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A Crowded Race by Angie Fuller

As a high school track athlete, I proved to be mediocre and gullible. I was a 100-meter hurdler – though I never mastered the stride necessary for speed – and was usually assigned to a couple of 400-meter events. Somehow, one of those events was always the 400-meter hurdles, a brutal quarter-mile “sprint” around the track interrupted ten times by horizontal obstacles (again… gullible).

The final event of each track meet was the 4x400-meter relay. It often started after 9:30 PM, when most competitors were packing their bags and trudging toward waiting school buses. My 400 split didn’t earn the fastest “anchor” position, so I ran the second or third leg of the relay. By the time I got to the backstretch of the track, all I could hear were my panting breaths and the spikes of my shoes in the asphalt. I felt weary and alone. But then I’d hear my friend Kari. Her field events were long over, but she faithfully positioned herself inside the track on that backstretch, yelling my name and cheering me toward the final curve. Once I rounded it, I caught sight of the green and white jersey of my teammate – her arm outstretched for our baton exchange.

Hebrews 12 opens with a well-known race metaphor: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us … run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith … Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” We take comfort in this imagery of a cheering crowd, a well-marked lane, eyes focused on the finish line, and infinite stamina. In reality, though, we stumble in following Christ’s example. Sometimes our courage and trust are mediocre. We are gullible when faced with temptation. The course God has marked out for us becomes difficult to see. Unexpected curves and hurdles appear in our lane.

But on this All Saints’ Day, I am reminded that this race is not an individual event. It’s a relay. The list of specific witnesses commended for their faith begins in Hebrews 11:3 with “we.” In God’s eyes all of us … the “holy catholic church, the communion of saints…” are runners on a universal relay team. We run with saints such as Moses, Mary, and Paul. Saints like Martin Luther, Harriet Tubman, Desmond Tutu, Corrie ten Boom, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Saints like Nettie, my 4-H mentor and high school Sunday School teacher. And even saints among current and future generations whose contributions to this relay are yet unknown.

When we grow weary, we look not only to Christ but also at those who have already run. They stumbled, too. But they relied on God’s strength to persevere. We are encouraged by their examples and humbly seek to stay the course, holding fast to the baton of God’s Word. When this relay is finally over, there will be no Hall of Fame – no framed jerseys or polished plaques. There will simply be a HUGE crowd of witnesses and that baton of God’s Word covered with their fingerprints. During my leg of this race, I will cling to that baton and listen for the voices of my teammates as I follow their footsteps.

at Wednesday, November 1, 2017 | 0 comments
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A Note from Pastor Jason-September Newsletter

A Historic Move

I’m so proud of you.

At our July Church Conference, we made a historic move toward greater inclusion and ecumenism. After voting to accept the Deacon Baptism Task Force’s report and recommendations, we voted to amend our church membership policy. Until now, our policy (like the majority of Baptist churches in our world) has stated that only followers of Christ who have experienced believer’s baptism by immersion could be church members. At our meeting, you opened the doors wide for followers of Jesus from any Christian tradition to become full members of our church by affirming both their commitment to Jesus as Lord and the present meaningfulness of their Christian baptism. Baptists strongly value soul freedom, so this decision is quite baptistic.

I’m as proud of the way we came to this decision as I am enthused by the decision itself.

Our recent process has been well documented. Following a retreat focused on baptism, the Deacon body engaged in a year-long study of baptism and church membership, which prompted them to develop a process for our church to engage this topic deeply as well. This included a Sunday lunch presentation, a Sunday morning Bible study series, a Wednesday night study series, numerous distributed baptism stories from our congregation, a formal survey of our congregation’s views on the subject, multiple Q & A sessions, a reflection time for the Task Force and then a formal report with recommendations (still available to you) which was formally accepted by the Deacon body, the Church Council and finally, the Church.

The process alone was impressive. It was thoughtful and thorough. It took time, but difficult issues are worth our thorough, thoughtful attention. We are well aware that some churches have lost many members and experienced much pain as they wrestled with these issues. Your grace and openness throughout was beautiful. And honestly, I wasn’t surprised.

I wasn’t surprised because this way of being is part of our congregational ethos and I wasn’t surprised because this process was actually prompted by your empathy and compassion long before that Deacon retreat in 2014. I specifically remember your feedback during our 2010 visioning retreat with Tom Sine. In public share times, people mentioned concern about loved ones who could not be members here because they felt a second baptism would diminish the meaningfulness of their first. For them, not being baptized again was a matter of Christian conviction. Months later, after we adopted our mission statement, values, and the B’s (Belong. Believe. Become), some of you came to me (and I assume to each other) and said things like “if we really mean “belong,” shouldn’t we amend our membership policy?” Many of you have been wrestling with this for quite some time.

Relationship and reflection led to questions of concern, rooted in compassion. This prompted study. So much study. So many conversations. So much processing, filled with so much listening. Real listening. And it was all, from beginning to end, rooted and grounded in love.

I’m so proud of you.

From beginning to end our Deacons have said they wanted to develop a model for how our church might engage in any difficult dialogue. I think they have. And I hope it will serve as more than a model for future congregational conversations.

In the midst of potentially conflictual conversations, I have observed a Spirit in you, and between you, our world needs to experience more often. Concern. Compassion. Thoughtfulness. Listening. Real Listening. Love. Grace. Our world desperately needs so much more of this. And, this is how Jesus wants us to embody life in this world. If this is not our normal mode of operation, perhaps we need to amend our policy.

With a grateful heart,


Senior Pastor


Posted by Jason Edwards at Friday, August 25, 2017 | 0 comments
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Thailand June Trip Update June 7

Every day we identify more things we take for granted back home. Today we realized how easy it is for us to take the time to drive somewhere for the mere pleasure of a restaurant, sporting event, museum, or another similar outing.

The women on staff at UHDP have all of their basic needs met, access to computers, and jobs that require them to interact with people from around the world.  Compared to many women in this country, they are  "well off," but they still work tirelessly - day after day - like so many women across the globe who serve as missionaries or local aid workers. Spending time and money to do something special just for themselves is rare.  Our presence here as solely a women's group has provided a unique opportunity for the UHDP women not only to assume leadership roles but also to enjoy the luxury of planning and PARTICIPATING in a day trip merely for pleasure. They have been giddy about it for weeks!

After a walk through the weekly market in the nearby city of Fang, we stopped at a 7-11, where they bought a bag of American chips (with sushi, shrimp, and seaweed flavors?!) for the road.  We introduced them to the phrase "It's a Girls' Day," which they found humorous, and we headed farther up into the mountains to Maesalong. This is an area with much Chinese influence and a higher standard of living... not to mention STUNNING views!  The air was much cooler after a hard rain, which was a wonderful relief. We ate a family-style lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then drove to the beautiful grounds outside of town where the restaurant's owner grows her own tea. (Perhaps the highlight of that spot was teaching Loulla how to take a selfie!)










Our next stop was a resort with beautiful gardens, followed by a visit to a factory where award-winning Chinese tea is grown and processed. While we couldn't enter the factory, we walked through the fields, were shown exactly how to brew the tea leaves, and sampled several kinds of tea.  We then drove to a museum/memorial that honors Chinese soldiers who have sacrificed their lives on behalf of Thailand in its war against Myanmar.












On our way home we walked through a small vineyard as the sun began to set, and our special day ended with dinner in an open-air restaurant on the Makos River. After dinner Pi Maow, the woman who had planned our day, told us this is the first time they've ever had an all women's, Christian group come to UHDP, and she felt God had brought our two small groups of Thai and American women together.  There were moments when we Americans felt a little guilty calling an entire day of pleasure "mission work." But Pi Maow's comment and the chatter and laughter of the Thai women all the way home reminded us that "Sabbath" is necessary - not a guilty pleasure, and we were so honored to be a part of these special ladies' Sabbath experience.







As with any group trip, we are adding daily to our list of "behind the scenes moments" and funny memories. One that brought us the hardest laughter today was our group effort in finding and eliminating an excessively large spider from our room. We're willing to put up with a lot of critters here, but this was NOT going to be one of them!

at Wednesday, June 7, 2017 | 0 comments
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