10-08-20 FUMC Update

I read a remarkable story this week about a young boy in Nigeria. This August, a Sharia court in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, (located in the predominantly Muslim northern region), sentenced 13-year-old Omar Farouq to 10 years forced hard labor in prison for the crime of blasphemy, “publicly insulting” Allah. Allegedly he committed this crime during a dispute with a friend. Farouq’s lawyer appealed the sentence, and naturally human rights advocates around the world have also condemned the Sharia court decision.  

Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland wrote an open letter asking Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to pardon Farouq but if nothing less, he  wrote, “I suggest that in place of the child, 120 adult volunteers from all over the world, gathered by us — myself personally among them — should each serve a month in a Nigerian prison.” (CLICK HERE to read more.)

WOW! Here’s what’s amazing. More than 120 people immediately volunteered to go to prison in place of Farouq so he might be forgiven and freed! THIS is the good in humanity. THIS is what we need to see more of in our world! And we have seen the idea of an innocent person volunteering to take the place of someone convicted of a crime in the Bible! Here’s one example, the story of Joseph in Genesis 44.

This chapter records Joseph’s encounter with his 11 brothers many years after they sold him into slavery. Since then, God had raised him to a position of great power in Egypt so that he was second only to Pharaoh in authority. But so much time had passed, and Joseph looked so different, that when his brothers came to Egypt begging for food after a famine in their land, they didn’t recognize him. Joseph chose NOT to reveal his identity and instead, he launched a plan that would show whether his brothers had any remorse over the way they had abused him.

Joseph had his silver cup put in his youngest brother, Benjamin’s, sack of grain, so that it would appear that Benjamin had stolen it. After the brothers were given grain for their families, they left Egypt and Joseph sent his servant after them to apprehend and accuse them of theft. They denied it, of course, but after conducting a search, the servant found the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack so the brothers returned to answer the charges.

Judah spoke for the brothers and knowing they could not clear their name he offered that they all become Joseph’s slaves. Joseph declined the offer seeing it as unfair to punish those who had not been caught with so-called stolen goods. Judah then told Joseph that they had had another brother, but he was dead (which must have amused Joseph, considering he was still very much alive!) Judah explained that he had only persuaded their father to allow Benjamin to go with them to Egypt by promising that if he did not bring Benjamin back, his father could blame him:

[Judah said to Joseph,] “Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.” Genesis 44:33-34

While neither Judah nor Benjamin was guilty of theft, Judah did not know for sure that Benjamin was innocent. But still, out of love for his brother and father, Judah offered to take his brother’s place as a slave in Egypt! 

This is a little bit like what Jesus did for us! It’s MUCH more than throwing a  lifeline to a drowning person or merely risking His life to save the world. Jesus LITERALLY sacrificed His life in order to take upon himself our guilt and shame so we could be forgiven and have eternal life!

I have flooded myself with questions about this story. What motivated so many people to volunteer to sacrifice so much to share Farouq’s sentence? How must members of the court who sentenced this boy be feeling about all this? How can ANYONE think this Sharia law is fair and just? I genuinely believe that while our criminal justice system is NOT perfect, it’s pretty darn good! But I also accept that even the best human criminal justice systems cannot and DO not replicate God’s perfect justice here “on earth, as it is in heaven!” As of today, I have not found an updated response from the Nigerian government but oh, how I pray!

HOW WONDERFUL TO SEE SO MANY PEOPLE, and NEW PEOPLE, IN CHURCH LAST WEEK! I loved the energy in church on Sunday, WOW!!  I do want to remind everyone that we are working hard to keep everyone protected so we will have overflow seating in Wesley Hall if and when we need it! If you would be willing to volunteer to watch the LIVE FEED with others in Wesley Hall if we get crowded, please let Shiela Haynes know so we have plenty of room for our visitors and guests.

Here’s a reminder of our occupancy from 9/20

–          Sanctuary: seating must be separated by ONE pew

–          Main floor pews: ONE couple and ONE single, TWO couples, THREE singles or ONE family of 3+ per pew) 

–          Balcony: FOUR short sides pews (ONE couple or ONE family up to FOUR per pew); ONE long per (THREE singles, TWO couples, or ONE larger family)

–          Choir: if couples sit together, TWP couples seated every alternative pew (Couples & TWO singles or FIVE singles)


WE’RE LOOKING TO START OUR NURSERY AGAIN! While we were planning to do this in the new year, we’ve determined a safe strategy to be able to move forward sooner and we’re looking for 2-3 AWESOME childcare givers! We are a Ministry Safe church, so we always have two adults working together who have had background checks and taken a very thorough, and enlightening, Ministry Safe training. The nursery will be available on Sundays from 10:30 – NOON. If there are no children, they will assist Paige in our Children’s Church so our volunteers can go to worship. If you know anyone, please have them contact CYNDIE EWERT.

UNITED METHODIST WOMEN HAVE A RADA CATALOG FOR YOU! This wonderful group of women exists not only to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ and be in supportive fellowship with each other but to contribute to missions in the global ministries of the UMC church. And guess what, with Christmas just 11 weeks away (YIKES!) you can help just by SHOPPING the Rada kitchen products! Rada is MUCH more than a KNIFE company, they have an entire line of great kitchen products and with so many more people cooking at HOME these days, having the right tool for the job makes all the difference! If you plan to buy something, this Sunday there will be a Rada catalog for you to take home and begin making your wish list – we’ll be providing details next week on HOW to order.

ARE YOU TAKING PICTURES? If you have special events and wonderful happy moments to share, please email or text me a picture to share on Sunday morning!

ALL SAINTS DAY: Sunday, November 8, 10:50 am ~ Once a year we celebrate the communion of saints as we remember those who have died during our current year, both in our local congregations and throughout the Church universal. On November 8, we’ll light candles for members of our church family who have gone to heaven this year: Bobbie Henson, Mary Sharrai, Tillman Turner and Katie Park, but we will also include immediate members of YOUR family if you would please get us their names. Thank you for helping us plan ahead!

THIS SUNDAY we start a new series called DROPLETS of GRACE ~ I’ll be asking where you HEAR God, SEE God and FEEL God’s presence around you, especially in difficult times! If you have a story to share please let me know! For this Sunday you might want to read the story of Samuel, 1 Samuel 3:1-20, so you can answer God’s question, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW.

Stay safe, see God’s droplets of grace all around you!

Pastor Debbie


9-24-20 FUMC Update

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this week after battling pancreatic cancer at age 87. The second woman and the first Jewish woman ever appointed to the high court, Ginsburg was a strong liberal voice for gender equality, separation of church and state, and the rights of workers, voters, immigrants, persons with disabilities, and minorities. Tributes to “RBG,” whom Chief Justice John Roberts called “a justice of historic stature, … a tireless and resolute champion of justice,” have been piling up on the steps of the Supreme Court and she is now the first woman to be given the honor to lie in state at the Capitol.

In more recent years, Ginsburg found herself more often in the minority on the court, but in the tradition of Jewish prophets, who she was named after, she embraced the value of dissent, using her prophetic voice to point out what she thought was incorrect about the majority opinions.

As in our current worship series on GOD, POLITICS, and the CHURCH, I won’t comment on the political battle over how and when her seat on the Supreme Court will be filled, but I have been thinking about the role of our justices, in their advocacy and dissent, as they function in the life of God’s people. We seem to have lost the ability to “agree to disagree” in a diplomatic way so you might ponder these questions with me:

– Is it possible to voice dissent without becoming disagreeable or discouraging? If so, how might dissenters present their positions in a constructive way that draws people to listen?

– Who has spoken words of dissent into your life? Who has been an advocate? How did they impact you?

–  How have you seen people of faith function effectively as dissenters? As advocates? How can voicing dissent further God’s work? How can advocacy build up the community of faith?

– How should Christians determine what issues are important enough to warrant dissent to popular opinions? Where can we find the courage to dissent when it seems as though everyone disagrees with us, and when dissent could cost us dearly?

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king; let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak.” … [Then Micaiah said to King Ahab,] “So you see, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; the LORD has decreed disaster for you.” 2 Chronicles 18:12-13, 22

CHILDREN’S CHURCH IS BACK! We’re so excited that Paige Baber is back to engage the kids in learning more about the love of Jesus Christ! In order to make enough SAFE SPACE, they will be meeting in the Family Life Center from 10:50 am until the sanctuary service ends.  Parents, please drop your children off the FLC at about 10:40 am and then scurry over to pick them up when the sanctuary service is over. We’ve explained to the children that IF IT’S OK WITH THEIR PARENTS, they can take their masks off when they are seated APART from others, but if they’re standing or walking around, they should keep their masks on. Paige is doing her student teaching at Winnsboro Elementary School this semester so she’s tuned into safety protocols – thank you Paige!

I also want to say a HUGE, GIGANTIC thank you to our wonderful volunteers who make ministry SAFE for our kids! Thank you, SANDRA STRICKLAND, DON BEATY, and ED PAGE who assist Paige, in this important ministry. We are a Ministry Safe certified church so all our adult volunteers are Ministry Safe trained and work in teams of two. Teamwork is so important so please thank them ALL!

CARTER BLOOD CARE COMING TO WINNSBORO, Tuesday, September 29, 7 a.m. ~ 1 p.m. ~ This Tuesday morning there is a blood drive in Winnsboro at USA Harness on Coke Road. Our blood banks are exceptionally low and with surgeries starting up again Carter Blood Care really needs our help. You can go to https://www.carterbloodcare.org/donate-blood/

SUNDAY HAPPY MOMENTS ~ Please, please, please take out your cameras and capture the HAPPY MOMENTS where you see God working in your life or things that make you SMILE! I would love to share everyone’s pictures of their grandbabies (mine would be first, haha!) but let’s look beyond. I’d like to see pictures of the kids back in CHILDREN’S CHURCH, or our Sunday schools doing something special, or YOU doing something to serve someone else or a special accomplishment of your children! I’d like to show a few on Sunday but I can put LOTS of Facebook so please send me your pictures!

I look forward to continuing our political conversation this Sunday and I’ll be talking about Isaiah who warns the people NOT to put their trust in other countries because they have the most chariots and horses who could protect them … they should only put their trust in GOD!  (Isaiah 30:1-8)

In Christ Alone,

Pastor Debbie