Paul’s Attitude in Prison

Two years ago, on the occasion of what would have been his 100th birthday, “The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela” was published. Mandela, the man who would become President and Healer-in-Chief of South Africa, wrote hundreds of letters — to prison officials, family and friends – during his 27 years of confinement, from Nov. 7, 1962 to Feb. 11, 1990. The New York Times characterized the volume in five words: “Hope is a powerful weapon.”

Some great literature has been written from prison. Notably, Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which marked a turning point in the Civil Rights movement. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran German pastor imprisoned during World War II, wrote letters and notes from prison that were smuggled out of the prison, collected, and published after the war. They set the theological world on its head. John Bunyan wrote “Grace Abounding” from prison.

“Grace Abounding” sounds a lot like Paul, and it’s probably no accident, because Paul is the first of the great prison writers. And the Letter to the Philippians is the greatest. It’s a theological letter. That’s why it’s in the New Testament. But it’s also the testimony of a man who found in prison a new freedom. Like Mandela, he found hope. And, remarkably, the letter is filled joy. Paul would also discover peace in isolation. Philippians will be our text for the next few weeks as we walk through its four chapters.

For those interested in engaging the text in community I will be facilitating a Bible Study on Tuesdays at 11:00am and 6:30pm, starting September 15. Please RSVP to the Church Office for zoom information at churchoffice@dayspringumc.org. Together let’s tap into the Source of hope, joy and peace that Paul found in confinement! 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff


Natural Gratitude

My daughter Claire and I managed to escape the heat of the Valley (and isolation of our home) by pitching a tent up on the Mogollon Rim just before her fall semester began. A couple days’ fresh air, a leisurely hike in light rain, and quietly paddling the perimeter of Willow Springs and Woods Canyon Lakes was all good for the soul. It was, for me, an exercise in gratitude. I was blest to spend time with my adult daughter. And I was fortunate to be immersed in the beauty of Creation.

I recently began a sermon sharing one of my experiences on the Rim:

First thing in the morning, well, at least around 7am, I set out my camp chair, back to the rising sun, facing a small stand of quaking aspen.

To close your eyes when a breeze arises is to experience a babbling brook or gentle waterfall.

I sit down with a copy of Larry Brown’s Complete Stories and a mug of hot coffee. It’s very quiet; we pretty much have the campground to ourselves. I can only hear the rustling of the leaves and birds. But I don’t get very far in my reading.

Just as it takes time for one’s eyes to adjust to the darkness and behold the canopy of stars on a moonless night, it takes my ears a few moments to take in the sounds of the forest.

The birds are out in numbers, foraging for breakfast. One pecks at the jigsaw puzzle-like bark of the ponderosa. Another rummages through the pine needle forest floor. There, one flits in the air – hot on the trail of a fly, a mosquito? Five minutes pass, or maybe 30?

I get up to warm my coffee and return with a small pair of binoculars.

Now my feathered friends are up-close and personal. This one has a wide grey collar speckled with white.

That one wears a rust-colored vest and blue-tinged wings.

And the one pecking at the ponderosa? Upon closer inspection, it’s got white head with a black racing stripe.

I recognize the robin, the Gila Woodpecker with its red yarmulka and the occasional Steller’s Jay. And there’s one of my favorites, the goldfinch.

But the others – I will have to wait to get home to learn their names from a bird guide:

Mountain Chickadee, Pygmy Nuthatch, Olive-sided Fly Catcher, Townsend’s Solitair.

But the names they’ve been given can wait. For now, I’ve lost myself. Time. Stands. Still. Transcendence. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

Upon our return, I researched my bird sightings online. (I had deliberately left my phone at home.) I found a 2017 article in the Payson Roundup that birding enthusiasts counted 91 species on the Rim. Why I’d counted 8 or 9, just sitting quietly on my camp chair!

“For lack of attention,” writes the English mystic Evelyn Underhill, “a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day. Friends, the spiritual life is, at its root, a matter of seeing. And the flip-side of paying attention, of course, is gratitude.

We all could use a dose of gratitude, especially during these times when thankful feelings seem elusive. But gratitude, as Diana Butler Bass reminds us in her book Grateful, is more than a feeling. It is a disposition, a choice, a way of looking at the world. It is a spiritual practice.

A favorite poem by Mary Oliver comes to mind. It’s entitled Praying.

It doesn’t have to be the blue Iris,
it could be weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few small stones;
just pay attention,
then patch a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate,
this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks,
and a silence in which another voice may speak.

I’m wondering what occasions for gratitude are you discovering in your day?

With a grateful heart,

Pastor Jeff


Open or Closed?

Spirit, Spirit of gentleness,
blow through the wilderness calling and free,
Spirit, Spirit of restlessness,
stir me from placidness, wind, wind on the sea.

—James K. Manley

It is hard to believe that many have now been sheltering in place for four months—fully one third of a year! Even for those with the security of a home it has been challenging. Being separated from loved ones has been painful, especially not being able to visit those in the hospital. Never mind the everyday missed social contact of dinner parties, get-togethers, and the like.

When we suspended all on-campus ministries mid-March, it would have been inconceivable that we still would not be gathering in August. Indeed, plans were made early on to postpone our special music offerings for Palm Sunday and Easter to Pentecost on May 31st, confident that we would have restored in-person gatherings by then.

Yet here we are.

Dayspring has adapted in these extraordinary circumstances. Our online Sunday celebrations receive solid viewership (500+ households weekly). The team of care callers keeps Dayspring connected and conveys the Prayers of the People to our community. Participation and stewardship remain strong; indeed, Dayspring generously supports ongoing missions and has added special initiatives, like water for the Navajo Nation, PPE for medical professionals, and supplies for Justa Center. Our staff and various teams and groups meet regularly by Zoom. Pastor Joel and Amy offer a weekly class on Facebook and Pastor Shirley continues to provide spiritual direction through online opportunities. David hosts a weekly Zoom meeting for choir members and others interested in music. Emily and her team of 25 volunteers created an online VBS, and Julie directed youth and children’s virtual choir anthems for our services. We received our confirmation class on Pentecost via Zoom, and just offered our first membership orientation online—with one newcomer who has only experienced Dayspring virtually!

As the expression goes, “The building may be closed, but the church remains open!”

We all yearn for the time when we can gather again in person. And we will—just as soon as it is safe to do so. Our Re-opening Task Force, led by Trustees’ Chair Jim Chamness, has been meeting to adapt guidelines from our annual conference in conjunction with the CDC, so that we are prepared to open our campus in good order. In the meantime, rest assured that Dayspring’s vision to transform the church and the world into a full expression of Christ’s inclusive love is alive and well!

Friends, we are on a mission to make God’s world more peaceful, just, compassionate and inclusive—even if we are presently limited to the phone, the internet, and prayer! God’s work continues; may we be open to the Spirit’s gentle leading.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff


A Message From Pastor Jeff

“I can’t breathe.”

We just celebrated Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, which was marked by the rush of wind – the Spirit – upon the disciples and all who gathered at that time and place. Recall that in Hebrew and Greek – the languages of the bible – the word for spirit also means wind and breath. Breath is life.

We are profoundly troubled by the death of George Floyd. And by his last words, “I can’t breathe.”

The same words spoken by Eric Garner in 2014.

“I can’t breathe.”

We observed a moment of silence on Sunday for the family and loved ones of Mr. Floyd, who was murdered last week in Minneapolis. In addition, we name and remember Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Dion Johnson, and all those who have come tragically before them. We stand in solidarity with communities rising up in protest across the country participating in a long history of freedom struggles. We categorically condemn systemic racism and all violence. We are heartsick that struggles we believed long-resolved are still painfully before us, lived every day by our brothers and sisters.

This Sunday, June 7, is Peace with Justice Sunday, one of six special Sundays designated by the UMC. It is also Gun Violence Awareness Sunday. As we contemplate these two calls to action, we will consider Paul’s credo: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

We find ourselves in the midst of two pandemics: one requires a yet-to-be-developed vaccine; the other demands that we live the Gospel mandate to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34)

We seek understanding, for “truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty that makes for understanding.” (Job 32:8) To that end, our leaders are exploring ways to move forward dialogue and action through small group conversations, prayer vigils and book studies. Our Church and Society Team encourages each of us to call on legislative leaders to express our anger and frustration, and urge them to work with urgency for justice, affirming our stance as United Methodists: “We recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons.” Jennine Ballew, our Coordinator of Youth Ministries and school counselor, suggests these resources for children and youth: https://www.schoolcounselor.org/school-counselors/professional-development/learn-more/race-and-equity-resources

Our bishop, Robert Hoshibata, invites us to join him in this prayer at this time:

God, our Creator, in these times of incredible anxiety and challenge, we offer a prayer that is not related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a prayer about another pandemic that has been a scourge on our human family for centuries. We pray for the end of violence and racism that persists and now threatens to envelop us in the evil of hatred and the sin of violence against other humans.

Forgive us when we have allowed ourselves to be teased into believing that this sin is no longer. Help us to realize that we have not yet achieved what you have proclaimed, that all persons are created by you and loved by you. Give us the courage to speak and act for justice for all. We pray especially for our sisters and brothers of color and in the memory of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. Amen.

Let us work tirelessly to hasten the day when all can walk in safety and breathe the breath of life. “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6)

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff


Holy Week

Holy Week 2020

This Lenten Season 2020 has taken on new meaning for us in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Disbelief, sadness, anger, doubt, fear, apprehension –these are a few of the feelings we have all undoubtedly had during these days. But underneath all of these feelings is a feeling of profound hope.

Nothing can separate us from the Love of God. Will hardship, or distress, or persecution,or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:37-39)

We are experiencing Holy Week now –a different time than we have ever had before!!! But also a memorable time for we will remember the depth of love that we feel as a Community of Faith at Dayspring during these days. Although we are not one in body, we are truly one in Spirit. We are here for and with each other in different ways and the bond is very present. New ways of worshipping have deeper meaning. Livestream offers us the opportunity to worship together on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and on Easter Sunday.Weekly phone calls keep us in relationship with each other. Weekly prayer concerns are published. God is very present. May this be a renewal time for you in your spiritual journey. May you take advantage of this time to feel refreshed in your life journey. May this Week become even more Holy for you.

~Pastor Shirley


The Church

WHAT IS THE CHURCH?

Each day I receive a devotional message from Frederick Buechner on my phone. For a long time he has been one of my favorite spiritual authors. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister and the author of more than thirty published books. I first met him through his book, “Telling Secrets”, which is an autobiography of his life growing up in the home with an alcoholic father who committed suicide. His life experiences influence his ability to make God’s truth come alive in the midst of challenges.

Recently his devotion was titled “Church” and he talked about the visible church and the invisible church. “The visible church is all the people who get together from time to time in God’s name. Anybody can find out who they are by going to church to look.

“The invisible church is all the people God uses as hands and feet in this world. Nobody can find out who they are except God.”

We are experiencing a time like no other in our world. We are filled with fear and anxiety and turmoil. I am comforted during these days to know that we still are the church even though we cannot meet together face to face. Instead we use Zoom and FaceTime and the phone and messaging and email. How grateful I am for all of these ways because I know I am not alone. I am inspired by the mom who encouraged her children to make red paper hearts and then take a walk and drop them along the way so others could come along and find them and know they are not alone. I am inspired by those who send inspirational messages and prayers. I am inspired by the impromptu quarantine singalongs and the pianist playing a hymn everyday on her piano. I am inspired by ways we encourage each other through humor like the recent one of the talking dog! I am inspired through the Livestream Service held on Sunday mornings. I am inspired by the many acts of kindness people are doing for each other every day. We are the church together! You are the church and I am the church. We are the visible church and the invisible church serving together and God knows who we are! And others will know we are Christ followers by the way we reach out to each other. This is our opportunity to truly be THE CHURCH.

Continue to share God’s Love as Dayspring People!!!!!

-Pastor Shirley


Hope

Hope in Uncertain Times

In a recent sermon, I shared how the Bible can be seen as a manual for hope. We took a short walk through the Hebrew Scriptures, and saw how they abound with hope. If ever a people have endured one extreme circumstance after another it has been our Jewish forebears. When they weren’t slaves of Egyptians they were dominated by Assyrians, held captive by the Babylonians, controlled by the Persians, and though they were treated fairly well under the Greeks and later the Romans, rarely were they regarded as equals. And since the death of Jesus, they have been maltreated as a people more often than not, in the last centuries suffering persecutions and pogroms and of course, genocide under Hitler’s regime.

Yet despite such oppression, the Jews have endured. Against overwhelming odds they have retained their identity through their traditions and faith. Their intense devotion to God. Faith in the God who is involved in the affairs of the world. A participatory God. A compassionate God. Not a divine but disinterested bystander. The God who, in Moses’ day, “heard the cries of the people” held captive in Egypt, and delivered them from their oppression. “I know their sufferings,” God declared (Ex. 3:7, NRSV). In all their affliction, we read, God was afflicted. So the message, it seems to me, is twofold: God is with us and God cares. God will see us through and, if we have eyes to see, we will see God through the work of our hands and the work people are doing for the common good. We discover that God is working in everyone.

For those who are overwhelmed and paralyzed with fright, God is there with comfort. For our medical providers, God is there with courage. For those who shop only for themselves or those in need without hoarding, God with there with generosity. For those who see an opening through this challenge for systematic change, God is alongside them with a prophetic voice. And God is in all the space between us pulling us together as we support each other through this.

We are in for some hard weeks, or maybe months ahead. There will be a time each of us is tired or grief-stricken, frustrated or scared. When we tire, that is when our connections to those around us will keep us going – the letters and notes and phone calls. So think about the people you know, how we can hold each other together.

Like the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament abounds with hope. I think of Paul, who always had a word of encouragement to offer, despite his circumstances – why it seems when he wasn’t ill, he was shipwrecked or writing from prison. Our God will see us through, he wrote, time and again. And of course, the Resurrection, which we will celebrate remotely this year – when God has the last word over death and evil itself. As Paul writes, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus, neither life, nor death, angels or principalities, nor heights nor depths, nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God.”

God is with us. God cares. Thanks be to God!

~Pastor Jeff


Office Dogs

Andrea Farley is Dayspring’s Administrative Coordinator, welcoming people who come in to the front office. Often, she brings a foster dog with her to work, to be spoiled better socialized. The comfy pillow and water bowl in the corner by her desk have seen many occupants, and some have even found their forever homes with Dayspring people.

Below, in her own words, is the story of Andrea’s commitment to dog rescue:

When I was growing up, I had three dogs that I loved dearly. Bear, was a German shepherd puppy that my dad bought for us when I was three years old. A couple of years later, we found a black lab mix on the side of the road. It was the middle of winter in Chicago, and he had been hit by a car, left for dead and frozen to the road. We found him and took him to the vet and thankfully he made a complete recovery. No one claimed him so we adopted him and named him Boots because he had white on his paws. Shortly after that, we got Buster. He was a smaller, older dog and his owners could no longer keep him so we took him in too.

Bear, Boots, and Buster were my very best friends. They were my constant companions through my parents’ divorce, my mom’s remarriage, moving, changing schools and all the other challenges that come with growing up. They were loving, loyal, and always there for me even when it felt like no one else was.

When I was 11, my mom got divorced again and we had to move from our house into a tiny apartment. My mom told me the devastating news: we could not take our dogs with us. As heartbroken as I was, I made up my mind to find new homes for my best friends. I asked friends, teachers, family members, whoever I could talk to, if they could take at least one of my dogs. But one day I came home from school and my dogs were already gone. Without warning, my mom brought all three dogs to the pound. I never got to say goodbye and I never saw them again. My most loyal companions who never let me down were gone for good. I had let them down in the worst possible way.

That was a defining moment in my life and is why animal rescue is so near and dear to my heart. I will never get over what happened to Bear, Boots and Buster. But I can help other animals who still have a chance.

I have been involved with animal rescue in some capacity for my entire adult life. Over the past two decades, I have volunteered, donated, adopted and fostered. I’m sure it will continue to be a personal mission of mine. That is why I often have a foster dog with me in the church office

I am so thankful to work at Dayspring, where my mission and love of animals is completely welcomed and supported. If you have room in your heart and home for an animal in need of a second chance, please let me know.

Andrea can be reached in the church office at (480) 838-1446 Monday through Thursday between 9-2 or by email.


Moving Forward

In the spring of 2019, Dayspring and Aldersgate UMC voted to move into a cooperative parish agreement with the dream of transforming the two separate churches into one Dayspring with two campuses, Tempe and Arcadia. This partnership has the opportunity for both campuses to live out our mission to transform the church and the world into a full expression of Christ’s inclusive love in ways that are contextualized for each unique neighborhood. Over the past 9 months, we’ve been at work building relationships between the two churches, assessing the myriad logistics of becoming one church, and getting to know the neighborhood around Aldersgate.

Aldersgate United Methodist Church just celebrated the 69th anniversary of their founding in February. We were able to celebrate this milestone with two of the charter members, now in their late 80s and 90s, sharing stories of being teen-aged leaders in starting the church. They reminisced about the church’s start in a local school before they built their first sanctuary, which is now the fellowship named for the founding pastor, Rev. Strivings. The anniversary service was followed by a luncheon well attended by current members, former members and their families. The people of Aldersgate have an incredibly rich legacy of care, concern for their neighbors near and far and abiding love for their church. It has been a pleasure to be welcomed into their community and be part of the work to continue that legacy in partnership with Dayspring.

Our relationship with the congregation at Aldersgate continues to strengthen. As we head into a period of intentional planning for the launch of Dayspring Arcadia this fall, I’d like to encourage anyone with interest to visit their 11:00am Sunday service and fellowship time after service at least once. It’s a great chance to meet the wonderful people with whom we’re partnering, hear the stories of the legacy of the church.

With regard to logistics, we are continuing to do due diligence. Our district superintendent is working with the conference chancellor (legal advisor) on considerations from property transfers to contract liability. We have completed a building inspection and are awaiting the report from that to understand any potential maintenance needs. From there, we will formalize a more complete financial plan in partnership with the Conference New Faith team who is highly supportive of the work we have been, and plan to do.

The work ahead can best be described as two distinct but related workstreams. One is to go through the exciting process of transitioning Aldersgate to be part of Dayspring with a “launch” process. We need to go outside our walls in both Tempe and Arcadia/Phoenix in order to reach new people. With the support of the Conference New Faith team, we recently engaged the services of a multi-site church consultant to help advise on what steps would be necessary for a smooth transition including timelines, readiness assessments and lay leadership development. If you feel that you are called to be part of this process, please let Joel or myself know!

The second, but equally important part is to develop new expressions of our faith community. We are already starting to bring a Dayspring presence into the Arcadia community. The Dayspring Tempe Wednesday Evening Fellowship class on Compassion is going on the road! It’s being offered both at Aldersgate and also at the Starbucks at 28th St. and Indian School for 4 weeks starting March 2 at 6:30pm (all are welcome to attend!). This will be our first official class venture out into the community and we’re excited to see what else may follow. For those of you who lead other Dayspring events/ meetings/classes, please consider if you may be able to host an event in the Arcadia neighborhood or develop duplicate offerings, one Tempe-based and one Arcadia-based!

As many of you have rightly mentioned, the neighborhood around Aldersgate is incredibly diverse with respect to ethnicity, socio-economic levels, education, language and the list goes on! If we hope to be a thriving neighborhood church, our work must rely heavily on getting to know the neighborhood and the people who live there. We have begun outreach with local community organizations and churches to start that process. If anyone lives or works in the area around Aldersgate or has friends or colleagues that do, I’d love to talk to you or take advantage of an introduction. Getting to know people will help us learn more so that we can ensure our church is community focused and considered the diversity of the neighborhood.

The excitement around this effort has been amazing. Although there are still many questions to answer, it seems that our movement into this new work, though not always steady continues to move us into new relationships and new possibilities for the future. One of our Dayspring friends shared the wisdom with me about the importance of prayer in our work. It’s easy to get caught up in the project management/logistics of this major endeavor, but we cannot lose track that God is guiding us to be in relationship in new ways with a world in need in this process. I would ask that each of us consider this Dayspring/Aldersgate work in our prayer-life or meditation. That may mean prayers for the people of Aldersgate, Dayspring, or the people in our respective neighborhoods. It may mean prayers for guidance on where we as a people, or each of us as individuals, may be lead. It may be contemplating a map of Phoenix or a picture of one of either church’s stained glass and listening for direction. All prayers are needed!


As we move into the next months, we will host additional information sessions as we move towards another charge conference on March 22 to vote on continuing to move forward with this exciting work.

– Amy Notbohm

Learn More:

DAYSPRING ARCADIA UPDATES:

  • MARCH 1: 11:30am, Palo Verde Room
  • MARCH 4: 6pm, Palo Verde Room
  • MARCH 11: 6pm, Palo Verde Room

CHURCH CONFERENCE: the opportunity to vote on if and how to move forward with the Arcadia neighborhood is March 22 at 2pm in the Palo Verde Room


Living the Questions in Lent

How can I deepen my Christian faith? Where can I meet others interested in spiritual formation? What does a meaningful faith look like today? How can I learn different spiritual practices and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Bible?

As you may know, my good friend and colleague in ministry, Rev. David Felten, and I have written a book called Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity. We also produced the video resource upon which it is based that explores what a vital Christian faith can look like in the 21st century. For seven Tuesdays, beginning February 25, 5:30-7pm, I will be facilitating the first section* of Living the Questions in the Palo Verde Room (see below). It’s called “An Invitation to Journey.” We’ll begin with a light supper and fellowship. We’ll have fun and learn a lot about ourselves and each other! You’ll make new friends and grow in the faith.

The suggested $35 per person donation will also include a copy of the book. Childcare will be available upon request. Space is limited, so register soon here.

Let this serve as an invitation to see your life as a journey of faith where the questions can be as rich and meaningful as any answers — indeed, perhaps more so. I hope you’ll join us!

-Pastor Jeff

*The second and third sections, “Honoring Creation” and “A Call to Covenant,” will be offered retreat-style for those who complete “An Invitation to Journey” on April 17 & 18 and May 15 & 16 (Fri. 6-9pm & Sat. 9am-2pm).


An Invitation to Journey
Living the Questions is an open-minded alternative to studies that attempt to give participants all the answers and instead strives to create a safe environment where participants can interact and explore what’s next for Christianity. The video features 35 acclaimed scholars, theologians and other experts, and ample time is provided for lively conversation.

Feb. 25: An Invitation to Journey
March 3: Taking the Bible Seriously
March 10: Thinking Theologically
March 17: Stories of Creation
March 24: Lives of Jesus
March 31: Passion for Christ: Paul
April 7: Out into the World: Challenges Facing Progressive Christians