~by Pastor Vicky
There's a story told in the Bible about a man who had leprosy. He traveled many miles to see a prophet of God and ask him to pray for him to be healed. The prophet obliged him, but on one condition. His instructions to him were to go and bathe in a nearby river.
Sounds easy, right? Who wouldn't jump at the chance to be healed by simply taking a dip in the river? There was just one problem - non-locals considered this river undesirable, even dirty. There were lots of nice rivers back home. Maybe he could simply take a swim in one of them? 'No' came the answer. So the man prepared to go home unhealed. No one was going to tell him what to do!
Finally, the prophet's helper pulled the man aside and asked him a question. Do you really want to miss out on what God has for you because of your prejudice? So he finally relented, took the plunge and went home healed.
I was reminded of this tendency that we humans have recently in discussing the current condition of our churches. In decades passed, many thought the larger churches were distasteful, catering to 'entertainment', 'dumbing down the gospel', rather than 'real' discipleship and holiness (and music, of course). I rarely heard people spit out the words 'mega church' with anything other than disdain. As a result of this wide-held prejudice and the resulting system it produced, we have few larger churches in our area of Ohio.
Fast forward to 2016, a decade (or three) later. Many of the larger churches in our country are the drivers of new church starts in smaller cities, multi-sites, evangelism, children's programming, leadership development, and discipleship. No more are people waiting for publishing houses, institutions, or denominational headquarters to respond to our rapidly changing world, as they can't innovate fast enough to be effective.
On the other hand, those larger churches are mobilizing hundreds and thousands of volunteers to build houses, feed the hungry, and bring justice to a hurting world. Unfortunately, we have few of those drivers in our conference. Could it be that what God wanted to use to heal us, we despised, and therefore we remain unwell, or at least less-well than desired?
We bathe in our comfortable, pristine rivers wondering why God hasn't healed us yet. When maybe all it would have taken was a shift in our prejudices to see the benefits for years to come.
I'm not saying that every church should be large. I am saying that every church has a part to play in the body of Christ. We are feeling the effects of our own prejudice in marked fashion these days.
I am saying that I hope we will learn from our mistakes and make room for styles, methods, and even groups that we don't prefer. They may very well be the rivers that help your children find their healing in years to come.
We are so quick to assume some other way is a 'wrong' way. Maybe it's simply a different way. And we've missed out on healing because we forgot that. We pray to God that our children and grandchildren aren't the ones to lose out.
What prejudices are standing in the way of God's work in your life?
We left our church family in late April of 1941, seventy-five years ago, watching, with horror, the events unfolding in Europe, and wondering if the United States would get sucked into the war. On a happier note, however, they celebrated the marriage of Lois McCoy and Frank Ellis, and that couple would go on to be active members of our church for many years. Much of the material about our church is found in The Girard News, our town’s weekly newspaper, available on microfilm at Girard Free Library.
Speaking of weddings, the May 2 edition of the News announced the plans for a double wedding to be held in our church on June 21. Apparently it was a family affair with Miss Ruth Brittain and her brother, Roy, being married on the same day. Ruth would be marrying Fred Bullen, while her brother, Roy, was marrying Miss Mary Marks. The announcement of the wedding was made when 55 guests were entertained for a luncheon at Mahoning Country Club by Miss Brittain and Miss Marks on the previous Wednesday evening. It was to be an open church wedding at one o’clock, with Rev. Arthur Maly and also Rev. P. J. Sinner of the Trinity Lutheran Church presiding. I’m sure I will find more about this wedding when I research the News for the June Glance.
Meanwhile, the work of the church continued. On Tuesday evening May 6th, the Sunday School Board met at the home of Miss Evelyn Jones on E. Kline St. Her sister, Miss Charlotte Jones was associate hostess for the evening. Then, on Thursday, May 8th, the Official Board met at the church. Also on Thursday, the Mills Bros. Circus came to Girard under the auspices of the Fire Dept. There were two shows: one at 2 PM and one at 8 PM.
The Friday, May 9th issue of the News had a happy headline: “Home Building in Girard 320 per cent above 1940 during 1st Four Months”. The article went on to note that the City had issued permits for $57,000 in housing construction. I know that sounds like a small amount, but you could build a pretty nice house in 1941 under $10,000.
On Sunday, May 11, Rev. Maly’s sermon title was “A Woman With The Magnificant Obsession”. On Tuesday, the 13th, the Philathea Class met at the home of Mrs. Howard Rees for a special evening of sewing. Also, on Tuesday, the Methodist Sunday School Board held a short business meeting at the parsonage at 7:30 PM. Then, on Wednesday, the 14th, the Afternoon Guild of the Methodist WSCS met at the home of Mrs. E. O. Hood on E. Prospect St. There are some missing issues of the Girard News, so also, unfortunately, we are mssing the news of the meetings and the sermon titles.
However, thanks to Wikipedia, we can note what was going on in the world around our church family. On May 6th, 1941, Bob Hope performed his first USO show. He would go on to do 57 USO tours of shows between 1941 and 1991. All he had to give was laughter, but that was so valuable to our troops when they needed it the most. The other news from World War II was more somber. On May 10th, the British House of Commons was damaged by the Luftwaffe in an air raid. Also the war continued at sea with submarines torpedoing merchant ships was well as military ships, even hospital ships. On May 24th, the German Battleship Bismarck sunk the British battlecruiser HMS Hood, killing all but three crewmen from a total of 1,418 aboard the pride of the Royal Navy. Two days later, a Swordfish aircraft from the carrier Ark Royal crippled the steering of the Bismarck in an aerial torpedo attack. The next day the crippled Bismarck was sunk with the loss of 2,300 seamen.
Against this backdrop of awful news, the May 30th edition of the News announced that “111 Students Graduate Tonight“. We can only wonder what their proud parents were thinking about their children’s future.
That concludes our look back at the month of May, 1941 – seventy-five years ago in our church and in our town.
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by Shane Russo
Sometimes, we use words without thinking of their implications. A while back, I noticed that I had a tendency toward a few verbal quirks. I decided to examine them during my regular time of self reflection. What I found was interesting. So, today, I want to discuss my first quirk, what I like to call Just Prayers.
One day, a friend pointed out that I use the word "just" a lot when I pray. After reflecting upon a few of my most recent public prayers, I realized that she was right. But, what's the harm in using a word often? It’s just a word, right? I mean, what could possibly be wrong with the word “just?” Well, for starters, read the following prayer. Then, think about how it would sound without all the "justs."
“Lord, we just praise you. We just ask that you would fill this place with your presence, Lord, and that you would just let the Spirit work in us and through us. And, Lord, I just want to personally thank you for just being there for me this week. Please just help us to remember that we are your children, Lord, and that you will never leave nor forsake us. It is in your name, Lord, that we humbly pray. Amen.”
Now, you might think I’m being a little overly hyperbolic with my usage of the word “just.” But, listen to people pray out loud, truly listen. The over-use of “just” in my own prayer language was...well…just amazing. It wasn't intentional. At least, not completely. I am pretty sure people, myself included, default to using that word for two reasons.
Reason 1: Nerves. I don't want to sound stupid in front of other people, so I default to praying as I have heard others pray. That is a completely natural and appropriate response to the fear of public speaking. But why did I ever hear that in the first place? Because of reason number two.
Reason 2: Humility. I believe the first people to get a little too rambunctious with the word “just” did so out of a sense of humility before God. They didn’t want to sound like they were commanding God or being pretentious enough to think that they deserved God’s undivided attention. So, they interjected the word “just” in order to seem humble. But, were they being authentically humble, or where they feigning humility in front of the others. To answer that, I ask another question. Do I use the word "just" like that when praying to God silently in my head when no one else is around? The answer is no. No I don't. When I do it out loud, it probably comes from a position of false humility.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is reported as saying the following:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:7-11 NIV)
You see, God expects us to ask. Not only does God expect us to ask, but God also expects us to keep asking over and over again. Does that mean we approach God in arrogant expectation of with a sense of entitlement? Of course not! But, it does mean we don’t have to feel sorry or guilty for asking God.
The other problem with using the word “just” in my prayers is that it seeks to diminish the work I wish for God to do. Let me put it another way, when I use the word “just” like I am prone to do in our prayers, I am saying to God, “It’s the least you can do.”
You know what else using the word “just” implies? It says to God, “If you would just do this one thing...” The implication there being that I will not ask for more. Who am I really fooling? Both God and I know it is never going to be “just” this one thing. The least that God can do is never going to be enough because I always crave more. And I should because God’s grace is wonderfully amazing.
I still fall victim to “just.” I’ve gotten better over the years, but I still just can’t help myself sometimes. :)
That said, like everything else in my spiritual life, I need to be more intentional. Communication with God is powerful. I should use powerful words that come rooted in humility. Find the most powerful words is a constant exercise in self-reflection, self-discipline and relation building. My spiritual journey continues. Will you walk with me?
We left our church family in March of 1941, preparing for Easter week in April while watching events in Europe and the Far East as World War II raged on. Easter would fall on April 13th in 1941. As always, I am indebted to The Girard News for much of the information about our church family. The News is available in the Girard Free Library on microfilm.
In 1941 the Protestant churches in Girard (consisting of the Methodist, the Baptist, the Presbyterian, and the Lutheran churches) held a Good Friday afternoon service from 1 to 3 PM. It was held in our church in 1941. The two hour service was divided into four ¼ hour portions with five minute periods of silence in between. Worshipers could stay and attend all four or just one half-hour portion. The first portion featured a meditation by Rev. Woodall, pastor of the Presbyterian church. The second portion meditation was by Rev. Duffie of the Baptist church, the third meditation was by our own Rev. Maly, and the final meditation was by Rev. Sinner of the Lutheran church.
Then, Friday evening, our church family attended a candlelight communion service. The News printed the complete order of worship for this service. It began with an organ prelude, then a hymn, “ My Faith Looks Up to Thee”. Next the Responsive Invocation led by Rev. Maly, the Prayer of Confession, the Gloria Patri, and a scripture reading from Matthew 26. This was followed by the Anthem, “Were You There?” sung by the Girls’ Choir. Then prayer and a hymn followed by the meditation. After the meditation and the Invitation to the sacrament, came the administration of the bread. Then a hymn, followed by the administration of the cup; a final hymn, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”, and a Benediction completed the service. There was no mention of the candlelight part of the service or how that was handled. I was curious because our family attended a combination candlelight and communion service in St Cloud, Florida one year where we all walked forward to the communion rail carrying our candles, and I was very concerned about the young girls with long hair so close to the candles being carried by people behind them. This past year when I attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service in St Cloud, they still had communion, but it was served in the pews and the candles were lighted after the communion. They still carry the candles in front of them to the outside of the church where the final hymn of Silent Night is sung. This goes over much better in Florida than it would in Ohio. If anyone remembers attending the Good Friday evening service in 1941, give me a call. I would like to know how they handled the candlelight part or whether it was an error on the part of the News article.
Then on Easter morning, the Epworth League sponsored a 6:30 Sunrise Service. This was followed by Sunday School at 9:30, and then the usual morning service at 10:30. This special Easter service featured two anthems, one by the adult choir “The Risen Christ” and one by the Girls’ Choir which was probably the one they sang Friday night “Were You There?” Then there was a reception of new members, followed by the morning message by Rev. Maly, “A Risen People” followed by hymns, Benediction and a postlude .
There was also an Easter Evening service, where Rev. Maly’s sermon title was “More Than Conquerors”. At that service, there was a guest soloist, Miss Dorothy Fuller, director of music at Leavittsburg High School.
Thus concluded our church’s celebration of Easter in the year 1941.
Remember that the war in Europe was in the news throughout the month of April. On the 6th, Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece.
On the 12th, the day before Easter, German troops entered Belgrade in Yugoslavia. On the 17th, the Yugoslav Army capitulated. The next day, Prime Minister of Greece, Alexandros Koryzis committed suicide as German troops approached Athens. On the 21st , Greece capitulated. On the 27th, German troops entered Athens. It seemed there was no good news coming from Europe.
We will end our glance back at April, 1941, on one happy note, however. On April 20th, Lois McCoy and Frank Ellis were married in Alliance. I, as well as many older members, have fond memories of this wonderful couple. Reading the article in the News describing their wedding brought a smile to my face.
This was our church family in April of 1941 – seventy-five years ago.
by Shane Russo
Anytime someone new enters a community, there is always speculation about who they are. What makes them tick? Why are they here? Is he single? I am happy to say that the answer to the last question is an emphatic and thankful NO! As I get to know all of you here at Girard First UMC more, I think it is a good idea to give you some insight into who I am.
My name is Shane Russo, and I am the Connections Coordinator at Girard First UMC. I am married to a spectacular woman named Angela. If you are reading this before June ’16, then we have two boys: Carmen (3) and Emmett (1). We have another boy on the way. I am seeking a Masters of Divinity From Ashland Theological Seminary. I am also a Certified Candidate in the United Methodist Church
What is a Connection Coordinator you ask? Simply put, I get to know the people in the church and get them connected with the ministries and other people of the church.
At this point, I’ll bet many of you are wondering where the juicy bits are. Without further adieu, here are five things you need to know about me:
1. I am not nearly as young as I look.
I’m not going to tell you exactly how old I am. There are resources out there to find such information. But, suffice it to say that my boyish good looks hide the fact that I have seen some stuff in my day! What that means for many of you is that I can probably relate to you better than you might expect a “youngster” to be able to do. Having two toddlers and a child on the way help me hide my true age too. J
2. I like to have fun and joke around.
One of the first things my friends and family wondered when I entered seminary was if I would have to tone down my sense of humor. For some reason, people think that if you are religious, then you must be boring. Spend more than 5 minutes with me and you’ll probably put that notion to bed. Either that, or you’ll wonder what the screening process really is to get into seminary.
3. I am a big nerd and a little geek.
Science Fiction? Love it. High Fantasy? Love it. Star Trek, Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files, Marvel, DC, video games? Love them all. I’m a Playstation guy (sorry Xbox peeps!). I have a collection of nerd gear that expands with every passing month. I also love technology, but I am not as geeky as I’d like to be. I used to be able to get inside the tech and alter it. Now, I just like to use it.
4. I am a follower of Christ who thinks love is the way.
I have seen the power of love rescue a boy from the brink of suicide. I have seen love repair relationships that seemed broken beyond reckoning. I have seen love cast out fear. I have seen love give courage when it was needed most. I have seen what love can accomplish. Love may put us in harm’s way from time to time, but collective love is still longer lasting and stronger than fear and hate. I believe this with every ounce of my fiber.
5. I am a questioner.
When it comes to asking questions, nothing is off limits with me. How else are we ever going to know anything unless we ask the tough questions? Does that mean I have everything figured out? Heck no! But, I am willing to seek answers even as I know that there are a great many things that I will not know. As a questioner, I tend to make people uncomfortable sometimes. Don’t worry, my questions don’t have to rub off on you!!
Connect with Pastor Vicky, Dave DiBernardi, Sally Wagner, Meghan DeGregory and Shane Russo as they share what God is doing in our lives and what we are learning as we grow.