Monday, December 28, 2015

A Time to be Bold

I couldn’t be more excited.

This being the first issue of our newsletter for a New Year I think that this is a good time to look ahead at what the New Year might hold. 

As I said, I couldn’t be more excited.

You might not have noticed what has been happening but I have.  Over the last year, quietly, without a lot of fanfare, Trinity folks have been upping their game, stepping up, and getting things done in new, better, bigger, and more Christ-like ways than ever before.  Some of these things have been small, and others have been pretty large, but all of them add up and to those of us who are keeping track, they are building a lot of excitement for what’s ahead.

Just in case you missed it, here are just a few of the things that I have been thinking about:

Facilities: Our trustees have been hard at work making our building as useful, and as beautiful, as possible.  We have redecorated the children’s classroom as well as the choir room, and the changes have been transformational.  This was the first year that we used our new air conditioning system in the sanctuary and fellowship hall and the results have been so positive that we are already planning to air condition a few more rooms.  This change alone has already caused several other organizations to ask about using our space.  Our parking lots are beautiful and attractive.  All of our flower beds, shrubbery, and other areas around the church were updated and look fantastic.  A new handicap accessible restroom has been added on the main floor.  Many other improvements have been made around the church to lighting, plumbing, and many other areas that help everyone use our building in new and better ways.

Programs: Trinity Church, her people, and her partners are doing more than ever to reach out to those in need and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Perry Helping Perry is now feeding more than 65 families on an average month and wee over 100 families at Christmastime (December was 115, I think) and has also brought the weekend Snack Pack program  (which feeds hungry children every weekend) into our building.  PHP has also expanded to provide shampoo, deodorant and other health and beauty needs.  Seven of us went on a mission trip to The Joy Center in Kentucky and, while we had a great time, were able to make a real difference in the lives of many people as well as provide encouragement to the staff there.  Our youth have also participated in several outreach programs (such as Project COOL and Hammers and Nails) and have made a significant impact in our community.  The Fellowship of Christian Athletes group has restarted and redefined themselves and some weeks we have seen larger groups of young people than ever before.  Our partnership with the Society of Saint Andrew allowed us to provide potatoes to four area food pantries and hundreds of hungry people.  That certainly isn’t everything but it’s just a sample.

People:  As always, the people at Trinity have consistently been wonderful, welcoming, and generous.  I have rarely asked a question and received “No” for an answer.  This past year we have seen consistent increases in attendance at the Coffee House worship service and, together, we added seven new members and welcomed a host of new and returning visitors.  I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of you when visitors tell me how welcome you made them feel.  At almost every meeting we talk about how we can help more people, reach more people, and do more for our community.  This is a driving passion for the people at Trinity Church.  The people here, you, genuinely care for others and they notice.

These are some of the reasons that I think 2016 will be a year of boldness.  Together we are already doing big, little, and ordinary things, every single day that are helping people, building our community, and growing faith.  I am certain that the New Year will bring even more opportunities for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Let us be unafraid.

Let us be bold.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pastor's Report - 2015

Note: Each year at Charge Conference I have to write a Pastor's Report outlining what we did during the year.  Each year we are given a slightly different theme, but for the most part, it is a lot like the reports we wrote at school each fall about "What I did last summer."  This year we were to tell how our church was answering the call to "Make disciples of Jesus Christ" and it was fun to write.  It was fun because the people at Trinity Church made it easy.  I am so proud of our church, what we are doing together and the ways that we are reaching out to our neighbors.  It seems as if people are constantly asking me (and making suggestions) how we can do better, and how we can reach, and help, more people.  Thank you Trinity, for making my job fun.

Pastor’s Report
2015 Charge Conference
By Rev. John Partridge

The call of The United Methodist Church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  More locally, the mission of Trinity Church is “to know Jesus Christ, to grow in relationship with him, and to go share his love with others.”  This year has been a reflection of our dedication to both of these guiding principles.  While attendance at our traditional worship service has stabilized and shows signs of increasing once again, our non-traditional Coffee House worship service has increased its average attendance by 20 percent so that overall average attendance (as of Charge Conference) has increased from 83 to more than 90.  Driving this increase is no single magic bullet but a great many things that Trinity is doing well and its widespread dedication to spreading the gospel message.

Among the many ways that Trinity is reaching out are both obvious way and some that are not so obvious. 

·         Trinity volunteers regularly commit their time and energy to the Perry Helping Perry food pantry (as well as other PHP projects) allowing Trinity to extend compassionate help to more than 100 neighborhood families every month. 
·         We continue to support and encourage youth who participate in our resident Cub Scout pack and Girl Scout troop. 
·         The United Methodist Women’s group are reaching out by providing education as well as financial support to help eliminate human trafficking, support our prison ministry, our youth, the food pantry, collect coats, gloves, hats and scarves for those in need, quilt and crochet blankets and prayer shawls to encourage those who are experiencing health problems or other hard times, and many, many other projects. 
·         Our youth group has participated in several outreach projects with Hammer and Nails and the Project COOL, contributing their time and energy to help others who are less able.
·         Volunteers from Trinity have partnered with the Society of Saint Andrew’s gleaning ministry to bag over 3,000 pounds of potatoes to help provide Thanksgiving meals through four different local food pantries.
·         Our Missions Team took a group of seven to The Joy Center in the Redbird Missionary Conference in Kentucky for a week-long project of construction, repair, general maintenance, food preparation, and other outreach projects, has continued to support The Joy Center after their return, and is already planning a return trip in the spring.
·         The Vision Team is meeting monthly to study the information provided through Project Insight in order to better understand the needs of our neighbors and to help us to determine where and how Trinity can best reach out and provide a helping hand.
·         Trinity Trustees have committed many hours of discussion and work to make our facility both useful and appealing to a wide range of age groups.
·         Our children take up a “noisy collection” of loose change every month and have used that money to fund scholarships for girls in Liberia, ducks and sheep for families through World Vision, sponsor and entire classroom in Kenya, feed children through the Canton Calvary Mission, and other projects locally as well as globally.

In all these ways, and more, Trinity Church is reaching out to demonstrate the love of Jesus to our neighbors, our friends, and the world.

There is no single “magic bullet” but in all these ways Trinity Church is reaching out, sharing God’s love, and being the hands and feet of Jesus.  There is no one thing that I can point to that is the cause of our growth or any one thing that is attracting new members.  It is all of these things and it is the dedication of every member of our Trinity family that is getting the job done.

With God’s help, we will continue to share his love with others and to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why We Go Out (Part 2)

I have written before about why we ‘do’ missions (see part 1 here).  Simply put, we reach out to others because we are continuing the mission that Jesus started.  To feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and more. 

But our mission is bigger than that.

The mission statement of the United Methodist Church says that our goal is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” 

Back up.

Read that again.

Our explicit, stated purpose is to do nothing less than to change the world and not just change it a little, but to fundamentally transform it. 

That’s a big job.

And that’s exactly why we can’t allow ourselves to focus only on what’s inside the church.

Programs and entertainment are good things, and they can be vitally important, but they aren’t why we are here.  There are two driving goals that grow out of a big mission like ours.   

First, if we are to “make disciples,” then we must be diligently provide teaching and training to the followers of Jesus Christ so that they can become more and more like him.  We must grow the people of the church to become mature disciples who are equipped and capable of making disciples of Jesus Christ.

And second, once we are equipped and trained, then we must go out and make disciples.

What we do ‘at church’ is vitally important to our mission.  It is here that we learn, teach, train and mature.  But we cannot ‘make’ disciples here; in order to do that we need to go outside the walls of the church.  Making disciples can be a lot of things.  Making disciples can be feeding the hungry or clothing the naked.  Making disciples can be sharing Jesus with your friends, relatives and co-workers.  Making disciples can happen in our homes and our neighborhoods, or it can happen far from home on mission trips.  But no matter where it happens, we aren’t likely to make disciples, let alone transform the world, if we stay inside the church.

That is probably the one thing that confuses people most about trying to grow our church, because the best way for us to grow inside, is to do more things outside.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Call of Pain

Preparing for chapel at Ohio Northern University
This past Thursday I (Pastor John) drove to my alma mater, Ohio Northern University, where I had been invited to speak at the weekly chapel service and contribute to their current series, "The Call."   In doing so, i was invited to share a part of God's call on my own life and so, as much as I could in twelve minutes, I did.  If you are interested and haven't seen the link elsewhere, click here to read,

"The Call of Pain." 


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

To Mission (and Beyond)

    During the first week of this month, a team of seven from Trinity Church traveled to The Joy Center in Big Creek, Kentucky.  We went there expecting to stay in the dormitory there, but due to some unexpected plumbing problems, we stayed at the parsonage instead.  While we were there, Pastor Becky stayed in her husband’s (he is also a pastor) parsonage a half-hour away.

    We really didn’t know what to expect when we got there.  Most of us had never set foot on The Joy Center and even though Patti had been there before, she had never been with a group that had a work project like ours.

But every day was little short of amazing and miraculous.

    We were welcomed with open arms by Pastor Becky and Nancy (who volunteers there full-time in lives in a basement apartment in the parsonage) and everyone else we met.

    Our original plan was to renovate two rooms for Mitchell, an elderly blind man, who lived a short distance away but that plan changed even before we left.  Apparently, the person who originally estimated the cost of the project was inexperienced, and missed the mark by a considerable margin.  First, the cost of materials was much greater than estimated so we probably couldn’t afford to do both rooms, and second, the second room would require far more time than we had available.  And so, the next day we set to work tearing apart Mitchell’s bathroom.  At least some of us did.

    If you were here at Trinity when I was inviting folk to go with us, you might remember that I said the folks at The Joy Center would find something for everyone to do regardless of your age or skills. 

They did.

    While Jan and Wade Gash, Ernie Ball, Patti Partridge, Warren, Kevin and I went to Mitchell’s house to work, Sue Neddy-Scopelite, Marilyn Ball, Nancy, and Pastor Becky worked on something else back at The Joy Center.  While we hammered nails and ripped up floors, the others cut coupons, cleaned, painted, and helped with the free lunch that The Joy Center prepares and delivers every Tuesday.

    You might have noticed that Warren and Kevin were names that were unfamiliar to you, and you would be right.  These men were not from Trinity, but were on our team just the same.  Warren is a retired gentleman with some construction experience from Atlanta, Georgia who volunteers on projects like ours at Red Bird for several weeks every year and Kevin attends church at The Joy Center.

    Each day we worked until dinner time, and then returned to the parsonage for dinner and conversation about what everyone had seen and done that day.  After dinner, we often found other things that needed to be done or repaired at Pastor Becky’s parsonage or at The Joy Center.  Since the only “staff” there is Pastor Becky and Nancy, literally everything is their responsibility.  That meant that any little thing we could do for them saved them precious time to do other things.  We sorted beans for bean soup (sometimes sacks of beans have pebbles mixed in with them), mopped, dusted, vacuumed, mowed grass, weeded, put up shelves, installed lights, repaired things, installed a sliding board on the playground, moved boxes, replaces screens, and anything else that we could find to help out.

    We finished Mitchell’s bathroom Wednesday afternoon but still found things to do at the Joy Center for the rest of our time there.  On Thursday we travelled to the Red Bird Mission and toured the medical clinic, food pantry, clothing store, craft store, the Red Bird School, the Red Bird Conference offices, and several other things.

    It is impossible for me to describe all the things that happened that week in this short space, but Trinity should certainly be proud of our team and the work that was done in Big Creek, Kentucky.  You should be proud of the effort that it took by the entire congregation to send and support our team.  We saw much, learned much, blessed many, built new friendships, and were blessed beyond measure ourselves.

    I hope that you were able to come and hear Pastor Becky when she spoke at Trinity this month or have been able to see our pictures, or have been able to talk to some of our team members.  Everyone was so excited that they were all talking about going back before we had even started for home and we are already, tentatively, planning another trip next Spring.

    And just in case you were worried that going on a mission trip meant that you would have to preach or something, not one of us had to get in front of a group of people.  Our entire witness on this trip was all about being a servant and doing things for others as we were able.

There is a famous quote that sums up much of what “missions” really means.

“Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

                                         -  (possibly) St. Francis of Assisi