Pastoral Letter 5-31-2020


Dear Church Family,

As you likely know now, this week our country saw another killing of an unarmed black person, George Floyd. After a subsequent lack of swift institutional response, other responses came on social media and in the streets from people who are heartbroken, exhausted, and rightfully angered at these continued injustices year after year. When we look at the long history of our country, we know that the violent and unjust treatment of black folks is the norm, not the exception.

Our own Christian history is an illustration of this. When enslaved persons were brought to church in the earliest days of our country, that became the primary place for a reminder that, “slaves should obey their masters.” No talk of Exodus. No talk of Paul’s word that in Christ there is no slave or free, Jew or Greek. No mention of the Holy Spirits radical inclusiveness at Pentecost. Instead, historical records show that the church often became a place that co-signed on the evils of the day and was even the arbiter of selling enslaved people sometimes. Likewise, historical baptismal records show a different catechism for enslaved people and whites. Black folks were forced at their baptism to confess that God had preordained their enslavement and that becoming a Christian meant being a good slave.1

Our own Methodist history is an illustration of this injustice. When Richard Allen was ordained in St George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in 1786, he and other black Methodists were pulled off their knees while praying and thrown out for violating segregation in worship.2 He eventually founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church because of persistent unequal treatment. And when Methodists decided you could not be Methodist and own people, many churches in the south decided to leave and form the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Our own church was formed in those ranks, as evidenced by our own historical documents. We did not all reunite until 1939 when black Methodists were subsequently placed in their own ‘Central Conference’ to limit voting power in General Conference matters. When we finally repented as a denomination in 2000, amidst the AME, AMEZ, and CME churches, Bishop Carr of the AMEZ church shared, “We were compelled to leave not… with what you said, but what you did. Not with symbolism, but with substance. And my hope is tonight that you would move from symbolism to substance.”3

See, our problem has not only been unequal treatment under the law, but a gross portrayal of unequal treatment under God. The church is liable here too. Racial injustice is not a problem that exists ‘out there’, it is sadly in here. It is in us. And as people who believe in the power of sin and repentance, we must have courage to see the plank in our own eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

We are heartbroken for our country and our world, but mostly for our black brothers and sisters who have been trying to speak but who have often been unheard, or who have seen a lack of concrete change. We all know already that this world is not as it should be. And often, when we look around and ask God what to do, God says to his followers, “What’s in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2). In other words, God says to us, ‘Where are you right now? What do you have? Let’s use that.’

We have learned in our own community that when responses came after Trayvon Martin’s killing, people were not simply heartbroken and outraged about his death but the appearance of a system that protects unequally. People were exasperated by a long history of racial injustice that has never been fully uncovered or openly repented of. This inequality travels deeply and across time frames. Many of the families in Goldsboro had their land taken and their streets renamed when the city of Sanford revoked Goldsboro’s charter in 1911, after Goldsboro was the nation’s second black incorporated town.4 While that is simply one story, memories like that may help us better understand why some feel that our institutions have served to cause more harm than help or protect them. We know that not all police seek to do harm, in fact at some protests around the country, police have joined in. We know not all institutions are corrupt and not all stories are those of heartbreak, but when the heartbreak hasn’t been healed, wounds persist. We may not be the same people who created broken systems, but that does not negate our call in rectifying them.

What’s in our hand is the question for us today. How might we bend our ear toward God and our neighbor? How might we make an impact on this world for the sake of the gospel declared by Jesus in Luke 4, who said, “I have been anointed to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Our question is: how do we join Jesus in his work in this time and place?

Certainly, there are many folks concerned about the violence that has erupted at some protests around the country. And rightfully, there have been calls for people to organize and make long-lasting change rather than simply to be a fiery flash in the pan that leaves destruction but not much else different. At the same time, we must not forget Martin Luther King, Jr’s helpful illumination,

Certain conditions continue to exist in our society, which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”5 

In some listening we’ve done, we’ve learned that many people of color in this country feel like generations of peaceful efforts have still not fully resolved the injustices they know so intimately. Many people of color are exhausted from the decades of trauma which continue to pile up. Many marginalized people in our world are looking for a way to express their voice and to see real social change. We must ensure that such avenues fairly exist or in the words of Howard Thurman, people who “have their backs against the wall”, will continue to feel without voice or fair treatment.6

Imagine the pain of years being abused, mistreated, and fearful, and then there never being a time of public repentance for the things you’ve experienced. Readers of scripture are not unfamiliar with the need for repentance before forgiveness, with the need for the whole story to be remembered and told truthfully. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us (1 John 1:9-10).” Now certainly there is personal sin and there is corporate sin: and in our communal confession we confess both. We confess the personal and individual ways we have done harm or left undone the good which God has called us to do. That is to say that personally doing no harm against black folks does not negate our possibility of failing to do some good to work for righteousness and justice. But we also confess the corporate sin that plagues us and our world, beyond our individual consciousness and personal desires. Yes, we may not have personally used hateful terms, but have we failed to hear the cries of our brothers and sisters helping us to see injustice in our systems? Have we rolled our eyes and asked ourselves why ‘they’re still complaining about…”? Have we maintained our distance from neighbors who are racially or culturally different from us because the stories we hear are too painful?

We know that since much of this congregation has been around longer than we have, and that some of you have been working toward equality and justice for longer than we’ve been alive. This is not to say that those efforts were useless or that all of us have always been on the wrong side of history. And yet as followers of Jesus, we know that sin (like the sin of racial injustice) takes a long time, and many generations to root out. Rarely does a sinner need repenting once. Rarely does a married couple go to counseling for a single session. Sometimes when they cut out the cancer, it takes another surgery to get it all.

We are no prophets and we do not know all the good that needs doing. We are simply young preachers in our first UMC appointment, looking shockingly at the same world you are. We pray our own prayers for wisdom and discernment in these uncertain times. And yet as we celebrate Pentecost, the birth of the church when God gave new eyes and new language for each to understand one another;

When God poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh;

When God commissioned all of us to be part of God’s work in the world

…it seems appropriate that we might ask ourselves, Lord, who are we all to be in this time and place?


So how do we in Bishop Carr’s words move from symbolism to substance? We believe these may be a few things that could start or continue our journey toward justice:

As our friend and pastor at Lakeside UMC, Dan Wunderlich says, maybe we can begin by admitting, “I know there are many things I don’t know. This may be one of those things.”

  • We can listen clearly and empathetically to voices of the black community. For some words from black United Methodist pastors in the Florida Conference, check out:
  • We can learn the history of our city. When they are open and it safe to do so, visit all three of the museums in our community on the same day and learn the full breadth of our own history.
  • We can vote for local and national policies that take seriously the current inequalities and what we need to do to remedy them.
  • And we can listen to God, stirring our hearts, inviting us to see and participate in “making all things new (Revelation 21).”

We love you. We consider it a privilege, always, to be your pastors. And, we know that the Lord isn’t finished with any of us. What have you read that has changed your heart or mind? How has God shaped you, that you might share with the rest of us? Thanks be to God, the creator, sustainer, liberator and redeemer who has promised that nothing in life nor death, no angels nor demons, no powers nor principalities, nothing in this life and nothing in the life to come will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38).  May God’s love propel us all forward, onward toward perfection in all we are and all we do.


Grace & Peace,

Pastors David & Meghan


For some reading that has been helpful, check out:

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Living into God’s Dream by Catherine Meeks



  6. Thurman, Howard. Jesus and the Disinherited. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1949
















Devotion from Phyllis Estep

I remember while growing up and I had a hard time with a problem, some well-meaning person—-pastor, parent, teacher, or friend would say,” Don’t forget to count your blessings.” Usually this annoyed me, but it did help if I stopped to praise God for the things that He was doing for me.

In this present time of staying at home, except for a trip to Publix once a week in the last two months, this seems like a good time to count blessings. I want to meditate on the benefits that God provides by using my favorite Psalm 103: 1-5. (I have some of the words underlined in my Bible.)

Praise the Lord, O my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits

who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

I try to ponder my day’s activities and bring my concerns to God.  I often neglect to do an act of kindness, and sometimes I say or do something hurtful (I sin). When I confess my sins He forgives them all.

I pray for healing for myself and others, knowing that all things are possible with God. I thank him for the healings received and for the healings still to come.

I praise Him for redeeming my life from the pit. I consider John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Max Lucado wrote an “Inspiration thought” on Psalm 103:4. “He…loads me with love and mercy.”

“Picture a giant dump truck full of love. There you are behind it. God lifts the bed until the love starts to slide. Slowly at first, then down, down, down until you are hidden, buried, covered in his love.

’Hey, where are you?’ someone asks.

’In here, covered in love.’”


Praise the Lord, O my soul. Amen

Devotion from Bonnie Klein

Job 11:13-16
“If you direct your heart rightly, you will stretch out your hands toward him. If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and do not let wickedness reside in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure, and will not fear.  You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.
Okay, I know Zophar was the youngest of the men who came to judge (or help?) Job. He was full of zeal and advised Job repent of whatever he must have done to call down God’s wrath. He must have done something, right? Actually, as we know, Job was not at fault.
But these are powerful lines, and I think they still speak to us of God’s forgiveness and the glorious way it can feel to be right with God, to lift up our faces without blemish, to remember whatever bad things we may have done but are no longer doing as only a distant echo. What relief!
We are in difficult times now. Perhaps it’s a good time to pray over and take action against behaviors we know we should change, and to reach out for help if we need it.
Holy Father, forgive me. Please shine your light into the dark corners of my life and sweep them clean. Give me the courage to make the changes I need to make, to put sin away from me, and to desire only you. In Christ Jesus’ name. Amen

Devotion from Jodi Farber

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


This is such a simple yet powerful verse in the Bible and has been one of my favorites since I was a girl growing up in a Godly environment with parents who taught me how to love and follow God in all aspects of my life.  This does not mean that following God and being saved by His Grace makes everything easy, but instead it is a reminder that He will always be there to give you the strength to face the difficulties that life brings if you accept it.

Last year my Mom met Jesus face to face on March 27th and my Dad joined her on July 15th.  We moved to the Orlando area at the end of April for a job that I thought would be the next successful step in my career but abruptly ended in October.  My closely knit large family suddenly divided after my Dad’s death and went from being together for all holidays and special events as well as many fun family camping trips and pool parties to not speaking to each other at all – and I was left alone, in a new place, with no job and parents that recently passed away.  Now this may sound like a story to evoke sympathy, but it is not, because the Grace of God carried me through this dark time and blessed me with a Godly husband who is an amazing pillar of strength and our 5 kids who have stood by me with constant support and love.   God is always faithful if you keep your focus on Him and lean on the people that He has put in your life to show you His strength.

Now I could say that in 2020 everything has turned around and my loving family is back together and we aren’t facing a pandemic that no one can predict or understand its long-term impact, but unfortunately that isn’t the case.  However, through God’s strength I have found ultimate peace by leaning on Him and following His plan for my life, which included working here at FUMC Sanford.  The love and faithfulness that surrounds this church has given me blessings that I did not think I would experience again in my life.  Through this ministry, which focuses on God’s grace, love and perseverance, I am reminded daily that I can conquer any difficulties that will come and experience the true joy of His blessings as long as I keep my focus on Him and not the storms around me.  No matter what you are going through, God will always find ways to strengthen you!  Just keep your eyes on Him and don’t focus on the negative because God has something so much better in store for you, and His strength (either directly or through others around you) will carry you through the dark times, I promise!


Devotion from Drew Weiss

“But [Peter] became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’ Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.”

Acts 10:10 – 16  NASB


Peter thinks the voice of God is testing his personal righteousness.  “Eat what is forbidden, eat what the law has called unclean.”  The Lord is offering a test, but it is not of Peter’s own willingness to follow the law.  It is his willingness to show love to folks that are different from him.  This vision inspires Peter to reach to a population that was considered ‘unclean.’  To extend the love of Christ to people that were prevented from receiving it in a meaningful way.

Perhaps we don’t think of working-class folks as ‘unclean,’ but it would be a mistake to say that they are not treated as marginal.  Maybe treating someone as marginal is the new way to call them unclean.  I don’t usually think about how the cashier’s day has gone or who makes the products I buy.  I never gave a thought as to why I should either; it feels natural – it’s there job.

I work at a craft store and today while cleaning up our T-shirt isle my manager made a comment.  “By the way,” she said, “we don’t have as much shirt inventory because the factories have stopped production.”  It touched me in a way I couldn’t anticipate.  How many factory workers are now struggling with rent?  Or food insecurity?  Or applying for unemployment?  How many are struggling?  And how have I neglected their struggle?


Dear God,

I pray that in these turbulent and unpredictable times those of us in privileged positions do our part to extend compassion to those struggling.

If you are experiencing food insecurity please be aware of the times we are distributing food.  Here is the link to our calendar.

Devotion from Susan Eppard

Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies… Psalm 23:5


Growing up, before I learned how to cook, my part of preparing each meal was to set the table. Most days it was an ordinary task, but I would always take extra care when Grandma and Grandpa were coming, because they were so wonderful and I loved being with them. I’d set out the good dishes and lay out the silverware, making sure everything was in order and especially nice for when we’d all be together to enjoy a  delicious meal and our time together.

Life was simple back then. But life got to be rather difficult as a result of making some really big mistakes, some really bad choices. I found myself in the midst of serious trouble and distress of my own making. Feeling pretty hopeless and alone, I was sure God didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore.

I was so wrong! All the while, God loved me, even when I couldn’t love myself. And all the while, He wanted fellowship with me. He was laying things out, He was setting things in order, He was preparing a table for me.

God’s table, I discovered, is one of abundance and everlasting love. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. He’s completely undeterred by any trouble you find yourself in. What amazing news! What incredible hope! He provided for me while I was in distress and felt hopeless.

I’m certain He wants this for all His children. As God’s people, we can feast at His table of love and grace and no enemy of any kind can ever take it away.


Holy God, You provide for us in amazing ways, even in the midst of our troubles. And although we do not deserve to be treated with such grace and mercy, You overwhelm us with Your love. Help us to be faithful servants and invite others to Your holy table that is open to all. In Jesus’ name, Amen

Devotion from David Killingsworth

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8 (ESV)


Many of us are familiar with the image of a white dove in Christian artwork and symbolism used to represent the Holy Spirit. While beautiful and serene, I tend to gravitate towards another symbol for the Holy Spirit given to us by Celtic Christianity: the wild goose.

The Christian life is many things, but predictable is not one of them. God has this really profound track record of just when we think we have God figured out, we realize that there is more to God than we ever imagined. Our Christian journey feels less like a direct and well-worn path and more like a “wild goose chase” pursuing God (and often, God pursuing us!) into places that we never would have ventured otherwise, and into places that don’t tend to be anywhere on any map we can find.

It certainly feels like we are in the midst of a goose chase right now. We are being led (or pushed!) into new territory like online worship and trying to find new ways to maintain connection and relationship. Church looks and feels different, as does almost every part of our lives right now. The verse from John above reminds me that life in the Spirit can be a blustery one. Sometimes it feels as if we can’t tell if we are coming or going, and despite our wishes for a straight and direct route, our spiritual journey ends up looking like a map of Billy’s adventures from the comic strip “Family Circus.”

And yet, God is in the detours, the wind gusts, the goose chases. God is with us in the uncertainty, and God is right beside us when we feel like we’ve been blown completely off track and will never find our way home. In these “off the map” moments, I am comforted by another image from our feathered friend, Mr. Goose: the “V” formation. On the long journey back to “normal” (whatever that means), our shared life in the Spirit shows us the best way to travel home: together.


Lord, guide us on days when we feel lost and disoriented. Remind us of the gift of each other, and gift of new and astonishing in which the wild and wandering Spirit of God is at work all around us. Amen. 

Devotion from Valerie Russell

Philippians 2:14 – “Do everything without complaining or arguing.”


This is one of the hardest verses for me because I love complaining. It seems to be a natural reaction to what is happening.  I am likely to bring up the objections to a suggestion.

In these days of social distancing and quarantining of our families, how easy is it to fall into complaining and arguing?  We complain about staying in (although it was not so long ago that we were complaining we were out of home too much), about not having enough toilet paper (who would have ever imagined that?), and about not having enough time to read our Bibles (oh wait, we do have time). Now, we might be complaining that we are moving too fast to re-open or too slowly to re-open.  Sometimes I wonder if complaining is in our DNA.

Some of us are using our time wisely.  We are reading our Bibles more, eating healthier, and getting more exercise.  The rest of us are watching more television, eating more junk food, and lounging on the couch – and complaining. Paul would be amazed, amused (I like to hope), and a bit angry.  He wanted us to be imitators of Christ in the way we are living our lives.  No complaining or arguing in the line at the grocery store. No worrying about whether there will be toilet paper. No sulking that your favorite series has ended for the season.

When people say that God has a plan, they sometimes mean that they have no idea why something is happening, and they hope there is a plan for making it better.  I tend to think that God is in control, and even if we do not know why, we have to trust that God knows.  No complaining about the plan, and no complaining that we wish we knew what was going on.  We are not in control; God is.  We cannot complain about that.


God, help us to stop complaining. We have much to be thankful for; help us to remember those things. Help us accept that You are in control. That is enough!  Praise You, God, for being in control of all. Amen.

Devotion from Meghan Killingsworth

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:7-12 
If you ask 100 people which bible stories they know, I’d be willing to bet that at least 10 of them would mention this story of the woman who was nearly stoned to death for being caught in adultery. Few people notice that the dude isn’t in sight anywhere in this trial and near-execution but that is for another day. Alas, Jesus finds himself in the midst of a crowd both trying to trap him in a difficult moment and trying to make an example out of this woman. ‘The law says we have to kill her, Jesus. What should we do?’ Jesus, the ever skillful conversationalist mentions that anyone who is totally blameless according to the law is free to uphold it now. As we know, the crowd drops their stones, one at a time from the eldest to the youngest, and only Jesus is left with this woman. This has to be one of the most dramatic moments in the stories of Jesus: just Jesus, a woman nearly killed, and the deafening silence of everyone else’s sudden humility remain in the room.
Most of the time when we read passages like this, we image ourselves to be the woman standing in condemnation. Maybe we remember a time when someone else’s judgement, harshness or hatred hurt us deeply. And, there’s something kind of satisfying about imagining Jesus dropping a bomb like that on our opponents, humbling them publicly while we get some level of satisfaction. But I think interpreting the story that way might tell us more about who we could be in the picture here. The fact is, what the Pharisees wanted was to publicly shame this woman for breaking the rules that it was their job to keep, and to crush their opponent (Jesus). There are more folks with stones in their hands than fear on their faces. We’re at least statistically likely to be the Pharisees some (dare I say most?) of the time.
In this world that seems to be increasingly harsher, sharper, and in all our ideologies, more fundamentalist, maybe in times of crisis we can be the folks who consistently check our palms and ensure that we aren’t carrying the stones we decry when they fly in our direction. Maybe the witness of people who love Jesus in this fearful and worrisome world is that we could be people who make altars out of our stones rather than wounds. Our wise bishop, Ken Carter, once said, “We often want justice for others and grace for ourselves.” May we be people who follow Jesus to our own softening in an increasingly sharp world. Maybe this is the light of life Jesus spoke about?
Gracious God, thank you for being everything we need, even when you are not what we want. Give us enough grace to love ourselves and others as you do. Give us the vision to build monuments to grace rather than enemies and death. Amen. 

Devotion from Mark Thompson

John 21:11-13 – Breakfast by the Sea

“Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and eat breakfast.’ Yet none of the disciples dared to ask Him, ‘Who are you?’ – knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.”


Prior to the scene in the verses above, the disciples had gone fishing through the night, and had come up empty-handed (netted?). From the shore at sunrise, an as-of-yet unrecognized Jesus called out to them, gave them some direction, and they caught a lot of fish (153 to be exact!). 

He was waiting on the shore, with a charcoal fire blazing, when they hauled in the catch. Jesus already had some fish and bread cooking, and added some of the disciples efforts to the grill as well.

There is a lot happening in this passage. My favorite is realizing that the risen Christ just wanted to hang out with his friends and have a cookout on the beach at sunrise. Doesn’t that sound great? The ultimate heavenly Host? 

Also, He already had fish on the grill, but he wanted to involve the disciples, and their efforts, in this meal. We are a part of the plan. We could have been created to subsist on one boring thing (Soylent anyone?), it could have fallen from heaven, or we could have been designed not to eat at all I suppose. But we are brought in to a network that provides a tremendous variety of foods, bursting with flavors and textures for us to enjoy. He asks us to take part, and says, “Come and eat.” 

Lastly, similar to walk on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), it is through the meal that their eyes are opened and Jesus is recognized. As it was then, I believe it is today as well. When we gather with friends (virtually if need be), and share a meal, we see Jesus.

PS – It is speculated that the fish that was caught was Tilapia (aka St. Peter’s Fish), which is now available much more easily at your local grocer.


Holy God

It is an honor that You would have us involved in your design for this world and the perfect world to come. It is humbling to think that You relish joining us at dinner parties and cookouts. May our eyes be opened in the breaking of bread and may we see You, the risen Christ, in those at our table.

We also realize that putting food on the table is challenging for some in our midst and around the world. We pray for parents struggling to make ends meet, those who suffer from food insecurity and those for whom a piece of fish is a luxury. And we, the church, commit to being the hands and feet of Jesus to our neighbors, inviting them to our tables to dine amongst friends.