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4-5-21 FUMC Updates

As I write this update, I can’t help but reflect on our 2021 Holy Week… 1 week ago we celebrated Palm Sunday and so many children helped us remember that Jesus rode into Jerusalem triumphantly and they actually recognized Him as a KING for the first time!

On Holy Thursday we had a moving and somber reflection of the last supper and experienced the emotion of the disciples as our readers reenacted their memories of their time with Jesus.   

Just yesterday morning, many of us were celebrating the risen Christ as the morning light came over the horizon at the Ragsdale’s beautiful home for our sunrise service… I couldn’t bring myself to even start on time because to see everyone gathering and the time of fellowship was so heart-warming and necessary!

And then, when Adler and Hearne arrived in the sanctuary to start tuning their guitars in preparation for our 10:50 service, Ken, and I both had tears of joy in our hearts as they began to practice CHRIST THE LORD IS RISEN TODAY! When the traditional service began, it was joyful and full of singing and worship, and there a spirit of energy and excitement that was truly overwhelming!

There are so many people to thank for making this beautiful week possible, many of you were behind the scenes and I don’t even know how you helped … but God knows, and He is smiling! To all the readers who played the roles of disciples on Thursday night, especially our kids, JACK CHANDLER, and LANE NEWTON, you were amazing!!  Clint Cooper, you were AWESOME narrating such a deeply moving and dramatic reading, and Danny Moss, Tommy Teague, Sue Gross, Bettye Gilbert, Brad Scharf, Carla Chitsey, and Dan Strickland … you were wonderful!

There are no words that can possibly do justice to the gratitude I have for Ken and Elaina who made our sunrise service so incredible!  Not just sharing their beautiful home but their giving spirit of joyful hospitality! Matthew and John Noe rebuilt the magnificent cross on the property, many people moved chairs and tables back and forth, others picked up donuts and made the coffee before 6 am!

So many of you also brought the beautiful Easter lilies that made our church so beautiful on Sunday! Julie and Elaina have designed our altarscapes all through Lent setting a tone for worship that is amazing! Shiela Haynes has coordinated all the “extras” for our worship services and along with ALL the ushers have made people feel welcome and safe at our church!

But most of all, my true rock star is KEN RAGSDALE!  As your Pastor, Ken is truly my partner in your worship experience!  I KNOW how much work goes into making our visual worship experience what it is – I know all the extra hours that go into preparing for special events – I know the anxiety that happens when technology problems pop up at the last minute – I know what goes on behind the scenes to make the Word of God come alive in a fast-paced and ever-changing world and Ken Ragsdale – I’ll say it again, you are my rock-star every single Sunday! 

THIRD VACCINE CLINIC COMING TO THE FLC THIS TUESDAY, 4/6, 3 – 5 PM … Christus Mother Francis Winnsboro is coming back to our FLC this Tuesday to vaccinate another 100 people and YOU have stepped up to show our neighbors our hospitality!  Thanks to the following who will help make this possible: Barbara Selvidge, Cyndie Ewert, Glynda Willis, Joan Willis, Erika Martin, Sandra Thompson, Chuck & Nancy Roy, Bettye Gilbert, and Clint Cooper! MANY THANKS!

UNITED METHODIST WOMEN, Thursday, April 8th, 10 AM, Asbury Hall … looking for a place to meet other Christian women who focus on faith, fellowship, and mission? Come join them back in their favorite room! 

DONATE BLOOD IN WINNSBORO THIS THURSDAY, 4/8, 10 am – 3 pm … once again we’re happy to work with First Baptist to support the Carter Bloodmobile coming to Winnsboro!  Make an appointment today by CLICKING HERE  – your gift DOES save lives!

BIBLE TALK WILL START BACK, IN-PERSON and on ZOOM WEDNESDAYS, APRIL 21st, 10 am – 11:30 am … now that COVID cases are down so drastically and most everyone who has wanted to be vaccinated is now safe to get out, we will meet IN-PERSON for a 5-week spring study, GOD’S MESSAGE TO YOU. We’ll be looking at 5 New Testament chapters, verse by verse, as the church began to grow after the resurrection of Christ.  IT WOULD HELP ME KNOW WHAT ROOM WE SHOULD MEET IN so please let me know if you plan to join us … we will either meet in ASBURY or in WESLEY. We will also welcome those who wish to join us on ZOOM and as always, you can find the sign-in link on the church calendar.

WINNSBORO CANDIDATE FORUM: Thursday, April 22, 6 pm, Civic Auditorium … I was honored to be invited to moderate the 2021 City of Winnsboro Candidate Forum!  The Winnsboro News is sponsoring this NON-PARTISAN event and I encourage everyone to exercise their civic duty to learn more about the City Council candidates (4 running for 2 positions) and Mayoral candidates (2 are running).  You can submit questions for… wnewseditor@outlook.com. The forum will also be LIVE STREAMED on the City of Winnsboro Facebook page.

EARLY RESPONSE TRAINING, Saturday, April 24 at First UMC Henrietta: do you feel called to be someone first on the scene when disaster strikes? After tornados, fires, floods, etc.? The United Methodist Church is ALWAYS ready to respond to emergencies and we provide the training!  Find out more about ERT here, or talk with our very own, Pastor Sue Gross who will be one of the trainers! If you’re interested, take part in socially distanced, in-person certification for Early Response Teams on Saturday, April 24 at First UMC Henrietta. Opportunities are available for new attendees and those looking to recertify. The cost is $15, which includes lunch. CLICK HERE for details.

I’LL BE ON VACATION FOR A FEW DAYS: I will be in town this week working on our next sermon series but on Friday I’ll be going to see my kids and Arkansas and then taking the next week off.  I’m excited to tell you that Sarah Doke from Tinney Chapel will be preaching this Sunday!  Sarah just completed her LAY SERVANT MINISTER coursework and will be officially commissioned at the Annual Conference in June!  We will postpone COMMUNION until I get back on April 18th and I’ll look forward to being back with you then!

For Pastoral Care needs while I am gone, 4/9-4/17, please call Pastor Sue Gross, 903-767-6339, or for general needs, contact our Lay Leader, Ted Haynes, at 972-533-9383.

WE WILL SOON FINISH THE GOSPEL OF MARK:  I have truly enjoyed studying the Gospel of Mark with you these last 12 weeks … to be able to closely follow one consistent story from beginning to end has been invigorating for me and I hope it has been for YOU!  When I get back, we’ll look at what the disciples experienced after Jesus’ resurrection and we’ll end in April with the ASCENSION!

In Christ Alone,
Pastor Debbie


3-28-21 FUMC Important Updates

How exciting to see so many young kids at our Palm Sunday service on Sunday! When the young families are here there is so much energy and JOY and I really do believe that as we begin to emerge into a new post-quarantine church, God will open exciting new ways to attract young families!  Of course, we’ll have to do our part to BE the kind of church where families want to raise their children to know the love of Christ … so how will we do that? First I’ll give you the EASTER updates, then our COVID PROTOCOL updates but then, please stay with me (or print this message attached) so you can read the entire plan … this email is PACKED with important information!

HOLY THURSDAY, 4/1, 6:30 pm, sanctuary … this Thursday night is a special worship service where we will immerse ourselves in the Last Supper with the disciples.  Can you imagine what each of them must have been feeling on that terrible night Jesus was betrayed and arrested? We will have communion together so if you’re watching at home, please have your bread/crackers and juice or water ready to join us.

SATURDAY, 4-3-2-1 PARADE & PRAYER … the attached flyer provides details on the COUNTDOWN TO EASTER with an 8 am 5K run/walk starting at Winnsboro High School, then a PRAYER PARADE at 9 am at WHS followed by an Easter Egg Hunt at 10:30 am at the high school.  There will also be a prayer time at our newest church in town FREEDOM CHURCH (Highway 11 east).

EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE: 4/4, 6:50 am, Ragsdale Home, 270 CR 4228, Winnsboro … come and have coffee and donuts with us as we begin the dawn of a new day at SUNRISE! Dress comfortably and invite your friends!  In the event of questionable weather, we will post an update on our Facebook page, website page, and Instagram by 5 AM.  We will have the service in the sanctuary in the event of rain so say a prayer for great weather!

REGULAR EASTER SERVICE, 10:50 am in the sanctuary … Adler and Hearne will be here to celebrate EASTER with us as we welcome families and hopefully, new friends who will all be coming to celebrate the RISEN CHRIST!

Also, I know you’re excited to have NEW people join us for Easter so PLEASE if you are able, park in my driveway, in front of my house, or in the parking lot in front of the Baptist Church! And won’t you PLEASE leave the back pews open for our guests? It’s hard to come to a new church the 1st time and not know what to do so please be aware of people you don’t know!

And one more thing, which I HOPE you will see as a very GOOD problem to have IF we have it! If we have so many people in the sanctuary that we need volunteers to move into Wesley Hall and watch LIVE on the big screens, please be willing to give up your seat! If you see me go stand by the choir door, I’ll raise my hand with the apx. number of people we need to make room for. Please just casually get up and go …  we won’t ANNOUNCE this because we don’t want anyone feeling awkward, just stand up and go to Wesley Hall please. THANKS, SO MUCH for truly putting others first!

As we announced on Sunday, COVID cases have dropped drastically in our 7 counties! In the last 4 weeks, there have been LESS THAN 425 cases per week in all our 7 counties compared to 2,500 cases per week in the January-February report. That, and because so many people have been vaccinated, we will remove the pew restrictions/ribbons next Sunday. Of course, we’ll encourage people to wear masks who still do not feel comfortable and ask that families keep some distance between each other, but we are going to empower people to make good choices for themselves. We’ll keep a close watch on the infection rate and be ready to CHANGE if we need to or, as new information emerges.

We have done everything we possibly can to make getting vaccines accessible for our church members and as of TODAY, everyone in Texas 16 and older is eligible to get the vaccine!  I recognize that some of you don’t plan on getting the vaccine so I’d imagine you’ll want to continue to wear masks and be careful about your social distancing. For everyone who feels safe, we can’t wait to see you back, AND YES, we will be standing again to sing!

First and foremost, we already have the most IMPORTANT thing we need – we love each other, and we are the most welcoming church in Winnsboro! We’re willing to love NEW members of the church family and we understand that the church does not exist for OUR benefit, it exists for the benefit of those who do not know the love of Christ! Because we are willing to put our desires to the side in order to make our church attractive for NEW people, God is already smiling!

Last fall when the Church Council was brainstorming our 2021 hopes to MAKE DISCIPLES, we recognized that some changes would have to happen … first, we had budgeted a part-time, 10 hour a week position for a CHILDREN’S MINISTRY LEADER but we realized if we were going to be true to our desire to grow our children’s ministry, 10 hours would not be enough! So, instead of replacing a 20 hour a week secretary whose primary time was spent doing financial work, we hired a professional CPA for 1/10th the cost, yes, 1/10th the cost! We then reallocated that salary in 2 ways …

Half of the secretary salary, 10 hours a week, was put toward a new position of SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATOR, and as you know Sarah Sparks was hired last fall.  To connect with young families, we knew we needed to use social media more effectively and since Sarah started, we have now strengthened our INSTAGRAM account, we’ve started a TWITTER account and, of course, we’re beginning to focus on building younger followers on FACEBOOK.

The other half of the secretary salary was added to the CHILDREN’S MINISTRY LEADER position so now, as we begin to come out of COVID, we will be able to hire a 20 hour a week children’s leader.  Let me share with you our goals for this position, understanding that based on coronavirus changes we have had to be FLEXIBLE in our timetables and most of this may not begin until late summer:

  • Restart children’s church Sunday mornings at 10:50 am (late spring)
  • Start a new mid-week evening adult Sunday School class for young parents and a new mid-week evening program for kids, 1st – 6th grade … we’ll begin having discussions with parents late spring/early summer.
  • Begin having a nursery during midweek programming and Sunday worship for infants through Kindergarten.
  • Start a KIDS’ BEACH CLUB MINISTRY at the school for 3rd thru 5th graders this fall … this is what we’re most excited about and we are working to get permission to do this now!  Bringing a “mini-VBS” to the kids in the school one afternoon a week is SUPER exciting … it will be a great way to serve children who DO have a church home but an even better way to REACH children who do not!

We also discussed the fact that if we want to attract younger families, WE NEED TO TRY A NEW MUSIC STYLE, with a goal of blending some newer music in with the traditional hymns.  As I have always said since I got here in November 2017, while some people would love to sing old traditional hymns every Sunday and others wish we could sing more new songs, when you love your neighbors, you’re willing to make a little sacrifice for each other!  And I believe, in this post-pandemic world, we have an opportunity to try something different if we really DO want to attract younger families.

We have had a budget for a music director for 2 years that we only used for 3 months in 2019, mostly because the choir had dwindled, then COVID hit. Starting this MAY, we’re going to step out of our comfort zone and try something QUITE different!  We’re going to give the choir a 3-month break and hire 1-2 musicians/soloists each week to come and play music and lead singing, combining traditional and new songs. I have asked Lola to be flexible and continue to support our musicians/soloists when we need a pianist, but I also realize she may want to find a new job.  I am trusting that God will work all this out!

We are blessed that we had 4-5 of our choir members return to church in December when we reopened and take turns leading us in music. I am so grateful they will continue through April.  
Then, in May through July, we will secure different musicians/singers to lead our worship on Sundays AND allow more time for MORE music in the service.  Our winter teaching service on Mark was designed for a quarantine service where most people were watching online, and many of them sign in and sign out for the message only and skip other parts of the service.  Simply put, a teaching service requires a little longer message, 30 minutes, where regular sermons can be shorter allowing more time for music! So why have I recommended we try something totally new? What kind of music am I talking about?

As I mentioned I would like to see a blend of both traditional songs, with maybe an updated bridge to add some “newness” to the traditional verse, AND some more contemporary songs that we can learn.  But I’d also like to try different styles … some of our local musicians write their own Christian songs, some are a little bit country, gospel, “Top 40”, etc., but they will ALWAYS do a blend of HYMNS from the hymnal and some new songs!

Benefits of having different musicians:

  • We can TRY new styles of music without committing to hiring just ONE worship leader; if we decide that someone is a fit for us and we are a fit for them later, we can cross that bridge IF we decide to hire “regulars.”
  • By having different musicians come and play they often invite their followers to come to hear them – this will give us an opportunity to meet new people and be exposed to opportunities to make disciples.
  • This will give us “something new” to promote heavily in our community and give people a chance to “come and see”! 

DOWNSIDES of trying something new?

  • Change is not always easy!  Some will be unhappy.  But what I know is this … if you ask everyone in our church, this question, “What’s more important, A) singing nothing but old, traditional hymns every Sunday, or … B) singing some old, traditional hymns and having more young families?” the vast majority would choose B! 
  • Not every musician will be “our” style and we won’t invite them back! We, okay I, will make mistakes!  But I am willing to ere on the side of trying than to not do anything at all, and I am willing to take full responsibility for trying something new!

I will be available after Easter to EVERYONE and ANYONE who has any questions or thoughts or concerns!  I realize change is a little scary – believe me, I’m having to put a LOT of trust in God in this process – but please come talk to me … my office doors are wide open! (After Easter!)

I am extremely excited about creating a music ministry that will reach a much broader audience than we have been able to reach in the past – I hope you are too! THE WORST THAT CAN HAPPEN? We stop doing this and try something different!


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.    John 3:16-17

Pastor Debbie


3-22-21 FUMC Update

How great to see more and more people coming back to church and hear that more and more people have had their vaccines!! You have no idea how bizarre it was to worship in an empty sanctuary for so much of the last year and to see you all coming back is incredible!

Thank you for being so cooperative about the TORNADO DRILL we had after church – DANNY MOSS YOU ROCK!  I have attached a map of the evacuation plan (CLICK HERE) so you will know where to go IF there is ever a weather emergency. Please look to see where you sit and know where to go – balcony folks will go to stairwells and main floor folks will go to the choir room/bathrooms in choir hall.

Yesterday we began the transition to HOLY WEEK as we talked about Mark Chapter 12 … since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the resurrection, heaven, and what we imagine the afterlife will be (Mark 12:18-27), but EASTER is just days away so death and resurrection is probably on your minds too!  I was really intrigued when I read a story about Timothy Keller, a well-known pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, who wrote a book called, On Death … it is a book of hope based on hundreds of hospice counseling experiences he had.

But last year, amid the Covid pandemic, Keller learned he has pancreatic cancer. Recently he wrote an essay in The Atlantic about having to confront his own death and he wrote: “I spent a few harrowing minutes looking online at the dire survival statistics for pancreatic cancer and caught a glimpse of On Death on a table nearby. I didn’t dare open it to read what I’d written.”  If you’d like to read the rest of this devotional, CLICK HERE.

2nD VACCINE CLINIC THIS THURSDAY, MARCH 25TH, 8 am – 1 pm … Christus Mother Francis Hospital Winnsboro is coming back this week (for ages 50+) and while I don’t know if there are any appointments available, if you want to make an appointment, CALL Diane Bottoms at Christus Mother Francis Hospital DIRECTLY and she will call you back .. 903-342-3960. If no answer, leave a message and she will return calls in the order they were received.

PLEASE HELP US show our community the HOSPITALITY in our hearts to serve others! CLICK HERE to see 1-hour time slots available … to welcome people as they come and go, pick up lunch for the 12 Christus employees (or perhaps, if you’d like to donate lunch for 12, reply to this email please.)  Thanks to Shiela Haynes and Sue Gross who will be overseeing the Hospitality Project!

FAMILY ACCESSIBLE RESTROOM COMPLETE!  If you missed church yesterday (you can watch it on Facebook or YouTube) I am very, very happy to announce that our handicap and family accessible bathroom is now finished and open to the public! So many generous, generous people made this important project possible … now, families have a bathroom to take their children and people on walkers or in wheelchairs can come to our church knowing we CARE!  Again, God knows who made this possible and He is smiling!

EASTER IS 2 WEEKS AWAY … April 4th!  We’re so excited that the most important week of the Christian year is almost here!  Palm Sunday starts HOLY WEEK and I do hope you will engage fully, in person or on Facebook LIVE, in these special worship services. See the website for details!  KIDS … please meet in the lobby of the sanctuary this Sunday, 9/28 at 10:45 am … you’ll kick off Palm Sunday for us!

I am blessed to be on this sacred journey to the cross with you!
Pastor Debbie


3-19-21 FUMC Update – Vaccines here at our FLC next Thursday 3/25, 8 am -noon

Thursday, March 25th, 8 a.m. to noon
For those 50 or older … email ASAP   Diane.Bottoms@CHRISTUSHealth.org 
To request an appointment for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine send an EMAIL and include birth date, phone number, and full name ASAP … appointments go very quickly!  Diane, from the hospital, will email you back with a time but be patient … she does not work over the weekend but will respond to emails first come, first served! 
Vaccines will be given in the First United Methodist Church Family Life Center (behind the church), 301 Church Street at Elm. (The church can not help with making appointments – please email diane.bottoms@christushealth.org)
Let us continue to pray that covid-19 can be eliminated!
Pastor Debbie


3-15-21 FUMC Updates

I am excited to share a brief devotional with you from one of our new Church Council members, someone you all know well from his role in our worship on Sundays AND his familiar voice on East Texas Radio stations … THANK YOU CLINT COOPER!  He writes:

Beware of the Ides of March. A soothsayer need not tell us this for March 15. Despite Julius Caesar’s death in 44 B.C., danger or change occurs daily in our lives. Also, on this date, Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. A deadly blizzard hit the Great Plains in 1941. Over 73 inches of rain fell over the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion. A generation mourned over CBS canceling Ed Sullivan in 1971. In 1988, NASA reported that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere is depleting three times faster than predicted, and last year the World Health Organization issued a global health alert. Exodus 27:30 says God organizes and always has a plan. God has a plan for our lives. Our goal should be to seek out, know and execute that plan for the best results in life. He is more than willing to share it with us if we humble ourselves and ask.


I’m so glad many of you were able to get signed up for the COVID vaccines this Thursday and Friday – as expected, all the appointments HAVE BEEN FILLED!

VOLUNTEERS STILL NEEDED FOR THURSDAY 3/18 & FRIDAY 3/19: many thanks to all the people who always sign up to help for anything we need but we still need YOUR help too!  We will gather to move tables around on WEDNESDAY at 4 pm and it shouldn’t take long … but I still need some friendly greeters to welcome people, “squirt” hands, and pass out water bottles when they leave.  Please take ONE HOUR to help us serve our community:

THURSDAY … 10 -11, 11-12, and 12 – 1

FRIDAY … 8-9, 9-10, 11-12 and 12 – 1

THE CARTER BLOODMOBLE IS COMING TO WINNSBORO: Thursday, April 8th … COVID has put an incredible strain on the blood supply so please make an appointment to donate …https://www.carterbloodcare.org/


3/28   10:50 am… Palm Sunday, kids will meet in the lobby at 10:45

4/1   6:30 pm … Holy Thursday, sanctuary, we’ll have a somber and sacred service to remember Jesus’ last supper, his agony on the garden of Gethsemane, and his arrest. If you’ll be watching from home, please have your elements ready to join us for communion.

4/4    6:50 am … Easter Sunrise, will be outdoors at the Ragsdale’s Home (270 CR 4228, Winnsboro) We will need some volunteers to help get some tables and chairs over there so stay tuned for details.

4/4    10:50 am … Traditional Easter, we’re very excited that we’ll have Adler and Hearn with us to help us celebrate here in the sanctuary! 

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT: The North Texas Conference UMC has asked us to remind everyone that we take sexual misconduct seriously and have policies in place to address clergy misconduct and congregant misconduct. The Policy on Sexual Misconduct regarding Education Within the Conference Relating to Sexual Misconduct for your personal reference www.ntcumc.org/Sexual_Ethics_Policy_9-2019.pdf . Should you have any questions, you may contact the CART team director Rev. Liz Greenwell at greenwell@ntcumc.org .

THIS SUNDAY, March 21, it’s the BEGINNING OF THE END, or as JoNell Newman reminded me, it’s the BEGINNING of the BEGINNING!  Jesus is going to Jerusalem and He is busy, busy, busy! Read Chapter 12 this week!

Blessings to all!
Pastor Debbie