Dear Centenary family,

Here is a word from Beth Dunwody this week:

Maimonides’ Ladder & All Saints Day

Maimonides was a 12th century Jewish sage, Rabbi, philosopher, physician and writer whose works include The Guide for the Perplexed. His full name was Moses ben Maimon. Born in Spain shortly before fanatical religious leaders came to power he fled with his family, first to Morocco later to Israel, and finally to Egypt to avoid persecution and the threat of death. After his brother perished in the Indian Ocean with much of the family’s fortune he began his practice of medicine. His major contribution to Jewish life was the Mishneh Torah, his code of Jewish law that put him at odds with many traditional Jews. Philosophically, Maimonides was a religious rationalist. His challenging of people who held ideas he regarded as primitive- such as those who understood literally such biblical expressions as “the finger of God” led to the burning of his books.

His teachings have had great influence on the non-Jewish world as well. Among them is his eight-rung Ladder of Giving, an act, which he views from lowest to highest:

Giving begrudgingly making the recipient feel disgraced or embarrassed.

Giving cheerfully but too little.

Giving cheerfully and adequately but only after being asked.

Giving before being asked.

Giving when you do not know the individual benefiting,

but the recipient knows your identity.

Giving when you know the individual benefiting,

but the recipient does not know your identity.

Giving when neither donor nor recipient is aware of the other's identity.

Giving money, a loan, your time or whatever it takes to enable an individual to be self-reliant.

The teachings of Maimonides have had a tremendous influence on me over the years. His philosophy also represents the vision of the ministries of Centenary: to treat everyone with respect, to help those in need, to enable self reliance, and most of all, to recognize the joy and the gift of the act of giving. In my years at Centenary some of the most generous people I have met are those with seemingly the least to give in the eyes of the world.

The world has its own view of what it means to climb the ladder of success. May we all aspire to climb the ladder of giving successfully together.



On Sunday November 4th we will celebrate the tradition of All Saints Day, honoring the lives of those within our community whose time on this earth has ended over the past year. At Centenary, we come together to support one another, light candles of remembrance both of those we know, as well as, for those who have touched us through others within our community Our intent? To be inclusive in death as we are in life. Join us in remembrance of those present still in spirit and their influence upon our lives. Join us Sunday in worship as together we celebrate the lives of those like us, saints and sinners all, who have made each of us who we are this day.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is by far my favorite band. Even if you have never heard of them I encourage you to click on the video for their song Child as you prepare for All Saints Day on Sunday. It brought both a smile to my face as well as tears to my eyes. Watch. Remember. Live.


Thank you for Jerry and Phyllis Elder for hosting the Centenary Fall Festival and Bonfire.  What fun!  Big crowd!  Lots of laughter, visiting, hayrides, s’mores, and costumes.   Everyone agrees that this will become an annual event.


Don’t forget that Saturday night is time change…  Move your clocks back one hour!

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve. 


November 14, 2012

Dear Centenary family,

If you take a chalice and fill it, you have accomplished only half of the chalice’s purpose.  True?  The other half of its purpose is fulfilled when it is sipped from.  Now I got to thinking about that image recently in regards to how we live out our faith.  For some, their understanding of faith is that they are to simply be filled up – receiving the goodness.  And they are half right!  Others get excited about tipping their cup and serving others but they don’t pause long enough to really receive into their chalice the abundance of God.  Inevitably, burnout occurs.  There is little in the chalice to pour out when one does not pay attention to filling the chalice.

We receive.  We give.  Neither can stand by itself for spiritual health to occur.  The Way of the Chalice is what we encourage at Centenary.  We receive that which God gives.   We tip our chalice, pouring that which we have received into other chalices, and the process is never-ending. 

This Sunday is Thanksgiving Sunday.  For me, it is one of the highlights of the year.  I am preaching about Philip’s encounter with someone who was searching (Acts 8:26-40).  Philip had an incredible opportunity to tilt his chalice and pour into the life of someone else.  The story has its twists and turns.  Hope you will be present Sunday as our hearts are filled with gratitude for the fact that God pours blessings into our lives.  And then let’s figure out how to tilt our chalice and pour some of whom we are and who God is out for others.


Carolyn Yackel will be leading a workshop Sunday morning, beginning at 9 a.m., teaching people how to make Temari Balls.  (Temari balls are beautiful and decorative balls of yarn.)  No need to worry about supplies.  We will have the supplies here for you.  Already, many have signed up for the workshop.  If you want to participate, please send a note to Stacey Harwell at  so that we can make sure to have enough supplies for everyone.  Everyone is welcome!


Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

November 28,2012

Dear Centenary family,

Christmas does not have to be perfect.  Yet we are seduced by the message that you can buy the perfect gift, or receive the perfect gift, or serve the perfect meal, or eat the perfect meal, or be surrounded by the perfect loving family, or be perfectly loving and tranquil ourselves.  Don’t believe it because it just “ain’t” so.  The tree does not need to be perfect… nor the decorations… nor does the house need to be perfectly clean… nor does everything have to be merry and bright.

The key player in Luke’s birth narrative is Mary and that first Christmas had to be traumatic on many levels for her.  We have a tendency to superimpose our mistaken impressions of her as we look back in time.  We see her as peaceful, beatific, dressed in pastels (usually light blue).  The accuracy of our perception should be questioned.

Here we have an unexplained teenage pregnancy and an engagement that is nearly ended.  My guess is that some of those close to Mary thought she was loony because she was talking with angels.  Then she had to make an uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem, could not find a room, gave birth in a barn, had to flee to Egypt because Herod threatened to kill her son. 

Mary is not asked to arrange everything nor is she asked to provide the perfect environment for the birth of Jesus.  She does not hide her surprise; she does not suppress her questions.  She wonders out loud what God could possibly have in mind by asking her to conceive and bear the Savior under these conditions.  And then….  And then… And then… she says, “Yes.”

The “yes” did not turn out as she expected.  It never does.  Every “yes” involves complications, and trouble, and misunderstandings, and hard work, and hurt feelings, and successes, and failures.  And sometimes “yes” brings us to a point of anguish. 

We are not called to wrestle out of the chaos of our lives the perfect family Christmas, or the perfect spiritual moment, or even the perfect contemplative emptiness in which to welcome the Savior.  Our calling is more like Mary’s:  to wonder what God could possibly have in mind, and then to say “Yes” and take what comes.

Next Wednesday (December 5) is the lighting of the Christmas Star that shines outside of our church on College Street.  We will have Fellowship Dinner at 6, followed by a musical program in the sanctuary, then we will light the star.  You can make reservations for the meal by filling the card in your bulletin on Sunday morning, or you can call the church office at 742 8926.  Leave a message for Talisa.  Plan to be present with the Centenary family.


I will be preaching a sermon titled “Watching” this week as we begin the season of Advent.  Hope you will be in worship! 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.