From the Pastor's Desk
"Hello new friends!
I do hope and pray we can become friends, brothers and sisters. Already from our baptism we were made one in Christ, but I am excited to now be a part of God's family in this corner of the world at Charlton City UMC. To those who have helped make my family and me feel welcome, a huge thank you. We are grateful for the food, flowers, candles, balloons, and most importantly prayers. I know you've been praying because other than painting and decorations, we've already unpacked. I would have gone for a bike ride, as well, to officially settle in if we weren't suddenly getting all the much needed rain over one weekend.
I also hope and pray that despite the interruption of Covid-19 we can still get to know one another as soon as possible. I'm looking forward to meeting all of you, worshiping, praying to, and serving our God together. I'm including a picture of the family with this e-mail that Hannah is graciously sending out for me. A little while ago I sent Garnet a long bio of the family but I know that with not being able to worship in person for some months, you may not have seen it. That whole bio should be attached to this e-mail as well. Apologies if you've already read it!
In the meantime, while I now focus on settling into church life, I wanted to 1) say hi. "Hi!" 2) again say how excited I am for the opportunity to be your pastor. "I'm so excited, I just can't hide it..." 3) let you know that in addition to trying too hard to be silly (I'm a dad, after all) I will also be putting together a schedule in the next few weeks that will allow you to sign up for a time to chat with me. Ordinarily I'd want to visit you in your home but we'll do what's safest and what we're comfortable with. The idea is that one household at a time I get to know you, and you get to know me; share our hopes and dreams together; and pray together. Be on the lookout for that. 4) I know that there are Wednesday and Thursday evening Zoom meetings happening. I do plan on joining (or leading, as the case may be) those starting next week. I was hoping to jump in this week but I had a ton of evening meetings helping my previous churches prepare for the transition and, after the exhaustion of the move, I've decided Danielle might not appreciate having to do bedtimes all by herself again so soon. I'm willing to bet you understand. I believe Amanda Dam is hosting the Thursday night gatherings, but if necessary for that or the Wednesday prayer meeting, my Zoom information is below.
Hannah has already created a church e-mail address for me: John@cc-umc.org. You can also reach me at my personal e-mail account: email@example.com. Or give me a call at (802) 316-4476. I've heard a lot of people say over the years, "I'm sorry for calling, or stopping by your office, because you must be busy..." but, seriously, I much more enjoy talking with folk about whatever is on their heart and mind than doing whatever busy work I have. So, please, don't hesitate if you have a question, prayer need, want to vent about a no-good-horrible-day, or just want to chat. I do take Fridays off as my Sabbath--if you forget and call me, don't feel guilty, I'll remind you.
Again, I am excited for the opportunity to worship and serve God with all of you. Looking forward to it!
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 NIV
Dear Charlton City UMC family- Thank you!
As my last Sunday with you draws near, I wanted to reach out to you all with this letter.
Thank you for welcoming me into your family. Thank you for allowing me to be your pastor these past three years. Thank you for the love and understanding you gave me. For being patient with me.
I have so many precious memories of my time with you. Your love for God and each other is an inspiration. Your dedication, some of you years’ long, is such a witness. Thank you for giving so much of yourselves to this church. You are blessed. You are a blessing. Remember that always. No family is perfect. You don’t all see eye to eye in everything, you have different perspectives, opinions, etc. Yet, you have such a way of selflessly coming together to support a cause, a ministry, a member in need and that is both admirable and commendable. You are a community that extends grace which speaks to the fact that you know yourselves to be recipients of such amazing grace.
I will be eternally grateful for the grace you showed me when I needed to take some personal time in order to care for my ailing father and support my mother in a very difficult time. You will always have a special place in my heart because of that. Thank you!
I ask your forgiveness if I have done or said anything that has caused you pain. I promise you it was unintentional. Know that I have forgiven also. I have nothing but appreciation and love for all of you.
I pray that you may continue to care for one another. I pray for the new chapter that begins in challenging times for our country, our denomination and our church. Remember always that in Christ we are more than conquerors [Romans 8:37] and that we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us [Philippians 4:13].
Eternally grateful for our time together,
Rev. Wanda Santos-Perez
Archive - Sunday Worship Services
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[c]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
John 20:19-29 NRSV
This Scripture is the selected gospel reading for the second Sunday of Easter for this year. It is the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples the evening of his resurrection, after he had appeared to Mary in the garden. Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the others. When he heard about Jesus’ appearance, he stated that unless he saw the marks of the nails in Jesus hands, or put his finger in the mark of the nails and his hand on Jesus’ side he would not believe. This selection of scripture is usually recalled as the one where Thomas doubted. I always felt bad for Thomas. Yes, he is the one that was quoted as saying what he said after he heard Jesus had stopped by but was, he truly the only one who doubted? After all we also read in Scripture that of the twelve, only John was present at the death of Jesus. The others had fled.
Thomas wanted to have the same experience of the resurrected Christ that the others had. Can we blame him? I would have wanted to see Jesus for myself also. I think it is great that others saw him and that everything Jesus said would happen did, but why did Thomas have to miss out on that? And where was Thomas? John doesn’t tell us of his whereabouts. All we know is that the Disciples had isolated themselves and Thomas wasn’t with them.
Sure, most of us know the ending. If we were there at the time or if it was happening today, would we be like Thomas or would we believe the witness of others? After all, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we declare Jesus Christ is Lord [1Cor. 12:13]. In other words, we believe, not on our own efforts but because of the Holy Spirit in us.
I love that Jesus comes back [one week later] and gives Thomas exactly what Thomas needed. To see and know for himself that everything Jesus had said while he had been with them was true. Jesus showed one, he shared three years of his life with, that he cared enough to give him what he needed in order to believe.
Jesus still meets people where they are. With all our faith and our doubts, Jesus draws near ready to meet and give us what we need to experience his presence with us. He doesn’t shame us or ignore us. Jesus bids us to come, touch and see he is Who he says he is and bids us peace.
In this time of self and mandated quarantine I can’t help to think about how this part of the passage stands out today. How does this passage speak today to us as we are isolated from others, family, friends and strangers? How has God entered our spaces? Have we experience Christ in our isolation? Can we see and know Jesus is very much with us, biding us not to be afraid, not to doubt but to have peace.
Loving God, thank you that through your Word and the work of your Holy Spirit you continue to be with us today. Thank you for meeting us where we are, strong in our faith or filled with doubt. Your peace sustains us during this time. Quiet our hearts, may we hear your words of assurance in times like these and always. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.
John Wesley an eighteenth-century theologian, evangelist and Anglican preacher who led a revival movement known today as Methodism, was known to begin small group by asking participants, “How is it with your soul?”. It invited both accountability and self-reflection. I have asked this question many times, when on visits and at meetings. I have used it to begin a sermon and have also used it as a greeting. On more than one occasion I have reflected on this question to assess how I am feeling at a particular moment. These moments have been marked by instances of celebration and joy but also anxiety and uncertainty. Attempting to answer this question in light of experiences lived is always challenging. In the end, the practice has helped to remind me of the genuineness of faith. Not that I, by the grace of God, have it but that faith, or trust in God has always proven to be trustworthy.
Recently, as COVID-19 a highly contagious disease began to wreak havoc in our country, my heart grew heavy when I heard about the number of persons that began to die from it. The most vulnerable were senior citizens. Then to make matters worse, we learn that one did not have to present any symptoms to be a carrier of this virus. An individual could infect others even when they were not themselves sick with it. I was overwhelmed by that fact to the point that as time passed, I began to make myself sick from it. Physically sick. I felt blindsided by the fact that this pandemic had temporarily robbed me of my inner peace. I reminded myself that I was doing everything in my power to stay well and keep others safe. I practiced social distance, diligently washed my hands in order to minimized contagion to myself and others and began to minimize leaving the home for non-essentials in order to flatten the curve of the spread. I started ticking off all the things I, a control freak, was doing and then it hit me. Somewhere along the way this pandemic became everything I saw and thought about. Even in my sleep. I remembered John Wesley’s question and was sad and even a little embarrassed to admit that no, it was not well with my soul. One thing was to be overwhelmed by factors or circumstances outside of my control. But my current state of mind and health was my own doing.
I resolved then to recall Words from Scripture that have given me life over the years.
Isaiah 26:3 “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you.”
Lamentations 3:23-24 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
And finally, the encouragement of 1 Peter 1:3-9 that reminded believers who were suffering because of their decision to choose Christ of the mercy and the salvation/victory over sin and death they had attained through Jesus Christ. A hope, an inheritance that no power could destroy or tarnish. It was a hope for the future that came with an assurance for the present experienced in newness of life. The writer of 1 Peter wanted to assure believers that they could trust God for their future because of what God had accomplished in Jesus Christ in the past. That is our hope for today too.
“Gracious God, I praise You for you are trustworthy. In Your Son Jesus Christ, you have given us newness of life and a living hope that is incorruptible and unfading. God, you have always kept Your promises. Forgive us when we allow the circumstances in our lives rob us of the peace we have in Jesus, the assurance that You are always with us. In Jesus name.”
Rev. Wanda Santos-Perez
Charlton City United Methodist Church
I knew then I needed to pull myself together. I had to think about what I was listening to and thinking about. I had to name all these feelings I was experiencing and remind myself that I was a child of hope. As a Christian my identity is in Christ and what that means to me is that I profess a God who became incarnate in his Son Jesus, lived and died to bring me freedom, forgiveness, salvation, and newness of life.
I asked this question recently to a group of people on Zoom and received some blank stares before the first volunteer found the courage to admit she was having trouble keeping the faith during this pandemic. She said it was becoming hard to see God in the midst of all the death around us. She was frustrated because she felt that many lives could have been saved if countries and governments acted sooner. I asked a follow up question, what does God have to do with that?
Beloved Charlton City United Methodist Church
I pray this email/notice finds you well. We have had a very unprecedented Lent Season this year. As we enter Holy Week and are still not able to gather in person, I have created a few opportunities for us to “check in” this week. Know that I am praying for every family on our church directory. You are missed and thought of, right now.
I have scheduled a Maundy Thursday service with a Love Feast via Zoom for Thursday, April 9th at 7:00pm. You will be able to join us by phone or video. To prevent our worship from “Zoombombing” by trolls the link has a password and a waiting room has been set so that I may admit persons to our service. The password was emailed to you on Monday morning the 6th. If you haven't received it email the office and we will get it to you.
As everyone will be a participant in this service please have ready, a candle with matches or a small lamp, a Bible, bread and water to share with your family as we break bread together through Zoom.
For those of you who are new to Zoom [I have graduated from participant to host and am still learning how to navigate this app]. I have scheduled two different opportunities for you to check in and give the link and your device a “test run.” I will be on Zoom on Tuesday, April 7th at 2:00pm-3:00pm and back at 7:00pm-8:00pm. See invite links below. Note the Meeting ID and Password. I hope one of these is convenient for you.
I am inviting you to remember your faith during these difficult times we are living through. This week I am starting
a 7- day Bible reading plan on the Bible App titled, The Story of Easter. Will you join me? Let us be of one mind this week as we remember God’s amazing love and gift to us in his Son Jesus. I am including the readings here for those who do not have the app but wish to join us in practice and in spirit:
Monday, April 6th- John 13 & 14
Tuesday, April 7th- John 15 & 16
Wednesday, April 8th- John 17 & 18
Thursday, April 9th- John 19 & 20
Friday, April 10th- Luke 22 & 23
Saturday, April 11th- Mark 14 & 15
Sunday, April 12th- 26 & 27
Keep checking our Website for video links to our cyber services. Make sure to post your prayer on our Prayer Wall. Stay safe. God bless and protect you.