June 4, 2008

Dear Centenary Friends,

The population of the world is approximately 6,815,584,189.  That number (billions) is hard for us to grasp.  But if you took the entire population of the world and reduced it into a village of 100 people, reflecting all the statistics which define the human population, the global village would look something like this:

         52 women and 48 men

         57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 Americans (North, Central, South), and 8 Africans

         30 Caucasians and 70 people of color

         89 heterosexuals and 11 homosexuals

         30 Christians and 70 persons of other faiths

         6 of the 100 people in the village would own 59% of the village?s wealth and 94 of the residents would live on the remaining 41%

         80 would live in poverty and 20 above poverty

         70 are unable to read and 30 are literate

         1 out of the 100 would have a computer


This village of 100 puts our world population of 6.8 billion into perspective, doesn?t it?   As I reflect, I am not certain of all the ramifications, but there are several things that strike me:

         God knows and loves all these people.

         God cares for those who suffer.

         God, according to Jesus, calls on the wealthy to give generously.

         In a world which appears to be chaotic, God is peace.

         God hates our prejudices against people he has created.

         Bigotry and prejudice reveal a questioning of God?s design.

         God likes diversity.

         God paints in a great variety of colors.

         The world I know is just a very small part of the whole world.

         I need to be respectful of others who see the world through different eyes.


You can add to the list.  What do you think of as you see how the world village looks?  (By the way, thank you to Pam Snipes for sending me the demographic information about the global village!)


Most of you know already about the bell tower at Centenary.  The 100 year old terracotta shingles and some of the framing underneath must be replaced.  June 15 has been designated as the Sunday to receive an offering to cover the approximately $60,000 it will cost to replace the bell tower roof.  We sure could use your help.  Many of you will be receiving a letter about the project early next week.  Make your plans to bring your gift (or mail your gift) so that we can place it on the altar on June 15.


Beth is preaching this Sunday.  Her sermon is ?A Fish Tale With a Twist?.  Worship at Centenary is a blessing.  Be in your place this Sunday!


Grace and peace!

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.



 June 12, 2008

Dear Centenary Friends,
On occasion when I am off balance for whatever reason ? exhaustion, poor decisions, conflict, struggles without and within ? I find myself seeking balance by intentionally bringing to mind the Centenary mantra: Love God. Love others. Love yourself. Serve. These seven words are the core of the commandment which Jesus said was the greatest: ?Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.? Love God. Love Others. Love yourself. Serve.
Repeat those words. Repeat them again. The next time you feel off balance for whatever reason say those 7 words ? Love God. Love Others. Love yourself. Serve. Let your decisions and all relationships be informed by these seven words. Rather than be pulled into a downward spiral, use these words to remind you of who you are, who God is, and how you are to live in the world.
This Sunday is Father?s Day. As is the case with all Sundays ? it is a good day to be in worship. I will be preaching a sermon from Genesis 18:1-15? ?The True Color of Laughter.? We will be using Cyndi Lauper?s ?True Colors? as special music. Also, Steve Paek will be singing Psalm 23 for us in Korean. It will be a good day. At the end of the worship we will bring our gifts to God? both for the mission and ministry of Centenary and for the repair of the bell tower roof. It will be a holy moment. I look forward to seeing you Sunday!
Grace and peace.
Tim Bagwell
Love God. Love others. Love yourself. Serve.


June 18, 2008

Dear Centenary family,

Normally I use this email to raise theological conversation or to share with you a devotional thought. Today, however, I want to own the fact that the purpose of this email is to simply express my gratitude for what is happening in the Centenary Community. God is at work among and through us.

The latest amazing news is your response to the bell tower roof offering. On Sunday we received $54,555 that was designated for the bell tower. Since Sunday, more than $4,000 has arrived to add to that total figure. Amazing. It is evident that many persons gave sacrificially. They had to think through their gift.

Now? let?s take another step which is even more remarkable than the bell tower. In the letters and communications you received from me about the bell tower I challenged you to not let this ?second mile? gift compromise our regular operating budget for mission and ministry. Normally what happens is that when special offerings are made, the regular budget decreases. Now here is a miracle that matches the bell tower roof offering ? On Sunday, the 107 people who gathered for worship at 11 a.m. gave over $7,000 for mission and ministry in addition to the bell tower offering. It was as if we were saying, ?Yes, the bell tower is important and we don?t want it to fall in, BUT what we do here week in and week out at Centenary is the core of our ministry. We certainly want to preserve the building, but we are preserving the building for a purpose ? to serve.? This strong statement of affirmation for the ministry and mission of Centenary is phenomenal.

Poor people, rich people, homeless people, middle class people, black people, Asian people, Anglo people ? God was with us as we joined hands and something significant happened. What can you say to that other than ?Thanks be to God!?

Think about the ministry of Centenary ? This small congregation now has a transitional house where four men live. We receive people out of jail and people off the street who exhibit a high degree of desire to step in a different direction with their lives. Just think about that! We feed 15,000 breakfasts each year. We serve countless individuals who need to hear a word of hope. We offer a place for some who have become disenchanted with the faith and theological conversations which have been dominant in our culture. We give people a safe place to stand. We offer true sanctuary. We welcome people who have been disenfranchised and cast aside. Worship for us is the hub of the wheel and we all worship while God is our audience. (In our worship we do not watch worship. We worship.) Radical hospitality is our hallmark.

There are those among us who are just beginning their faith conversation. Others have been involved in a faith conversation for decades. Questions are welcomed and encouraged at Centenary.

God is not finished with us. We are on a journey with God and we are far from perfect. Perfection is not our goal. Faithfulness is our goal.

So? this is an email which reflects a spirit of Jubilee. I am, this day, thankful for you. Some of you are scattered far afield, but I consider you to be extensions of the ministry we seek to embody at Centenary. Centenary, in some ways, is more of a state of mind than it is a geographic location. It is possible to link arms across the miles and be in solidarity because of common beliefs and commitments. We are grateful to have Centenary people who live in Iowa, Oklahoma, California, Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Alabama, New Jersey, Tennessee, and many other states. Those of us who live in middle Georgia and attend Centenary are blessed to know that in many towns and cities in Georgia there are those who consider themselves a part of the extended family at Centenary. Some of you It is good to be in ministry with all of you? whether you are local or global!

Grace and peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve




June 27, 2008

Dear Centenary Family,

In Thursday?s edition of The Macon Telegraph, Staff Editor Phil Dodson wrote an editorial piece about The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a highly respected research institution with a long history. 35,500 Americans were surveyed about their religious beliefs in the most recent study. I have printed out the 18 page synopsis of the 285 page report. The results are fascinating and give great hope that maybe, just maybe, America is growing weary of the hold which the religious right has had on faith conversations as well as on politics in our nation and in the world over the past 25 years or so.

The Pew poll reports that some 70 percent of Americans now believe that more than one religion can lead to eternal life. Among what are called mainline Protestants (this includes United Methodists, some Presbyterians, the Christian Church, the Episcopalians, Lutherans, and I would include the Cooperative movement within the Baptist Church, along with a host of other denominations), 83 percent believe that more than one faith can lead to salvation. Further, 82 percent of mainline Protestants said they believe ?there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.? These percentages indicate a strong leaning toward inclusion, conversation and tolerance rather than exclusivity and arrogance both inside and outside of one?s religion. In contrast to these numbers among mainline Protestants, only 39 percent of Mormons believe that anyone other than a Mormon will join them in heaven while only 16 percent of Jehovah?s Witnesses believe that anyone other than a Jehovah?s Witness will join them in heaven. Sad. Sad.

As Phil Dodson observes in his editorial, ?Some of the revelations aren?t surprising; others chip away at ingrained assumptions?? Here are a few other interesting statistics from the Pew Study:

38 percent of Americans believe that religions cause more harm than good. (We have some work to do, people!)

92 percent of Americans believe in God or a universal spirit. 60 % believe God is personal, and 25 % see God as an impersonal force. 7% say they don?t know.

78.4% of Americans self identify as Christian. Other religions are 4.7 % while 16.1 % are unaffiliated.

41 percent who are ?unaffiliated? with a religion state that religion ?is at least somewhat important in their lives.? (That is an open door if I have ever seen one!)

The results of this poll will be fodder for serious thought and reflection for months to come. Suffice it to say that I am encouraged by what I see. Perhaps the sense of encouragement I feel comes because I believe Centenary is leading the way in terms of living into God?s radical hospitality. Our way is not the only way. God is bigger than anything we might conceive. Within our community of faith there are differences in thought and reflection about the nature of God. These differences do not divide nor do these differences weaken the faith community. Rather, the differences strengthen us because we are reminded of a God who works in many different ways, with many different people, both in the biblical narrative and in the present day.


This fall I will be teaching a 12 week series titled ?Saving Jesus?. Part of the study is a DVD? followed by small group discussion. On the cover of the DVD this question is asked: ?Ever feel Jesus has been kidnapped by the Christian Right?? The point of the study is to look seriously at the Bible, to question some long-held beliefs, to listen to some theologians as they help us dig deep, and ultimately the goal is to grow deeper in our understanding of what it means to be a person of faith, committed to following Jesus. I want you to know that I am excited about the study, the conversation, and the sense of community!

There are many opportunities coming up at Centenary as we approach the fall, including a sermon series that I am calling ?Mysteries of the Faith?.


This Sunday I am preaching a sermon titled ?Somebody?s Calling My Name? from Isaiah 43:1-2, 5-7. Hope you will be in worship!


One final point of celebration: John Matthews is our first ?graduate? from the transitional housing. Wow! Read more information about John?s remarkable story in Jeremy Gray?s Outreach Spotlight in the bulletin. He will be leaving our transitional house and moving into his own apartment on July 1. We are grateful for and proud of John!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God. Love Others. Love Yourself. Serve.