pastor’s corner


VBS Weekend

Dear Church Family,

This week has been a whirlwind, but of the BEST kind! We have had music and laughter filling the hallways, lots of smiling faces, singing, dancing, storytelling. You guessed it… we have been hosting Vacation Bible School (V.B.S.) this week! And… I was talking about the grown ups!!!

We’ve had the joy of hosting approximately 100 children from Pre-K through the 5th grade this week. They have come to us from the Learning Center, our Children’s ministry, and the local area. Folks, I have to say I am very proud to call COF home. The volunteers shined all week (even if they were tired). From the people who donated, to the teachers, leaders, helpers, snack makers, cleaner-uppers, sound booth, and youth volunteers. You’ve made this a special week for our Super Heroes!

“Super Heroes” you ask?? Come to service at 10:30am on Sunday to find out more about this year’s theme and what the children learned. We’ll dance and sing and celebrate all that God is doing through this church, with these children, and the children will join us in worship. With events like this, it often feels like we’ve been blessed even more than they have been.


Father’s Day Weekend

Dear Church Family,
The halls have been quiet this week, with so many of our team travelling, and school out for the summer, but we have still been as busy as usual – there is so much happening in the life of our church!
Both David and Kathy are out of the office this week chaperoning our Youth Group Mission Team in Pahokee, Florida. From the Facebook posts it looks like a wonderful trip, and reminds us once again that we “think” we are going on a Mission to impact others, and in turn we end up being the ones who are impacted. We’re looking forward to hearing about their experiences when they return on Saturday!
Pastor Chris and Amanda are enjoying a special trip to England on a study tour and visiting historic sites where John Wesley worked, preached, and stayed. I am sure they are making special memories, and we pray they have safe travels and come back home to us inspired.
In the meantime, we have a lot to look forward to this weekend! Pastor Loida Divine will be preaching. She comes to us from Pastor Chris’s previous church, Community UMC in Fruitland Park. She said she is already praying that God will bless us as we worship together, and I know we are looking forward to hearing her message that she shares with us.


Radical Hospitality

Dear Church Family,
Back in 2007, Bishop Robert Schnase penned a book called Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. In the book Bishop Schnase laid out five practices that make up healthy, thriving, and growing churches. These five practices include: 1) Radical Hospitality, 2) Passionate Worship, 3) Intentional Faith Development, 4) Risk Taking Mission Service, and 5) Extravagant Generosity. Now, I’m sure there’s room for us at COF to grow and improve in all of these areas, but I want to spend a few moments focusing on radical hospitality.
Here’s why.
Over the past year and a half, I’ve received correspondence now from 4 different families who visited our church. While they enjoyed the service, these families ultimately decided not to return. Why? Because no one ever said “hello” to them. When one family shared this information with me, I thought their experience was an anomaly. After all, I reasoned to myself, we’re a friendly church! But then I got another letter where a family said the exact same thing. Then another. And now (as of last week) another one again. Okay, I’m listening to these folks, because I think they’re saying something we-myself included-need to hear. How are we, as a church body, extending radical hospitality to the people who come through our doors?
Now, let me be clear that I share this information not to make us feel bad or guilty, but rather, to encourage us to consider how we can all play a role in making COF appear warm and friendly. In truth, we are warm and friendly… visitors just don’t know it yet! The author of Hebrews reminds us not to hesitate to show hospitality to strangers, because by doing so, some have entertained angels (Hebrews 13:2). Let’s make it our goal to treat every person who walks on our campus as an angel who’s come directly from God.


Pentecost weekend – Wear Red!

Dear COF Family,
As I do every Friday, let me share with you some exciting things that are happening in the life of our church.
First, this weekend marks the occasion of Pentecost, where we remember how the Holy Spirit-after the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven-came upon the disciples, thereby giving birth to the Church. Pentecost is a holy day that Christians all over the world observe and celebrate. My sermon this weekend isn’t going to directly tie in with the events of Pentecost. But we will certainly highlight the gift God has given us through the sending of his Spirit. As the apostle Paul reminds us, the same Spirit that raised Jesus from dead is alive in each of us as Christ-followers (Romans 8:11). What I’d ask is that you wear red when you come to worship. Red symbolizes the Spirit’s activity and power. 
Speaking of the Spirit’s activity and power, it’s hard to deny that the Spirit of God is moving in our motley crew at COF. For instance,
we have 6 baptisms we are performing this weekend. That’s right-6! To start, I will baptize all 5 members of the Lloyd family on Saturday night. These 5 members include mom (Kimi), dad (Bill), and their three children (Nathan, Elizabeth, and Tyler). To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever baptized an entire family before, so this will be a first for me! After they’re baptized, the Lloyd family will then officially join our church as new members. Second, we will also have a baptism at the 10:30 service on Sunday. That baptism will involve a beautiful little girl named Jayda, who attends our church with her mom and sister. Baptism is a sign of the new life God gives us in Jesus. I am glad that folks are experiencing this kind of new life through the ministry of our church.


For those we have lost

Dear Church Family,
Let me start by saying that we offer our love and prayers to our sisters and brothers in the Manchester area of England. No doubt you heard the news about the bombing that took place at the Ariana Grande concert, which claimed the lives of at least 22 people. We have a number of folks in our congregation from the UK, and I know this tragedy hits close to home for them. We weep with those who weep, and pray that God would comfort all those affected by this horrible event, as only God can.
Last weekend, we welcomed Griffin Sinclair to the team as our interim worship leader. Griffin did a great job leading us in our 3 services, and many of you expressed your gratitude for his talents and skill set. I’m confident that God will use Griffin in a powerful way during these summer months. We are certainly blessed to have him!
We are going to take a break from our “Say What?: Wrestling with the Bible’s Strangest Stories” series this weekend to hear a message about the “new creation” God calls us to be in and through Jesus. So, come hungry, expecting to hear a word from God that will hopefully fill your soul! We’ll resume the “Say What?” series the next weekend.
Also, this Monday is Memorial Day, so in worship we’ll recognize the military women and men who have given their lives in service to our country. Indeed, without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedom that we do-which we so often take for granted.
That’s all I have for today! I figured since my messages the last couple of Fridays were longer, I would try to make this one shorter. Hopefully I succeeded!
Have a great a weekend! It’s an honor to be your pastor.

Graduations, Church-wide Cleanup, VBS, Say What?

Happy Friday, COF!
We have lots going on in our church, so be sure to thoroughly read this email!
First, Learning Center graduation is happening later this morning. We are graduating seventy-five kids out of our VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) program. I’ll be attending the ceremony later today and inviting families without a church home to visit COF. My favorite part of the ceremony is hearing what the kids plan to do when they grow up. Most of the kids will say something like “doctor”, “police officer”, or “firefighter”. But then there’ll also be the occasional “stormtrooper” or “ninja”! I am proud of the excellent work our Learning Center does to foster creative thinking in these kids.
Second, our Church-Wide Clean Up Day is happening tomorrow from 9:00-noon. Even if (like me) you’re not a handy person, there’s something for you to do. So, join us as we spruce up our building and property and make COF a more hospitable place for all!
Third, this weekend in worship, we’re welcoming our new interim worship leader, Griffin Sinclair. Griffin is a young man who comes to us from First United Methodist Church in Winter Park, where he plays in the contemporary worship band. In addition to playing guitar and keyboard, Griffin is a gifted vocalist who sings extraordinarily well. Our Staff Parish Relations Committee (personnel committee) was extremely impressed with Griffin’s talents and skill set. I know you’ll be blessed as he leads us in worship over the summer months.


Mother’s Day and a new search

Dear Church Family,
What a great time of worship we had last Saturday and Sunday. In addition to inspiring fellowship, we were blessed to have Bryant Manning, Associate Chaplain at Florida Southern College, lead music for us at our three weekend services. Bryant wanted me to let you know how much he enjoyed himself, and how he hopes to be back with us one day in the future. I trust you would very much welcome that opportunity
This weekend, the members of the worship band are going to grab onto the musical reins at our contemporary services, while the choir will resume singing for us at our traditional service
Earlier this week, the members of the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) met to appoint the members of the Worship Arts and Discipleship Director Search Committee. The membership is as follows
  1. Lori Austin (Lay Leader, Volunteer Choir Director, 8:30 service
  2. Beth Berner (SPRC Chair, 6:30 service
  3. Frank Bernoi (Choir member, 8:30 service
  4. Tom (T) Gamache (Band member, 6:30 service
  5. Chris Jones (Pastor
  6. Tina Sheppard (Band member, 6:30/10:30 services
  7. Sandra Vazquez (Band member, 6:30/10:30 services
  8. Betty Wilbur (Choir member, 8:30 service
  9. Joe Wolfe (SPRC representative, 6:30/10:30 services
I am proud of the intentional thought and effort that went behind the membership of this Committee. As you can see Committee is diverse, with folks properly representing all the services where our Worship Arts and Discipleship Director is going to lead
The next step is for the membership of the Committee to receive applications for the position (which, truthfully, they’ve already begun doing). They will then prayerfully review those applications in light of our worship and discipleship needs here at Community of Faith. Once the Committee has a group of candidates with whom they’re comfortable, they will pass off those candidates to the members of the SPRC, who will then make the final decision
In the meantime, the SPRC has selected somebody to serve as our interim Worship Leader. However, since that person’s first weekend with us won’t be until May 20/21, I am going to hold off on announcing that person’s name until next Friday, so be on the lookout for my email


Faith is a Journey

Dear Church Family,
I hope you’re having a great week.
By this point, I’m sure you received the communication that our Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) delivered on Tuesday regarding Chet Turk’s resignation. It’s hard to say goodbye to somebody we’ve grown to love-especially someone like Chet who has blessed our church with his gifts for almost three years-but we trust that God has a wonderful future in store for Chet and his family. I hope you’ll join me in picking up a card and offering a word of thanks (and maybe also a gift of appreciation) for Chet and his ministry. We’ll have a box in the lobby area over the next two weekends where you can drop those cards off. We will then forward those cards to Chet’s home address.
As far as this weekend goes, we’re going to be led in musical worship by Bryant Manning, who serves as the Associate Chaplain at Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Bryant and I entered FSC together as first-year students where we lived in the same hall. We also served on the Team together at the Warren Willis Camp where he led Praise Time and Middle School Worship. Bryant is a gifted musician who will do a fine job as he leads us in worship at all three services (on the guitar at the contemporary services, and on the keyboard at our traditional service.)
I’m sure some of you may have questions regarding what’s next in the worship department at Community of Faith. Fortunately, for us, the summer months are upon us, which means college students are out of school. The SPRC’s plan, at this point, is to hire a young person who can work with the choir and the members of the band on the weekends. Meanwhile, as we have this interim person, the SPRC will put together a committee made up of music team members from all 3 services who will start the process of reviewing resumes and screening candidates for a full-time worship leader. This committee, which will be called the Worship Leader Search Committee, will then pass off their pick of top candidates to the SPRC for a second round of screenings and interviews. After that, the SPRC will make the final selection. It might seem like long and drawn out process to some, but it will ensure that the decision is a shared effort, and that we get the best person possible for our church.
Of course, if you have any questions about this process, feel free to reach out to me.
I look forward to seeing you in worship this weekend as we continue in our series, The Gospel in Pixar. The movie we will be looking at is Monsters, Inc. We’ll draw out gospel themes from this Pixar movie and then apply those themes to our lives today. So, it should be a good weekend all around!
It’s a privilege to serve as your pastor!

Story Time

We continue our series “The Gospel in Pixar” this weekend. In case you missed last week, we are looking at four popular Pixar movies-WALL-E, Toy Story, Monsters Inc, and Finding Nemo-and exploring the gospels themes we find in them. This series offers us the chance to learn about the gospel of Jesus in a fun and different kind of way.
 imagine that some folks might question the spiritual depth of a message series like this one. “The Gospel in Pixar? Really? Kind of fluffy stuff. Sermon light, right? Those aren’t real messages.”
If that’s what you’re thinking, here is the way I look at it. When Jesus taught, he used stories to which people could relate. Jesus didn’t say, “Now, I’m going to give a long lecture about this text from Leviticus for the next thirty minutes.” No, he said, “There was once a man who had two sons…..A king threw a big banquet….A man had a barn and put all of his possessions in it.” He told stories and talked about everyday things to which people could relate in order to illustrate his lessons. Jesus knew that truth is often wrapped up in a story. And that’s what we are doing in this series. We are taking wonderful and meaningful stories which everyone can relate and reflecting on how the gospel is illustrated in these powerful stories. And if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us, too!
So, with all that said, make plans to join us tomorrow night or Sunday as we discuss the gospel themes we find in the movie Toy Story. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Earth Day & New Sermon Series

It’s hard to believe that Easter was almost a week ago. I’m still drawing from the energy and excitement of last weekend, which I’m sure will continue to happen in the weeks and months to come.
I’m pumped about the brand new message series we’re kicking off this weekend called “The Gospel in Pixar.” As most of you know, Pixar is a computer animation film studio based in Emeryville, California. The company was founded in 1979 and partnered with Disney in the mid-1990s in the production of a number of different computer-animated movies. (Disney later bought Pixar in 2006 for more than seven billion dollars!) Thus far, there have been seventeen full-length Disney-Pixar movies. We’ll be looking at four of these movies in this series: WALL-E, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Monsters Inc.! Yes, there are definitely gospel themes in these movies! What we’re going to do is draw out these themes, and of course tie them together with Scripture.
In truth, my plan was to follow these movies in chronological order, which would include starting with Toy Story. But since tomorrow is Earth Day, we’re going to start with WALL-E. After all, the movie deals with themes of caring for our planet.
So join us tomorrow night or Sunday, as we see what WALL-E has to teach us about the gospel of Jesus Christ. You won’t be disappointed!

Spoilers Ahead!

When it comes to movies, TV shows, and books, most of us get pretty serious about spoilers. We warn folks not to spoil the ending of a story for us, lest they endure our wrath, right?

However, we might be surprised to know that a study from two researchers at the University of California, San Diego suggests that spoilers don’t spoil stories. Instead, contrary to popular wisdom they might even enhance our enjoyment of a story!
The study ran three experiments based on 12 short stories. Each version of the story was read by at least 30 people. Surprisingly, the researchers found that the study participants preferred the “spoiled” versions of suspenseful stories. For example, in one case, participants were told before reading the story that a condemned man’s daring escape is all just a fantasy before the noose snaps around his neck. That spoiler alert helped them enjoy the story even more.
One of the researchers had an interesting theory about why people liked getting a spoiler alert. He said, “It could be that once you know how [the story] turns out…you’re more comfortable processing the information and you can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.”
Well, here we are in Holy Week. We just finished Maundy Thursday and now we’re in Good Friday. We’re currently reliving what’s been called, “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”


Holy Week

As many of you know, the message series we are journeying through right now is called “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.” It’s based on a book of the same name by Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist pastor in the Kansas City area. Recently, I came across this quote in the book:
It is traditionally thought that Jesus’ public ministry, from baptism to crucifixion, was a period of three years – 156 weeks, or roughly 1,000 days. While the Gospel writers attempt to summarize this entire period for us, they clearly believe that the final week, the last seven days of Jesus’ life, was most important. We call this Holy Week, and Matthew devotes nearly 30 percent of his Gospel to this week and the events that followed it. Mark allocates nearly 40 percent of his Gospel to Holy Week. Though only 20 percent of Luke’s Gospel is dedicated to the last week of Jesus’ life, when we include Luke’s account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, leading up to the last week, 62 percent of the Gospel is focused here. And 47 percent of John’s Gospel describes the events of Holy Week and beyond. Clearly the events of this final week are of utmost importance in the story of Jesus
(Adam Hamilton, “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus.”)
This weekend marks the start of Holy Week, which is the most sacred time of the year for us as Christians. It’s when we remember and reflect upon the events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.