Pastor's Column in the December Newsletter

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Joy to the world the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King:
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.
Isaac Watts’ “Joy to the World” eighteenth century hymn continues to reverberate across the world. As I think about the people, places, and times that this hymn has been lifted, I marvel at the ability of the human spirit to triumph over whatever the current circumstances may be. Whether it be world wars or local peace, rumors of wars or hints of prosperity, famine or plenty, recessions or boom times, the word that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem continues to best the best news ever!

Recent months have brought a new uncertainty to many of our minds. I cannot remember moments like these, and yet for some of us this brings to mind memories that we thought had disappeared forever. As we finish this year fraught with ambiguity I remind us that we know that the source of our joy is Jesus Christ. In moments like these it helps to lean back into the everlasting arms of our God and remember that the promises of love, joy, and peace are ours through Jesus.

This month we will have opportunities to celebrate the birth of Christ with our Christmas concerts scheduled on December 13 and 14. Later, our children will have a birthday party for Jesus on Sunday December 21st during the worship celebrations. Finally, on Christmas Eve we will have two worship celebrations: one at 5:00 p.m. will be a kid friendly and adult savvy family celebration, the other will be a “midnight” communion service at 11:00 p.m. Both services will feature the reading of the familiar lessons, the singing of our favorite carols, and the lighting of candles to celebrate the birth of the King!

Prepare your heart this month to receive the Jesus once again. This year and every year the news that Jesus Christ was born is worth shouting from the mountaintops.

Grace and Peace, Allen

Pastor's Column in the November Newsletter

Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ
– the One Who Is, the One Who Was, and the One Who Is to Come!

Two phrase have stuck in my spirit over the past few weeks. One is “the answer to how is yes” and the other is “let the little children come to me.” The first statement I heard when I attended a conference in Atlanta and referred to a book written by Peter Block by the same title. Block’s book invites us to consider whether we too often ask the wrong question when we seek to accomplish something important in our lives. We too often ask "How?" which focuses on how we will get the job done and reveals our desire to control of people, time, and cost. Instead, we need to focus on "Why?" We need to pay attention to what really matters to us personally, from heart-felt commitments in our private lives to the creation of projects in the workplace. To be able to act on what matters, explains Block, we must reclaim our idealism.

As I was considering this phase I was pondering the stained-glass window in our sanctuary that depicts the scene just after Jesus says to his disciples, “let the little children come to me” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus goes on to say, “and do not stop them; for it is to such as these belongs the kingdom of heaven.” How many of us have heard a plea from a Sunday School teacher or a preacher for us to have a more childlike faith? As I pondered the two phrases I remember how children are always asking the “Why” questions and never seem to be bothered by “How” questions. In that moment I sensed in my spirit where we stand as a church.

In the face of needing to pay attention to our children’s spaces, deal with sanctuary renovations, and provide staffing for an emerging generations I find myself bogged down in the “How” questions: How will we pay for this? How will we find new members? How will we …? What Block’s title reminded me was that we need to return to the childlike wonder of the “Why” questions: Why do we exist as a church? Why care about children? Why pay attention to worship or Sunday School? Why, because Jesus has entered our lives and he invites us in big and small ways to beckon others to join us on the journey.

This month we will be asking you to join us for an open house for the Queen Street Academy. You will have a chance to see the kid’s art work, roam the space a little, and spend some time with Bridges and me in conversation about the why questions for the present and future needs for our children’s programs. The following week we will join forces with Stop Hunger Now to provide thousands of meals for starving persons across the world. During this month we will also take time to invite you to commit your resources in the coming year.

I know that asking you to plan your future giving in the midst of current financial stresses is difficult. I invite you to consider two thoughts as you pray about how to utilize your resources in the coming year: First, I invite you to consider the “why” of your gifts and leave the “how” to God, for this is what children do best! Second, if you stand with me in knowing that introducing children to Jesus is crucial, then I invite you to make a deeper commitment to our children and to the renovation of the spaces for the next generation to play and learn.

I give thanks every day that the people of Queen Street Church continue to find a way to say “YES” to God’s future for our life together. I hope you will join me in saying thanks be to God for the saints, sinners, and ministry of the people called Methodist on Queen Street!

Grace and Peace, Allen

Pastor's Column in the October Newsletter

Sisters and Brothers in Christ!
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Paul wrote these words when he was asked about how worship was to be conducted within the Christian community in Corinth. Every worship service contained moments of hymn singing, scripture sharing, truth-telling prophecy, and even tongue-speaking … all with no rhyme or reason. The people were confused and Paul said, “step back and take a moment to get organized. Everybody needs to come together ready a moment to share, but then organize your efforts. Everything will come in due course.”

So it is with Queen Street Church this month. We are “disordered!” The worshipping space of our Sanctuary is being refurbished with a renewing of our floors and pews. While that is going on, we are worshipping in our Fellowship Hall and the space is small and we cannot see around columns or over the heads of others. Sometimes the words are “disordered” on the screen and we cannot always hear or see what is going on. In the midst of this I give Gods thanks that we have been a people of peace! Thank you for bearing with us as we begin a season of renovations to our facilities.

We anticipate moving back into the sanctuary in early November and then we will begin renovations of our children’s space on the main floor of the education building. Already you can see signs of the education renovations as carpets are being removed and floors being exposed so that our architect and contractor can help us discern the next steps for our renovation. As events unfold in the coming months I encourage you to remain a people who serve a “God not of disorder but of peace.”

Within this newsletter you will find news of events for young and old alike throughout October. In November and December we anticipate several worship celebrations that will highlight our renewed spaces. We will do our best to keep you apprised of these events as we nail down the dates. Above all else, we know that God is with us to bring peace in the midst of the disorder of our worship space, the disorder of a new Kinston being birthed, and even the disorder of our current economic mess. God is with us – we are not alone – let us give thanks to our Father in heaven!

Grace and Peace, Allen

Pastor's Column in the September Newsletter

Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ
The One Who Is, the One Who Was, and the One Who Is to Come!

There comes a time when our hearts turn from summer living (and loving) to back to school sales and fall football games. As we make this turn at Queen Street Church we are starting on some new adventures. In the coming weeks you will see signs of the times as our Queen Street Academy launches its fall after-school program, the renovation begins on the main floor of the education building, and the organ begins being reinstalled in the sanctuary. Pay attention in the coming weeks for a congregational meeting on Sunday September 7th to discuss several changes that the organ committee is proposing for our sanctuary as the organ is being reinstalled.

Listed below are several new opportunities that are emerging this fall:
  • The Wednesday Fellowship Meal begins on September 3rd at 6:00 PM
  • The Fall Wednesday Night Bible Study begins on September 3rd at 7:00 PM
  • King’s Kids will begin on Wednesday September 3rd at 7:00 PM
  • United Methodist Youth Fellowship restarts on Sunday September 7th
  • The Congregational Care Team begins training on Wednesday September 10th at 10:30 AM
  • The Upper Room Coffee House restarts on Friday September 19th at 7:00 PM
Here are the details on the adult studies that begin this fall:
  • The Wednesday Night Bible Study is titles “Serving from Your Heart: Finding Your Gifts and Talents for Service.” This study will help you build confidence and commitment as you discover your own unique gifts and talents for service in the church and community. You will explore your gifts, find your passion for service, and then get connected for service. Along the way you will examine your gifts, talents, abilities, resources, personality, dreams, experiences, and strengths. My hope is that each of us will find out something new about who God has created us to be.
  • On Wednesday mornings on a bi-weekly basis our Congregational Care Team is going to being trained using the study “Developing a Caring Community: A Course in Pastoral Care Ministry for Laity.” This study will help us learn how to care for each other as God cared for the world. Remember that when the world was in trouble God sent his son to “become flesh and blood and move into our neighborhood.” We will learn to care for each other as members of the church experience brokenness in body, mind, and spirit. Please come learn how to care better for each other on life’s journey.
We are gathering momentum as the body of Christ on Queen Street and I think this fall we will see great signs of God’s hand moving in our midst as “we seek the prosperity and welfare of the city of Kinston.”

Grace and Peace, Allen

Congregational Development Report to the 2008 NC Annual Conference

The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2004 states that the “mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ,” and that “local churches provide the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” The North Carolina Conference has taken seriously this charge and over the past decade has provided leadership to the general church as we sustained growth in professions of faith, new membership, and worship attendance.

It is the function of the Commission on Congregational Development, and the associated Office of Congregational Development, to aid congregations and their lay and clergy leaders in creating strong and effective churches. Annually, new churches, and older churches of all sizes, are assisted with vision and mission planning, staff development, lay and clergy leadership development, building committee organization, and evangelism and outreach instruction. Each year about one hundred churches are assisted, most of them small membership in size, and this was again the case in 2007.

In 2007, the Office of Congregational Development co-sponsored with Windsor United Methodist Church located in the Wilmington District an event for small membership churches called Fan the Flame. This event will be supported again in 2008. The Office of Congregational Development continues to provide demographic research for local churches, districts and conference agencies. Data for these studies are supplied by MissionInsite, Inc. and the Office of Research for the General Board of Global Ministries at no cost to conference users.

In forty years, sixty-five attempts have been made to plant new churches within the bounds of the North Carolina Conference. These churches have been started in city settings, growing suburban communities, and rural communities. Membership in these new churches includes persons who are affluent, middle class, and poor, Anglo, Hispanic-Latino, African-American, Korean, Native American, and African. More than 72% of these attempts have been successful. In 2008, several more new churches will be planted following appointments to be announced by Bishop Gwinn at the conclusion of annual conference.

The Ten Dollar Club is administered by the Office of Congregational Development. The Club’s loyal members continue to provide funding to underwrite grants to new churches for land purchase and first building construction.

Allen Bingham, Chairperson
Stephen C. Compton, Executive Director, Office of Congregational Development

Pastor's Column in the June Newsletter

Sisters and Brothers in Christ –

Greetings in the Name of the One Who Is, the One Who Was, and the One Who Is to Come!

In the month of June we mark the closing of one year of my ministry with the people called Methodist at Queen Street UMC. It has been a long journey for me. I came with energy to spare and ready to lean into God’s future for Kinston. No sooner than I had arrived and we commending the soul of our sister Teresa Smith to God. My plans were changed. Our plans were changed. Suddenly we had to rely on God’s guidance as we began to move in new directions under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Where are we now? The pastor-parish relations committee hopes to hire a full-time director of our children’s ministry in the coming months. The board of trustees is utilizing the resources from the sale of the house on Margaret Lane to renovate spaces for children and youth ministries. We learned from our Music Academy what a venture into after-school care might look like in our building. So we are now positioned to open, pending renovation and hiring, an after-school program for elementary children this fall. With God’s blessing may it come to pass!

As the summer is now upon us, we are already shifting gears to implement strategies for the fall. As Jacob Mewborn and I reviewed our summer plans, it made sense to us to wait until August for us to launch a worship-filled weekly Bible study on Wednesday evenings. In the meantime we are looking over our calendars to find several times to gather ourselves together to have some fun and fellowship on some Wednesday evenings. We will keep you posted on the progress of our plans.

Sisters and brothers … we stand ready to move. Like many of you, I am excited by recent announcements of jobs coming to Kinston. I am excited about the resurgence I sense in our steps and encourage us to continue seeking for the welfare of the city, for in it we will find our own welfare (see Jeremiah 29:6). Keep praying for strength to lean into God’s vision for his soon-coming and already-arriving kingdom.

Grace and Peace, Allen

Pastor's Column in the May Newsletter

Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Greetings in the name of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

In our Easter sermon series I have been suggesting that after God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus became a God of motion. He was moving out to the gentile world when he encountered the disciples on the road to Emmaus. After he left them he showed up later in the evening with the disciples gathered in Jerusalem (see Luke 24). Later Jesus showed up to challenge the Thomas in each of us to accept that his wounds were real, his death certain, and his resurrection was the final word (see John 20). He went up Galilee to find disciples who had "gone fishing" and invited them back to the journey (see John 21). On the day of Jesus' Ascension he took his followers up on the Mount of Olives and commanded them to be his witnesses (the Greek here says martyrs) in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (see Acts 1:8).

In our day, I think our Jerusalem is the folks we know who show their devotion to God by showing up to worship at Queen Street and being a part of the body of Christ in this place. Jesus says we are to faithful witnesses here and so we are. Our Judea is the folks who look like us, act like us, worship the God made known in Jesus like us, and who are already aware of the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. Our Samaria are the folks around who do not look like us, do not behave like us, or do not know Jesus Christ and call upon his Name. Finally, we are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ around the world ... to whatever end of world God call us to go. As I read the book of Acts I see Jesus leading the church to be a body in motion and I see Queen Street warming to the task of perpetual motion for God as well. Thanks be to God.

I invite you in the month of May to join for the fellowship meal as we explore how we are becoming a body in motion. One night we will discuss our children and youth space and the hiring of a children's minister, another night we will feed at least 2,500 starving people in an effort with the good ministry of STOP Hunger Now! Another night will remember how the early church cared for its members and pray about how we care for every member of the congregation as we move forward. Finally, our Ministry Review Team will present its report to the congregation and help us begin to move united as the body of Christ on Queen Street. We are a body in motion ... come join the journey.

Grace and Peace, Allen

Pastor's Column in the April Newsletter

Greetings Resurrection People!

The first “resurrection people,” the disciples of Jesus, responded to the good news of God’s triumph over death in varied ways. Some women trembled at the news (see Mark 16:8). Another woman asked a gardener where they had moved Jesus’ body (John 20:11-18). The men did not believe the resurrection word of the women (see Luke 24:22-24). Others sought to escape the confusion by leaving town (see Luke 24:13-35). Some doubted in the bodily resurrected and others believed (see John 20:19-29). Ultimately every one of those followers was commissioned by Jesus to “be my witnesses to the end of the earth” (see Acts 1:8). Ever since that first commissioning, to be baptized into the body of Christ was to accept the call to be a missionary.

Missionary (noun) / one who attempts to convert others to a specific way of life, set of ideas, or course of action (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus). These words define our worship and preaching themes for the weeks following Easter. Each week we will talk about the large and small ways that each of us can engage in the task of carrying the good news of God’s love to every person with whom we relate to every day. I invite you to challenged by the Word of God to examine the moments in your life when you could invite someone to meet Jesus, to prepare our children to follow in the Way, to see our places of work and play as opportunities for God to move among us, and to examine how God uses our weaknesses and excuses to make a way for someone else to meet Jesus. I hope you will find your place among the saints and sinners of Queen Street UMC who are following the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

As we worship I invite you to join us for our Wednesday night fellowship meal and Bible Study. This month we will be moving into a discussion of how the Spirit of God calls us into the community of faith. We will remind ourselves that the song from our childhood that says “here is the church and here is the steeple; open the doors and see all the people” forgets that first and foremost the church has always been the people – the community of faith.

Grace and Peace, Allen