Scott shares about his life and faith through this blog. Most notably, he blogged throughout his neurosurgeries during Spring of 2012 with over 10,000 hits to the blog during that time period. He was featured (and his blog) in an article by the United Methodist News Service on May 18, 2012.
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.
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 was soon after I arrived at my current appointment, in Collinsville, that it became clear they could not sustain the church with a full-time pastor. For 18 months I have been operating as an (unintentional) interim trying to help them plan a future. That was difficult knowing that the District Superintendent could call at any time with a new appointment. We got that call not long ago.
When we learned about Abingdon, we drove up immediately to see the community of which we knew next-to-nothing. As we drove through the community, I was reminded of Pike County (where I grew up), and I was reminded of the experiences which formed me into the person I am today. Many of those experiences were shaped through the people and ministries of my home church in Pittsfield, so driving past buildings helped me to imagine myself in Abingdon but could not help us know what kind of congregation awaits.
Meeting the Staff-Parish Relations Committee and spending time with Rev. Wilson helped me to see what this congregation is: active, compassionate, organized, lay-led and hopeful. It was a wonderful introduction! Your leaders on the SPRC were insightful and articulate and your pastor has already given the congregation many tools that it will need for the future. This indicates that Abingdon is a very special church with even greater possibilities ahead!
I don’t know the future, of course, but I can see myself in the communityof Abingdon and I cannot wait to begin my ministry with the peopleof Abingdon United Methodist Church. We can grow together and, I hope, grow to love one another. In fact, that is my philosophy of ministry: “It’s all about relationships.” A faith community is about relationships with God, one another, and the world around us. I believe that a church which can embrace God’s love and build sound relationships around that love will prosper.
Of course, it won’t always be easy. Change is often difficult and is especially difficult at this time when you grieve the loss of a pastor and her family, and Carrie and I grieve communities and churches for which we cared. We must remember, however, that the church is not built around any one pastor or congregation. It is built around God. So long as we remain hopeful in the faith and trust in our God, all things are possible!
As you read this letter, I pray that you will find new ways to experience hope. Be hope-filled for the new relationships that will shape us, for a remarkable congregation, and for a God of possibilities!
As a United Methodist pastor, I am committed to itineracy. That is to say: I have promised to move from church-to-church in order to grow the Kingdom of God. Each year the Bishop and cabinet consider my gifts and “growing edges” and consider the gifts and needs of each church in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. The cabinet and bishop, then, relying on prayer and the Holy Spirit match churches and pastors. Itineracy is a process by which the church opens itself to the Holy Spirit and relies upon God, fully, to mold us into the church we are meant to be. This means that I am committed to go where I am sent and to look for God-at-work in each community.
The past year has been unusual as we have known that my appointment would be changing after just two years of ministry together in order for the church to move to a part-time pastor. I rejoiced with this community when Rev. Michael Barclay was appointed to this church in January and, finally, I know that Bishop Frank Beard has appointed me to serve Abingdon United Methodist Church effective July 1.
Though, I will continue my ministry in this new setting and with a new congregation of United Methodists I find myself emotional as I write this letter. I feel anticipation for the new journey that lies before me, but I feel deeply saddened that this new adventure means leaving a church and community which I love and takes us further from family.
In both communities there are some changes that will take place over the next few weeks. Our bishop, his cabinet, Mike and I are all hard at work to ensure that this transition goes smoothly. More importantly: I am your pastor here and now and will continue to share my enthusiasm as your pastor until my final Sunday on June 9.
We have done much together. This church now has functioning committees where people come and engage. We’ve consolidated committees, worked on the financial health of this congregation, developed a NOW team, empowered lay leadership to take leadership and plan ministry that the congregation is passionate about (not just because we’ve always done it), and involved many new lay people in leading worship.
This congregation made difficult changes while it still had time and financial resources to revitalize. You have the resources. You have the faith-filled people. You have a renewed self-confidence, as a congregation. You have what you need to revitalize your church and I will be in prayer that this congregation will be able to develop a laser-focus on the mission and vision of the church. I implore you to let go of events, activities and programs that do not drive you toward the goal of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” and hyper focus on ministry that fosters discipleship, evangelism, and mission work.
Change can be difficult, but we must remember that the church is not built around any particular pastor or layperson. It is built around God. The church remains steady because it stands upon the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, and so it is with us, individually. If we find ourselves facing change or challenge we must be focused on Christ. In Christ we are steadied when the unexpected comes and, in Christ, we find a warm embrace when we feel fear or sadness.
Christ offers us love when confronted with difficulty, peace in the midst of injustice and certainty in a world of uncertainty. As you read this letter I pray you will turn to Christ and know that our Lord and Savior remains within this church and community and I believe this community of faith has great possibilities ahead!
(I originally published this article at CollinsvilleFirst.org on Nov. 30, 2018)
I remember a few big gifts under the Christmas tree. I remember when Santa gave me a gift that would become one of my favorites: a Tandy Color Computer II. I had been wanting a computer so badly and I had written the letter and just knew that it would arrive. I had a specific computer in mind: an Apple IIe computer with floppy disk drives and a monitor. Some people my age may remember the software that might come with such a computer: Oregon Trail, Pac-Man, PrintShop, AppleWorks… I was just sure that on Christmas morning I would have a powerful computer that could print banners shoot buffalo & deer, and publish my first book :-).
The color computer II hooked to a tape recorder to load files and hooked to a television. My parents were so happy for me as I opened the package, but I wonder if they saw the disappointment in my face. They had worked very hard to get me a computer and I suspect they had invested a lot of their hopes in that package. They thought that a thing would make me happy…and so did I. We both invested our hopes in a computer. We all thought that if the right gift was under the tree it would make Christmas Day great.
So you know, that gift gave me hours of fun and launched my interest in computer programming, but I don’t remember that Christmas because I got a computer. I remember that Christmas because I feel shame for not having gratitude for my parents’ sacrifice. I believe that what truly fulfills us on Christmas is the connection to one another: How we show love (or fail to, in this example). As an adult, I have vivid memories of Christmases past, but the great memories aren’t usually about the gifts. It is the memory of all of my extended family crowded around a large table at grandma phillips’ house. It is the memory of cousins sitting in the floor and handing out Christmas gifts to all the adults before we started opening gifts. It is the memory of my uncle sticking gift bows on my aunts head and, on the Carnes side, of all the adults falling asleep in the living room in the afternoon while the grandkids played with their toys. It is the memory of my sister and parents gathering around the tree: my mother taking pictures of us as we opened each of our gifts and the excitement of going through the stockings that mom had hand-sewn.
The memories of Christmases past are not made of what we get. They are made of the people with whom we share Christmas and how we treat them. We can get so focused on the perfect pies or ham that we spend all day cooking and forget to look up at the memories being made around us. We can get so focused on the perfect gift under the tree that we forget the perfect gift is our presence around the tree. We can get so focused on making the perfect day that we make everyone miserable (oh, we all know someone who has done that, right?) Perhaps the messiness of loving relationships and the imperfect time we spend with one another is what really makes our holiday perfect…
In one episode of the sitcom Modern Family we discover Phil & Claire Dunphy in the middle of a big disagreement. Throughout the episode Phil is trying to figure out what he did wrong to make her angry. As he bumbles through the episode we find that Phil has made all kinds of missteps…but none of them are the offense for which he is paying dearly. Then we make the discovery that Phil came the day before after a lunch with an ex-girlfriend. His ex suggested the wedge salad and he tried it. He couldn’t get over the wedge salad. He had gone on-and-on with Claire about how much he LOVES wedge salads and can’t believe that he’d never had one before.
Claire is angry not over any of the obvious mistakes Phil has made. Through a series of flashbacks we see that Claire had recommended wedge salads time-and-time again. Claire is angry because he never listens to her and doesn’t seem to trust her suggestions. My wife and I often refer to the Modern Family wedge salad when we act in the same way.
Brene Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, is a wedge salad. My wife talked incessantly about this book and applied Brown’s teachings to everything. Perhaps out of stubbornness– maybe out of laziness– I ignored her glowing affirmations until I finally picked up the book last week. It is remarkable. She weaves together government, politics, personal struggles and the growing sense of personal loneliness and civic divisions. She offers us a way to reconceptualize our place in our family, social group, culture, religion, and nation. It is an empowering book that I hope all of my congregation, family and friends will consider.