May 10, 2011

Dear Centenary friends,

More than 4 years ago, a young Korean pastor named Uijin Hwang (called Jin), contacted me about starting a new Korean United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ga.  I met with Jin and the Columbus District Superintendent, but it simply did not work out to birth a Korean congregation in Columbus at that time. 

Jin, a graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University, had finished his course work for a PhD from Garrett Theology School at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.  He came to South Georgia and was appointed by the Bishop to Edison, GA where he served two rural churches for the past three years. 

Through connections (and THE connection – The United Methodist Church) we at Centenary have been given a very unusual opportunity.  Jin will be receiving a new appointment this year and the Bishop and the Cabinet have asked if Centenary would be willing to be the site of Jin's appointment – at their expense.   Ginny Hathaway, Stacey Harwell, and I have met with Jin and find him to be full of God's grace.  When people meet him, he just exudes a sense of joy! 

The Bishop and Cabinet know of Centenary's vision for ministry... Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.  They want Jin to be in a setting where he is welcomed and his ministry is encouraged.  Centenary is not only the logical place for Jin to serve, but Jin's involvement at Centenary is an extraordinary gift which moves Centenary closer to reflecting the breadth of the Kingdom of God.

On May 1, the Staff Parish Relations Committee and some leaders of the church met to discuss this proposal.  Unanimously and with great excitement, they voted to say "YES!" to the Bishop and to make sure our hospitality is extended to Jin and his family.

So here are the facts:

1.       Jin and Sina Hwang and their two children, Jaden (4 years old) and Jana (2 years old), will be moving to Macon the very first part of June to be a part of the Centenary community of faith.  Here is their family picture:


2.       Jin will be on our staff.  He will work with our youth, help in worship on occasion, do some visiting and outreach.  He will explore the birthing of two Korean congregations – one in Macon and one in Warner Robins.  Centenary will be home for this young family.

3.       Jin's compensation will be covered by the annual conference budget.  New and Revitalized Congregational Development (my full-time job) will pay for the housing allowance.

4.       This is the same arrangement we have with David Diaz, pastor of Nueva Vida.  David is on our staff, but his compensation is paid by resources outside of Centenary.

Now here is a question you may want to ask:  "Why are there so many pastors and staff at Centenary?"  The short answer is that Centenary is doing a new thing!  In truth, everyone who is part of the Centenary community is an ambassador, a minister of this new movement. 

       The fact is we are staffing not for what is, but for what might be.  The diversity of the staff is of high value because we vision what might be. Such diversity within a church our size is only possible with a great degree of innovation and creativity.  The vast majority of the staff are part-time, many carrying significant professional responsibilities in other jobs in addition to their role at Centenary.  These other jobs make their service here possible. Stacey Harwell and Norris Fleming are the only full-time salaries paid by Centenary. With the financial support of the Conference for specific positions and an innovative approach, we are able to utilize the same amount of funds typically invested by a church our size in a very different way. In this unique model, we achieve the desired diversity and 'team' approach finding it far more advantageous than the traditional top down, single pastor approach. All are here because of a deep sense of calling, and each speaks to a different constituency within the larger community.  We are modeling a new way of "doing" and "being" church.  Centenary has now become a teaching congregation where other congregations seek to learn about new models for how ministry can unfold.

We need some help with this step of welcoming Jin, Sina, Jaden, and Jana.  An apartment/house has been rented that is across Tattnall Square Park from Centenary.  Because the Hwang family have been living in a furnished parsonage in Edison, they have very little furniture.  We need to help them furnish their new home.  If you have some furniture that is not being used, we sure could use it.  Please contact Stacey Harwell at to tell her what you have.  She is pulling this information together.


Thank you for being a church where something like this can happen. 


Don't forget the Nothing but Nets offering this Sunday!  A United Methodist pastor from Angola will be with us Sunday to tell us a bit more of the story.  Each net costs $10.  Give part of a net... give a whole net... give many nets to fight malaria.


I will be preaching from Psalm 23 this Sunday.   Walter Brueggemann, esteemed Old Testament scholar, writes, "It is almost pretentious to comment on Psalm 23.  The grip it has on biblical spirituality is deep and genuine.  It is such a simple statement that it can bear its own witness without comment.... Psalm 23 knows that evil is present in the world, but it is not feared.  Confidence in God is the source of a life of peace and joy."  So, I will seek to be the opposite of verbose on Sunday.  Will you come to worship and sit with me a little while so that we can contemplate Psalm 23? 


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.


May 18, 2011

Dear Centenary family,

There are 3 days left until the end of the world. Jesus will be here on Saturday.  No kidding.... At least according to Harold Camping and those who believe him. 

Harold Camping is the 89-year-old founder of Family Radio, a Christian radio network worth more than $100 million.  Harold says he has figured out that May 21 is the day.  Camping, a retired civil engineer, believes the Bible essentially functions as a cosmic calendar explaining exactly when various prophecies will be fulfilled.  "Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment," he says. 

Such speculation is called apocalyptic dispensationalism and let me assure you that it has been going on since the beginning of time.  But we in America seem to be particularly vulnerable to those who claim that their ability to read the "signs of the times" gives them the special knowledge to predict the end of time.  Could it be that Americans have an inclination toward sensationalism?   Through book sales misguided Americans have made the purveyors of doom incredibly wealthy... even though those writers have been wrong 100% of the time.  Sometimes our theology has such little depth that we are taken in by the cons.  Never mind the fact that apocalyptic speculation is directly against the words of Jesus who said in Mark 13:  "Watch out for the doomsday deceivers!....  Fake Messiahs and lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere.... The exact day and hour?  No one knows that, not even heaven's angels, not even the Son..."  So, Harold Camping has set himself outside of the clear words of Jesus and millions of people are following him. 

October 22, 1844, is called The Great Disappointment because William Miller, a Baptist preacher, sparked concern all over America by stating that the world would end on that day.  But it didn't.  William Miller's followers then founded the Seventh Day Adventist Church. 

Play it again, Sam.  Gullibility is our middle name. 

But let's play "what if".  "What if" the world ends on May 21?  Jesus says his house has lots of rooms.  He says that his grace is sufficient.  He said that God loves the WHOLE world.  Frankly, I trust the words of Jesus.

Grace ultimately trumps judgment every time.  That is what the resurrection is about.  God wins.  Grace prevails.  Period.  So rest easy.  All shall be well... even if the world ends.

So, here is my dilemma:  May 21 is on Saturday.  Should I prepare my sermon for Sunday, May 22, or not???    Hmmm.   I think I will prepare.  There are few things worse than an unprepared preacher – even if he uses the end of time as an excuse to be lazy.  See you Sunday, May 22!


Your response to the Nothing but Nets malaria campaign has been astonishing – Centenary Church has raised more than $2,500.  This means that 250 nets will be purchased to cover children in the southern part of Africa so that they are less susceptible to being bitten by malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  God is smiling.  Thank you.  If you have not given and want to push the total higher, make your check out to Centenary and mark it for "Nothing but Nets". 


Columnist Ed Grisamore (The Macon Telegraph) wrote about our own Dot Sutton this past Monday.  If you did not have a chance to read the story, here is the link:


This Sunday, I am preaching a sermon that I have titled "The Road".  It is based on John 14:1-14.  Some of Eric Clapton's music will show up in worship this Sunday...   Tears in Heaven.  Hope you will be present as we seek to think deeply about life, faith, spirituality, and God. 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.