May 2, 2012

Dear Centenary family,

Are empathy and compassion human traits exclusively?  An experiment at the University of Chicago has shown otherwise.  Even rats can show empathy and altruism toward their comrades.  Rats unrelated to each other were put in a cage.  After two weeks some of the rats were placed in a very small cell within the larger cage.  In a week's time, three-fourths of the free rats learned how to free the rats that were in the small cell.  AND one-half of the free rats would save one or two chocolate chips for the trapped rats, demonstrating both empathy and altruism.  ("Science on religion", Patheos, March 9)

When I look at the Centenary community I think "You are a bunch of rats!"... which is a high compliment, indeed!


Teri Hatley is leading a wonderful course which meets on Sunday mornings at 9:30 downstairs, below the sanctuary.  For the discussion, Teri is using a Life publication – 100 Pictures That Changed the World.  You are invited!


Youth --- Stacey would like to spend some time with you during worship on May 6 to share about a program going on this summer... Make it a point to be present -  Email Stacey for more information:  


This Sunday I will be preaching "On Missing Easter".  I'm not talking about missing Easter Sunday.  What happens when our hallelujahs are broken?  Come be a part of worship this Sunday!

I am deeply grateful for you all!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself. Serve. 

May 9, 2012

Dear Centenary family,

Hamp  and Day Watson are active in our faith community.  Hamp is, among many other things, an author extraordinaire.  One of his books, The Centenary Mandate, can be found in the windowsills of Centenary Church.  If you have not picked up one yet, be sure that you get one this Sunday.  What you will read below is a brief excerpt from his most recent book, which he is writing with Day Watson.  It is a collection of 365 devotionals and will be published toward the end of 2012. 

Mark 10:21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor"..."then come follow me."


t's interesting to note that when people discover a defect within themselves, they usually take one of two very opposite attitudes toward it. They either hear Jesus' command to overcome it, or they assume that nothing can be done about it. Years ago they were building the Parsonage for Martha Bowman Church on Bass Road here in Macon. There were two carpenters that helped install the floor in the living room. When the new floor was finished, sanded and varnished to a shine, there was one unsightly board right in the middle of the entrance hall. Our friend, Tom Johnson, was pastor at the time and he said to one of the carpenters, "Can't you take out that ugly board?"

He said, "You can't do it; it would ruin the whole floor."

Tom halfway gave up the idea and he'd about contented himself to live with the red board in the floor. But the next day the other carpenter was there and Tom asked him about it. He said, "Can't you take that board out?"

The carpenter said, "Sure! There won't be much to that." If he were living now, he would have said, "No problem!"

He went out in the back, picked up a piece of scrap lumber like the rest of the floor, cut out the offending board and replaced and sanded and varnished so that you couldn't tell where the defect had been.

The Rich Young Ruler "went away sorrowful" because after having his one outstanding defect pointed out to him by Jesus, he was not willing to make that radical change. Now we could think that Jesus is saying that unless everyone of us sells all that we have and gives it away... unless we give up all normal economic activity, we can't be his disciple. But we can't assume this. Even the apostle Peter kept his home in Capernaum. Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward, was a woman of wealth who gave great support to the cause of Jesus by providing the physical needs of the disciple band. At no time do we have a record of the disciples becoming paupers. They took no specific vow of poverty to follow Jesus. It may be that Jesus as the great physician always makes a diagnosis suited to the individual patient. Riches were the special, spiritual danger of this particular man. Since he trusted in them, discipleship could only come for him by their complete abandonment.

But such reasoning does not let us off the hook. Each of us, regardless of our economic situation, must determine how we can marshal our own resources to help Jesus carry out His mission to the "last the least and the lost." People like Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates give us some help as they model good stewardship of their vast resources while still guiding the economic engines that make such generosity possible. Hamp and I have to ask, "How can we manage the financial resources we have to help the poor without increasing the problem by becoming the "poor" ourselves."

The trickier questions and the ones that Jesus has the most intense interest in are these: (1) "How can we vote and spend and use our influence to help our whole society to reduce the number of the ‘poor' among us?" and (2) "How can we make sure that the remaining ‘poor' that Jesus said we would always have with us are adequately cared for?"

We'll have massive numbers of homeless poor until some systemic changes are made in our society at the economic system levels. But I guess we in Jesus' church are in the same quandary that Brazilian Bishop Dom Helder Camara was talking about. He said, "When I ask people for bread to feed the poor, they think I am a saint; when I ask them why the poor are hungry, they think I am a communist." So, until everybody can hear Jesus saying, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor", we, like the rich young ruler, may hear him say to us, "You lack one thing!" O Lord, give us that one thing. Amen.


 You know the work of C.S. Lewis: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and the list goes on. Yvonne Stuart and Tim Bagwell are taking a group to see a play about C.S. Lewis – C.S. Lewis On Stage – On Thursday, June 7, at the Balzer Theater in Atlanta. Tickets are $30 if we order at least 10 tickets. If you want to go with us, please contact Yvonne Stuart as soon as possible at 478-742-9569 or at   We need to hear from you quickly so that we can order the correct number of tickets before this play becomes a sellout.  Please respond no later than Sunday.  By the way, the author and actor for the C.S. Lewis play is Tom Key, who wrote and starred in "Cotton Patch Gospel", shown at Centenary a couple of months ago.


I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday! 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

May 30, 2012

Dear Centenary Family,

Stacey Harwell, our Director of Community Outreach, began her journey toward ministry at Centenary United Methodist Church.  A student at Mercer, Stacey became involved in the Wesley Foundation (the United Methodist campus ministry) and soon found that she was drawn toward Centenary.  Centenary and Wesley Foundation became the setting for the mysterious stirring of God's Spirit in Stacey's life.  In short, she felt "called". 

Stacey met with the Staff Parish Relations Committee here at Centenary, and then attended Candler School of Theology at Emory University for 3 years as she discerned and learned.  At many turns, her sense of "call" was confirmed.  Stacey has the gift and grace to be a minister in the United Methodist Church.  After she finished with theology school, she came to work for us.  It was clear for Stacey that she was called to be a Deacon in the church... not an Elder.  (Elders are clergy who are called to Service, Word, Sacrament, and Order.  Helen Willoughby, Ginny and Bill Hathaway, Hamp Watson, and I are Elders.)   Deacons in the United Methodist Church are called to a lifetime of servant leadership.  Here is the classic definition of a Deacon:  An ordained clergyperson who is called to serve all people, particularly the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, and to equip and lead the laity in ministries of compassion, justice and service in the world. In this capacity, he or she leads the church in relating the gathered community to their ministries in the world, thus connecting the church's worship with its service in the world. A deacon has the authority to teach and proclaim God's Word, to lead in worship, to assist elders in the administration of the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, to perform the marriage ceremony where the laws of the state permit, and to bury the dead.

After being consecrated a Deacon in 2010, Stacey spent the next 2 years clearing all of the considerable hurdles and will be fully ordained a Deacon at the South Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  The conference is meeting in Macon this year at the Coliseum.  YOU ARE INVITED!  The Monday night (June 4) service of ordination begins at 7:30 at the Coliseum.  This may be the only time you ever get to experience the pageantry of a United Methodist ordination.  To get to be a part of that with Stacey is a special experience indeed!  If you are present on Monday night while Stacey is being ordained, you are invited to stand as her church family simply to show support of her during this incredibly joyful time.  We are proud of Stacey!  The church and the world will be blessed by her faithfulness. 


Sigh... and this is a moment of sadness.  Ginny and Bill Hathaway have been with us for 1.5 years.  They moved here from Oklahoma in January, 2011.  Ginny and Bill have endeared themselves to us and they have enriched our community of faith.  After some soul-searching and some sleepless nights they made the decision to move back to Texas so that they can be close to family and life-long friends.  While we are genuinely sad, we certainly understand and want to be supportive.  Bill and Ginny's final Sunday at Centenary will be June 17.  We will be honoring them with a reception following the morning service.  Bill Hathaway is preaching that day.  We are in for a treat. 


Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1939) was the most distinguished African American artist of the 19th century.  His mother was born a slave and smuggled out of the South by the Underground Railroad.  "Earth, Wind, and Fire" is the title of my sermon this Sunday.  I am preaching about Nicodemus' approach to Jesus in the dark of night.  I will be using one of Henry Ossawa Tanner's paintings in my sermon...  We will explore it together.  I hope you will be present for a great day of worship!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.