We had a lot of fun this halloween. It started with a community Weiner roast at the Disciples of Christ Church and ended with a bunch of candy. Henry wanted to be a pteranodon from Dinosaur Train so we had ordered a costume weeks before halloween. We were ready to go. Then on Wednesday Henry started telling everyone that he was going to be a firefighter on Halloween. He would still have been a pterosaur on halloween except that he told our friend, Amber, who happened to have a firefighter costume in just his size in her older son’s closet.
On halloween I’ve never seen a kid have such a great time in a firefighter costume and everyone else was caught up in his enthusiasm. His joy got to me last night. It brought me unexpected joy and I hope that you find joy in unexpected places!
This post was originally posted on my pastor’s blog at AbingdonUMC.net
Yesterday a large and foreboding spider jumped out from under our bathroom sink. I quickly put a cup over it so I could look it up online and figure out what we were dealing with. Henry was immediately transfixed. “Will it hurts us, daddy?” “Is it nice?” “Can I pet it?” I assured him that spiders are very good for our world but some of them can hurt us and I wanted to check first. It appears to be a type of Wolf Spider: Rabidosa punctulatal. It is a harmless spider so we took it outside and released it out of the cup. There was a time that I might have not taken any chances and just squished the thing, but that sort of behavior on my part suggests that I am looking for the worst instead of hoping for the best.
Obviously, I captured the thing since I don’t know spiders well enough, but I was driven by my hope that the spider was not venomous or dangerous. An upside-down cup and a minute or two of googling was a small price to pay to pay for that hope. It might seem silly to talk about a spider in this way, but our world needs every bit of hope It can get! in the world today I think we need to hold out hope and to look for the best in other people —not just spiders :-). What would our world look like if people who disagreed on politics or religion looked for the best in one another? Better yet, what if we could learn to assume the best in one another? What if we started from a place of hope and friendship?
I suspect the world would only improve. If democrats and republicans could stand firm in their convictions, but also assumed that the other had pure motives and wanted the best for our world: the United States would certainly look very different! What if we looked at other people in our community or, even, people we don’t know with an assumption that they are compassionate, skilled, and well-intentioned? I think we would find that we could disagree with them and still find ways to work together for the greater good. We could help draw out the goodness in one another and spread that goodness into the world!
Oh, and here is just a little something for fun: a journey back in time…and words about looking for the best in someone…
On April 30 I let a man stab me in the arm. Four weeks later I did the same. I got my second Moderna vaccination this week. It was a momentary pinch in my arm and I was a little bit under-the-weather for part of a day. For me, it was not a big inconvenience. My wife ended up feeling a little sicker than me for a day. It affects everyone differently, but one thing is certain: a moment of discomfort, even a day of slight illness is better than joining the ranks of the millions dead worldwide.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about vaccinations and COVID-19. There are ideas that a vaccination is ineffective if you take it and can still get sick. Our bodies are not machines. Everyone reacts differently to any vaccine. Some people still get sick even with a vaccine but far less sick than they would have. A few people may even die, but far fewer than would have. Some people will get sick from COVID-19 and it will be mild for others it will be severe. Nothing can stop that, entirely, but vaccines make us fight against it more than we would have. It makes us stronger.
I hope that people will stop using stray examples of breakthrough infections as reasons for not getting a vaccine that can make them stronger against a terrible virus, but, more importantly, if everyone will get vaccinated we could reach immunity as a society. In other words, we take the vaccine not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors and friends.
Vaccination has the potential to effectively bring an end to this pandemic, but we will need to come together with a common purpose of taking care of ourselves and others.
Baby P is home and doing great. First, we want to thank my in-laws, Bob & June, for quarantining and then coming up for weeks so that they stay bubbled with us from Thanksgiving until we got back from the hospital with baby P. P was born on December 10, 2020 and everyone is happy and healthy. Henry is learning what it means to have a little brother and is very sweet on him (but also frustrated to share mommy and daddy). We are sharing some pictures of the past week or so:
We were devastated when our only option (within 30 minutes of our house) for daycare fell through. We need to get back to the office and we need H to get some socialization. Well, we are so happy to have enlarged our ‘bubble’ this fall. We have a friend who has offered to try-out doing childcare since H is the same age as her youngest. We’ve been watching the photos roll in of all their fun over the past weeks and we think we’ve got a really great situation here:
Henry’s playroom was turned into a worship video studio, and, without childcare, Carrie and I take shifts (along with a high school student in the mornings) taking care of our son and trying to work full-time. It has been a challenge, but in the midst of all of the challenges we have spent a lot of time as a family. This pandemic has forced us out of our routines and caused us to re-assess how we organize ourselves and order our time, yes, but also the quality of life we try to pack into that time.
My hope for all of us as we continue in this, potentially, drawn-out pandemic is that we would, yes, lament our losses but also look for gifts. Here is a gallery of some of what we’ve been up to in the Carnes house!
Many times when we think of church, we immediately think of God. Of course, God-made-human…the Christ…is the focus of all we do at church, but scripture is as much about people as about God. God came to earth to touch lives. God came to earth to heal this world. God came to earth to bring peace between nations and neighbors. God came to earth to experience humanity in an all new way.
So, when we think of church, loving God might be our first thought, but loving God is closely connected to loving people. I hope that when we think of Abingdon United Methodist Church we not only think of an other-worldly God and perfecting our own hearts. I hope that we also think to a God who is here-and-now and imagine…and re-imagine a church that is connecting with people in our community and world. A church that cares for the conditions of our own hearts, minds, and spirits AND a church that reaches beyond ourselves to touch lives, heal this world, bring peace, and experience the human condition in new ways.
In other words, I hope that we take our God seriously enough that this congregation never turns inwardly -making it all about ourselves. I hope that we take our God seriously enough that we continually try to live as Christ making our faith about others, exploring the depths of our own hearts, and calling out to a God who loves us time-and-time again!
This article is re-posted from my blog at Abingdonumc.net
I love being the pastor of this church and I adore this community. It was a strange year of ministry, and, like so many things of 2020, we lost out on the fullness of our first year together as we were thrust into the challenges of pandemic and social distancing. I hope that as we learn to be a 2020-sort-of church we can find new ways to more fully know one another as pastor and congregation.
I’d like to share some of what I have experienced with you in our first year together:
Soon after arriving in this community, the tragic shooting-death of a police officer left me standing in front of a whole community of people that I didn’t yet know, during a weeknight prayer service. I discovered a gracious community that believed in prayer and reminded me to pause for personal prayer in the middle of my own chaos of moving and transition.
When I arrived in Abingdon I had been frustrated with the United Methodist Church and frustrated that the bishop did not take my family’s needs into account– leaving my wife to take a leave of absence. Quite honestly I resented the whole system, but experiencing God’s grace in a community that welcomed our family helped me to learn, again, to trust in God even where I had lost trust in other people.
My experience of those first eight months of ministry in Abingdon was bliss! Everything was a new adventure in this new church and I found myself rejoicing day-after-day. I felt we were on-track for big successes over the course of the first two or three years of ministry together.
Funny how these things would next progress, huh? We heard about COVID-19 outbreaks in other parts of the world. How were we to know that our lives would change so drastically? Who could have known that we would be ordered to stop worshiping in-person?
By April, I found myself re-evaluating what was possible: crossing items off my ‘dream’ list. I came to realize that things I imagined this church tackling in 2, 3, 5, 10 years were likely out of reach due to changing circumstances. Some of those things were my dreams, however. Aren’t I supposed to be focused on discerning God’s dreams for Abingdon rather than imposing my own?
But, despite me, God’s dreams have been made manifest in Abingdon over these past months. When I got out of the way and let go of what I wanted worship to be (in-person, for example): people who never would have joined us in the sanctuary a year ago began worshiping with us on-line. That is a God-sized dream. When I stopped fretting about the ministries that couldn’t happen and we got re-focused on the needs of the community: The Cupboard and Closet was expanded and people were fed. When there was the possibility of great division in the church over whether or not to hold in-person worship services, this church focused on the mission and purpose of the church and, despite personal doubts or ideologies, the leadership found a way forward, together. These are God-sized dreams!
This church has never stopped modeling faith. This is a church that, even in the very hardest of times, has remained true to God, remained committed to prayer, and united as a community. I hope I don’t lose your confidence to tell you that there have been moments where I was crossing a dream off the list…or perhaps feeling inadequate…and this congregation has lifted me up. You have often reminded me to redouble my prayer. I have been reminded that when I am hurt by someone who I trusted, I should trust my God all the more. I am reminded that when I feel alone or disconnected I need to rely on this community because the community has already proven that it is strong and filled with compassion!
I don’t know whether the future will judge that I was up to the task of ministry in this time of pandemic, but I love being the pastor of this church and I adore this community. This church is ready for whatever comes next. It may not be ministry that fits our preferences or looks like it used to. What comes next may or may not be on our list of dreams for the church’s future, but if we remain true to our God, remain rooted in prayer, remain connected with one another, and focus on the true purpose of the church I am certain that we will be successful in attaining God’s dreams for Abingdon!
This was also posted on my pastor’s blog at AbingdonUMC.net
There is a lot of concern about health right now. Well, that is an understatement. It’s everywhere and as we begin to see churches cancelling in-person worship services we may begin to worry about attendance or finances or longterm church growth. This isn’t the time for any of that. This church is strong. It is vibrant. It is filled with faithful people and hearts on-fire for God. I am not worried for the future of this church. Whatever comes we will face it together and be all the stronger
However, we must not waver. Even when worship must be temporarily changed, we can still praise our God. Even when we don’t sit in a beloved space, our God is present. Even when we don’t see friends during worship, sunday school or fellowship…church goes on. First, I encourage everyone to be in prayer for yourself & your family, your neighbors, this congregation, and our community, nation & world. I encourage everyone to take part in worship whether it be on-line or in-person. I fully expect that within the next two weeks we will be worshiping on-line primarily, if not entirely, if what we have seen in other areas of the country and world is any indication. I want to assure you that we will be fully prepared should that need arise and leaders will listen for feedback so that we can make the experience as rich as possible.
We, your pastor and leaders, are taking several actions and ask for help in several ways to ensure that our church remains vibrant and connected:
Like last week, we will post an “At-Home Worship Experience” after worship, though, this week it will be delayed as we test new processes for on-line streaming. I hope it will be posted by Monday at noon at the latest. A test stream will be available on our Facebook page and our Youtube channel live during worship services this Sunday.
This week we will test new software for Facebook Live and Youtube Live streaming, using existing equipment. We hope to have a more robust streaming system in place and an on-line design for worship by March 22. We intend to be fully prepared for likely worship changes.
We will report worship changes and cancellations through local radio & television, our website, and the church social media accounts. Please check each week for changes.
Events are quickly unfolding and will continue to change rapidly as testing becomes more widely available and this disease spreads. To reduce confusion as we wait to see what the upcoming weeks will hold, the follow steps are being taken:
Worship will be streamed on Facebook Live and possibly Youtube Live whether people gather in-person or not. If worship becomes on-line only our worship leaders will meet together and we will invite the congregation to stream the service and respond in comments and perhaps even with video comments so that we can still be a community! If we go to on-line only worship it will be one worship service at 11:00am.
All committee members will have the option to use Zoom (video conference) to attend meetings without physically being present.
At least each week we will email updates with links to our on-line church services and updates about community resources and ways you can be involved in caring for others.
Please check our website calendar for up-to-date schedules. Please check before driving to the church for meetings or activities to save time and frustration.
We have a new, more intuitive, on-line giving system. It is easy to use and it is tied in to our church management system so you can sign up for access to your records and to save forms of payment (If you use your bank account instead of credit card you save the church money, by the way).
It has been a short time since we moved into our new home in Abingdon and already I step over toys and wonder what neighbors must think of the toys in the yard and dogs barking. We have moved in. Not just into a house, but, because of this remarkable congregation and community, it feels like our home!
Carrie, Henry and I love to go on walks and, already, when we are out walking we are always running into people we know and Henry already just loves some of his new friends. People can see us coming because the stroller is often empty, seeming to move itself with a little boy who wants to push it himself. 🙂 We were nervous about moving to such a small town but this is going to be a fabulous place to raise Henry and any other children we have along the way! We look forward to ministry here!