Posted on June 29th, 2012
Pastor’s Column published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for July 2012)
Dear Friends at Farmville Baptist Church,
With mixed emotions, I am writing to announce my resignation as pastor of Farmville Baptist. My last day at church will be Sunday, July 22, and we hope to move to Charlottesville sometime early August. As most of you know, on June 17, the congregation of University Baptist Church of Charlottesville, the church where I served as associate minister for close to nine years, voted to call me as their senior minister. While I am excited about this opportunity and this homecoming with friends, it is difficult to leave this church home, one also filled with close friends.
I want to thank you all for welcoming me, Beth, and the kids so warmly and sharing your lives with us for the past seven years. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving as your pastor. It has been a blessing to walk the journey of faith with you as we have worked and worshiped together. In my own family, you have supported me through many changes. In the words of Cecil Yeatts, you’ve “broken me in,” patiently guiding me in my growth from associate minister to pastor. Thea and Wes were seven and barely five when we arrived, and we appreciate your help over the years in teaching them Sunday School, directing their choirs, exposing them to missions, supporting their attendance at Passport camps, and much more. Beth has appreciated the ways you’ve been supportive and respectful, giving her the freedom to invest herself in ministry at the church without ever communicating to her that she is obligated to do so. When my parents-in-law moved to Farmville, you reached out to them, befriending them, visiting them, serving them the Lord’s Supper, and assisting with practical matters such as navigating stairs or repairing their car. All of us have felt supported by your prayers not only in times of illness or in moments of loss, but in our daily comings and goings.
In other words, even as I have ministered to you, you have ably ministered to me and my family, fulfilling the biblical images of being the body of Christ or the family of God. I know that my family is only one of countless many who have been touched by your prayers, service, and kindness. May God bless you richly in the months and years to come.
In Christ, Michael
Posted on June 1st, 2012
Pastor’s Column published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for June 2012)
These past several weeks have been a season of graduations in our church and community. We saw many of our college students, including our own Liz Chassey and Ryan Yeatts, earn degrees. Carter Chassey and Charlotte Cave graduated with honors (both of them!) from Prince Edward High School and Fuqua High School. Last week, I attended the graduation ceremony at Prince Edward Middle School and watched with pride as my daughter Thea and Erin Copeland walked up the stage to receive their certificates. There were many joyful moments as parents, family members and friends proudly celebrated the accomplishments of these young people. On Sunday, June 3, we will have an opportunity as a congregation to honor and recognize our graduates at the end of worship.
As we celebrate with these young people the completion and end of a significant chapter in their lives, we also anticipate the dawning of a new chapter. Graduation is not just the end; it is also the beginning, the commencement of something new, something different, but no less important. For some graduates, the future is pretty certain: high school or college. For others, the future is still not too clear as they seek employment or acceptance from graduate schools. But in all these situations, we have faith that God will be with them, leading them every step of the way.
At the end of the book of Revelation, the apostle John recorded a vision of the Lord proclaiming, “Behold, I am making all things new!” God continues to be at work making things new, not just for these graduates, but for all of us, as we continue in our journey of faith. New chapters are constantly unfolding before us as each day contains the possibility of the commencement, the beginning of something new that God is doing. Some of those things may be eagerly anticipated; others not so much. But in all these situations, we have faith that God will be with us, leading us every step of the way with hope into God’s future.
So, as we recognize our graduates on their school commencements, let us also recognize that each day is the commencement of something new that God wants to make in each of our lives!
In Christ, Michael
Posted on May 1st, 2012
Pastor’s Column published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for May 2012)
One of the joys of living in Virginia is the fact that we have four distinct seasons. My favorite season is the season of spring. Every year during this time, I marvel at the transformation of the world around us as the drab, dull, dead of winter give way to the vibrant, living colors of spring. Even though I suffer from seasonal allergies, the aggravation of sniffles and itchy eyes is worth the beauty of seeing the yellow branches of forsythia, the white blossoms of the Bradford pear, the purple redbud, and the greening of new grass and leaves! It gives me great joy to see and experience the transformation of life.
In the past couple of months, I also have had the joy of seeing transformation in the lives of the participants in our discipleship huddle groups. For ten weeks, fourteen Longwood students met at Farmville Baptist on Tuesday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. to deepen their connections with one another and to strengthen their relationship to Christ. Jim Davis and I had the privilege of seeing the joy of life transformation in these young lives. At our last meeting, these students shared what they’re taking away from this experience and here are some of the things they said:
“I feel much closer to God and to each person here in this group.”
“I’m opening up more and sharing what God is doing in my life with others.”
“I’ve been affirmed in my God-given gifts and abilities.”
“I’m feeling more confident about myself as a child of God.”
Similarly, I’m seeing transformation in the lives of the seven women who have been meeting together in a discipleship huddle group on Sunday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. Some of them shared their experience during worship on April 29, but here are some of the things they have said during our meetings:
“God is helping me to focus on peace and forgiveness instead of negativity.”
“I’m more in tune with God’s plans—instead of my plans—for me.”
“God has released me from a pain that I’ve been carrying for a long time.”
“I’m beginning to feel more connected to people at Farmville Baptist.”
“Instead of controlling my life, I’m learning to let God have control.”
What a joy and privilege it has been for me to walk along side these individuals and see the ways that God is working in their lives! As a pastor, what a blessing it has been for me to witness the blossoming of individuals as they follow Jesus and live the abundant life that they have been created to live! For me, this is what church is all about—the transformation of lives so that the body of Christ can live into its calling to be the presence and blessing of Christ in the world. May God continue this transforming movement in more and more lives here at Farmville Baptist!
Yours in Christ, Michael
Posted on March 13th, 2012
Pastor’s Column published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for April 2012)
As a part of our ongoing process of “writing our future story,” Jay Lynn is scheduling interviews with members of Farmville Baptist. Unlike the interviews that we did in the Fall for our 175th Anniversary Celebration — which were videotaped and were focused more about our past and our present, these upcoming interviews will NOT be videotaped and they will be more in-depth and future-oriented. Think of these interviews as “taking the temperature” of the church and communicating that back to you. The eventual goal is to help the church find a common vision or “future story” that mirrors the dynamic story that has unfolded thus far in the life of the church.
Questions that will be asked include: Read the rest of this entry »
Posted on February 23rd, 2012
Pastor’s Column published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for March 2012)
I’m writing this column on the evening after our Ash Wednesday service. This service is one of my favorites in our church calendar. It lacks the pageantry and popularity of Easter (which I also like, of course!). But I like Ash Wednesday for its simplicity, intimacy, and the way it reminds me of what’s real.
This service had no fanfare—mostly just scripture reading, the Lord’s prayer, hymns, a homily and an anthem. But it had a powerful intimacy in the human touch of the imposition of ashes on the foreheads of the worshippers. And in the act of calling each person by name before pronouncing, “remember you were dust and to dust you shall return,” I’m reminded that what is ultimately real are not the programs or the budget of the church, but the lives that make up this congregation, from young children to senior adults and to all ages in between. During the imposition of ashes, I’m reminded of how God in Christ touches all our lives. I’m also reminded of those members who are no longer with us, and I think of those whose lives are presently hanging in the balance. The reality of our mortality jars me to gain a proper perspective on life and of what’s ultimately important.
In his book A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Henri Nouwen wrote “An Ash Wednesday Prayer” that eloquently articulates this perspective:
How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death?
Yes, Lord, I have to die–with you, through you, and in you–and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.
My prayer is that this Lenten season will truly lead us to find Christ again.
Blessings to you on the Lenten journey, Michael
Posted on February 1st, 2012
Pastor’s Column published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for February 2012)
During these past few Sundays, I’ve been preaching about kairos moments. Kairos is a Greek word used in the New Testament to signify not chronological time, but an opportune or right time. One could say that in the Bible, kairos is the term used for God’s time, a decisive time ushering the in-breaking of God’s presence into our lives and our world.
I feel that Farmville Baptist Church is entering a season of kairos time. First and foremost, I’m excited that, after a long hiatus, we are planning a summer mission trip to the eastern shores of Virginia on July 8 through 13. We are partnering with Habitat for Humanity that week to help build a Habitat home. We are looking to send a group of around fifteen people who are older than sixteen years of age (Habitat’s age limit). There will be an informational meeting on Sunday, February 19, after worship, and I encourage anyone who is interested in this project to attend.
Secondly, I anticipate a season of kairos as Jay Lynn continues to consult with us to help us discern where God is leading the church in its vision, purpose and mission. A series of discussion meetings and surveys are being planned right now, both for the congregation and for our community. I encourage all our members to participate in this process so that we will more clearly see God’s in-breaking vision for Farmville Baptist.
Thirdly, on February 5 in worship, we will celebrate Mc Amoss’ twentieth anniversary as our church organist! What a gift and treasure Mc is to our congregation! For two decades, week in and week out, Mc has blessed us with his gifts by leading our worship through music. So, on February 5, we are not only acknowledging the chronological time of Mc’s service, but also the kairos time, the opportune time ,to express our thanks and appreciation to God for Mc’s ministry among us.
Fourthly, on February 5, Joyce Davis will be our worship speaker. Joyce has been a member of Farmville Baptist for fifty-seven years (she was baptized into membership at a young age!), and she will share what God is teaching her about the promises and faithfulness of God. What an opportune time to hear from Joyce and for us as a church to affirm the promises and faithfulness of God!
“The kairos time has come, and Kingdom of God is near!” said Jesus. That was true over two thousand years ago when Jesus was beginning his earthly ministry, and that is just as true today here at Farmville Baptist!
Yours in Christ, Michael
Posted on December 22nd, 2011
Pastor’s Column published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for January 2012)
As another Christmas comes around the corner, my heart is filled with love for Farmville Baptist Church. What a blessing it is to minister with you as your pastor! Thank you for the generous Christmas love offering that you presented to me at the Christmas dinner. But most of all, thank you for the love you’ve shown me and my family over these past six years. Thank you for your gift of love!
I came across the following from an email and thought I’d share it with you:
It’s sharing your gifts, not purchasing gifts;
It’s not wrapping presents, it’s being present
and wrapping your arms around the ones you love;
It’s not getting Christmas cards out on time,
It’s sending any card, anytime, at the right time;
It’s not having the biggest and best Christmas light display,
It’s displaying the Christ light that comes from your heart;
It’s not Santa coming down the chimney,
It’s Jesus coming down from heaven,
and giving us the gift of love.
May the love of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be yours during this Christmas season!
Yours in Christ, Michael
Posted on December 1st, 2011
Pastor’s Column published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for December 2011)
As Thanksgiving recedes into the past, once again we are coming upon the season of Advent. No sooner as the dishes are washed and the leftovers packed into the refrigerator, we are getting out the Christmas decorations for our annual house makeover. In fact, as I’m writing this column, Beth and the kids are setting up the Christmas tree, putting up the nativity scene onto our mantel, unpacking the ornaments and carefully putting them onto the tree. (And while I did help a little with the Christmas tree, writing a newsletter column is one way to get out of doing all that work!)
During this season of Advent, Christians are admonished to prepare for the coming of Jesus by slowing and quieting down our hectic and boisterous lives, by releasing our worries and concerns, and by counting the blessings in our lives instead of obsessing over the things that we lack. But I must confess, it is hard for me to slow down when our social and even church calendars fill up with events. It is easy to worry about whether end-of-the year contributions will cover our expenses at the church. I grieve for those who have lost loved ones this year, and for whom Christmas will forever be different. In the midst of all these distractions and burdens, how are we to prepare for the coming of Jesus?
Thankfully, I ran across this prayer for Henri Nouwen. This will be my prayer for myself and for you during this Advent season. May it give voice to our desire for this season, and may God hear and honor this prayer and make it a reality in our lives, not only for this Advent season, but for the year to come.
by Henri Nouwen
Master of both the light and the darkness,
send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness,
yet seeking the light. To you we say,
“Come Lord Jesus!”
Posted on November 3rd, 2011
Pastor’s Column, published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for November 2011)
What a wonderful anniversary celebration we had on Sunday, October 16! It was so good to have former pastor Les Giles and his wife Joanna, former associate pastor Charles Miller and former music director Pam McDermott in our midst. We also appreciated Dennis Myers of the Southside Baptist Association, Don Campbell of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board and Jennifer Clore of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship for coming and issuing words of greeting and congratulations from their respective organizations. Many friends and former members of the church were also present for the celebration. And finally, we were honored to have several local pastors who came during our luncheon to offer well-wishes from their respective congregations.
The anniversary celebration could not have taken place without the investment of time, talents and work of many church volunteers. While I won’t be able to name every single person who helped out, I want to thank these folks: Peggy Cave, Nancy Vick, Becky Kelly and Ceile Dunlap for our history booklet. Jay Lynn & Thea Cheuk for assisting in the video, and for all who agreed to be interviewed. Jim Davis, Kevin Dunn and others who helped clean our building. Sandy Yeatts, Mary Jo Chassey, Peggy Cave, Anita Lynn and Mc Amoss and all our choirs for their wonderful music during our worship service. Gene Watson and the Stewardship Committee for sending out invitation letters to our members, former members and out-of-town friends of Farmville Baptist. Cindy Cave and the publicity taskforce for designing our banner and T-shirts, and for publicizing our celebration in local media outlets. Penny Huskey, Joyce Davis, George Carter and others from the Social Committee for planning and organizing the breakfast and the wonderful luncheon, for decorating the fellowship hall, getting the pumpkins and putting up the tents. For everyone who brought food to the pot-luck luncheon and cleaned up after the celebration. And finally, for Lucille Holman, for taking care of our children in the nursery these last twenty-eight years! For a recap and pictures of our anniversary celebration, please visit this page.
While we had a wonderful day on October 16, I would like for us to continue to celebrate our 175th anniversary throughout this year! To that end, we will invite former pastors and staff members to return sometime this year to visit the church. Rev. Chet Smith, who pastored FBC from 1976-1980, will be our guest preacher Sunday November 10. Chet is currently serving as Interim Pastor of Tar Wallet Baptist Church in Cumberland, and I’m looking forward to his preaching ministry with us that day.
Let us also use our anniversary year to look toward our future. Jay Lynn will continue to interview the congregation to help us discern our vision and mission. You will hear more about this in the coming months. Let us continue to thank God for Farmville Baptist as we celebrate this anniversary year to worship God, grow together and serve others into the future!
Posted on October 2nd, 2011
Pastor’s Column, published in The Informer (FBC Newsletter for October 2011)
As our 175th anniversary rapidly approaches, there’s an excitement in the air. Like a family that is preparing to host a big party, many members of Farmville Baptist have worked and are working hard to ensure that October 16 will be a special and meaningful day.
Peggy Cave, Nancy Vick, Becky Kelly and Ceile Dunlap have completed our history booklet.
By the time you read this, all of our Pictorial Directory portraits will have been taken by Daniel and Melissa McLemore of High Bridge Photography.
Jay Lynn, Executive Director of Who Needs Normal? Consulting, is completing the first round of video interviews to identify our strengths and gifts.
Jim Davis, Kevin Dunn and others have volunteered their time to clean our building.
Sandy Yeatts, Mary Jo Chassey, Peggy Cave, Anita Lynn and Mc Amoss are preparing wonderful music for our worship service.
Gene Watson and the Stewardship Committee have sent out invitation letters to our members, former members and out-of-town friends of Farmville Baptist.
Cindy Cave and the publicity taskforce designed our banner and T-shirts, and will publicize our celebration in local media outlets.
Penny Huskey and the Social Committee are organizing a luncheon that would make a die-hard Baptist proud!
To all of these people and many more unnamed, I want to say a hearty “Thank You!” for their contributions to our anniversary celebration.
In addition to the “Thank You’s,” let us also say, “You’re welcome!”
We welcome Jane Schirmer, who joined the church on September 18.
We welcome Matt Fuller, who is coming on board as our youth ministry intern.
We welcome the comments of those who participated in the interviews.
We welcome former pastors and staff members like Dr. Jason Thrower and his family; Rev. Leslie H. Giles and his wife Joanne; Pam McDermott and her family, and Rev. Charles K. Miller and Evelyn McCluney.
We welcome former members and out-of-town friends.
We welcome pastors of local churches who will come to our luncheon to express their congratulations and well-wishes.
We welcome the opportunity to embrace our history and reconnect with those who played a very important part in the life of Farmville Baptist.
But most of all, we welcome the Spirit of God, whose presence will be felt in a mighty way, and whose power will lead us forward in the months and years to come!
Let the celebration begin! Michael