September

September 12, 2010

Dear Centenary family,

Anne Rice has quit the church again.  Rice is a prolific author of very popular books and novels.  She grew up Roman Catholic and became atheist.  In 1998 she had a spiritual awakening and returned to the Catholic Church whereupon she started writing novels based on the life of Christ.

This summer she quit the church - again.  Here?s what she said:  ?Today I quit being a Christian.  I?m out.  I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ?Christian? or being a part of Christianity.  It?s simply impossible for me to ?belong? to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group.  For 10 years, I?ve tried.  I?ve failed.  I?m an outsider.  My conscience will allow nothing else? In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay.  I refuse to be anti-feminist? I refuse to be anti-science.  I refuse to be anti-life.? 

Atheism is not a choice for Anne Rice.  Her writing will continue to reflect ?the optimistic viewpoint that I was able to reach when I converted.?  She essentially is saying that she will maintain her spirituality, but religion and the church are not viable options for expression of that spirituality.

According to research, Anne Rice is not alone.  The number of Americans who call themselves Christian has fallen by 10 percent since 1990 and the percentage who claim no religious affiliation doubled in the same time period.  Leonard Pitts writes, ?Organized religion, Christianity in particular, is on the decline, and it has no one to blame but itself; it traded moral authority for political power.? 

I can appreciate Anne Rice?s (and tens of millions of others) frustration.  However, what Anne Rice is renouncing is not Christianity.  It is a warped, mutated version of Christianity.  Centenary Church is testimony that there is another way to be Christian.  I sure wish that Anne Rice could visit Centenary.  I think her encounter with the faith community would be different.

Adam Hamilton compares Rice?s statement to his feeling about the packaged fish sticks that for years were the only form in which he ever encountered seafood.  He was sure he disliked seafood, but then at age thirty-eight he tasted swordfish and salmon at good restaurants for the first time, and he has loved seafood ever since.  Anne Rice is eating fish sticks.

This is what Rice seems not to know:  There is more to the Church than meets the eye.  Spirituality can become a very dangerous thing when it is devoid of community.  I cannot be the person I am called to be apart from others who are longing for similar connections and making similar journeys with the Almighty.  The privatization of faith leads to a sort of mutation in our souls that reflects arrogance and narcissism.  Narcissistic motivations are based on these sorts of spiritual reflections:  All that matters is me.  I will work this out alone.  This is between God and me.  

Spirituality and faith development are communal in nature.  Witness the life of Jesus.  He drew apart, but he always came back to the community.  He loved the community, even when it was less than what it should be.  He challenged the community, but he did not reject the community.  Jesus can only be defined within the context of community. Jesus even hung around the dysfunctional Church (synagogue or Temple) of his day.  He was within and beyond the Church, as we all should be.

So, Anne Rice, come visit Centenary.  We are not perfect, but I don?t think you are searching for perfection.  We are people who are on the way and in the process of being formed.  We travel together.  We hold hands.  We seek to bless.  We smile and laugh.  We talk about some serious things and some very funny things.  We don?t take ourselves too seriously.  We fail at points. We love God.  We love others.  We love ourselves.  We serve.  Together. 

The sound of one hand clapping is too quiet.

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It?s Kinda Like?

This Sunday, September 12, we begin a new sermon series about the parables of Jesus.  Here is the schedule:

September 12 The Wise & Foolish Builders Matthew 7:24-27

September 19 The Kingdom of God Is?  Matthew 13:44-46

September 26 The Pharisee & the Tax Collector Luke 18:9-14

October 3 The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37

October 10 The Workers in the Vineyard Matthew 20:1-15

October 17 The Rich Fool Luke 12:13-34

October 24 The Parable of the Soil Mark 4:1-9

October 31 The Lamp Matthew 5:14-16

November 7 (All Saints Day) The Great Dinner Luke 14:15-24

November 14 The Rich Man & Lazarus Luke 16:19-31

November 21 Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32

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Disciple Bible Study -  If you are interested in participating in Disciple Bible Study, you will need to pick up your book from Lee Edwards at the Opportunity Fair after church on Sunday, September 12th so that you can start reading for the first meeting.  Our first session will be held on September 16th from 7 - 9:30 PM at the Community Building at church. This is a great opportunity!  For more information contact Stacey Harwell at 742 8926.   

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Grocery Store and Co-op ? Centenary Church continues to engage with other city groups in a discussion about a grocery store in our area.  Already we are working with a co-op to provide an alternative way of shopping for groceries.  We encourage local and sustainable as a consideration for our buying habits.  A community meeting about these matters will be taking place at Centenary THIS THURSDAY, September 9, 7 p.m.  You are invited to be a part of the discussion!

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Bike Ministry -  In the past few weeks we have received and given away 15 bikes to people in need of transportation.  We presently have 35 bikes that need tune-ups and repair.  Centenary has received a grant of $850 for repairing the bikes from the Georgia Student Veterans of America and we are grateful!  On Saturday, September 11, from 9 a.m. ? 1 p.m., we invite you to join a group of people who will be working on these 35 bikes.  We sure could use your help.  For more information, contact Rogers Willoughby at 478-918-4393.  Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself. Serve.

 

A lot of good things are happening.

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

 

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org

 

 September 15, 2010


Dear Centenary family,

Something is afoot?

Yesterday Rogers Willoughby and I were with group of city leaders working toward Macon Children?s Promise Neighborhood.  Here is the vision:  All children growing up in a Promise Neighborhood will have access to effective schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and career.  Centenary UMC is a partner in this conversation of hope.  The desire is to target the south central part of our city where

         88.1% of the population live below the poverty level

         48.2% of adult residents did not finish high school

         There is a 45.2% high school graduation rate (abysmal and tragic)

The area targeted is on Anthony Road (not far from Centenary) and includes Ingram-Pye Elementary School, Ballard-Hudson Middle School, and Southwest High School.  How does one break the cycle of illiteracy, hopelessness, and poverty in a community?  Paralyzing cynicism is not an option for a person of faith.  We are thankful that there are some incredibly gifted people leading this process.  Centenary is at the table on a variety of levels for this conversation where we are focused on bringing hope and creating change in places and settings where hope is a rare commodity. 

 

Something is afoot?

 

Last Thursday night we invited those who were interested in the grocery/co-op conversation to come to our fellowship hall for discussion.  I thought we might have 35 or 40 present.  There were 125 in attendance.  The energy in the room was incredible. As most of you know, I have had my eye on an abandoned little store at the corner of Calhoun and Hazel.  What I have come to find out is that this store by itself is not large enough to meet the needs of Macon.  So, the conversation shifts, morphs, changes and grows?  Now the vision is larger with the possibility of the store at the corner of Hazel and Calhoun being a satellite of the larger grocery/co-op conversation.  And because of the nature of the conversation others are stepping forward with other pieces of property in different communities in Macon that might serve as satellites.  Centenary Church is in the middle of this conversation and is offering leadership and encouragement.  Why is it important?  Two words:  Community building.  (Along with, of course, offering healthy food options.)

 

Something is afoot...

 

Rogers Willoughby and David Howard have been working with the Macon State Veterans on repairing bicycles for our members of our community who need transportation.  In fact, through the Veterans group, Centenary received an $850 grant for repairing bikes.  Last Saturday 19 bikes were repaired.  Here is a link to see some pictures:  http://picasaweb.google.com/MaconStateVets/911BikeProject?feat=email  

 

Something is afoot? God is walking around.  No doubt about it.

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It?s Kinda Like?

This Sunday, September 19, we will continue the sermon series about the parables of Jesus.  Here is the schedule:

September 12 The Wise & Foolish Builders Matthew 7:24-27

September 19 The Kingdom of God Is?  Matthew 13:44-46

September 26 The Pharisee & the Tax Collector Luke 18:9-14

October 3 The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37

October 10 The Workers in the Vineyard Matthew 20:1-15

October 17 The Rich Fool Luke 12:13-34

October 24 The Parable of the Soil Mark 4:1-9

October 31 The Lamp Matthew 5:14-16

November 7 (All Saints Day) The Great Dinner Luke 14:15-24

November 14 The Rich Man & Lazarus Luke 16:19-31

November 21 Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32

 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

 

www.centenarymacon.org  

 

 September 23, 2010

Dear Centenary Family,

If these stairs could talk?  Built in 1873, this stairway is one of the finest, if not THE finest in Macon.  This stairway is worthy of being called a ?grand stairway.?  Though it is visually striking, it is the concave nature of the steps that really catches my attention.  Each individual stair is crafted out of heart of pine.  Heart of pine is rock hard.  If these stairs could talk, I wonder what they would tell us about the thousands of feet that have trod up and down the stairs to the point that each stair is worn and concave.  Would the stairs whisper the hopes, dreams, disappointments, joy, anger, and tears of the persons who have moved up and down these stairs for the past 137 years?

Rumor has it that in an earlier generation, some students took a cow up these magnificent stairs all the way to the bell tower and left the cow there so that others would have to figure out how to get the cow down.  In 1939, a student named John Birch formally charged some of his professors with heresy.  The formal heresy trial was held in this building.  The accused and the accuser tread up and down these magnificent stairs.  Concave stairs with thousands of stories.  If these stairs could talk?

The stairs (and the building) were designed by the famous architect, Louis Henri Sullivan.  Sullivan is known in the world of architecture as the ?father of modernism?.  It is he who developed and designed the first skyscrapers built with steel beams.  Sullivan was Frank Lloyd Wright?s mentor.  This building is only 5 stories tall and there are no steel beams in the building.  It is constructed entirely of masonry and framing.  In-between each floor is a remarkable feature.  To make the building as flame retardant as possible, Sullivan put 3 feet of sand encased in the masonry and framing so that if there was a fire, it would have difficulty moving from one floor to the next.

Concave stairs? Worn down from foot traffic? If these stairs could talk.

The staircase of which I write is to be found in the Kirby Godsey Administrative Building at Mercer University.  One can see this building from Centenary Church.  Together these buildings (Centenary Church and the Mercer Administrative Building) have presided over this part of Macon for well over 100 years.  These old buildings have watched as students came and went.  They wept during the various displays of bigotry and racism in an earlier day.  They endured as white folks left downtown Macon, fleeing an irrational fear.  The flight to the suburbs spelled hard times for Beall?s Hill, Tattnall Square, Huguenin Heights, and Intown Macon.  These old buildings have endured. 

And now there is resurgence.  Intentional community building and revitalization are evident.  Those who function out of these old buildings understand that there can be no isolation from the community.  There are many new stories in the making in both buildings - new students, new church-goers, new community and advocacy groups, new professors, new president, new provost, new church staff.  It is a new day filled with hope, longing, vision, and determination.  God smiles.  Like two sentinels, these magnificent buildings have endured.  All of us in the Centenary and Mercer communities are trustees of these buildings for a brief period of time.  They will outlast us, just as they have outlasted several generations.  May our sojourn in these buildings be energetic, hopeful, purposeful, grace-filled, visionary, and community based.

If these stairs could talk?.   If these buildings could talk?

Thanks be to God!

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Nueva Vida is a part of the Centenary faith community.  Each Sunday at 4 pm a Spanish service of worship takes place in our sanctuary at 4 pm.  However, this Sunday the Nueva Vida service will happen at 1 p.m.  If you would like to attend the service, after the 11 a.m. service, go grab a bite to eat and return for the service at 1.  That is what I am planning to do.  I may be a little late because of a lunch meeting, but I will be there.  Do you want to join me as we show our appreciation of Nueva Vida?

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It?s Kinda Like?

This Sunday, September 26, we will continue the sermon series about the parables of Jesus.  Here is the schedule:

September 26 The Prayer God Hears   Luke 18:9-14

October 3 The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37

October 10 The Workers in the Vineyard Matthew 20:1-15

October 17 The Rich Fool Luke 12:13-34

October 24 The Parable of the Soil Mark 4:1-9

October 31 The Lamp Matthew 5:14-16

November 7 (All Saints Day) The Great Dinner Luke 14:15-24

November 14 The Rich Man & Lazarus Luke 16:19-31

November 21 Prodigal Son Luke 15:11-32

 

Grace and Peace,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself. Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org      

 

September 30, 2010


Dear Centenary family,

In reading some of the work of my friend, Jim Harnish, I am once again reminded of the danger of being parochial.  Parochial has two definitions:  1) Of or relating to a church parish.  2) Having a very limited or narrow outlook or scope; provincial; parochial views; a parochial mentality.

Why would those two definitions belong to the same word?  The implication is that a church parish mentality is parochial.  Yet, I know what the truth is ? How easy it is for the church to slide into a comfortable, cozy, complacent, provincial understanding of life, faith, and theology that reflects our own narrow cultural experience!

When churches become parochial, they are by nature paralyzed.  They have lost the essence of the Good News.  Parochialism in the church leads to a nationalistic perspective that paralyzes any movement toward God?s vision of peace for this world. 

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, stated clearly ?I look on the whole world as my parish!?  That perspective is the opposite of parochialism.  The Body of Christ transcends all barriers? national, racial, cultural, socio-economic, language, education. 

Breaking free from parochialism and provincialism makes life a lot more fun!   So, just for fun, here?s a European vision of what happens when every culture does what each does best:

Heaven is where the cooks are French,

            The police are English,

            The mechanics are German,

            The lovers are Italian,

            And everything is organized by the Swiss.

 

Hell is where the English are the cooks,

            The Germans are the police,

            The French are the mechanics,

            The Swiss are the lovers,

            And everything is organized by the Italians.

 

Isn?t God?s world a wonderful place!  I borrowed that definition of heaven and hell from Len Sweet who goes on to say, ?The church is the place where people from diverse tribes and nations are affirmed in their magnificent variety.  The church is a community where people can be what they are, and do what they do best.? 

 

Amen to that!

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The sermon series ?It?s Kinda Like?? continues this Sunday.  Stacey will be preaching on The Good Samaritan.  I will be present and listening for God?s Word.  Come join me! 

 

Grace and peace.

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

 

www.centenarymacon.org