May 5, 2010

Dear Centenary Family,

Recently, I have been reading about the ?happiness research? conducted in recent years.  The research revolves around studies that identify what makes people happy.  Did you know that some countries are relatively happier than other countries?  What are the things that create a greater sense of fulfillment? 

There are a gazillion lists out there teaching us how to be happy:  be optimistic, maintain a healthy weight, stay close to family and friends, follow your instincts, smile a lot, meditate, say thank you, focus on positive memories, love your job, go to church, be creative, notice life?s simple pleasures, eat ice cream.  If you followed all of these directions, being happy could turn into a job! 

Happiness research reveals two essential things that must be present for a person to be truly happy:  1)  a sense of belonging to a community and 2) the belief that what you do matters.  Those are the two key predictors of fulfillment and productivity:  belonging and purpose.

This is my wish for you:  I want you to have faith.  Faith is not necessarily about spiritual beliefs, creeds, doctrines, or religious commitments.  Faith is a worldview that guides one?s life.  It is a way of moving through life?s wonders and challenges.  Faith reminds us that we are connected to the earth and all the people on it.  Faith holds steady when necessary, but also provides the place to launch toward the stars.  Faith happens best in community.  Faith is the groundwork of healthy productivity.  Faith is of God.

Looking forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell


 May 16, 2010

Dear Centenary Friends,

?There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.  But what are they among so many people??  So goes the story of the feeding of the 5,000 people.  It is a story of ridiculous hope, sharing, extravagance, and change.  This story is at the heart of what has happened and is happening at Centenary Church. 

No doubt the statistics point toward multiplication (rather than addition), but Centenary's story is much more than statistical in its nature.

         At Centenary I see signs of active ministry, not maintenance.

         At Centenary survival questions have morphed into ?what next? questions.

         At Centenary we experience a thriving faith congregation rather than a slowly dying church in the grasp of institutional death.

         At Centenary we understand what the early church means when it is said, ?They were all of one mind.?  That does not mean we agree on everything, but we do understand that there is something that binds us together as we move forward.  The good of the community is larger than any individual.  That perspective is a sign of spiritual health and maturity.

         At Centenary we no longer play church.  We are the church.  Relationships are more important than structure and organization.  Radical hospitality is a core value.

         At Centenary worship is valued for the unexpected blessings it brings.

         The Centenary movement is more of a state of mind and hope than it is a geographical place.  There are hundreds scattered all over who are a part of other faith communities, yet Centenary has become a part of their lives.  Centenary gives them a glimpse of ?what might be?, and thus, gives them hope.  They are spiritually connected with this congregation and support us in a variety of ways because they recognize the importance of ?signs of hope.?  They are not present very often, but are our partners.  One Sunday School class in another city uses recordings of our worship services as the basis of their Sunday School lessons.  The reach of Centenary?s witness is broader than any of us realize.


You could add to the list.  Suffice it to say that the cutting edge nature of the movement unfolding at Centenary has caught the imagination of many.  And there are those who have not yet arrived at Centenary, but who will eventually make their way here.  They, too, will be welcomed. 


Several upcoming watershed moments are in the process of occurring over the next few weeks:

1.       Stacey Harwell, a recent graduate of Emory?s Candler School of Theology, will be joining us as a full-time pastor on June 1.  As a Mercer student prior to her three years of graduate work at Emory, Stacey was an active part of the Centenary Community.  She knows us.  We know her.  Stacey will be Minister of Community Building.  You will be hearing more about this in the next few weeks.

2.       Years ago I wondered what it would mean for Centenary to become a key player in the well-being of the Beall?s Hill and Tattnall Square communities (College Hill Alliance).  How can we meaningfully create hope and community?  We are in conversation with the city to give or lease to Centenary a property at 1128 Calhoun Street, across from Tattnall Place Apartments (about 3 blocks from the church).  This building is owned by the Land Bank and has been abandoned for decades.  We want to convert this property into a grocery store.  Who has ever heard of such?  A church owning a grocery store?  This non-profit venture will strengthen ties in the community, will provide jobs, will serve as a gathering place for the community, and will be a symbol of hope in the midst of a community that formally had one of the most notorious drug cultures in the city.  Is that not the task of the church?  Rogers Willoughby and I have had several heartening meetings with city leaders on this matter.  If the building inspection works out well (as we anticipate), you will be hearing more in the coming months about an incredible new step of ministry and community.  This venture will demand the best of all of us.


I find myself wanting to tell you about the new food co-op that is already operating out of Centenary? It is called S.O.L.E. (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethnic) Food.  Exciting.  I want to tell you about our partnership with the Big Sisters program during the summer.  Marelda and Rachel Parrish are coordinating that for us.  I want to tell you about an artist that is going to run a two-day camp to make art objects out of recycled material.  I want to tell you about weddings? and births? I want to tell you about Lee?s desire to teach Disciple Bible Study.  I want to tell you about our community garden.  You get the idea. 


5 barley loaves and 2 fish?  That is about what we have at Centenary.  Look what God is doing!


This Sunday I am preaching about ?The Most Contagious Thing in the World? from Acts 16:16-34.  In the story you will find pimps, prisoners, saints, and converts.  In the sermon I will be discussing Andrew Wyeth?s classic painting ?Christina?s World?.  I have seen this painting several times at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City and am captivated by it.  I will be connecting it to the Acts 16 passage about Paul and Silas.  We will have a copy of the painting for you on Sunday, but if you want to see it ahead of time click on this link:   


See you Sunday in worship!


Grace and Peace.

Tim Bagwell


Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.       



May 19, 2010


Dear Centenary Friends,

What does God sound like?  Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) and the New Testament give many different answers to the question.  In fact, there are almost as many answers as there are people of faith.  This is a good time to at least pose the question.  What does God sound like? 

Sunday is Pentecost.  Pentecost sounds a little like Pentagon.  The Pentagon has 5 sides.  Pentecost is 50 days after Easter.  The Christian Church thinks of this day as the birthday of the Church.  Symbols abound ? flame, wind, the color red (wear something red to worship, if you have it).  We are listening for the voice of God.

Our Jewish brothers and sisters have a time of contemplation and celebration called Shavuot (which occurred on May 18).  Shavuot is a reflective time of hearing God?s voice and is connected particularly with hearing God?s voice on Mt. Sinai. 

So, this Sunday, we come to be amazed as we listen for God?s voice.  I will be preaching on the implications of two stories that have something to do with linguistics (the study of language):  the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis and the story of the birth of the early church in Acts.   What are the differences?  What are the points of connection?

Wear something red, if you have it, and plan to come to worship this Sunday!

A couple of transitions:  Stacey Harwell just graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory University.  She will become our Minister of Community Building on June 1.  She will be with us in worship on May 30, and will preach her first sermon on June 6.  We are grateful to have Stacey!  Welcome Stacey as you meet her!

Beth Dunwody has been considering a sabbatical for a couple of years and finally arranged it for this summer.  She will be on leave from June 10 ? August 20.  She is excited about this time of reflection and rest, and we are excited for her.  She will be missed? but time away is good for the rhythm of the soul. 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love yourself.  Serve.