Daily Lenten Devotions from Church Street UMC

Thursday, February 18

By Rev. Tim Best


Read Daniel 9:1-14

Confession is good for the soul, but it is not easy. The human ability to resist confession is nearly instinctual. Confession is a vulnerable act wherein we name our shortcomings, our needs, and the temptations that endanger our wellbeing. We find ourselves in another season of lent, a season marked from beginning to end with confession and repentance. If we are not careful, Lent can often feel like a burden placed on our shoulders, a season heavy with guilt and finger-wagging shame. I remember the advice I was given when learning to preach: “No matter how difficult the passage, how somber the season, or tragic the event, what we are called to preach is Good News.” Lent is Good News. The passage from Daniel doesn’t place additional shame and suffering onto the people; it names the suffering and offers a way forward.

Lent is a pressure release valve for lives that get disconnected from God and one another. I think of dryer vents. Dryer vents can easily be clogged by lint buildup. Such buildup doesn’t happen at once, it takes time and builds little by little. The danger comes when so much buildup has occurred that the warm air doesn’t vent. Such blockage will easily lead to a fire. Confession is the practice of cleaning out the dirt and blockage in our lives. It is a gift that God empowers us through the Spirit to participate in the work of renewing and restoring our lives and the world. My daily prayer for our congregation this Lent will be that God will continue to guide us to see where we have erred and sinned, and to empower us to change.

Lent, and for that matter confession, are not ends in themselves. Easter, resurrection, and new life in Christ is the end. Easter is not a refusal to accept death, but rather a full acknowledgment of the power of death and a celebration that it is conquered in Christ. Daniel’s words speak to me of the powers at work, then and now, to overwhelm us with death. I confess my participation with those powers, the ways that they sometimes seem to benefit me, just as they do harm to myself and all around me. Daniel also contains good news. God’s ultimate desire is for us to live and flourish, not to suffer and die. Let us confess so that what hinders our joyful obedience to God might be removed and we might fully delight in renewing relationship with God and neighbor.


Almighty God, you poured out your Spirit upon Daniel that he might proclaim hope to your people. Fill us with hope in this season of Lent that we might be renewed in our love and service to you. Let us confess our sins with hope that you hear us and with confidence that by your help we may overcome them. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

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Daily Lenten Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, February 17, Morning

By Nancy Zirkle, March 6, 2019


Read Psalm 31

As we begin the season of Lent, consider what comes between you and God. Confession causes us to face our actions and thoughts, thereby making it frightening. However, it can also be a bridge to God and bring us closer through forgiveness.

As the scriptures say: “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong” (I John 1:9). Now is the time to search our hearts and to be fully known by God.

For Christ is not dead now, and never will be again. He comes and goes as He pleases, forgiving and giving new life to everybody who believes in Him. If He wants you (and He does), your sin will not keep Him from loving you or from calling you to be His own. He has already paid the price for your forgiveness with His own life. Trust in Him.


God help me to face my own heart; shine your light inside of me. I want to be known by you. Help me, this season of Lent, to let you in.

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Daily Lenten Devotions from Church Street UMC

Wednesday, February 17, Evening

By Rev. Pat Clendenen, Visitation Pastor, March 26, 2017


Read Isaiah 58:1-12

The Israelites of Isaiah’s day had a handle on rituals. Sackcloth, ashes, and fasting were something they had mastered. Yet, it never changed their behavior. Amazingly, they wondered why things stayed the same, even pointing out to God their righteousness –“Why do we humble ourselves but you don’t even notice?”

While serving in the Alaska Missionary Conference, I had the opportunity to attend a Walk to Emmaus. We began this 4-day spiritual retreat by meeting with our assigned groups. It didn’t take long to realize that the weekend was going to be difficult. One person’s rigidity and intolerance had already closed the door to any meaningful interactions. As we headed to dinner, the tension was palpable. I found myself trying to find a reason to leave, not wanting to spend the weekend embroiled in these kinds of discussions.

Walking to dinner, our group was quiet. Then I began to pray, and even my prayer surprised me, for I prayed that God would change my attitude, “Open my heart to see that you are also working through this person, that he, too, is one of your children.” It seems we had all spent most of dinner in silence, praying for guidance. When we came back together, we just sat there — no one spoke. Then, the very person who had angered me and others, said: “I guess we’re all afraid to speak!” That broke the ice and set in motion four days of tearing down walls and opening ourselves to profound new understandings.

The transforming power of the Risen Christ had softened our hearts, giving us new eyes to see, new ears to hear.


God help me to face my own heart; shine your light inside of me. I want to be known by you. Help me, this season of Lent, to let you in.

Have a Prayer Request?

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Confirmation Class

During this time of the COVID pandemic and in-person classes being suspended, Church Street’s Confirmation class has continued without any interruption. This year’s class of fifteen 6th and 7th graders began last September and will continue through April 2021. They meet every Sunday at 11 am via Zoom. The parents join the students on screen the first Sundays in the month.

The class is taught by Rev. Rick Isbell with on-screen help from Russell & Melanie McNutt and Jeri Strong. Behind the scenes Jenny Cross’ support has been tremendous in setting up electronic student folders, and Paula Buckner’s filing system of past Confirmation materials has been invaluable in helping us continue to get important Confirmation materials to students.

We have been delighted for our clergy staff to join the class periodically along with Confirmation mentors. In addition to weekly class sessions, class members have also been collecting food items for BOH Food Co-op as well as money to contribute to Heifer Project International.

In spite of all the challenges and hurdles of doing class via Zoom, the students have been great in their attendance and participation. We’ve even had some class members to join us while traveling in the car on trips (there are some advantages to Zoom!). What the future holds, we don’t know; but the Confirmation class will keep zooming along.

Two vaccines are now being offered to prevent COVID-19. Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna vaccines have been released under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA. Both are messenger RNA vaccines (mRNA) which work by teaching our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response. The mRNA from the vaccine does not enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept. This means the mRNA cannot affect or interact with our DNA in any way. COVID-19 mRNA works with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop immunity. These vaccines were >90% effective in clinical trials.

Two doses required. Pfizer vaccine is given 3 weeks apart, Moderna vaccine is 4 weeks apart. Both doses must be from the same manufacturer. You will receive a vaccination card with your first dose documenting manufacturer and lot number for the product you received. Take a picture of it to serve as a back-up. You will need to present it when getting the second dose and information from that dose will be added.

Allergic reactions are possible but rare. As with any vaccination, you will be asked to remain in the area for 15 minutes afterwards in case a severe reaction occurs. If you have a history of severe allergic reactions, you will need to stay for 30 minutes. Unlike other types of vaccines, these do not contain eggs, preservatives, or latex.

Side effects are most common after the second dose. These flu-like symptoms are usually gone after 36-48 hours. Some vaccine centers are advising to avoid premedicating with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil, Aleve, Naprosyn, ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.) and avoid for 6 hours after the vaccine. This is due to concerns these drugs might decrease your response.

How can I get a vaccine? There is a master plan based on specific groups because of limited availability. These two companies are working to supply not only the U.S. but countries around the world. Three more U.S. companies have a vaccine in clinical trials. Visit COVID-19 Vaccine Information | TN COVID-19 Hub and look at COVID Vaccine FAQs to find “How do I know when it’s my turn to receive the vaccine and how do I register?

Health Departments are scheduling appointments as they receive shipments. You do not have to be vaccinated in the county where you live. However, you should return to the same location for the second dose to ensure it is from the same manufacturer. More information can be found at County Vaccine Information – TN COVID-19 Hub.

Some Health Care Systems are partnering with Health Departments to offer vaccines to the public. Check with Covenant Health at COVID-19 Vaccines for Older Patients I Covenant Health to see when additional vaccination clinics will be available. If your primary care provider is part of the UT Health System you should contact their office to schedule a vaccine appointment at the medical center.

Pharmacies are currently vaccinating long term care and assisted living facilities but should have doses for the public when that phase is completed.

Get the vaccine even if you have had COVID-19. Duration of natural immunity (from actual infection with the virus) is not known. There are reports of re-infections occurring more than 90 days after the initial one.

Continue to wear a mask and follow precautions as before vaccination! It takes about 2 weeks after the second dose to achieve protection. And, there is not enough data at this time to know how long immunity lasts. There is also concern that an immunized person can be exposed to the virus and then shed it to others but not become infected themselves.

Women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy should speak with their doctor. Current guidelines from obstetric organizations recommend the vaccine, stating benefits outweigh risks. However, it is always best to discuss with your doctor to ensure you have the most up-to-date information.

Remember members of your Parish Health Team are available for help with questions or concerns! You may leave a message with the church office to request a call.

Submitted by: Vicky Shelton D.Ph.; Cathy Goff MSN, RN; and Kathleen Harwell MSN, MBA

Learn more about the Parish Health Ministry Team here.

If you’ve attended (either in-person or virtually) a Church Street United Methodist Church service, you might have noticed the beautiful flowers that line the altar. 

But, what happens to those flowers after the service? Flower Committee Chair Ann Warwick and her team of four help make sure that these beautiful flower arrangements bless twice. The group operates as a committee of the church’s Altar Guild, and Warwick shares the responsibility of coordinating and delivering floral arrangements with Nancy Christmas, Barbara Langford, Mary Lewis and Sarah Wimberly.

“We always see that they’re taken someplace they can be enjoyed,” Warwick says, adding that the flowers may be delivered to places like nursing homes or hospitals. 

Polly Ailor Tullock says she was thrilled to know altar flowers were delivered to the nursing home where her mother lived prior to her death. “It would have made her so happy,” Tullock adds. 

Warwick was named the chair of the committee years ago when her older sister suggested she take the lead. She and her sister were members of the Altar Guild for many years. 

But, things have changed since the sisters were first on the committee. In a year like 2020, the usual delivery from Church Street to community members turned from in-person smiles and hugs to doorstep drop-offs and conversations through windows. 

“Everyone who has received these flowers is so overjoyed to get flowers used in a service,” Warwick  says. “When I walk in, their face really lights up.” 

Recipients of the flowers have shared their love of the fresh flower deliveries. Claire Shepherd says that receiving the flowers from the church delivered by a friend “made [me] smile all week long,” and another member says that “knowing the church remembers” them in their “little room at the healthcare center means the world.” 

“A big thank-you to the church for all the cards they send me, and the flowers delivered were glorious—something I never expected!” Cynthia Thompson says. “They lasted on my dining table almost two weeks as I recovered from my hospital stay.”

And while the delivery of these floral arrangements has changed, the work leading up to their delivery has stayed relatively the same.

“It (seems like) small work in the church as a whole, but we put a lot of work into it so that we can continue to surprise people,” Warwicks says. 

Each member of the committee takes two months out of the year to lead both the outreach for and intake of floral arrangement requests and deliver the arrangements after services. Warwick currently covers four months of the year. 

During each month, calls are made to those who gave flowers the previous year and received from those wishing to give flowers for the first time this year. Once arrangement plans are made, Scott Morrell (www.Flowersscott.com) arranges the flowers to ensure the flowers are fresh for both the service and the recipient afterward.

“Fresh flowers are just so refreshing and so beautiful,” Warwick says. “To know what God has done in the world and given us so many varieties to choose from, it’s just beautiful.” 

Warwick currently has an opening for two months of the year if anyone would like to join the committee. She can be reached at 865-523-9078. 

On any given Sunday, you’ll find Edie Johnson surrounded by the voices of Church Street’s youngest members. 

Starting at three years old, kids are invited to join Kinder Choir, and once they have reached first grade, they move on to Primary Choir. Third through fifth graders join the Chorister Choir, and the Youth Choir is composed of 6-12 graders with some additional college singers. 

And while singing is certainly on the agenda each meeting, Johnson and the music ministry staff have a broader mission.

“Our goal is not to train them to be a professional musician,” Johnson says, “but it’s to train them to be able to participate and understand the [worship] service.” 

Johnson leads the children in exercises and lessons that help them meet that goal. Most weeks, she uses a hymn that will be sung the following Sunday to teach rhythms and music notes — and to also keep the kids moving, which has been key as kids have participated virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For example, Johnson recently taught the refrain of “Lift High the Cross” and asked singers to march to the beat. While they may not have known the words, the kids were learning rhythm through the movements. 

“They’ll hear these or see these in our service and hopefully sing along and do the motions,” Johnson says, adding that she hopes songs like “Away in a Manger” will help kids participate in the virtual Christmas Eve service this year. 

Johnson also hopes she is building confidence in the children not only in singing, but just being in front of audiences. During a normal year of in-person meetings, she asks children to sing on their own as a way to share their skills. 

“When I hear them and see them sing with confidence by themselves, I feel like, ‘okay, this is really the way I want it to be,’” she says. 

Missions Chair and mom to 5-year-old Kinder Choir member Katie Heatherly can already see confidence building in her young daughter. Heatherly is a member of the Church Street Adult Parish Choir and says her daughter often remarks that she feels like she is following in her mom’s footsteps when she sings in the Kinder Choir. 

“She has learned how to feel confident in her ability to sing praises to God,” Heatherly says. “…Hearing her so confident brings joy to my heart.” 

Singing isn’t all you’ll hear from the children’s choirs, though. Johnson often uses games like BINGO and Jeopardy to teach the basics of music theory. Mom to 11-year-old and 8-year-old sisters Maria Dahunsi can see how games have helped them grasp Bible stories, church traditions and music notes. 


The Dahunsi girls, left, record for virtual choir presentations during 2020.



“The children’s choir has provided a rich learning experience which has helped my daughters enhance their singing abilities and confidence standing in front of audiences,” Dahunsi says. 

“My kids singing in the choir reminds me of some hymns I had forgotten and the beauty in hymns. I benefited a lot from my home choir singing as a child and a young adult,” Dahunsi adds. “These experiences had impact on my Christian journey, and I as a parent can see the positive role Church Street’s Children’s Choir is playing in my children’s appreciation of music as well as their spiritual journey.” 

The Dahunsi family has a long line of music lovers, including Maria’s dad who loved hymns so much that he co-authored a book about hymns and the stories behind them. In fact, choir at Church Street is a family affair for many. 

Staci Stalcup’s 14-year-old twins are in the Youth Choir, and her 11-year-old and 9-year-old are in the Children’s Choir. 

“Having all four children involved in the music ministry at Church Street has allowed them to glorify the Lord through the beauty of music,” Stalcup says. “Such a strong impact in their lives and our lives as a family allows us to continue our growth in our work with the Lord.” 

In addition to developing their musical talents, Stalcup says she is thrilled her kids have the opportunity to meet other children and youth who want to praise the Lord through music. Heatherly echoes that sentiment. 

“She has made best friends in choir that I am quite confident will last through her childhood and hopefully last through her lifetime,” Heatherly says. 

Once a month (prior to COVID-19), these young singers join the Adult Parish Choir during worship, and you’ll see some familiar faces in the Family Christmas Eve service on December 24 at 3 pm on YouTube.

In any given month, the Beacon of Hope Sharing Shop distributes 50 or more toiletry bags to the Vestal community of South Knoxville. 

The need of this community rapidly increased as the COVID-19 pandemic caused food shortages and personal hygiene and toiletry items became more expensive. Beacon of Hope Director Dona McConnell says she’s gotten calls daily, all for items that most of us have in our pantries. 

“‘I don’t know what I’m going to do if you don’t have this stuff,’” McConnell remembers hearing from a community member. “I think (the shortage) made us all appreciate the little things.” 

Those little things make a big impact in the community Beacon of Hope serves. COVID-19 has limited the use of the Sharing Shop; in the past, visitors could come into the building to collect toiletries. Now, McConnell has served the community on a needs basis, and her volunteers have included a toiletry bag in each Food Co-Op box as supplies allow. 

“It has been a lifesaver,” McConnell says. “It means a lot to people. Much more than clothing.” 

In the Vestal community, most residents work minimum wage jobs, and once rent, utilities, gas and other large monthly expenses are covered, it can be hard to feed yourself or a family. Some, McConnell says, can’t afford to pay the $3 to join the Food Co-Op. 

“If you don’t have $3, you’re not going to spend the last of it on toiletries like laundry detergent,” McConnell says.

Each toiletry bag includes personal hygiene staples: shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, laundry detergent, dishwashing soap and tampons and pads (upon request). In addition to toiletry bags, McConnell has shared paper towels, wipes and other cleaning supplies as they come available. 

McConnell says that toilet paper is one of the most requested items, a demand that has only increased since shortages began earlier this year. Laundry detergent is an underrecognized need. In the past, Beacon of Hope volunteers have partnered with Church Street’s youth and children’s ministries to make large quantities of laundry detergent at a lower cost. With the pandemic, gathering to make detergent has not been possible, causing a further shortage of supplies. 

“It’s something most people have in the closet,” McConnell says. “It’s just something you don’t think about.” 

If you’d like to donate toiletries or food items to Beacon of Hope, please contact Dona McConnell at 599-5047 or by email at beaconofhopevestal@gmail.com. To give financially to Beacon of Hope, click here

At the start of each summer, Church Street participates in a special hands-on mission project in conjunction with the Holston Conference. In an unprecedented year, the need was greater than ever, and the task more challenging than ever. 

Within the Holston Conference, projects in Liberia and Zimbabwe are supported by the fulfillment of buckets full of food and school supplies. For the past two years, Church Street has supported the Zimbabwe-based project Ishe Anesu, which is designed to provide education to under-resourced children. This is accomplished through the payment of school fees and the purchase of required school uniforms, books and stationery.

“American schools are funded by the state,” Associate Pastor Rev. Palmer Cantler says. “Many public schools in African countries are not free and require families to pay for the education of their children.”

The Ishe Anesu project also offers Christian education and values, family and social ethics and recreation while providing two meals a day. Those meals are supported in part by the Church Street congregation. 

In the two years Church Street has supported Ishe Anesu, Rev. Cantler has set a goal of fulfilling 50 food buckets. In 2019, the Tennessee Valley region of the Holston Conference sent 716 buckets to Zimbabwe. So far in 2020, 220 buckets have been sent. 

Each bucket is filled with 1 bag (4-5 lb.) sugar; 1 bag (4-5 lb.) self-rising flour; 1 bag (2 lb.) rice; 1 bag (2 lb.) dried beans; 1 powdered milk (10 oz. or less); 1 box (18 oz. or less) quick/instant oats; 1 bottle (48 oz. or less) cooking oil; 1 box (50 count or less) Splenda/sucralose; and canned ham (2 lb. total). 

The 5-gallon bucket must be packed strategically, Rev. Cantler says, because if one thing is off, it can be flagged by customs on its way to Zimbabwe and the whole shipment could be delayed. 

Before the pandemic, buckets would sit in the breezeway of the church, waiting for members to take them home and fill before returning on a specific day, or members could support the project financially. Volunteers would then check each bucket to ensure that each was packed correctly before sealing with a lid and loading for shipment. 

But as time for the annual hands-on project approached in 2020, Rev. Cantler was unsure of how to move forward with the buckets in a safe way, let alone fill 50 appropriately with a food shortage. Missions chair Katie Heatherly sparked confidence and the team decided to give it a try. 

Opting to ask the congregation to support financially, it was nearly a week before the donations from members funded 70 buckets, surpassing the annual goal of 50 buckets in record time. 

In addition to the financial giving from members, a church member affiliated with Home Depot learned about the project from the church newsletter and approached the missions team about donating the buckets for packing. Rev. Palmer also connected with a Kroger and Walgreens partner to order the appropriate food. Each partner coordinated the best way to safely order and transport supplies to the church. 

Masked and gloved, the missions team packed 70 buckets in one night, working socially distanced in an assembly line style. The buckets were packed and sent off to their recipients in Zimbabwe. 

“It was really amazing that we were able to do more,” Rev. Cantler says. But, little did she know when she received the updated numbers the next week that donations for the project had jumped to about $5,000— almost double what was received in the first week. 

In addition to learning that donations had far exceeded what she expected, Rev. Cantler felt confident that the team of volunteers could fill the gap caused by COVID-19’s impact on other churches in the Tennessee Valley region. She ordered more food, asked her contact at Home Depot for 50 more buckets and on Saturday, Nov. 7, volunteers packed 50 more buckets. This brings the total for the Holston Conference total to 270. 

“I hoped for 30 at the beginning of the year,” Rev. Cantler says. “120? I was astonished.” 

This miraculous act of giving by the Church Street congregation reminds Rev. Cantler of her word for the year: Flexibility. Early in 2020, events happened that began to be clear signs that God was showing her how to have flexibility in her life, and the Zimbabwe food buckets are no exception. 

“A big lesson in 2020 for me is God is abundant,” she says. “God has continued to show up in abundance and generosity and shown generosity in this congregation.” 

What started as a goal of 50 more than doubled, and it created quite the impact on the Ishe Anesu project as founder Maria Sabino Humbane and her team continue to support the immediate needs of the poorest of the poor. They can provide more opportunities for continued growth through vocational training and outreach programs to educate and empower mothers of Ishe Anesu children. 

“I just keep praying for abundance and flexibility and staying out of the way,” Rev. Cantler says. “No matter what, God will provide.” 

Want to become involved with Missions at Church Street? Learn more here

Church Street is pleased to welcome Rev. Catherine Clark Nance, Senior Pastor, and Rev. Tim Best, Senior Associate Pastor, to our clergy leadership team. They join Rev. Palmer Cantler, Associate Pastor, Rev. Dr. Jan Buxton Wade, Minister of Spiritual Enrichment, as well as our Visitation Pastors, Rev. Pat Clendenen and Rev. Andy Ferguson. Enjoy this introductory letter from Senior Associate Pastor Tim Best:


Dear Church Family,

Greetings to each of you! As I begin my ministry here with you all, I find the simple words of Paul from Ephesians 1:15-17 to be a powerful prayer.

“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason  I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him.”

I share these words from St. Paul’s letter for several reasons. First, they are good words for the time in which we find ourselves. Except for a small handful of folks that I had met before Covid and before I was projected to be one of your pastors, I have not met you. I have, however, heard of your faith. I have known many of your former pastors; I have met candidates for ministry from Church Street; I have been a part of Holston Conference for over a decade and have seen much of the fruit of your ministry beyond Knoxville. I have been praying intentionally for you, for all of the clergy and staff, and for our shared ministry since this spring when I was informed I would be serving with this storied community of faith. I have prayed that we can gather safely. I have prayed for the countless ministries and projects that have been postponed, cancelled, or reimagined.

Paul gives us a cue for our faith, even in the midst of crisis. Paul unites his prayers with his thanksgivings. Even as I pray for our transition, our return to worship, our longing for some sense of “normal,” I give thanks. Last week I joined a meeting to discuss the Summer Lecture Series. I was blown away by the effort that had been expended to reformat this annual program. I have already begun to connect with Sunday school classes that are meeting over zoom. My heart is full with thanksgiving for such commitment to the gospel and one to another. As Christians we are Easter people, a people of hope, even when our Easter celebrations, our farewells, and our welcomes are a stunted version of what we would like. Nonetheless, these things have happened. Our doors have been shut, but ministry hasn’t stopped. I have heard from some of our members that the shutdown and online meetings have drawn them closer to one another. The Nave is empty on Sunday mornings, but worship carries on. The beauty of our choir has even found a way to shine in this moment by gathering virtually and revisiting recordings. There is much for which to be thankful here at Church Street!

The climax of Paul’s greeting is about Jesus. I haven’t included the whole paragraph, but Paul quickly turns his focus on the God revealed in Jesus. I am encouraged that our shared focus is on Jesus, too. The challenges we face and the work we have ahead are all manageable in the light of Jesus’ love and grace. Though the times are strange I am overwhelmed with hope because of Jesus. This past Sunday I ended my pastoral prayer with the words of the children’s hymn: “Jesus loves me.” Many years ago now, a well-known pastor and theologian, Karl Barth, was asked at the end of his life what had been the most important thing he had learned while teaching and in writing his 38 volumes on theology. Barth reportedly responded with a smile as he began to sing “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” My prayer is that as we grow and serve together, our hearts may be transformed by Jesus as we come to know him ever more fully and faithfully.

Rev. Timothy J. Best