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This past Sunday we had an opportunity to remember our baptism. As a pastor, this is one of the most meaningful moments of ministry. I saw family and friends gather at the font together. I saw silent tears and pauses of gratitude. I saw children splash with delight. I could sense a renewal and a refreshment in each person who chose to come to the font.

As United Methodist we believe our baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace. The water is only sacred because of what it represents — God’s unconditional love, mercy, and grace. This is why we do not “re-baptize.” None of us can ever fully comprehend God’s salvation. We can, however, accept it, grow in it, and bless others because of it. As we grow and learn we remember that even when we didn’t understand as fully as we do now, even though we weren’t as sincere in that moment as we are now, God’s grace is enough to hold all that we were, all that we are, and all that we will become.

Naomi offered a beautiful backdrop through song. It is a song with no known author or origin. Another reminder of all that has been, is, and will always be a part of our journey.

As I went down to the river to pray

Studying about that good ol' way

And who shall wear the robe and crown?

Good Lord show me the way

Oh children, let’s go down…

down to the river to pray

May our lives continue to be an outward sign of an inward grace so that all may know of God’s redeeming grace.

Pastor Jo Cooper

January 17, 2023

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This past Sunday we shared in a Covenant Renewal Service. Even though it is a service that John Wesley introduced in 1775, it was "new" to most of us. I have appreciated your responses to the service. Many are grateful. Some are taking to heart the covenant, even highlighting certain thoughts and journaling in the margins. Other covenant renewals were left on the pew, and others found their way to the garbage bin.

We are all at different places on our journey. As I gathered up the covenants that were left behind I had to stop and give thanks for those willing to stand in the gap when I wasn't at a place in my life where I could make such a statement of faith. Here is the printed Covenant Renewal if you would like to read/reread it. It wasn't until today, January 3, 2023, that I could write a blog post about it, because it wasn't until today that I was ready to sign it. I confess this in the spirit of solidarity as we pray for one another and encourage one another-- wherever we find ourselves on the journey.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

--Lamentations 3:22-24

New Year. New You. New Us.

Pastor Jo

January 3, 2023

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During 2022 our focus was to Reconnect to God and to one another. We dusted off our core values of honor, faith, compassion, engagement, and unity and found them useful guides. And now we are called to assess the difference we are experiencing individually and collectively. How have you reconnected with God and with one another?

As pastor, I feel the call from God for us to solidify our commitment. Some might call it “revival,” or “rededication.” I believe once we truly invite rededication, revival will come.

This Sunday, January 1, 2023, during our 10:00 worship service we will share in a Covenant Renewal Service. According to our United Methodist Book of Worship, in 1663 a Puritan by the name of Richard Alleine published a work entitled, “A Vindication of Godliness in the Greater Strictness of Spirituality of It.” I admit that doesn’t sound profoundly inviting, but it does invite us to stay curious.

In 1755 John Wesley used a chapter from Alleine’s work, “The Application of the Whole,” in what probably was the first real celebration of the Covenant Service in the Methodist Movement. From Wesley’s journals over the years we find that it was a rich moment for the people - a time of confession and cleansing, a time of comfort and clarity.

I ask you to pray for Sunday and your involvement in this covenant renewal. I cannot think of a more meaningful way to begin 2023 than committing our whole selves to God — individually and collectively.

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