Mid-Summer Musings

Here we are in the “dog days of summer.” Heat, humidity, and summertime thunderstorms are part
and partial of most days. In looking back over the past year, I am grateful for this summer. Many things have
changed from where we were one year ago. Last summer was characterized by the cancellation or reformatting
of many of the things we do this time of the year: camp, Bible school, and Summer Adventures. I find myself
encouraged as I write this article. As is often said “What a difference (a period of time) makes!”

At the end of June, I was blessed to attend a week of camp with a number of children, youth, and
adults from Little Rock. It was my first experience working with “Freedom Week” at Camp Vandemere in Pamlico
County. Seven years had passed since my last camp experience, so it was challenging but refreshing to see
God work in the lives of everyone involved. Some children experienced the joy of fishing and crabbing for the
first time. Others ventured out in kayaks and canoes without hesitation. All generations praised the name of
Jesus during song time and evening worship services. Lesson times encouraged everyone to be a people of
integrity and to make positive changes in the world through the love of God. When all was said and done, I
found it difficult to leave. I thought about the craziness of water games, guys playing pool in the dorm, and even
having a young person ask if he could come live with our family. I heard the stories of young people who came
from conditions which included drug abuse, the absence of a parent(s), and experienced being ostracized for
their differences. It was the kind of experience which encouraged my heart for having been able to share God’s
love with such individuals, but, at the same time, it burdens me because it reminds me of how there is much
work for the Church still to do in our world.

Just last week, we were able to gather in person for Vacation Bible School. One year ago, Marci went
to great length to redesign a traditional Bible school curriculum in order that it might be adapted for virtual usage.
Bible stories were recorded and uploaded to the Internet, craft and activity packets were prepared and delivered
for each week, and families worked together to make an offering possible. This year was a completely different
experience as multiple generations assembled for five nights to sing, create, encourage, and fellowship as the
people of God. Galilee by the Sea challenged our students to discover the reality of Jesus. Jesus is our teacher,
healer, provider, savior, and source of our calling to be God’s representatives in the world. It was a blessing to
help convey the message of Jesus’ life and ministry by acting in the role of Simon Peter. While the costume
may have been a bit warm at times, it was well-worth the time and effort in order that some children could hear
various Bible stories on their level for the very first time.

Following a lengthy journey filled with strange creatures, symbolic colors and numbers, and, at times,
violent imagery, our Wednesday study of Revelation has drawn to its conclusion. It was an interesting study to
say the least. That is not to suggest that any study of Scripture is not an interesting experience, but that this
biblical encounter was a bit different. Revelation is often viewed as a source of fear and confusion, and
consequently becomes an ignored or misused portion of the Bible. While it does call for patience and discipline
in reading and interpretation, the efforts are worth the hard work due to the fruits one is able to glean from the
deep/rich imagery. The past six months with Revelation have proven taxing on my mind and heart, but the
message of this Apocalypse provides me with great hope in facing our present times and the future. While we
may not know all of the things we will experience in life, and even though we do not understand the suffering
encountered by many, our strength comes from knowing God is with us. Sin, evil, pain, sickness, death, etc.
overwhelm us when we consider this present life, but John’s vision offers faithful followers of the Lamb the
assurance that God is victorious and works to bring renewal to all things. Now on to new and different things for
the fall!

Something which has been upon my heart in recent weeks is the need to express gratitude for your
faithfulness with stewardship. Stewardship can be difficult especially during the summer months. As I have
stated previously, stewardship is never a fun or easy subject for any pastor to address, but it is a part of the
Scriptures we have as the Church. All of our blessings come from God and God receives glory when we give
back a portion of what God has graced our lives with financially. Finances are not the only part of conducting
ministry through the local church, but they are essential for the support of various programs, maintenance, and
denominational services. Stewardship is something which we must discover as being vital to our lives as
Christians and it is also something within which we must grow. We must start somewhere and be persistent with
our giving. It is also of great important that we remain consistent with our giving which is to say we must
remember to give even if we miss a Sunday or know in advance that we might be out of place. The online giving
option through our church website is a safe and secure manner to support the Lord’s work even on the go. For
your generosity, I wish to say thank you and to encourage you to continue the good work!

Well, the summertime still has much to afford. Some are preparing for a period of vacation and others
are gearing up for back-to-school shopping. Whatever you have planned and wherever the journey takes you
in these coming weeks, please do all things in word and deed for the glory of God.
Together in the Journey,

The Reverend Kelley Smart