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Friday Greetings - December 22

From Pastor Vann


Mary, the mother of Jesus, takes center stage on this Fourth Sunday in Advent. We will read and explore the passage in Luke 1 known as “Mary’s Song” or “The Magnificat.” The Magnificat is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns.

Magnificat means “it magnifies” and comes from the Latin version of the scriptures. Luke 1:46b reads, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Mary is visiting her older cousin Elizabeth, who is also with child. Mary is so grateful for the unexpected honor of bearing the Messiah, the Savior of Israel,

that she breaks into spontaneous praise.

Praise and prophecy, for Mary also proclaims that the lowly have been lifted up, the hungry filled, and the rich and powerful humbled. Hers is a message of hope for the downtrodden and judgment for those who tread upon the weak and lowly. It’s a message threatening a status quo where the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. It’s a message that pronounces judgment upon worldly power.

The Magnificat is no less God’s word than the Ten Commandments, John 3:16, or the Sermon on the Mount, yet it is usually overlooked or ignored. We don’t like to make rich, powerful people uncomfortable. We don’t like it when we discover that the Word of God is unavoidably political, whether we like it or not. We don’t like God’s vision of how we ought to live in community with one another. We like our own systems, whether democracy or autocracy,

capitalism or socialism.

When the British ruled India, the Magnificat was prohibited from being sung in churches. During the "Dirty War"; in Argentina, after the mothers of disappeared children postered the capital plaza with the words of the Magnificat, the military junta banned all public displays of the song. Mary’s version of hope, they decided, was too dangerous a thing for public consumption.

Are there passages of scripture we shouldn’t read because they might make us question how we live our lives? I don’t think so. No part of God’s word ought to be off-limits.

Worship with us Sunday morning and find out what was on Mary’s mind and, thus, what was in God’s heart.

And then, on Sunday afternoon or evening, come back and worship again at one of our four Christmas Eve services.

Merry Christmas, Centenary friends!

The Work of Christmas

by Howard Thurman

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among the people,

To make music in the heart.

Thank You, Centenary!

On behalf of the pastors and staff, thank you so much for your generosity this holiday season. Your gifts are appreciated.

Apportionments, Financial Stewardship, and Pastoral Responsibilities

Centenary is in the Sound District of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. The Sound District extends as far west as Kinston, as far south as Swansboro, as far north as Greenville, and as far east as the Atlantic Ocean. The North Carolina Conference includes all United Methodist congregations in North Carolina located east of Gibsonville in Alamance County. 

Every year in June, the Conference's Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) prepares a budget that is discussed, amended, and approved by the assembled lay and clergy delegates. The Conference budget includes expenditures for District Superintendent salaries and benefits; Conference staff salaries and benefits; support for United Methodist colleges and camps located within the boundaries of our Conference; support for North Carolina ministerial students attending seminary; expenditures for outreach and evangelism programs within our Conference; and finally, support for mission and ministry beyond our Conference in the larger United Methodist Church, including Bishops' salaries and benefits and assistance for United Methodist missionaries worldwide. 

After the Conference budget is approved, it’s divided up ("apportioned") to all the churches in the North Carolina Conference. The amount each congregation is asked to contribute is proportional (approximately) to how much that congregation spends on itself, less deductions for debt repayment, capital improvements, and local missions. 

Unless you've been living on a desert island, you know that the United Methodist Church has just experienced a time of dissension and division. Approximately 40% of the churches in the North Carolina Conference defected to the newly formed Global Methodist Church. The Sound District was particularly hard hit, losing over half of our congregations. The Conference budget has been drastically cut because of the decrease in the number of churches, affecting everything from the number of Superintendents currently being paid to the amount of support given to our camps and other institutions.

Centenary's apportioned amount for 2023 is $110,087. While our congregation's giving has exceeded the budgeted amount—in other words, folks have given more than we predicted when we passed our own 2023 budget last fall—our expenses have increased faster than our giving due to the inflation that now plagues us all. Because of this, we've had to delay paying our apportionments since they're one of the few expenses we can pay in a lump sum. To date, we've paid 60% of the total, so we're about 30% behind (~$35,000) where we hoped we would be at the beginning of December.

Per The Book of Discipline (Paragraph 340.2.e), one of the pastor's responsibilities is "To lead the congregation in the fulfillment of its mission through full and faithful payment of all apportioned ministerial support, administrative, and benevolent funds." To that end, I ask you to prayerfully consider helping Centenary pay our 2023 apportionments by making an extra financial gift this month. Thank you for your generous support for our mission and ministries this year, and thank you in advance for helping us meet our obligation to support our beloved United Methodist connection. God bless you!

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