also realize that some of you either do not have computer access or internet access. So we are currently trying to think about other ways we can worship without risking our health. A few ideas have already been floated:
(1.) We come and do a drive-in worship service in our parking lot.
(2.) We gather inside throughout the day in groups of 10 or less at different hours; Group 1.at 9:00 am, group 2 at 10 am, and group 3 at 11. And so forth until everyone has had the chance to have a short worship service.
There may be other ideas you have. We would like to hear them. Meanwhile, I will be sitting in on a conference call with Clergy and Laity leaders from across the commonwealth to learn more about what they are doing and what is allowed. If we can do either of these things or learn of something else that would benefit you all, I hope to bring that to your attention as well.
I know a lot of you are sitting at home doing your best to avoid others, especially in large gatherings. But one of the most helpful things you can do besides following the CDC guidelines is to keep others in your prayers, especially our health care workers. Please remember especially Missy Lewis and Stacey Corbin, two of our members who are Nurses with Bon Secours in Middlesex.
Also, remember the children as they will have to find new ways to continue their education and those who will be out of work for some time. These are some critical ways that we can continue to be faithful to God and one another during this challenging time.
If anybody needs anything, please call the church office or my cell phone at 804-436-5018. We will do whatever we can to try and help you.
On a personal note, Stephanie will have another Cardiologist appointment this Wednesday to see where we go with her condition. Please keep her in your prayers as well.
I want to leave you with this thought and prayer.
“There are vacations – and there are soul vacations. A soul vacation can happen in a few minutes, a few hours, or a few days. Instead of packing your bags and heading for a distant destination, you can indulge your imagination, spend some time in contemplation, and satisfy your soul with the honey sweetness of the present moment. A soul vacation makes much of small things. Enjoy a good book that takes you on inner adventures. Contemplate the wonders of God’s creation by watching (The nature all around you); take a walk in the woods, sit and talk with God.” Candy Paull.
Gracious God, We thank you and we praise you, especially in these days, for you remain our guiding light, out hope of tomorrow, our gift of grace to embrace and to share. In our time of aloneness, remind us that we are not alone, but that you are with us in Word and Spirit.
In our time of uncertainty, remind us of your sure promise that you will never abandon us. In our time of fears tell us once again, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Strengthen us to even have the presence of mind to reach out to others by whatever means we can and to love one another as you have loved us. For we are only bound together to you as we are bound together to one another in Christ Jesus your Son. It is in his holy and precious name that we pray. Amen.
God bless the Tie that Binds us to you and one another.