January

 January 5, 2011

Dear Centenary friends,
Claude Green Haugabook, Jr. is his name.  Most of his friends know him as “Ceegie”.  Ceegie is a retired United Methodist pastor who lives in Plains, GA.  Ceegie and Allene, his wife, are a part of the extended Centenary family.  They receive my weekly theological musings and have visited Centenary a couple of times. The thing that inspires me the most about Ceegie is his questioning mind.  Read a bit of prose he has written: MY QUEST With superlative questions some persons live. They demand empirical data before believing; majestic computations prior to conceding. Their disbelief is honest, their skepticism arrayed. With superlative questions these persons die! They are the atheists. With superlative answers some persons live. They have divine revelations to prove its all true; marvelous miracles to verify it too.  Their dogmas are rigid, their devotion assured. With superlative answers, these persons die! They are the believers. With superlative faith some persons live. They have no absolutes to end the quest, no tangible evidence to put it all to rest.  Their truths unproved, their trust remains. With superlative faith these persons die! They are the questors. I value the warm devotion of believers. I do not malign atheism’s honest doubt, but It is from the questors I take my inspiration; O God, grant me their grace to live with unanswered questions, to die in unconquered faith. Rev. C. G. Haugabook, Jr. I stand with Ceegie.  My faith is no longer wrapped up in superlative answers, dogma, doctrine, or correct belief.  I stand with those whose faith rises out of the depth of their souls as they pose questions.  The questions are a sign of trust and deep intimacy with God.  In the spirit of Ceegie’s questions, I will begin teaching a 3 week course this Sunday, January 9, where we will explore the birth of Jesus.  After the Christmas Season is over, are you interested in asking questions about the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke?  Do you wonder what these stories mean?  Do you have doubts, yet don’t know how to ask the questions in the framework of faith? Do you want to talk about the intersection of faith and skepticism?  What is the difference between faith and belief?  Do you want to talk about the differences in the two birth narratives? My course is based on a book by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan titled The First Christmas.  This course will be progressive, conversational, and filled with honest theological and biblical reflection. The course will revolve around asking questions and is not for those who are hesitant to question traditional understandings or who are not comfortable with questions others may raise.  How are we to look at The First Christmas?  The class will meet January 9, 16, and 23 at 9:45 in a classroom below the sanctuary.   If you are interested, we ask you to do your best to be on time for each session.  Come at 9:30 for coffee.  And, if you wish to participate, we ask you to do your best to attend all three sessions. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Ginny and Bill Hathaway are both retired United Methodist pastors from Oklahoma.  They have expressed a keen interest in Centenary Church ever since Ginny was hired by Centenary to join us on staff nearly 3 years ago.  Several situations occurred to cause the move to not happen at that time.  However, the relationship with our congregation has remained strong.  Bill and Ginny have made several trips simply to visit our faith community through the years. Bill and Ginny have made the decision to move from Oklahoma to Macon to simply be a part of the Centenary Community.  They recognize and want to participate in the uniqueness of this community of faith.  Ginny will be on staff at Centenary serving as an Associate Pastor.  She will work with our children’s ministry, small group ministry, and will help me with counseling, strategic planning, etc.  She will help to shepherd the process of being the church.  As is true with all of our staff, her pay will be very low.  (Frankly, we don’t come close to paying anyone what they are worth.  Not anywhere close.)  At the same time, we are embracing some ways of doing ministry as a team that are innovative and exciting.  Ginny brings an added dimension to this team ministry conversation. Welcome Ginny and Bill! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Centenary Church, Mercer University, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church are sponsoring an event that will feature Sister Helen Prejean on Monday, January 17, 7 pm, at Willingham Auditorium at Mercer.  Sister Helen is the inspiration for the book and movie “Dead Man Walking”.  The 17th is the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration.  I hope you will mark this event on your calendar.  We are hosting Sister Helen on Sunday, January 16, at 5 pm for a workshop – Writing as Praying.  I am not sure if there are any slots left for participants, but if you want to be on the waiting list, please contact Talisa at Talisa@centenarymacon.org or Stacey at Stacey@centenarymacon.org  to have your name placed on the waiting list. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ And the Spirit of God moved among the people...  Christmas gifts for Centenary Community Ministries came from all over the nation.  Our combined giving for The Christmas Fund was amazing and outstanding.  Many sacrificed significantly to make these gifts. The total received for Centenary Community Ministries through the Christmas Offering is $104,731.04.  In addition, another $8,000 was received for a new dishwasher in the kitchen.  Thanks be to God!  And thank you for allowing God to use you!  And the Spirit of God moved among the people...   +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ I am preaching this Sunday a sermon I have titled Tzedeck, Mishpat, and the Purpose of the Church from Isaiah 42:1-9.  Yes… the first 2 words are Hebrew.  We will talk about it Sunday.
Grace and peace. Tim Bagwell
Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.
www.centenarymacon.org   
January 13, 2011

Dear Centenary friends...

Beth Dunwody wrote a piece about the tragedy in Tucson.  I wanted to share it with you:

Who will remember?

As we awaited the wintery blast of a rare winter storm in the South, the news shifted to a storm of a different sort.  With virtually nonstop coverage over the hours and days that followed, our nation mourned the tragic events of January 8th in Tucson. Arizona. 

Just as Representative Gabrielle Giffords convened ‘Congress on the Corner' in her community, shots were fired and mayhem ensued. Hours later we would learn the names of the six who died:  nine-year old Christina-Taylor Green (born on September 11, 2001), Gabe Zimmerman, Federal Judge John Roll, Dorwin Stoddard who blocked his wife from the barrage of bullets, Phyllis Schneck and Dorothy Morris. We now mourn their loss along with their families and friends as the nation learns their stories. 

Imbedded too in our minds are the images of the presumed shooter, Jared Lee Loughner.  I found my heart ached as the high school photo of a curly-haired, baby faced young man was replaced by the vacant eyed mug shot with a grin reminiscent of Charles Manson. What manner of darkness could consume all light in five short years? Could it be possible for a soul to evaporate leaving only a shell behind? What is wrong in a world where I hesitate to admit that in that instant I grieved as much for Loughner and his family as for Giffords and the others? 

But as tragic as these events are I cannot help but think, what of the others, those closer to home still? In 2010, there have been numerous shootings in our city as in virtually every urban area in our country.  As of this writing, after much searching I have yet to be able to determine the precise number of these events let alone the names of the victims.  Most were poor, certainly low profile by the standards of the world.  Some were presumably gang related rendering their status even less note-worthy.  Surely once they too, both victim and perpetrator, had eyes filled with innocence and someone who loved them. 

Who will remember these?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Centenary Church, Mercer University, and St. Joseph's Catholic Church are sponsoring an event that will feature Sister Helen Prejean on Monday, January 17, 7 pm, at Willingham Auditorium at Mercer.  Sister Helen is the inspiration for the book and movie "Dead Man Walking".  The 17th is the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration.  I hope you will mark this event on your calendar.  We are hosting Sister Helen on Sunday, January 16, at 5 pm for a workshop – Writing as Praying.  I am not sure if there are any slots left for participants, but if you want to be on the waiting list, please contact Talisa at Talisa@centenarymacon.org or Stacey at Stacey@centenarymacon.org  to have your name placed on the waiting list.  I hope you will plan to be a part of the crowd on Monday, January 17, 7 pm at Willingham Auditorium at Mercer.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stacey is preaching from The Beatitudes for this Sunday.  Join me in worship! 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org   


January 21, 2011

Dear Centenary Friends,
The tension is undeniable.  Right.  Left.  Health care.  Obama Care.  Repeal.  Support.  Republican. Democrat.  Tea Party. Red States.  Blue States.  Guns. Control. Wikileaks. Gay.  Straight.  Marriage.  Afghanistan.  Iraq.  China.  Jobs.  Taxes.  Representative Gabby Giffords.  Jared Loughner.  Who’s to blame?  Don’t ask.  Don’t tell.  The one thing that the Congress seems to agree on nearly unanimously is the fact that something in our system is deeply fractured.  Conflicts have always been present in our discourse.  Dirty political tricks are nothing new.  But most everyone agrees that there is a decided shift in lack of civility that we have not experienced before in the United States. As Christians and people of faith, we cannot (and should not) insulate or isolate ourselves from this unavoidable conversation.  We have a stake as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  For Christians, being citizens of the Kingdom of God takes precedence over all over identities and affiliations.  Could it be that our country needs us to act as citizens of the Kingdom of God, now more than ever? How has this strife-ridden conflict in our nation occurred?  Here is my theory – It has something to do with football players who taunt the opposition and celebrate too much in the end zone when they score.  (I realize that your initial response to my theory is “say what?”  Stay with me while I explain what I mean.)  The taunting and over-the-top celebration is intended to do one thing – draw attention to the individual.  Civility is wrapped up primarily in modesty.  Civility is birthed out of understanding that this is not all about me nor do I hold all the answers.  Civility lifts up community, process, listening, and conversation.  Civility invites the voiceless to find their voice.  Civility values community more than individual narcissism.  We live in a time of rancor, exaggeration, caricature, misinformation and demonization.  The media and 24 hour news cycle give ear to those voices that need to be mitigated and diminished.  When those loud voices are aired, an incredibly unhealthy cycle is put in motion.  When we listen to the strident voices, it is akin to listening to a boisterous player who just scored a touchdown and wants to shove it down the opposing team’s throat.  David Brooks, conservative columnist with the New York Times, put it this way:  “The problem is that over the past 40 years or so we have gone from a culture that reminds people of their own limitations to a culture that encourages people to think highly of themselves.”  Since when in our nation are individual rights and individual expression more valuable than community rights and concerns?  How does civility happen when you are full of yourself?  People who are full of themselves prefer monologue to dialogue. They focus on innuendo, blame fixing, fear, and name-calling.  Spectacles in the end zone are symptomatic of a larger illness. We who seek to live our lives within the context of faith, diversity, acceptance, and hospitality must not be silent, nor should we yell.  We must speak with passionate modesty and love while not being swayed by the ridiculous voices that value polarization and individuality above community.  Here is a good start – Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Senator Tom Coburn will sit with one another during President Obama’s State of the Union message.  They have significant disagreements, but they are seeking to listen to each other.  Small step.  Incremental. A symbol.  But at least neither one of them is spiking a football in the end zone.  I will take any good news I can get.   +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ This Sunday I will be preaching a sermon I have titled “Can I Get a Witness?”  In our world, the word “Christian” has been hijacked to the point that I lean toward identifying myself more as a follower of Christ rather than a Christian.  (Some of that is prompted by what I have written above.)  It is astounding to me what strident voices say and claim about faith and Jesus.  Sometimes I am embarrassed and chagrined.  So, I am admittedly careful in self-identification.  So, let’s talk about it.  Are we paralyzed by the fringes?  What does it mean to be a Jesus follower, and to respect others?  How are we to talk of faith?  Can I get a witness?  Here are three parts of my sermon:  Listening.  Prep Work.  Finding a Voice.  +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ See you Sunday! 
Grace and Peace. Tim Bagwell
 Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.
www.centenarymacon.org