Pastor's Report for Pinehurst UMC (2004)

dorean elabote, dorean dote. Given Gifts – Give Gifts. (Matthew 10:8b).

I continue to offer this phrase, the motto of the Theological School of Drew University, as my personal mission statement. I am privileged to employ my gifts among the Methodists of Pinehurst, North Carolina.

Our transitional journey from small to larger membership church, from store-front to permanent facility, from predominantly retired persons to a diverse cross-section of ages, from charter visionaries to emerging leaders continues. This journey is marked by transitions that are both transparent and murky. At times we have clarity and at other moments we seem to be grasping in the dark. The gift of this church is that we continue to see these possibilities as an opportunity to enjoy God’s blessings.

So far this year we have welcomed over 60 persons into membership in the church (current membership is 427 persons). Our worship attendance has jumped to 330 since Labor Day and we anticipate welcoming another 10-15 persons into membership on our Celebration Sunday (October 24, 2004). This Sunday will mark the ninth anniversary of our worshipping together in Pinehurst. In January and February of this year we read, taught, prayed and worshipped our way through Rick Warren’s book The Purpose-Driven Life. From Ash Wednesday through Pentecost we studied Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Most recently we have been paying attention to the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit to help us learn the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This year Roger and Jean Hicks arrived to provide leadership to our music ministry. They have embraced our love for traditional music and led us to deeper appreciation of contemporary music forms. They have also introduced us to gifted musicians in our midst: Robey Howard – saxophone, a trombone quartet featuring our high school students, a mixed instrumental ensemble, and choirs of pre- and elementary schoolers. Most recently they have invited us to journey in our appreciation of handbells through a special purchase made possible by the gifts of two families in the church.

Our ministry with children and youth is experiencing the pangs of growth as we move from crawling to walking. A special thank you is due Beth VonCannon and Susan Windley for leading us in our children’s church. Mary Kilkka provided invaluable leadership to our church school program and proved a strong proponent for enhancing our children’s spaces. Keith and Kerry Millikan joined Susan Brazaski in working with our youth and our kids are becoming vitally engaged in our church and community.

In our community we are making a mark of Jesus Christ. We support Friend to Friend, the Sandhills Interfaith Hospitality Network, the Coalition for Human Care, Habitat for Humanity, and Moore Housing. With our hands we have mowed lawns, weeded and planted flower beds, replaced roofs, built a house with Southern Pines UMC, served meals to the homeless with Community Presbyterian Church, and served countless hours in thrift stores. We have raised in excess of $15,000 for missions’ projects close at hand and at a distance. Surely we are living into God’s promise to Abraham that we are blessed to be blessing.

I continue to challenge our church to remember with Paul that the work of a pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry” (see Ephesians 4:11). I remain committed to setting each of us free for ministry in this place. I give thanks for Lucy Achuff and Ellen Hertlein who provided valuable assistance to the administrative life of our church. Their able handling of the details enables me to spend more time witht eh members of our church and in prayer with Jesus. I am also blessed to work with my colleagues Lovell Aills, Jean Arthur, Bruce Carlson, Betsy Kugel, and Ronda Torres. May we find strength in the willingness “to become all things to all people so that by all means some might be saved” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Congregational Development Report to the 2004 NC Annual Conference

The commission supports our annual conference as we respond together to Jesus’ challenge to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Our congregational responses reflect the diversity of the people called United Methodists and the geography we are called to serve. Many congregations are deployed to serve rural communities and small towns that are rapidly becoming urban and suburban centers. Today about half of the people called Methodist in our annual conference worship in 120 of our 840+ churches – this is a shift we are still trying to understand.

This year we continue to invite our conference to substantially increase membership in the Ten Dollar Club. This 50-year-old venture in our conference provides grants to start new ministries across the state and launch missions in other nations as well. We hold before the annual conference an ongoing goal of starting 5 new churches annually, utilizing the resources made available from Ten Dollar Club grants and other investments held by the Commission. In the coming years this will require a greater commitment from the Commission as we move to start new churches in areas where start-up costs are pushing beyond the reach of our current funding processes. To this end we are supporting the emerging work of the Congregational Development Fund, Inc. as it engages in a campaign to provide an increase in support to new faith communities.

As we ponder the changes in North Carolina’s cultural climate, we are reminded of the challenge to each of us to reach people for Jesus Christ. Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations call us beyond the bounds of who we used to encounter a new reality for many of our churches – the nations have come to our backyard. We celebrate the growth in membership, worship and Sunday school attendance in many of our churches. The Office of Congregational Development continues to assist nearly 100 churches each year. The assistance provided includes demographic research, local consultations, training and planning services for existing congregations. We are excited about the Wake Circles of Ministry in the Raleigh District and the launching of community ministry centers in the Rocky Mount District. These initiatives are in response to our bishop’s challenge to open 20 new faith communities in places affected by poverty by the year 2004.

Again, the work of the Office and Commission on Congregational Development is varied as we seek to serve rural, small town, suburban and urban churches in various socio-economic situations and cultural traditions, offering to each one the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your prayers and your support.

Wm. Allen Bingham, Chairperson