First United Methodist Church

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Devotion: Creation Heals

I’d like to introduce you to Lanecia Tinsley. This is our last devotional as part of our series featuring Black Theologians. She is a theologian but also an artist. Her story is beautiful and powerful. The video is a little longer than we usually share (14 min), but this video is worth your time. Allow it to speak to you and wash over you. 

More About Lanecia:

Lanecia Rouse Tinsley is a creative based in Houston, TX & her work includes photography, painting, mixed media, teaching, writing & speaking. Lanecia has a Bachelor of Arts, Sociology from Wofford College and a Master of Divinity from Duke University Divinity School. Studio D at Hardy & Nance Streets Studios is where her creativity often blooms. Most days you will find her there sipping on a cup of coffee with music playing as she creates work that reflects what life has revealed to her about healing, freedom, and beauty found in everyday experiences. Acrylics, pastels, charcoal, paper, and encaustic wax are my mediums of choice. Life has taught her that we all have creative potential and the need to encounter beauty. As an artist, she believes her call is to create opportunities for people to encounter beauty through the work of her hands & the spaces she cultivates for them to tap into their creativity. It is an absolute delight for her to create art that draws people into spaces of vulnerability, hope, complexity, and freedom.

Today’s Video: Creation Heals

By Lanecia Tinsley

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Digital Presence Update

Watch today’s update to learn more about our online worship and digital presence.

Security Task Force Update

Last year, our church’s Leadership Council formed a Security ­Task Force charged with assessing the safety and related security procedures of both our Winter Park Campus and the Reeves Center. After 6 months of intensive review and stakeholder engagement, this team has proposed a phased recommendation that demonstrates our commitment to creating a secure environment while preserving the welcoming spirit of our church. The Leadership Council unanimously approved this proposal and asked the team to move forward with implementation and funding. The same team will begin to outline the actions, schedule activities, and continue to communicate as we progress. Below is an outline of key recommendations with estimated costs.

Phase 1 (Immediate Action for 2024):

  • Emergency Procedures & Training: Specialized training in emergency preparedness for staff and volunteers. Developing security policies that focus on areas within our church that house vulnerable populations, such as children and members of Brain Fitness Academy. (Total Cost: $0 – covered by existing budgets)
  • Minimize Entry Points: Enhancements include access controls (badge access and keypads), gates, and fence installations on both campuses. (Total Cost: $107,100)
  • Cameras and Surveillance: Upgrades and additions to the surveillance system for improved security monitoring. (Total Cost: $35,300)
  • Lighting: Improvements to enhance safety and visibility in parking lots and courtyards. (Total Cost: $31,500)
  • Existing Safety Items: Maintenance checks to enhance the reliability of safety features. (Cost: $0 – part of regular maintenance)
  • Phase 1 Contingency Plan: Provision for unforeseen expenses. ($5,000)

Phase 2 (Planned for 2025):

  • Security Officers: Introduction of professional security personnel during critical times. ($50 an hour)
  • Sanctuary Doors: Upgrading external doors for better security. ($60,000)

The Marcy Trust has generously provided a grant of $69,000 toward our Phase One expenditures of $178,900. We are asking for financial support from our church community for the remaining $110,000. Your generous donations will directly contribute to safeguarding our congregation and ensuring a safe, welcoming space for worship and fellowship. Together, we can achieve a secure environment that reflects our shared values and commitment to the well-being of all members of our church family. We ask that you pray for the work of this team and look for more information as the implementation begins. If you have any questions, please email Pastor Philip at

Devotion: Emerging Wholeness

Before I introduce you to one of my favorite female theologians, I want to invite you to participate in one of our many opportunities to repent, remember and contemplate on Ash Wednesday, February 14.

Next Wednesday morning, the Pastors will be giving ashes to our 300 children and 71 teachers at our two preschools in the morning Chapel services, and then in the evening, you are invited to our Ash Wednesday family experience with a potluck meal, prayer stations, and a shortened worship service starting at 7pm.

If you have a free hour during lunch, or you can’t make the evening service, I invite you to come to the Chapel from 12-1pm for a time of quiet meditation and the imposition of ashes. I will be offering ashes and a quiet place to pray and I would be honored to pray with you at the altar if you would like. Ash Wednesday is a full and holy day to experience God’s love and the reality of our own mortality and so I hope you will be able to participate with us next week.

Now on to the task at hand. A female theologian whom I have read from a lot over the last two years is the Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, who frequently writes for the Center for Action and Contemplation. I have mentioned before how life giving the devotions on CAC (Center for Action and Contemplation) have been for me ever since they were introduced to me by my Spiritual Director. Now I read the daily devotions, prayers, poems, and I am drawn deeper on the journey of Contemplation. Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes writes many of these devotions and in early January, she considered the collective resilience needed in times of crisis. She writes:

“Where is your community hurting? Where can you be of help to that community? What resources and gifts do you possess that will enhance the healing of your own body and of your community? As a village, we have a sacred duty to respond to the crises of oppression and injustice. We have a responsibility to respond to the suffering of others around us. But first, we have to figure out who we are, how we’re going to show up, and how we’re going to work with others, our neighbors, in a communal response to crisis.”

I have to admit, I was really struck with the first question. Where is your/our community hurting? That question gave me pause and I had to really think it over. To know the hurting of our community, means we know, I mean really know, our community. It means that we have relationships with those we have affinity towards as well as those that don’t look, dress, vote or live like we do. That was how the early church grew and I am convinced it is how the Church of Jesus Christ today will grow as well. By really knowing the communities we find ourselves in and then meeting the needs of those who are hurting.

Maybe this will be a challenge for you to consider this Lenten season; to really look for the hurting in the spheres of influence you find yourself in. And then ask God to reveal the gifts and resources you might already have that can bring about some healing.

If you haven’t had a chance to read or listen to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes, she is quite an amazing woman. She is a spiritual teacher, activist and author who has many degrees including a Divinity and Law degree as well as a PhD and she is also one who over and over again in her life chooses to see joy in the midst of suffering. She has some good words for us in this short video if you have a few extra minutes to hear what breaks her heart and how she leans on God when she sees hurt in her community. I hope it is a blessing to you.

Today’s Video: Emerging Wholeness

By Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes

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Devotion: A Glimpse at Communion

A Moment with Emmanuel Katongole: Delving Deeper into “A Glimpse at Communion”

As we continue our series on Black voices in theology, let us immerse ourselves in the teachings of Emmanuel Katongole, a beacon of theological insight and peacemaking. As an Associate Professor of Theology and Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, Katongole’s life work intricately weaves the threads of his African heritage with his profound academic pursuits.

Katongole, a Catholic priest ordained by the Archdiocese of Kampala, has served as associate professor of theology and world Christianity at Duke University, where he was the founding co-director of the Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation.

He is the author of books on the Christian social imagination, the crisis of faith following the genocide in Rwanda, and Christian approaches to justice, peace, and reconciliation. His most recent book is The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa (Eerdmans, 2010).

In this video, Katongole extends an invitation to transcend the divisions that fragment our world. He challenges the notion that God’s love is confined by human constructs such as political affiliations, asserting that “God is neither Republican nor Democrat.” This profound assertion calls us to expand our vision and embrace a divine perspective transcending our earthly loyalties.

Katongole’s reflection on the fragmented nature of humanity is not one of despair but an acknowledgment of our shared condition. He sees in our brokenness an opportunity for God’s grace to weave us into a more cohesive whole. His poignant critique of our propensity to “throw rocks at one another” serves as a sobering reminder of the pettiness that often pervades human interactions.

Yet, it is in his meditation on love that Katongole’s message truly shines. “Love goes as far as God’s heart goes,” he reminds us, inviting us to partake in the boundless expanse of divine love. This vision of an all-encompassing love that makes room at the table for everyone, regardless of our differences, offers a glimpse of the kingdom of God in our midst.

As we reflect on Emmanuel Katongole’s life and teachings, let us be inspired to embody the principles of “A Glimpse at Communion” in our own lives. May his journey help us to bridge divides, heal wounds, and inspire a more inclusive and loving world.

In the spirit of Katongole’s expansive vision, may we, too, strive to create spaces in our lives where love knows no bounds, and where every soul finds a place at the table of communion.

Today’s Video: A Glimpse at Communion

By Emmanuel Katongol

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Devotion: Hoarding Love

As we continue inching closer toward Ash Wednesday (February 14th) and the season of Lent, we continue to learn and listen to the voices of those that may be new to us, at least this one is new to me. As your pastors and staff have been reading voices from those less famous in the realm of theology, I share a new name with you, the Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes. I watched a few of her videos from the Work of the People, but this one that we share below really resonated with me. Emilie Townes is the Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School and is an ordained American Baptist clergywoman. She was born in Durham, North Carolina and has gone on to do and write and teach and preach about justice, women’s theology and Christian Ethics. She is a voice of grace and openness to the changing world around her and holds distinguishing positions serving as the president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion (2012–2016) and being the first African American woman elected to the presidential line of the American Academy of Religion, which she led in 2008.

The video below, called “Hoarding Love,” is well worth the seven and half minutes because it asks us some important questions about the cultural production of evil and what would remedy it as followers of Jesus.

As she was talking, I thought about my kids, and how they share and don’t share. Emmaline and Charlie are old enough now to share well. They don’t really fight any more about what is theirs and what isn’t, of course they have their moments and they argue like any siblings do. Our focus right now has been on trying to teach Ellie, our 18 month old how to begin to understand sharing. Of course an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex makes sharing difficult for young children and as loved ones we have to show young children both how to survive while also making socially acceptable choices. And as our children grow, we can teach them how to be safe and assertive with their needs. In our family we are walking this line. Ellie is very strong and very loud, so when she wants your toothbrush, or water bottle or snack, she will not only pull on it with all of her might but scream REALLY loud. Usually we all give into her because it is easier and we chuckle at her determination (knowing that it will serve her better, ONE day). But what happens if we continue acting like toddlers as we grow into adults? How can following Jesus teach us how sharing is caring and that there really is enough on this earth for all to have their needs met?

This video dives into that and asks us some deep questions. I hope it blesses you as it has blessed me.

Today’s Video: Hoarding Love

By Emilie Townes

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Devotion: God Is Love

As a pastor and someone who has studied the Bible, I am incredibly guilty of reading theologians only from my faith tradition and who also happen to, sadly, look like me.

Over the next few weeks until the end of February, we will be sharing the perspectives of various black theologians with you. This study is an opportunity for me to learn, expand, and grow, and I hope it will be the same for you.

Today, we will hear from Monica Coleman, a theologian and professor focusing on Womanist theology. Womanist theology is the study of God through the lens of Black females. these scholars often find kinship in their anti-sexist, antiracist, and anti-classist commitments to feminist and liberation theologies.

Monica A. Coleman is committed to connecting faith and social justice. The interdenominational preaching magazine The African American Pulpit named Coleman one of the “Top 20 to Watch” – The New Generation of Leading Clergy: Preachers under 40. An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Coleman has earned degrees at Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Claremont Graduate University. Coleman is currently Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology in southern California.

I haven’t had the opportunity to read any of Monica’s books yet, but I am excited to include her theological perspective in my reading and contemplation. Throughout this series, it’s possible that you may encounter ideas that are new to you or that you don’t necessarily agree with. However, that’s precisely the point. There is a vast array of theological ideas out there, and it’s crucial that we expose ourselves to them and allow them to challenge us, even if we don’t see eye to eye on everything.

Here are some books written by Monica if you would like to study further.

Below is a video by Monica Coleman about her views on God. I especially like her view that the phrase “God is love” may not be a big enough phrase. The concept is that God knows us even deeper than someone who just loves us; God knows us as someone who loves with us, Grieves with us, hurts with us, is God with us.

May your thoughts and hearts expand as you listen to more voices this month.I hope that during this upcoming month, you are able to listen to a variety of voices and perspectives, and that this experience helps you to broaden your understanding of the world around you. May your heart and mind be open to new ideas, and may you gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity of thoughts and opinions that exist in our world.

Today’s Video: Life After Death

By Monica A. Coleman

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Devotion: Open Unto Me – Rev. Howard Thurman

As I walk with Jesus and grow in my faith one year to the next, I find that I often gravitate towards majority voices for wisdom and guidance and often those voices look like me. I think this is natural for us in some ways and so as Pastors we are challenging ourselves and our congregation to learn and hear Scriptural wisdom from minority voices too. And so, for the next few weeks, we will share a little bit about the life of a Theologian of color and then we invite you to watch a brief video with words beautifully arranged from their own voice.

I am honored to share about the life and faith of Howard Thurman (1899 -1981) who was an American author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was born right near my hometown in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1899. At only age 14, he displayed great resiliency and bravery by leaving his family and moving from his hometown for a boarding school in Jacksonville (because there were no High Schools for black boys then). After completing High School, Thurman attended both Morehouse College and Colgate Rochester Divinity School and had grown to be the valedictorian of his college classes.

After marrying his wife Sue and traveling as the lead delegate for the Negro delegation to Southeast Asia in 1935, he met Mohandas Ghandi and explored the power of non-violent direct action as a mechanism for social change. By the time the Civil Rights Movement took shape in the United States, Thurman was a nationally recognized human rights advocate, though he did not take to marching and mobilizing on the streets.  In 1944, Thurman cofounded the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco which was an interracial congregation intentionally designed to break through the barriers that separated people on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin. Thurman’s work in San Francisco attracted the eye of then-Boston University President Harold C. Case, who recruited Thurman to Massachusetts because of his unifying philosophy. Thurman accepted, moving to Boston in 1953 to serve as Dean of Marsh Chapel becoming the first African American Dean at a predominately white institution in the United States.

He visualized a world where racial, ethnic, or religious barriers do not serve as a roadblocks to creating meaningful relationships. And he wrote the words to this prayer, “Open Unto Me” among many others that spoke to me now, especially as I am reflecting on the Advent Season. On Christmas morning, I love watching my kids open their Christmas gifts. While it might save time (and space in the landfill) to not wrap the gifts or put them into bags, I do love watching our children physically open the gifts. With each tear, they learn a little bit more about the gift underneath, they get a little bit closer to understanding the mystery and the waiting game is over because now they can finally see what is hidden inside.

I think that God has many gifts to “Open Unto Us” if we invite God to show them to us. If we can sit down patiently and passionately and begin to tear away the old to unveil the new or to open up the mystery underneath. Maybe this prayer is an invitation to do just that. Click on the link below to watch to this powerful prayer written by Howard Thurman come to life, simply put in your email address (don’t worry, you won’t join their mailing list) and I hope this prayer blesses you as it has blessed me.

Today’s Video: Open Unto Me

By Rev. Howard Thurman, Ordained Baptist Minister

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Angels We Have Heard on High

Just like our Christmas Carol today reminds us, I have heard Angels singing on High this past week. I am blessed to be the Pillar Pastor over our two AMAZING Preschools and last Wednesday and this Wednesday I have had the privilege of hearing the voices of over 300 children sing about the birth of Jesus and the love of God. Every year it brings tears to my eyes to hear the voices of children sing praise and celebration to God. That is after all what the Angels are doing in our Scripture lesson in the first few chapters of Luke.

Luke 2:13-15 says this.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

I don’t know about you, but when I see the cuteness of little children singing, ringing bells and using hand motions with enthusiasm, I want to tell others about it. Because it is these HOLY moments that remind us why we are here to celebrate and why we are invited to share this good news with others.

This carol was originally written in French in the eighteen century and it reflects a common theme found throughout the history of Christian hymnody. Our United Methodist Discipleship resource reminds us that these kind of hymns have two parts; a cosmic chorus which begins in heaven with the angels. Then the “mountains in reply” echo back in response—antiphonally, symbolizing the participation of earth. What a beautiful example of what God is doing in and through us. What begins above is lived out below. When God begins a new and good work, it is always brought to fruition. Over and over again we see these thin places, where heaven and earth meet, and we are left changed in the process.

The three verses of this hymn invite us into the transformation through the order of the Scripture story. It begins with a festive spirit as the angels appear and invites all to come celebrate Christ’s birth with them. Then stanza two focuses on the Shepherds and the joy that these angel greetings brought them. And because the angel brings good news that the Messiah has been born, there is so much to celebrate! In the third stanza, we are invited to the party. We are offered a front row seat to come to Bethlehem and see how heaven and earth are one. I have said it before, and I will say it again, if you need help seeing the glory of God this Christmas season, look and listen to the children. They mimic and give witness to the holy moments of God like the angels did so long ago.

Whenever we encounter the Holy, we are transformed and see the world a little differently. This happened to me today, I was not feeling celebratory or joyous this week. It has been a lot for us over this last week. As you might imagine, there are a lot of demands on the lives of two pastors during the season of Christmas. I have let the busyness of this season as a full-time working mom, wife, daughter, sister, pastor…get the better of me. I wasn’t seeing the joy.  But then there was a shift, a HOLY moment if you will, because there is something about children singing, smiling, waving at their loved ones and rocking their baby Jesus’ that reminds me that heaven and earth are in fact working together as one.

And so I encourage you, over the next five days to really focus on seeing the HOLY moments where heaven and earth meet. Don’t get distracted by the crazy  schedules, the traffic, the to do lists, or family drama. If you need some help, look to the little children who remind us daily of the HOLY moments and emulate what it means to sing “Glory to God in the Highest Heaven!”

Devotion: In the Bleak Midwinter

It shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I know NOTHING about a Bleak Mid-winter. I am a Florida Girl through and through and while I have experienced snow and colder conditions on a brief occasion, I can’t even begin to picture how I would do in a midwinter storm. The only thing that came close to this was when we were first married and living in Atlanta in our last year of graduate school at Emory when Snowpacalypse 2011 happened and Ryan and I couldn’t go to all of our January term classes because there was ice on the road and no one knew how to drive on ice in Atlanta. And this was before Zoom, so our classes were condensed and we missed the last 4 days of class. We used that time to have a Harry Potter movie marathon, and when the ice melted down enough, we drove up to Cataloochee and had our first ski trip as a married couple.

But the point is this, I have no idea how I would survive a Midwinter season when frosty wind was moaning, water was frozen like a stone and the earth was hard as iron. I can’t imagine this world physically, but if I look at the lyrics of this song through a spiritual len, I can begin to imagine the darkness and starkness of a world without the light of Christ.

The words remind us, that in the bleakest of days, warmth and light and goodness entered the world. In the midst of the water standing still, the giver of Living Water came into being. And when the oppression and humiliation of another conquered people group cried out to Creator God, the most helpless and vulnerable being came to save them all.

But they didn’t notice because all they saw was the bleak mid-winter.

On the day when love came down, heavenly beings travelled to praise God and to give witness to this event; all angels and arc angels and Cherubim and Seraphims were present, but that wasn’t what the God of the universe required of us. Surprisingly so, God was satisfied simply with the kiss of his mother, the humility of a shepherd, the determination of the wise men. And what is it that God asks of us…only our hearts.

The song ends by asking this question, “What can I give him?” and I have wondered that question before as well. With all that God has given and continues to give me, what can I give back in return for that love? The song answers the question with the image of giving our heart back to God, but I think God deserves more. I want to give God my whole self, mind, soul, demeanor, future plans, convictions, energy, passion…I want to give my all, but I am far from perfect and far from sinless. But the song has good news about this too. But we may look around and see only snow covering the grounds of our frozen parts that used to be lively, foundations now hard as iron unyielding and ungracious and we may quite honestly feel like our spiritual life is like a mid-winter and it is oh so bleak.

But there is good news, God meets us there and prepares us in this season because Spring always follows winter. And so I don’t know where you are in this season as you wait for the Christ-child, but I want to remind you that God wants all of you and all of me and especially our hearts. If we come and bring what we can with curiosity and wonder, see what God does with our bleak Mid-Winter storms when we simply open ourselves to be shaped in one season so that we can be ready for the next.