Nov. 8 Online Service

Oconee Street UMC Online Service
November 8, 2020

Full Service Stream

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Pastor Laura Patterson


“For the Beauty of the Earth”
Song by Folliott Pierpoint. Arranged by Greg Howlett.
Performed by Maxine Easom


Rick Martin

Opening Hymn

“This is a Day of New Beginnings”
Plymouth First United Methodist Church (Plymouth, Michigan)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25:1-13

Rick Martin

Sermon: “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?”

Pastor Laura Patterson


“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”
Mississippi Fred McDowell


Rick Martin

Closing Hymn

“They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love”
Amara Clough, vocals


Pastor Laura Patterson


“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”
African American Spiritual
Maxine Easom, piano

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Advent Devotional: Dec. 7, 2019

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room!

by Katie Calkin
December 7, 2019

The contemplative season of Advent reminds me to step back and take stock of my practices for living in the body of Christ. There is so much revealed about who God is, and how God relates to us, by Jesus coming into the world vulnerable in body and in status. And yet, we guard ourselves in many ways. It takes intention to acknowledge our repetitive thoughts and emotions, to loosen our grasp on our desires, agendas, pursuits, attempts to be in control, and surety of our own perspective. It is a humbling and gritty practice to see ourselves more clearly, to witness our connection and dependence on each other and the earth, and to be vulnerable and open to each moment as it is.

This Advent I renew my commitment to prepare him room by catching myself when I’m distracted and refocusing on the person I’m with to be present and curious about them; swimming laps to clear the stress and clutter from my brain; noticing the color of the sky, the flight of falling leaves and the feel of the air on my skin as I walk my dog; doing yoga to invite flexibility in body and mind; and sitting in silence with the coming Christ daily (yes, I am going to meditate daily during Advent!).

What are the ways that help you prepare him room?

Prayer: Living savior, help us to prepare room for you. Give us courage to be as vulnerable as a baby in a manger. Give us compassion and conviction to be connected to our sisters and brothers who are truly vulnerable. Help us make space in our minds and hearts so that we can gratefully receive you as we breathe in, and freely share you as we breathe out. Be born in us each moment with each breath. May we be in awe of this miracle! Renew and transform us this Advent so that our actions are ways that you come into the world each day. Amen.

Lenten Devotional: Monday, March 5

by Daniel Malec

Romans 12:2 (NSRV): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.

“Let the Monkey Run”

One of the fasts that I have chosen for Lent is a sleep fast.  During the days of Lent, I have set my alarm 20 minutes earlier so that theoretically I have more time to listen to and for God.  Before Lent, my alarm would usually go off with just enough time for me to roll out of bed, go to the bathroom, stumble over to our prayer and meditation space and rush through about 10 minutes of prayer time before having to get Oscar up and ready for school.  These additional 20 minutes have felt like a lifetime to me.

So far, this attempt at “listening” to God has been quite a journey.  If I’m not careful, I can find myself halfway through my prayer time deep in a rabbit hole of one sort or another.  Left to its devices, my egoic mind can lead me on a constant meandering between the past and the future, adeptly avoiding the present moment and any chance I have of listening for God.  All of a sudden, I might find myself deep into the minutia of planning our future outdoor kitchen; thinking through the measurements, choosing materials, or growing anxious at how challenging it will be to build.  Or, I might be in the middle of some sort of harsh judgment about the words or actions of a neighbor or a friend.

Photo by Sanish Suresh

Some practitioners of contemplative prayer and meditation call this the monkey that runs.  Applied to Paul’s letter to the Romans, we might call this “conforming to this world.”  In other words, allowing your egoic mind to lead you unchecked through a minefield of thoughts – from worry, to fear, to judgment, to anxiety, to resentment – is the way of the world.  God invites us to a different way.  As Jesus said, “do not worry about your life … but seek God’s kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given as well” (Matthew 6:25-34).

In order to be able to listen for God and to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, contemplatives would invite us to see the monkey, be aware of the monkey, but not to chase the monkey.  As soon as we become aware of our egoic mind leading us into the past or the future, we can notice what is happening and then we can return to our breath and root ourselves once again in this present moment. After all, it is only in the present moment that we can encounter God.  I believe this is what Paul meant when he said, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I have found mantras to be helpful with this process and so for the closing prayer, I invite you to try one.  I invite you to repeat the words:

Lord Jesus, come.

Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.  Notice your breath in, and your breath out.  As you breathe in, repeat silently, or aloud, Lord Jesus.  As you breathe out, repeat silently, or aloud, Come.  When your mind wanders, or the monkey begins to run, don’t chase it, just notice it, acknowledge it is there, and then return to your breathing and the mantra. Continue with this process as long as you are able.  Then, try again tomorrow.  May we be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Lord Jesus, come.

Lenten Devotional: Tuesday, Feb. 16

by Joe Dennis

Psalm 19:14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

When I was younger, writing poetry was a passion of mine. I would isolate myself in my room, and all my teenage angst, coupled with what I now know was depression, elicited hundreds of poems. Most of them fueled with words of anger and desolation. My emotions were my ammunition for my writing, and it was so easy to get in touch with them.


As I got into college and into adulthood, the focus of my writing became journalistic. As my depression became treated and my angst faded, it became difficult to tap into my emotions to provoke my writing. Even when I was able to find a quiet place, my ability to write poetry was stifled.

Now, with the pressures of work and family, and the constant connectivity to external distractions through my phone (and watch and tablet and computer and TV and radio), finding a quiet place has been difficult for me. It’s been something I’ve been longing to do, especially after hearing fellow church members discuss the power of meditation and prayer. I’ve tried. But even in those rare times I can isolate myself from distractions, my attempts at meditation often end up like this:

<start meditation>
Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus on your breaths. Talk to God.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Hey God. It’s Joe. Oh shoot. Did I ever register Jackson for baseball? Wait Joe. Not now. Focus. Breathe in. Breathe Out. Back to you God. So … wait a second. Damn. I forgot to put the empty boxes in recycling. Shoot. Now that will have to wait for two weeks. Joe! Focus! OK.
Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s me again God. I’m trying to focus here. So anyway … Please help me focus. Hmm. Focus.
P-H-O-C-U-S. It’s weird that the Vietnamese dish “Pho” is pronounced “Fa.” It makes no sense. JOE! STOP IT! 
Breathe in. Breathe out. This is stupid. I’m going to check on Jackson’s registration. 
<end meditation>

I cringed when Lisa said at last week’s Ash Wednesday service that we will have time to meditate and work on an activity. With my three kids with me, I knew this would not be successful. My biggest concern would be keeping Jaydon off his phone, keeping Jackson quiet to not distract others, and keeping Matthew from running around. I even contemplated leaving.

But then Maxine took the boys away to do a kid-focused project. So I went to the activity table and naturally gravitated toward the writing exercise. I made sure my phone was on silent, read the prompt, grabbed a pencil and notepad, and started to center myself. And for the first time in decades, I was able to tap deep into my emotions through my writing.

For the first time ever, I feel like I had a heartfelt conversation with God. And it felt incredible!

Prayer: God. I know you are there, waiting for me to get in touch with you. Help me clear all distractions and find the best way to get to you.