Have you ever made a New Year’s resolution that you were going to read through the Bible only to get confused about what you were reading? Have you experienced the Bible being used more as a weapon than as something helps you understand God? Are you trying to make sense of the paradoxes in scripture, wondering how we should read it in today’s world, and questioning if it has any relevance to your life?
You are certainly not the only person to have questions of the Bible, but far too often church folks and Sunday School classes don’t leave room for you to ask those questions, Making Sense of the Bible is a class designed to address those questions without judgment or worry. Our goal is to create a space for all people to think about the power of this ancient book and how we might use it in formulating our own understandings of faith.
Making Sense of the Bible will be facilitated by Jay Voorhees, the lead pastor of the City Road Chapel United Methodist Church. Jay has studied the Bible at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and enjoys helping people connect with the scriptures in real ways.
This class, which will meet on Sundays at 2 p.m. starting on April 28, 2019, will be using the book “Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today” by Adam Hamilton as a guide for our class. Rev. Hamilton is the Senior Pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City and is a gifted writer and teacher. This book is an easy read, and Adam will guide us in our questions and thinking about the Bible.
Be watching this page for a class schedule and resources for the journey.
If you would like to participate in this class, please complete the form below. If you have questions about the class please email Jay Voorhees at email@example.com.
This Sunday represents the beginning of the special week in the life of the church we call “Holy Week”. Holy Week is that special time between Palm to Passion Sunday and Easter in which we focus especially on the meaning of the cross in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. This year, City Road Chapel will be hosting the following Holy Week observances:
Sunday, April 14 – Palm to Passion Sunday (8 & 10 a.m.)
Palm to Passion Sunday is a worship service that tracks the story of Jesus from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the crowds shouting “crucify him!” We start the service off with the waving of palm branches and journey with Jesus to Golgotha.
Wednesday, April 17 – Wesleyan Love Feast (6 p.m.)
For the past several years we have gathered in the Welcome Center on the Wednesday night of Holy Week for a love feast in the Wesleyan tradition. Bring a finger food to share as well as a story, poem, or song that connects you to the passion story.
Good Friday, April 19 – The Service of Nails (7 p.m.)
Good Friday is the night in which we remember the death of Jesus on the cross. Our service this night will focus on how we participate in Christ’s death through our own human sinfulness. This service will include scripture and music featuring our City Road singers and others.
Sunday, April 21 – The Celebration of Christ’s Resurrection
It’s Easter Sunday and we will gather in the sanctuary at 8 and 10 a.m. to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ! This is always a meaningful service filled with music and joy. Don’t miss celebrating Easter at City Road Chapel!
Recently, I was asked to be the “Chaplain of the Day” and offer the opening prayer for the Tennessee State Assembly by Representative Bill Beck, who is the House member for our area. I was honored to have this opportunity and hope that I represented City Road Chapel well. Several folks have asked me for the text of my prayer and I am happy to share that below.
Creator of all things,
whose steadfast love is everlasting,
we gather tonight as a people
called and elected to the task of leadership
in the service of our neighbors.
May we come without the illusion
that we are people of power,
but rather come with the humble knowledge
that we are servants to all who live around us.
Help us this night O God,
to remember especially those
whose voices are often muted in our society:
those who are struggling to make their way;
those who are just trying to make ends meet;
those who, through no fault of their own,
are judged as less deserving of our consideration.
Never let us forget
that we are no more special than they are,
and that their voices are just as important as ours.
As we debate our positions tonight,
help us to have the humility to listen,
the grace to speak carefully and kindly,
and the knowledge to recognize
that we work for the common good;
striving to make our state a place
in which ALL are welcomed,
in which ALL are kept safe,
and in which the vision of a place
dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
is open to ALL people.
Help us to remember that the conviction of our beliefs
does not mean that those who disagree with us are our enemies.
Help us to never forget
that your call for love and justice
applies to every part of our state,
from the river bottoms in the west,
to the mountains in the east;
along the Tennessee River in the south,
and the Cumberland as it travels through the Big South Fork.
Remind us daily,
that you are present in our large cities
and in the farms and hamlets far off the main road.
And may we always recognize
that the citizens of this state,
people of varied backgrounds,
genders, ethnicities, and nationalities
shall always carry with them
the volunteer heritage
that says that we help when we can,
serve when we must,
and respect all as people created in your image.
As we deliberate tonight,
may we remember the teachings of our forebear, John Wesley
to avoid doing harm,
to do as much good as we can,
and to stay in love with the one who created us.
Speak tonight, O God,
and give us your light in the midst of the darkness
that we will see your way
and carry out your desires.
We ask this in the name
of the one who created us in the beginning,
who reconciled us to you when we tried to do things our own way,
and who sustains us and empowers us to be people of light and love.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is the work of the author and does not reflect any official opinion of the Tennessee Annual Conference nor the City Road Chapel United Methodist church.
We are not far from the yearly gathering of the Tennessee Annual Conference and I have been thinking quite a bit about what that meeting might look like in light of the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis this past February. If nothing else, that international meeting made clear the things that divide us, leading to even more polarization between the various factions of the church. Given that divide, it’s not a far stretch to worry about the tone of our Annual Conference this year. We differ on the interpretation of scripture. We differ in our understandings of the history and tradition of the United Methodist Church. We differ in where we see God calling the church into the future. And, as we talk about those differences, our valid passion around our interpretations, understandings, and calling can easily denigrate into something that seems far, far away from Christ’s desires for his church.
Recently, I had the chance to join with pastors from the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences for a retreat led by Emory professor Gregory Ellison based on his book, Fearless Dialogues: A New Movement for Justice. Fearless Dialogues creates unique spaces for unlikely partners to engage in hard, heartfelt conversations that see gifts in others, hear value in stories, and work for change and positive transformation in self and others. The event led people into experiences that helped us see with new eyes and challenged us to recognize the fears that keep us from truly understanding one another. As we debriefed at the end of the event, person after person felt that the experience had changed us, and we longed to apply what we had experienced to the Annual Conference session.
As I reflected on the learnings, I was reminded of the recovery communities that I visit regularly. These groups are in many ways, the successors to the Wesleyan Class Meetings in that they provide a small covenantal community in which to experience personal transformation. Hundreds of thousands of people gather in rooms each week in a safe space in which people are vulnerable with one another and honest conversation happens. There are many reasons for the success of these groups, but as I’ve entered “the rooms” I’ve noticed that each meeting begins with a recitation of 12 Traditions which guide and informs the work of those groups. Those traditions are the values around which the groups are organized, and clearly lay out a plan for how the groups should function.
In conversation with some colleagues, I began to wonder if we might not need our own “12 Traditions” to guide and inform our time together at Annual Conference. In my thinking, these would be 12 affirmations drawn from the Scriptures and our traditions which layout some common values that would center us and ensure that we treat all with love and respect in the midst of our differences. These are not rules for judgment, but rather reflect a covenantal understanding by which we affirm common beliefs that facilitate loving and gracious dealings with one another. After knocking out some possibilities (drawing on the Bible and our Book of Discipline), I ran them by some colleagues who offered input and affirmation, and now I am sharing them with all to see if we might be willing and able to come to a common agreement regarding our time together this June.
I recognize that we are all moving onto perfection and that these affirmations are aspirational at best. I share them in the hope that God is calling us to a different way of functioning in the world, and that we might possibly be able to demonstrate God’s love in our business together. Certainly, as we saw at the General Conference, Robert’s Rules aren’t enough. Would you be willing to join me in affirming the statements below as a guide for our work together?
12 Affirmations for Christian Conferencing
in the Tennessee Annual Conference
As we come together at the 2019 Session of the Tennessee Annual Conference we recognize that emotions are raw in the wake of the decisions made at the 2019 General Conference. Many of us were broken by what we saw happening in St. Louis, no matter our positions on the issues at before us. Unfortunately, just as the delegates at that conference were divided in their beliefs, we too are divided in our understandings. Yet, we believe that God has joined us together as brothers and sisters in Christ to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
The following guidelines are our affirmations by which we agree as the people called United Methodist in Middle Tennessee to support in ensuring that we engage in faithful Christian conferencing during our sessions together:
As members of the Tennessee Annual Conference, we affirm:
- That the focus of our mission in the Tennessee Annual Conference is to discover, equip, connect and send lay and clergy leaders who shape congregations that offer Jesus Christ to a hurting world, one neighborhood at a time. Our work in this Annual Conference session must always serve in the purpose of this mission.
- That we are rooted in the great commandments of Jesus Christ to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, knowing that the whole of Scripture hangs on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:36-40)
- That ALL people are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God, and that all need the ministry of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. (2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline ¶161G)
- That the desire of Jesus for Christ’s church is that they be one body in Him, just as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer are unified as one. (John 17:20-23; Ephesians 4:4-6)
- We recognize that Christian unity does not mean Christian uniformity. We may have differences of belief and interpretation and still be joined together in carrying out Christ’s call to make disciples of Jesus Christ. (Acts 15:36-41; John Wesley’s Sermon “Catholic Spirit)
- That we are led as people in the Wesleyan tradition to conform our lives to the General Rules given to us by John Wesley to 1) do no harm and avoid evil; 2) do good, being in every way merciful as we have power to all people; and 3) attend upon the ordinances of God as described in our United Methodist Book of Discipline. (United Methodist Book of Discipline ¶104)
- That our faith is demonstrated in the fruit of God’s Spirit: love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
- That we are committed to seeing all the people, taking special care to hear all voices affected by the work we do as an annual conference, and making sure that people on the margins are acknowledged and listened to. (Mark 10:13-16)
- We will work to recognize, acknowledge, and honor the fears that each of us brings with us which limits our ability to fully share of ourselves and hear one another, striving for fear+less dialogues as we remember that “…there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18)
- That listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit is as important as being efficient or productive in our work together, and we commit ourselves to holy pauses for prayer and reflection to listen for God’s voice in the midst of our conversation and debate. (Luke 10:38-42)
- We will be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, knowing that none of us see God in God’s fullness, and we are open to the possibility that God is bringing something new. We are all a work in progress. (1 Corinthians 13:12, Isaiah 43:16-2, 1 John 4:16-21)
- We are committed to bearing one another’s burdens in the belief that doing so represents a fulfillment of the law of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
As a member of the Tennessee Annual Conference, I support these affirmations and will use them to inform my work with my fellow members…
|Rev. Dr. Douglas Norfleet||Mississippi River (Memphis)||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Jeremy Squires||Cumberland River District||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Matthew Kelley||Harpeth River District||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Terrance Davis Sr.||Cumberland River District||Local Pastor|
|Jefferson Furtado||Cumberland River District||Provisional Member|
|Jodi McCullah||Caney Fork River District||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|James Cole||Stones River District||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Phil Ross||Red River District||Lay Member or Alternate Lay Member|
|P.J. Shaffer||Red River District||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Erin Racine||Cumberland River District||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Ann Cover||Cumberland River District||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Jay Voorhees||Cumberland River District (TN)||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Zach Moffatt||Cumberland River District (TN)||Provisional Member|
|Debra Tyree||Red River District (TN)||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|James Cole||Stones River District (TN)||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Sandy Shawhan||Caney Fork River District (TN)||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Harriet Bryan||Red River District (TN)||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|
|Edward Murrey||Harpeth River District (TN)||Local Pastor|
|Brian Marcoulier||Red River District (TN)||Full Member (Elder or Deacon)|