A Prayer for the Tennessee General Assembly

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.

Gracious God,
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.


Getting Ready for a Beautiful Day


Howdy everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting excited about our upcoming Beautiful Day Festival  on August 26. This event is an opportunity to reach out to our neighbors in a new way, and I believe that it has the potential to build new relationships that will lead us to new callings and ministries in the weeks and months to come.

There is some excitement beyond our church this week about our Beautiful Day series and event:

  • Both Jim Neely and I were interviewed by The Tennessean this week for a story to come next week. A reporter and photographer from the paper will be joining us in worship this Sunday (the 19th) to hear about what we are learning from Mister Rogers and our hopes for the festival.
  • The Madison Rivergate Chamber promoted the event in their email materials, and we have been contacted by a local food truck that is going to come and be a part of the event.
  • Several community leaders have mentioned the event in their Facebook posts, and others have distributed flyers in their business. Of course, Jim has delivered invitations to over 1,000 homes!

All of this means that we don’t really know how many folks will show up!!! That is a good problem to have, but it means that we need all hands on deck to be present and pitch in for this great event.

How can you help now? Here are a few options:

  • We are always looking for donations from businesses for gift cards and other items to be used as door prizes. If you have a contact that might offer a donation please reach out. I’m happy to send them a letter of receipt that they can use for tax purposes.
  • We will probably need folks to help set up on Saturday, August 25 so if you are able to help please let Jim Neely know. We also need folks to commit to being a part of the cleanup crew on the afternoon of the 16th.
  • PRAY!!! Pray for God to:
    • Give us good weather for the event.
    • Keep us all healthy and grant us energy to be good hosts and hostesses.
    • Give us lots of opportunities to make new friendships that will develop into ongoing relationships.
    • Help our neighbors feel comfortable joining us and sharing of themselves.

God is doing a new thing in our midst. I hope and pray that you are as excited as I am, and that through this special season we will experience God’s grace in a mighty way.

See you Sunday!



Vespers Tonight — John 1:10-34

Our weekly Vesper’s Service will be meeting tonight (July 18, 2018) at 6:00 p.m. in the City Road Chapel Welcome Center, and we will be looking at John 1:10-34. This passage describes the questioning of John the Baptist by the religious leaders of his day, and his subsequent witness regarding the identity of Jesus.

One of the central questions asking of John was “Who are you?” It’s a question that we too often face, and the way that John responds to that question has interesting implications for all of us living in a world which wants us to conform to certain categories.

If you haven’t been to Vespers before, it is a casual time of prayer, singing, and conversation on the scriptures. We also share in communion together each week.

Come and join the conversation tonight!

Ready, Set, Go! The end is in sight!!!

Last night, the leaders of our church met as the Church Council, and in the course of our business received a report from the Finance Team. According to Joy Campbell, church treasurer, our current balance on our loan is right at $147,000. She also shared that we currently have over $70,000 raised to pay on that amount, meaning that we are just over $70,000 from paying off the loan in a three year period.

When we borrowed the money to replace the Educational Build HVAC system ($600,000) I and others in leadership thought we were likely looking at having this debt with us for at least 10 years. Certainly, none of us thought that we’d be this close to retiring this debt as quickly as we have. God is indeed good and we have been blessed by almost all measures. Also, pat yourself on the back for a job well done as folks have expressed their ongoing commitment to the ministry of our church.

We are SO close and we can do this!!! Let’s make it our goal to get this loan entirely paid off in 2018. That is achievable if we draw together and make a final push.

Thanks to the Lord for God’s faithfulness as we celebrate this important milestone in our life together.


Carrying Out the Work of Growing in Christ and Sharing God’s Love

The City Road Chapel Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development has developed the following proposal for organizing our work together in 2018. This proposal will be considered and voted on by the Charge Conference on October 30, 2017. 

The United Methodist Book Discipline requires the Charge Conference to elect each year a committee to oversee the work of nominations and leadership development, which is charged with identifying, developing, deploying, evaluating, and monitoring Christian spiritual leadership for the local congregation. (¶258.1) These leaders direct the work of God in our church as we all seek to be the hands and feet of Christ. The Committee on Nominations and Leadership development is charged with discerning the best organizational structure, and then identifying leaders to work within that structure, so as to best carry out God’s work in the world.

As the City Road Chapel Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development has met and talked, we believe that we are in an important time in the life of our church. Our community, and therefore the ways that we live out God’s call, has changed. The approaches to carrying out God’s work that were effective in the past may no longer be effective today. Likewise, with our shrinking professional staff pool, the way that ministries are managed and accomplished must change as well. Thus, we believe that it is time to evaluate how our work together is ordered, working to discern a new vision for our life together.

We understand that whatever structure we adopt must conform to the requirements of The Book of Discipline. The Book of Discipline mandates certain committees and offices to ensure that the church’s finances and properties are well managed, that there is adequate communication and supervision of staff, and that leaders are identified to carry out the work of the church. These committees (Staff Parish Relations, Finance, Trustees, and Lay Leadership) are charged with being stewards of the resources we have been given, and ensuring that our church has the resources needed to do what God would have us do.

Beyond those mandated committees, the church is able to discern the structure that best reflects our life together. As we have prayed and considered where God is leading City Road Chapel, we believe that the starting place for any organizational structure must be our current vision for our church, that we are a community of disciples of Jesus Christ committed to growing in Christ and sharing God’s love, leading us to make a difference in Madison. While previous committees and pastors have offered alternate structures, we believe that this mission has taken root in our congregation, and must be the guiding vision for our work together.

As such, we are proposing that our ministry needs to be structured around three major areas:

  • Discipleship — growing in Christ
  • Sharing –– sharing God’s love, and
  • Resourcing which provides the resources needed for the work of discipleship and sharing

None of these areas is of greater importance than the others. Growing in Christ naturally leads to one’s inspiration to share God’s love. Sharing God’s love brings one closer to God and leads to spiritual growth. Both areas need resources for their work, and a focus on resources without an accompanying mission is simply building up treasures on earth rather than in heaven. All of these areas work together in a symbiotic relationship not unlike that of Father, Son, and Spirit – unified for the purpose of creating a world filled with love and grace.

This document outlines our vision of our structure together, with the hope that it will guide us in carrying out God’s work for the City Road Chapel UMC in Madison.

The Call to Serve Never Ends

It’s 8:30 a.m. and I have to confess that my brain is swirling a bit as I think about the events of the past couple of days.

Yesterday 80 of us gathered as a community to worship and then to be sent out to carry the love of Christ into the world. The goal was simple — to offer love as Christ has loved us, and to experience Jesus along the way. And over the course of the day, we did just that…

  • By loving on some 25 kids and their parents and sharing God’s love with them at Shadetree.
  • By helping a neighbor church address building issues to enhance their ministry for the future.
  • By leading a group of senior adults in worship at The Windlands.
  • By writing cards to our homebound members, reminding them of our love and concern.
  • By stuffing 100 food bags to be distributed to those in need.
  • By giving away some 100 bottles of water to passers by on Neely’s Bend Rd., helping them to know about our church and that want to serve.
  • By knitting prayer shawls and giving one away to a person struggling with health issues.
  • By opening the Quiet Space to some of our homeless neighbors, giving them a place to rest and regroup.
  • By carrying cupcakes to our local firefighters and police officers, letting them know we appreciate what they do for our community.
  • By collecting school supplies to be given to our area schools.
  • By feeding our neighbors with a warm meal, good fellowship, and some rocking entertainment at the Feast Community Meal.

It was a good day, albeit an exhausting one, and I hope that you got a chance to experience God through this day of service. I need to especially thank one of God’s great servants, Jim Neely, for coordinating the WOW activities; Nathan Baker and Debbie Young for pulling together the breakfast; and all the members of THE BAND Matt McNeil, Kent Goodson, Jim Walden, Jerry Armour, Janet Passinger, Deb Naylor, Stephanie Carlson, and Stephen Owen) for helping us to experience God through music. God was indeed in our midst, and we thank Him for allowing us to serve him in this way.

And then, after a full day, I went home and turned on the TV.

The images from Houston brought flashbacks from that weekend 7 years ago when the heavens opened up and the flood waters rose here in Nashville. The situation in Texas and Louisiana is dire, and I remembered how the church was so important to the recovery and rebuilding efforts here in Nashville, and in other similar disasters throughout the world. The damage from the effects of Hurricane Harvey are far reaching, and it will take many years to recover from this disaster. And if this is like previous disasters (like Andrew, or Katrina, or the Nashville floods), United Methodists will be working to end through the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

One of the things I learned in managing recovery efforts in Southeast Nashville is that there are many who want to help, but in their attempts create more problems than solutions. In all honesty what the folks in Houston need now is not second-hand clothes, or barely used shoes but rather the money to buy those things that are needed in the moment. Donations of stuff end up sitting in warehouses and decaying because they simply aren’t that useful at that point in the recovery efforts.

What Houston reminds me is that the call to offer God’s love never ends. We may have taken a day to Worship Outside the Walls, but the sending by Christ to proclaim his love and bring healing to the world continues on day by day. The needs are ALWAYS great — whether it be helping folks dig out after a disaster or ministering to those who are overwhelmed by the demons of addiction. And we — those that Paul called Christ’s body — are called and sent to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the midst of the world’s pain and suffering.

Yesterday’s Worship Outside the Walls was a great day, and you can be very proud of all that was done in the name of our church. Take a moment to pat yourselves on the back.

But then put your hand back to the plow and get back to the work of sharing God’s love for a world in need of God’s grace.

To find out more about Hurricane Harvey relief efforts by UMCOR, click here.