February 8, 2012

Dear Centenary Family,

The music industry is filled with "crossovers".  A country hit "crosses over" and becomes a rock ‘n roll hit... or a pop hit becomes a country hit... or a rap hit becomes an acoustic hit.  Crossovers are sought after in the music industry because it means you can sell more CD's, DVD's, sheet music, and concert tickets because you have more fans.

Sadly, this is not so in the religion biz.  Howard Hanger points out that crossovers from one religion to another or even from one expression of a single religion (denomination) to another are not always greeted with such warm enthusiasm as in the musical industry. In fact, if a member of one religious group gets chummy with another religious group, it usually does not sit well. 

And, of course, that is why Jesus ended up nailed to a tree.  He embraced those who were outside the accepted religious practice of the day.  He "crossed over".  He broke expectations.  He even rejected some of what was common religious belief with the full knowledge that he was offending those who were rigid.  He touched the untouchables, ate with the sinners, and generally sullied himself in the eyes of the religious establishment.   He harvested food on Sunday for eating, which was a direct affront to the cherished "law".  It was as if he was saying "God is not as nearly rigid as you are" to the rigid religious community.  And they killed him for it.  Or at least they thought they had killed him.

However, there is one exception where two faiths have blended in a deeply meaningful way.  When Christian missionaries came up the western European coast looking for converts, they landed in what is now Ireland, Scotland, and England.  There they found the Celts... a deeply spiritual people.  Some Celts converted to Christianity, and others didn't.  But more than 1500 years ago, a process was begun that brought together different faith communities that have been blessed by each other.  There was a crossover!   The Celts influenced Christians and the Christians influenced Celts.  For one of the first times in history, two religious groups did not try to kill each other.  In the Catholic tradition, Goddess Brigid of Celtic lore and life eventually became Saint Brigid.  A large monastery named for her was established in Kildare, Ireland.  She became a delightful mythical blend of two diverse religions.  The Celts gained a more expansive Brigid than they had and Christians got a new saint.  The epitome of "crossover." 

At Centenary this "crossover" perspective is one of our core values.  For example... the cross that hangs behind the pulpit is a Celtic Cross... very ancient in design.  It is a combination of traditional Christian elements and the Celtic tradition.  We sing songs by John Bell, a Celtic Christian musician.  Bell is one of the most respected writers/musicians in the world... In fact some of the staff are attending a workshop in Atlanta in March which will feature the work of John Bell.  A hymn we will sing this Sunday is by Bell... "A Touching Place". And consider the singing bowl... The sound calls us into worship... It is used in Buddhism and reminds us of the ringing of bells which have long been a part of the Catholic tradition.  Crossover,  indeed.  Of God, indeed. 

Religions and denominations were not created by God.  They are all human made.  God didn't create prayer books, hymnals, litmus tests, or doctrines, much less crusades and inquisitions.  Religions are there for humans to find ways of approaching the divine and learning to live better.  Like everything else on earth, religions can evolve.  In fact, they must evolve because God is not static nor is God status quo.  Religions and denominations can learn from each other and grow with each other, harmonizing with each other. 

I pray that there will come a day when we in the religious business will realize that we don't have to destroy a goddess to create a saint. Crossovers beat guns and bombs and verbal assaults every time. 

Centenary Church -  How unusual.  How delightful.  How life-giving.  How hopeful.  This kind of conversation can change the world. Ultimately, because of God, it will change the world.


The chili competition last Wednesday was wonderful.  14 pots of chili showed up and Dave Blosser took home the blue ribbon (in the form of a blue Centenary hat).  Congratulations Dave!  I suspect that this will become an annual tradition.


Reconciling Journey – There are numbers of persons who experience a sense of conflict with, even separation from, their faith due to their sexual orientation.  For some, their faith in Jesus and their reading of scripture creates a struggle to accept themselves in terms of their sexual identity.  Some long for a place to ask faith questions and explore their spirituality.  So, Teri Hatley and Donald Ekong (members at Centenary)) are leading a discussion class.  The class will meet from 7-9 p.m. on Thursdays beginning on February 9.  The class will be held in room SEB 144 (Science and Engineering Building) on the Mercer Campus.  For more info, emailmaconreconcile@gmail.com or call/text Teri at 478 216-715.


For the Youth ---- On February 19, young people 12 and older (through high school) are invited to a time of conversation as we plan a project together....  The conversation will happen during worship.  If you need more information, please contactginny@centenarymacon.org  


New Bible Study!  9:15 on Sundays...  Digging deeper into life and scripture.  For more info contact Jerry Elder atjerry@centenarymacon.org 


"Teatime With My Demons" is my sermon title for Sunday.  Hope you will be present.

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.


February 21, 2012

Dear Centenary Friends,

Talisa Hanson, our Administrator and quarterback, came across a chapter written for a book in the early 1900's.  The book was about Macon churches and the chapter is titled "Historical Sketch of Centenary Church" by P. E. Dennis.  Mr. Dennis was a member of Centenary at some point in history because in this sketch he refers to "our church."  I learned from Dot Sutton that one of the Dennis clan (not P.E.)  was the architect who created the design for Centenary.

Now, back to the historical sketch...  Read this first brief paragraph:  "In the beginning God made Heaven and earth, and the earth was without form and void."  Later on He made Centenary Church, very much in the same way, and while of much less magnitude, those of us who have been associated with the movement from the beginning see in it His guiding hand.

P. E. Dennis has a sense of humor.  Can't you tell?  And he owns his bias by continuing:  "A true history of Centenary Church would probably be better obtained by getting someone not associated with it in any way, to search the records and tell of its beginnings, its progress, and of its successes and failures.  The enthusiasm which has ever characterized those who have labored there is apt to bias the judgment, and give too rosy a hue or too gloomy a view to what has or has not been accomplished."

You can't help but like Mr. Dennis.  He has a sense of humor, he knows himself well, and he makes no attempt to indicate that he is writing an unbiased history of Centenary.  He can't write an unbiased piece because he LOVES Centenary.  Those few things tell me much about Mr. P. E. Dennis.

But there is one phrase in these introductory sentences which leapt out at me.  Do you see it?  "...those of us who have been associated with the movement..."  The key word here is "movement".  P.E. Dennis could have used a variety of words such as church, or organization, or gathering, or congregation instead of the word "movement".  In fact, I would argue that any of the words I just listed would be MORE likely to have been used than the word "movement."  But P.E. Dennis got it.  At its best, the church (or congregation) is a movement.  Jesus did NOT start an organization... he started a movement.  Paul did NOT birth congregations as much as he birthed branches of a movement.   The church gets into a whole bunch of trouble when it primarily identifies itself as an organization. 

A movement is dynamic... not static.  There is unpredictability in movements.  Improvisation is valued in movements.  Movements always point to something larger.  Movements ebb and flow, dance, sway, bounce, jog, walk.  Movements are imperfect because they are always forming.  Movements are about growth and health and questions and relationships.  One never arrives at a finished state with a movement.  Movements drive organizations crazy because they are hard to control and are unpredictable.  The case could be made of many denominations (and local churches):  that which started as a movement has morphed into an organization and the organization is dying because the sense of movement has been buried.

P.E. Dennis wrote in the early 1900's about the "movement" called Centenary.  The "movement" is alive and well.  Thanks be to God!

Ash Wednesday service, February 22, 6 pm in the sanctuary.  Join us for worship as we begin the Lenten Season.

We are moving into a new series during the season of Lent – Promises, Promises

Here are the upcoming sermon themes:

February 26 – God's Covenant with Noah – Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself - Genesis 9:8-15

March 4 – God's Covenant with Abraham – Bless You!  - Genesis 15:7-14, 17-18

March 11 – God's Covenant with Moses – Traveling Light - Exodus 23 and 24

March 18 – God's Covenant with the World (Part 1) – Tattooed by God – Jeremiah 31:31-34

March 25 – God's Covenant with the World (Part 2) – Gotcha Covered – John 3:16

April 1 – Palm Sunday – God's Covenant with Jacob – Walking with a Limp – Genesis 32:22-31

April 8 – Easter Sunday –God's Covenant with Us – Play It Again Sam!  And Again!


Also in this Season of Lent we have two special gatherings:

Thursday, March 15 – We will have a special showing of "Cotton Patch Gospel" at 7 pm.  We will discuss Clarence Jordan, Koinonia Farm in Americus, Ga., Harry Chapin, and Jordan's Cotton Patch Gospels which are set in Georgia.  If any of you have Clarence Jordan stories or contacts, please let me know. 


Thursday, April 5, 7 pm – Maundy, Maundy... A communion service where there is no sermon or spoken word... No sermon?  Yes, you heard that right...just music from the likes of Tracey Chapman, Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt, Richie Havens,  Joe Cocker, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Glen Campbell, and U2.  This will be a very special evening indeed!


Sunday worship takes my breath away.  Spread the word.  There is a movement which is being birthed and re-birthed at Centenary.  Let nothing interfere with your presence on Sunday... and bring someone with you! 


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.