All are welcome at Winnsboro’s First Church so dive on in! We are a warm and welcoming congregation where you can meet people, celebrate life, grow deeper, stronger in your faith and turn energy into action that transforms the world. EVERYONE is invited and if you’d like us to meet you at the door, email us HERE and we’ll be there! 
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12-28-20 FUMC Updates

How did it happen?  We waited, and prepared, and decorated and shopped and looked forward to seeing family and then … Christmas finally came, and it was over in the blink of an eye!  I had a wonderful visit with my family, and I am so grateful we were all healthy and happy over a joyfully chaotic few days! I hope you, too, had a wonderful Christmas, although I know some of you did NOT have a “normal” celebration … some in the hospital, some in quarantine, some unable to travel, etc. I pray the droplets of grace that surrounded you helped you ALL feel God’s presence in those difficult times.

I have sensed a continued weariness as we wait just a little bit longer for the COVID vaccines to get distributed and things to return to some normalcy. But please do not let down your guard because this virus is deadly and destructive, and it spreads very quickly. While we were fortunate to get out of the red danger zone in our 7 county area, I was sad to see Net Health reporting our numbers, the week BEFORE Christmas, went up. We know that after holiday gatherings we will likely see those numbers go up even more so please be diligent in staying safe. Our church will remain open with all safety protocols in place, including wearing masks through the service as attendance and cases pick up again. If anything changes, we will update you.

CORONAVIRIS VACCINES … I hope everyone has done your research on the vaccines (CLICK HERE for CDC info). Jimmie Davis has been in contact with Net Health and they will let him know when the vaccines are available in East Texas … right now, Tyler HAS received a shipment for the health care workers first, but soon, they will be available for nursing homes and seniors and Jimmie will keep us updated.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 3rd thru APRIL 4, 10:50 AM … THE GOSPEL OF MARK: this Sunday fasten your seatbelts for a fast-paced, teaching worship series on the Gospel of Mark! This gospel shares a vivid account of Jesus’ ministry, moving quickly from one episode and ministry to another, emphasizing more of what Jesus did than what He said. Mark shares a sense of immediacy, a sense that Jesus’s time on earth was short and that there was much to accomplish in His few years on earth. The forward motion in Mark’s writing keeps us continually looking ahead to the cross and the resurrection!  PLEASE SHARE OUR INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK posts on your pages – this is the kind of sermon series that appeals to people differently than a regular series … we’ll be in-person, with masks, and online!  Check out the MARK page on the website HERE.

MANY THANKS FOR MY CHRISTMAS EVE SURPRISE:  those of you who participated in the Christmas Eve service could probably tell how absolutely shocked I was to receive your generous Christmas THANK-YOU gift!  Joanna Horton, the Chair of our Church Council certainly had something to do with that so to any and all of you involved, THANK-YOU!

MANY THANKS TO THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF CARES ACTS TAX BREAKS and GIVING BACK TO GOD: it’s not too late to take advantage of this unusual COVID-19 “gift” from the IRS!  Many of you are already scheduling regular giving on our website (we pay the fees!) but now, you can also give on FACEBOOK using the DONATE button at the top of the page and there are no fees at all! Check with your accountant for details but here’s the gist of it:

How does the Act impact taxpayers that itemize?

For the first time ever, donors who itemize their deductions can now deduct charitable contributions up to 100% of adjusted gross income (AGI). This change allows donors to maximize donations in a single year and have more control over the impact of contributions on taxable income. Previously, this limit was at 60% of AGI. Giving beyond this 100% limitation may be carried over and used in the next five years.

How does the CARES Act impact those that do not itemize?

Taxpayers who generally do not itemize on their personal return can take a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions to qualifying organizations on their personal return. This deduction will be an ‘above the line’ deduction and the maximum is $300 regardless of filing status.


DIRECTORY: The picture directory is available and list of active families in the church (or members) … PLEASE DO NOT SHARE THIS WITH ANYONE, it is for you only!  If you want a copy, let me know.  I have highlighted in YELLOW those names of people who do not get out or are in assisted living so you can drop a note or make a call … as hard as coronavirus has been on US, just imagine how it must be for those who can’t get out.  If you want to update your picture or information, please let me know! AND SEND ME YOUR BIRTHDAYS, PLEASE!

WON’T YOU PLEASE CONSIDER HELPING YOUR CHURCH? We have 4 opportunities for you to serve God in important ways …

1)    THIS THURSDAY, 12/31, 10-11 AM … please come help us take down the Christmas decorations so we can get ready to begin a new year!  We need a handful of people for ONE HOUR and please don’t assume that “someone else will do it”.  That someone else could be YOU!  Please contact SHIELA HAYNES, Worship Leader, if you are available.

2)    SUNDAY MORNINGS, 10:30 – NOON, USHERSthose of you who have been coming to church know that the same servant-hearted people have been greeting, welcoming, and serving our folks as usher and hospitality for many months.  We’d like to bolster our hospitality team and get ready for what I know, will be a deep desire for people to come BACK to church when this pandemic is over.  We would ideally love to have people rotate Sundays so let us know how often YOU’D like to serve, and we’ll try to be flexible.  Again, please contact SHIELA HAYNES, Worship Leader, if you are available.

3)    TUESDAY MORNINGS, 2-3 hours/week, OFFICE HELP … as you know, we decided this fall to begin using a CPA for our accounting and that allowed us to free up a budget for an office manager to use for a Social Media Director.  Sarah Sparks is now doing so much to help me with Facebook, the website, and our worship slides but I would love to have someone help in the office on Tuesday mornings for a few hours. If you are very organized and good at filing, please contact me directly … we only need 1 person.

4)    SUNDAY MORNINGS, 10:30 – NOON, CHILDREN’S CHURCH … we like to have 2 adults working together when our kids are gathering and now that the holidays are over, we hope the kids will come back when we start the NEW YEAR on January 10th. (The children join us for communion on the 1st SUNDAYS so there is no Children’s Church on the 1st Sundays.)  We will provide the Ministry Safe training and background checks and ideally, we’d love to have 3-4 adults who could join as “helpers”! (You don’t have to plan or organize, just be present!) Contact me please!

ZOOM BIBLE TALK STARTS BACK WEDNESDAY MORNINGS, 10 – 11 AM, January 13th … this winter we will study, in-depth, the 4th section of the Bible, THE CHURCH … what happened after Jesus ascended and how did the church grow from Jerusalem into all the corners of the world? The sign-in link is always on the website calendar (HERE) and if you still haven’t been willing to try ZOOM, now might be the time – and NO MASKS are required when you’re tuning in from your home! CLICK HERE for simple instructions if you want to join us!

PLEASE RE-JOIN THE PRAYER TEAM … I have sent a REMIND text invitation to everyone who I know was on the prayer team before we updated our text communication, but you will have to accept the invitation to get the texts. Yes, text messaging rates do apply so please feel free to disregard the invitation. Remember, this is ONE WAY COMMUNICATION, you will not be part of everyone all replying to the same text.  If you would like to join NOW, it’s easy … as soon as you click this link, you’ll be reconnected … SEE ATTACHED FOR DETAILS …


Don’t get text messages but want to get emails? 

Go to rmd.at/pray-now on a desktop computer to sign up for email notifications.  


I’m extremely excited about our NEW teaching series on the Gospel of Mark this Sunday … since many of you are still watching online, I’m including, again, the info HERE on how you might be able to watch on your TV at home!  If you have a SMART TV it’s simple but if not, an HDMI cable might do the trick!

Pastor Debbie



Merry Christmas and blessings to everyone on this oh, so holy day! We are all tracking Santa on NORAD right now and excited to see he is already hard at work and delivering gifts to Tokyo!
I look forward to “seeing” you all at our candlelight service at 5 PM tonight!  The sanctuary WILL be open at 4:30 and, if necessary, there will be overflow seating in Wesley Hall. Please be mindful of our guests – it may be more difficult but social distancing or not, let’s be sure people know that OUR church IS a place they can call home!
As always, we’ll broadcast LIVE on Facebook and if your family has cut back on travel like so many have, please invite them to join us for church on Facebook – you’ll be able to WORSHIP together with us! For everyone watching from home, be sure to have your candles ready for the sharing of Christ’s light at the end of the service.


PLEASE RE-JOIN THE PRAYER CHAIN: the church has moved from a land-line to a cell phone and in the process of merging our REMIND prayer chain text, I ran into some complications that will require everyone to rejoin the group. For the next week, I will send both emails and texts until we can transition fully back to our NEW text messaging. I apologize for this inconvenience but after Christmas, I will send you all a text message that you can accept to re-join the group or IGNORE that text if you do not or cannot receive text messages. Remember, this is ONE WAY COMMUNICATION, you will not be part of everyone all replying to the same text. If you would like to join NOW, it’s easy … as soon as you click this link, you’ll be reconnected … (instructions click here)

Don’t get text messages?
Go to rmd.at/pray-now on a desktop computer to sign up for email notifications.

YOUR GENEROSITY HAS ALLOWED US TO HELP SERVE OUR COMMUNITY!  Thanks to your generosity we have been able to share with our community partners who do such GREAT work serving our neighbors:  We have donated the following:
Winnsboro Volunteer Fire Department  $200
Blessing Box  $400
Community Resource Center  $400
Backpack Food Ministry  $1000


THANKS TO ALL OUR USHERS!! We would not be able to have safe worship and great hospitality without our worship team! Headed by SHIELA HAYNES, and our faithful ushers, especially Sue Gross and Ken Atkins who are at our doors, with disinfectant in hand, almost every single Sunday, I say THANK YOU!
I can’t wait to share Christmas with you tonight … for unto us a Savior is born!!!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Debbie


12-18-20 FUMC Devotional … the Bethlehem Star

Christmas is only 1 week away and it will be good to return to in-person worship this Sunday, 12/20, and, of course, on Christmas Eve!  With all the difficult news we’re hearing, I was so excited when I heard about this unusual cosmic occurrence happening on Monday night … if you’d rather watch the devotional, CLICK HERE to watch on YouTube or CLICK HERE for Facebook.


The planets Jupiter and Saturn are projected to align so closely (cosmically speaking) on December 21 that they will appear to the naked eye as one bright star. This news has caused some people to consider whether the Bethlehem Star, seen and followed by the Magi, might have been something similar! This event in the sky TONIGHT gives us a chance to think about the meaning of the star in the birth narrative of Jesus, and of how God calls us to Him.

Patrick Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University said “Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another.”

“Exceptionally rare” is an understatement … the last time this happened was in 1623, and before that in 1226, and neither of those was in December. This near alignment won’t occur again, astronomers say, until March of 2080!  

And here’s the good news – to see the alignment of the two planets, you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night …  NASA says to look for them low in the southwest in the hour after sunset!!

I wonder if God used this unique alignment of planets to lead the Magi to the baby Jesus? Many Bible readers and others have long speculated that such might be the case. Modern astronomers have suggested all sorts of explanations for the event, but attempts to attribute the Bethlehem Star to a natural occurrence, cannot explain the behavior of the star described in Matthew 2 …

The Gospel tells us THAT star remained stationary while the wise men were in Jerusalem then led them not only to Bethlehem but to the precise location of Jesus, where it “stopped over the place where the child was” (Matthew 2:9).  Matthew is clearly describing a miraculous phenomenon directed behind the scenes by God, and as difficult as 2020 has been, whether December 21st will be a miracle or merely astrophysics, it DOES shed light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.

Regardless of whether the Bethlehem Star was a natural occurrence or a miraculous intervention of God into the workings of the cosmos, the effect of the star on the Magi was of God beckoning, calling to them!! They dropped everything and left to find the Christ Child!

The star is also a reminder that many of us began our journey toward God because, in some way, God wooed us, drew us toward him through means that we did not immediately recognize as spiritual or divine.

While God does not force us toward him, He will NEVER stop offering us subtle invitations, droplets of grace, to look for him.

This is the grace of God that comes to us before we even go looking for it – it’s His tap on our shoulder when our attention is focused on anything but him, but which becomes the beginning of our deliverance! 

I love how the translation from Isaiah 65 in the MESSAGE shares God word to us:
“I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask. I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look. I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored me. I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on me, People who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way. Isaiah 65:1-2

This verse is not suggesting that God waits passively for us to discover him, but rather that God opens the paths that run toward him BEFORE we start looking for him. This grace is the beginning of bringing us from spiritual blindness to a full relationship with Jesus Christ … we just have to make the slightest move toward him!! 

And guess what, our “great alignment” occurs when we are aligned with the call and will of God!!

What we will see on December 21st isn’t the Christmas Star but that doesn’t matter! What matters is if our eyes are open to the wonder and wondering of God! What matters is that we’re looking at the universe and remembering that as John 1, verse 5 tells us … the light that shines in the darkness IS the Light of the Messiah!


Pastor Debbie


12-14-20 FUMC Updates

What a strange 9 months it has been! Since we closed the church the first time on March 15th we have all done our best to protect ourselves and protect others from what we have learned is an insidious, harmful virus. I told one of my daughters this morning that some people probably think I’m “obnoxious” about my diligence and she replied, “You ARE obnoxious, Mom!” … my other daughter gave me lapel buttons that say, SIX FEET PLEASE … she said it was a joke (but there was some good-natured kidding in that gift!)

Likely today, we will probably cross the grim milestone of more than 300,000 deaths in the United States alone.  There have been almost 17 million people who have been infected.

Today, I have become part of that statistic … today I received a positive test result for COVID-19.

I have THANKED GOD I have not had trouble breathing like so many people have, and since my mild symptoms began last Wednesday night with a sore throat and cough (and lasted LESS than 48 hours), my isolation period will be over this Saturday, December 19th. 

I decided to go to the CVS in Winnsboro to be tested last Thursday when I woke up coughing with a mild sore throat because I am so rarely sick, and I didn’t want to risk being infected or infecting anyone else with so much going on.  I even spoke to Brother Henry to see if he could be on standby in case my symptoms got worse, but by Friday night I no longer had a sore throat OR a cough so I assumed I had a good ol’ common cold. Even so, in these last 4 days, so as not to take any chances, I did my best to remain masked and even MORE distant from people than I normally even would have.

Last night, I was looking forward to a delicious dinner that someone dropped off for me and I wondered why it had NO TASTE AT ALL … when I couldn’t smell my beautiful balsam Christmas candle and my coffee tasted like water this morning … then I knew …

I realize some people think this virus is a “hoax” – I heard people say it would be over after the election – I know some people do not agree that a mask can protect them or anyone they are with – someone even asked me why I kept asking for prayers for people with COVID and I told them I would ask for prayers for people even if they wanted prayers for a cold.

I also know that many others see things very differently … I think you all know that I am one of these people.  Please … let us not bully each other about our decisions and agree to make the best decisions we can for ourselves and agree to disagree with those who feel differently.

Our Church buildings WILL be open this Sunday, December 20th, and we will continue to be diligent about keeping those who do choose to come SAFE!  We will continue disinfecting hands in and out, sitting a minimum of 6′ apart from each other, and, until the infection numbers begin to go down again, everyone will be required to wear a mask while in the buildings. Believe me, I dislike this as much as EVERYONE but I encourage those of you who feel safer not coming, or who refuse to wear a mask while in the buildings to continue to worship with us online. And please know, I will completely support your decisions to stay home OR to come!

THIS TOO SHALL PASS!!  Our loving God walks us THROUGH the valley of darkness, He doesn’t leave us there!  The vaccines are shipping out all across our country as I write and treatment for those who ARE suffering has improved tremendously!  Our Great Physician has been hard at work and the Spirit of HOPE is strong so let’s continue to pray, diligently, together for this virus to be GONE!  We WILL look back and see all the droplets of grace falling all around us … keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open!

THANKS FOR GIVING TO THE BACKPACK FOOD MINISTRY: I will announce the total this Sunday so you still have time if you want to go on our website or drop an envelope in the mail slot. Your generosity is DELIGHTFUL!  And by the way – sadly, the Community Resource Center is shut down because a volunteer tested positive for coronavirus so all volunteers are in quarantine.  The Blessing Box, however, is still providing food to those in need, another AMAZING organization!  Pray for all these selfless volunteers!

THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTMAS ZOOM BIBLE STUDY: Wednesday, December 16th, 10 AM …the evening group will be joining the morning group this week as we dive into the joy of RECONCILIATION!  It’s really easy to join … I’ll open the class link at 9:30 am so you have plenty of time to join early and give it a try! CLICK HERE 

CHRISTMAS EVE, DECEMBER 24th, 5 PM … the church will be open for Christmas Eve service and, if you will be watching from home, please plan to have your candles ready!

I look forward to “SEEING” you all, from a distance or virtually, this Sunday!

Christmas blessings,

Pastor Debbie


12-11-20 FUMC Updates

Christmas is inching closer and closer and while our church buildings will be closed this Sunday, December 13th, we plan to be, and are excited to be, open next week just in time for Christmas on December 20th and 24th! We are READY, thanks to Amy, Danny, J.A., JaneAnne, Glynda, and Shiela who came and decked the halls to welcome the baby King AND to welcome YOU! Remember, even when the sanctuary has been open, 50% of our church family has remained safely at home, but we’ll always do our best to maintain worship and some of the traditions of Christmas the best we can virtually so we can all be “together”!
The Advent wreath is a good example of an important Christmas tradition! This was originally a German and Scandinavian devotional practice used in homes to mark the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas … families would light a candle for each past week then for the current week at their dinner tables. The configuration of candles, whether in a line or a circle, didn’t matter, neither did the color of the candles (all colors are used in homes in Europe) … what mattered was the marking of time and the increase of light each week in the face of increasing darkness as the winter solstice approached.
As Advent wreaths began to be used by congregations on Sundays in Europe and America in the late 19th century, adjustments were needed for the larger worship spaces. Candles needed to be larger and some felt a need to be more uniform in color to fit with other liturgical colors in the sanctuary.
Purple, and more recently blue, has become the basic color of the candles … purple symbolizes repentance and fasting, with a focus on denying oneself to show devotion to God and prepare our hearts for the arrival of Christ. At FUMC we use purple to prepare for Easter and choose, instead to use blue for Christmas.
Deep blue is the color of the clear, predawn sky, the color that covers the earth in the hours before the sun rises in the east and this is, after all, the season of expectation and anticipation of the dawn of Christ! Of course, penitence and spiritual discipline is part of Advent, but by using blue we like to emphasize the hope-filled and faithful watch for Christ! I read it beautifully described like this: “Blue is also meant to inspire in us the hope of faith, and to encourage us to keep watch for the promised light of Christ to break over the horizon, changing night into day, darkness into light, and filling our lives and our world with a holy and righteous splendor.”
Over time, Advent candles took on particular Christmas themes of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace but the true meaning comes in the readings as we mark time while the light increases! Today we await the day described in Revelation 21:23 when: “The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” and we celebrate that in Christ, “The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
DANIEL DAVIS’ CELEBRATION OF LIFE: Sunday, December 13th, 2 pm at Beaty Funeral Home …Losing someone you love in the midst of a pandemic is so very difficult because of the changes in the way the grieving process takes place these days … please reach out to those you know who are mourning, especially the DAVIS FAMILY as they plan their son/brother/grandson’s service this Sunday at Beaty Funeral Home. (Click here to see his obit.)  We pray for Steve and Debbie, Dustin and SaraNan, and Joyzelle and PeeWee, and please honor their request for no visitation before the service … we’ll support them with our presence, safely distanced, or watch together on the Beaty Facebook LIVE STREAM here. After the service, there will be graveside committal at HARMONY Cemetery.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20th, 10:50 am WORSHIP, in-person and on Facebook LIVE! Our Advent series, Under Wraps, continues this Sunday with a look at something about God we tend not to talk about – do YOU see God as a JEALOUS GOD? If you have missed the 1st two Sundays of Advent you can watch the services on Facebook or YouTube or listen on our website. We realize that the COVID infections and hospitalizations are rising rapidly but we pray that those who should be more careful will heed the advice of the CDC and worship with us on Facebook Live instead. If you do decide to come on the 20th, we’ll continue to disinfect your hands and keep half the pews closed, but we will also require that everyone keeps their facemasks on throughout the service as an additional measure of safety.
THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE GIVEN TO THE FOOD PANTRY’S BACKPACK MINISTRY, the deadline is this Sunday, 12/13: Jesus asked the question: “when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?” If you haven’t yet done so, you can answer this question by saying: Lord I have given to you today!  Many of you have picked up your M&M’s from the drive-thru (which is now stopped) or from the red bin by the office door and filled them with quarters and returned them, but it’s not too late to help feed the children in Winnsboro who will not be getting food at school over Christmas. While this Sunday is the deadline, you can go on our website right now, and donate to the BACKPACK MINISTRY! Jesus was a newborn baby – born hungry, thirsty, naked, and unable to care for himself, helpless without people to take care of him and we are still helpless without HIM! But we aren’t helpless to show our expression of love for Him by giving to our neighbors!
PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY ABOUT YOUR 2021 COMMITMENT TO GOD … most of you received a letter a few weeks ago inviting you to make a PRIVATE and PERSONAL commitment to God in the new year. We asked you to consider how you want to grow in your faith through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. When you mail those back to us, we will hold them and give them back to you NEXT November … they will remain unopened by anyone but YOU! So far, we have only received 6 cards back from the many we mailed, so please take time to have a talk with God about your future faith walk!
CHRISTMAS EVE, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24th, 5 PM … yes, for those who feel safe coming, we will not only worship on this oh, most holy night in the sanctuary, but we will also have overflow in Wesley Hall, also set for safe distancing. Yes, our same safety measures will be in place and the service will be LIVE on Facebook, so make plans now to be part of the celebration!
I cannot imagine what these last 9 months have been like for all of you! The anxiety, the isolation, the loss, the frustrations … it has been a difficult year, but I know God has been extremely hard at work to be present in more ways than we could ever imagine! I also believe He is lighting the path for the unprecedented speed of distribution for this new coronavirus vaccine. I pray it will bring HOPE and LIFE to a weary world and I pray for all those who continue to work tirelessly caring for those who are sick, dying and struggling!
I am so incredibly grateful to our church leaders who have led the way and worked to keep everyone connected and safe: Joana Horton, Danny Moss, JaneAnne Newton, Mary Tom McLemore, Cyndie Ewert, Sandra Strickland, Ted Haynes, Brad Scharf and, Ken Ragsdale … we are NOT alone!!
Christmas blessings to all!
Pastor Debbie