From Our Pastor

Making His Presence Known

Posted 14 September, 2017 by Pastor Keith Ritchie

This past Wednesday, I participated in monthly prayer walk with Ed and Margaret Dietrich. This month, we walked to the Southern Area Agency on Aging (SAAA) on Cleveland Street.

It is custom with this ministry to send a letter ahead of time to the agency to which we go to pray. I believe this is a courtesy informing the agency of what we are doing should we surprise the people there with our presence; it also allows the agency the opportunity to tell us if they would rather we not be there, a decision we would respect.

Arriving at the SAAA, I told a representative we had arrived and would be outside praying for the workers there and the people they serve. However, instead of simply thanking me and returning to her work, she told me they were expecting us. She invited us inside.

She led the three of us to a room looking much like the church conference room, where some SAAA staff had already gathered. They were awaiting us, so as to take part in this time of prayer. Other staff members were arriving to pray as well.

In this conference room, those of First UMC joined in prayer with our neighbors down the street. We prayed for those who work at SAAA. We prayed for the clients they serve. We prayed for those recovering from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Together, we prayed the Lord's Prayer.

I remember this experience with deep gratitude. I do so because this was a powerful witness to what can happen when the church reaches into the community. It is a powerful witness to the ministry God entrusts to us as an Uptown Church. In other words - as soon as we step from the doors of this church, we meet our neighbors in this mission field. Finally, this was a sign that the ministry to which we are called for the sake of Jesus is a ministry making a difference and touching lives.

It is true we know the challenges of aging; we also worship and serve in an area that does not know the vitality we once knew. Still, we reach out as we are called to do and trust God to use our efforts to reveal his presence.

This is what happened as we prayed yesterday.

This is what happens each time we worship and serve; the God of abundant life and eternal life makes his presence known.

We see this again this Sunday. During the 8:45am service, we will baptize Chance Kier, his wife, Susan, and their daughter, Emberly. Chance's parents, Tim and Kimberly, recently joined First UMC during the 11am service. Chance, since moving here from Spartanburg, SC, has been active in worship and in the Tuesday night Young Adult Study led by Maegan Mitchell. As the community of faith that is First UMC, we share in this sacrament of baptism, remembering our own baptismal covenant and promising to affirm and support Chance, Susan, and Emberly as they claim the new life that is God's gift to all in the waters of baptism.

We worship and serve a God of resurrection; a God of new and abundant life; a God who makes all things new.