by Stephen Toth • Sunday, October 11, 2020
I have been feeling rather uncomfortable lately, and I choose to blame it on Pastor Vance. It really isn’t his fault, but don’t we blame everything in the church on the pastor? I have been taking part in the MCC Discovery Class online and the last part was a Spiritual Gifts Inventory and then a private meeting with the pastor to discuss the results and how those could fit into the life and ministry of St. John’s MCC. While I was not surprised by the results of the Inventory, I guess I was hoping for something a little different since I had convinced myself and grown quite comfortable with the idea that the Spiritual Gifts I once had as a pastor in South Carolina in the United Methodist Church were somehow magically given by the Bishop when I was ordained and given the title Reverend had just as easily vanished, and I was no longer required to have them when I surrendered my credentials in 2010, but now suddenly here they were staring at me again, and I had already sent an email to the pastor saying if I can help in any way, please let me know. Now here is the pastor, with my spiritual gifts inventory, looking at me, and reminding me of one of my former priests just before confession time, and me wondering how much trouble have I gotten myself into this time?
I have long learned in my spiritual life that when I am uncomfortable in my spirit it is because God is trying to get my attention and it usually means things are about to change, and change can be very uncomfortable for any of us, but our best growth takes place in times of discomfort and change. Of the many times in my life, the one that I remember the most because it changed my entire understanding of how I approached ministry was in 1997 when I was preparing for my journey to become an elder or a full member of the South Carolina Annual Conference. One of the requirements was that you have to complete a unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education). Since I was serving two churches already in Abbeville County in the Anderson District of the UMC, there were really only two choices to do this requirement while still serving a local church; either at Anderson Area Medical Center as it was called then or Patrick Harris Psychiatric Hospital.
by Rev. Vance Haywood • Friday, August 28, 2020
Hurricane Laura has wreaked havoc over the past 36 hours on numerous states and has left many, particularly in southwest Louisiana, in devastation.
“It looks like a war zone,” “I’ve lost everything,” “I don’t know where we will go. All of the homes, housing, and hotels are damaged,” “Where will my children sleep?” – These are just some of the cries and questions that I have heard over these last 24 hours since day broke yesterday on the catastrophic damage that was left behind.
I invite you to join me in prayer as we lift up those impacted by this storm including my parents, siblings, and their children.
Oh God of Love, God of Peace, pour out your peace right now even in the midst of struggle, pain, grief, and loss. The peace that you provide truly does surpass our human understanding. We ask for that peace right now on all of those impacted by Hurricane Laura. Shield them with your Love and remind them throughout each day that they are not alone. Show them your face in and through the angels around them. Reveal yourself to them in the people around them. Show us how we are called to be your healing presence in a hurting world. This we pray in your many names and in the mighty and matchless name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
by Rev. Vance Haywood • Saturday, August 15, 2020
This morning as I woke up, my attention was immediately drawn to the silence. My fan wasn’t running and the power had gone out due to the storms and a tree falling in my neighborhood. It was odd, even after years of learning to sit in the stillness and silence. It also was a welcome opportunity to be reminded of just how God is revealed when we take time to see.
As I went outside to heat water over the gas burner to brew some coffee, I sat and thought about the family that we got a call about yesterday. A young child is now in hospice care, and the hospice center connected them with us to be able to help with support through our pantry.
I thought about what that mother must be thinking in those same moments as she woke up this morning. How is she coping with the reality she and her family now face? God showed up in this woman that I haven’t met yet to remind me of amazing grace. I was in amazement at the strength she must have and humbled at the ways that God has positioned us to cross paths.
I was humbled all the more when I started receiving messages this morning asking for ways that people could give to help this family. Mothers who no doubt are moved to reach out because of a shared parental bond between mother and child. Others who are simply moved by Spirit to DO! All people that God showed up in and through their willingness and their action.
Lunch Boxes of Love
by Chris Rudisill • QNotes • August 7, 2020
Rev. Vance Haywood welcomed congregants during a live streamed service on a Sunday. In a green chasuble, he spoke about the challenges of coming together during a pandemic and welcomed viewers even beyond North Carolina. “We’re in this work together,” he said before sitting quietly, hands crossed at a distance behind Rev. Paully Adams who delivered a sermon about reclaiming the power of prayer.
“Pastor Vance” or just “Vance,” as Haywood prefers, became the fifth pastor of St. John’s MCC in February 2018. He’s never been big on titles. The church, situated in the Southern Gateway of downtown Raleigh, began as a small group in 1976. Across the street, large historically-inspired homes are being built and three bus stops are just a short distance away along Maywood Ave.
As the coronavirus has shuttered shelters throughout Wake County, St. John’s has stepped up their services with their partners at the Love Wins Community Engagement Center. Their mission reads “using a mind, body and spirit approach, we provide day shelter, hot meals and peer support for people experiencing homelessness.” According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 970 people are without a place to sleep on any given night in Wake County. With rising unemployment and limited resources brought on by COVID-19, that number is expected to increase.