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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
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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
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Thailand Trip June 6

Thailand Update June 6
by Angie Fuller

Groups like ours who come to UHDP often help fund a particular need the project has. Today we learned how UHDP had utilized the financial support we gave. A building (with bunkhouse above and meeting space below) has been leaking badly on one side during the rainy season. Buildings such as this are vital to UHDP so that groups can stay for a couple of weeks or months to serve on the project, or in surrounding communities and to provide meeting space for a variety of purposes. Part of our funds was used to construct a large blue awning over this building where the wind often blows in the rain.  The rest of our funds went toward paint supplies for today's task of working alongside some of the staff to repaint the large meeting room in this building.  The room now looks much brighter with a fresh coat of white paint and gray and brown trim work.




















Loulla, a member of our team with personal experience of learning English as a second language, has had several lengthy practice sessions with a few of the women on staff here interested in improving their English through conversation and reading. We all have attempted to learn a few Thai words and certainly struggle to wrap our mouths around the sounds of this new language. But we all chuckled today when several times we heard two of the men painting with us repeatedly practice saying "brown" - both of them giggling every time because of how it sounded to them.







This afternoon it was our turn to reciprocate the Thai dessert-making tutorial the women gave us on Saturday and show them how to make an American dessert. Objects like an oven or measuring cups are not common in Thai kitchens. Knowing this and also considering supplies that could either be transported or purchased here easily, we simply brought foil pans and brownie mixes. We felt a little sheepish comparing the complexity of our dessert with theirs, but they patiently watched, mixed, waited in another kitchen with a small oven, and eventually tasted our slightly undercooked brownies... probably not thrilled with the taste so unfamiliar to them, but gracious just the same.

Mango Sticky Rice Lesson







Brownie Cooking Lesson









Hands and Feet of God--Sometimes Your Feet Get Dirty









Have Truck We'll Travel








Good Morning Thailand

at Tuesday, June 6, 2017
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