On Monday, August 24, I had the honor of praying the invocation for the Board of Mayor & Aldermen Meeting at Collierville Town Hall. Below is the prayer that I offered for our leaders, our town, and for all those in attendance. Please join me in praying for all our elected officials, that God would give them the wisdom needed to navigate these trying times.
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of Hagar and Ishmael, God of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus...
We pray to you this night seeking guidance and wisdom, asking for you to reveal your path, for our town, state, and nation.
We pray that you might direct the hearts of our Mayor and Aldermen, just as you channeled streams of living water within the hearts of your people.
As Israel’s kings sought out the wisdom and counsel of prophets, may our leaders attentively listen to the prophetic voices you lift up this evening.
Reveal to us brave visionaries who speak up and speak out on behalf of your people and draw our attention to the least of these, for we know that whatever we do for the least of these we in truth do for you, Lord.
Help us to hear the concern of parents as their children return to school, show us the faces of those who have struggled financially over the last five months, and offer us solace as we mourn for the lives of those lost to COVID-19 as well as systemic and institutional racism.
Remind us of this fact which theologian Tom Oden shares, “We do not live a solitary existence as if in an individualistic bubble, but in a community called to social accountability. The sin we knowingly do contributes to the burden of sin dispersed through the whole society.”
Almighty God, we repent of our sin and the sins of our fathers; may we seek out your preferred future, and may you flood our atmosphere with oceans of justice and rivers of righteousness.
You are a good and loving God, slow to anger and quick to love. Bless my neighbors and bless this meeting, so that right and equitable relationships might be built, that wisdom would be proclaimed as each tongue speaks justice and truth.
We pray for this and much more in the name of the one true God: Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer. Amen.
Recently, I wrote an article for the May/June 2020 issue of Tour Collierville Magazine which I share below. I was asked to focus on current events and how to rely on God during times of uncertainty, doubt, and trouble. As we continue to see rising numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, small business owners struggling to stay afloat, and numerous protests for racial equality and police reform, I pray that these words may offer some comfort and assurance of God's protection. +Peace and Love from Pastor Kris.
So many things are happening in our world right now. It seems like we hear from federal, state, and local leaders on a daily basis as they present new guidelines and best practices for how to deal with COVID-19.
There’s a growing concern around our economy and how long it will take for us to rebound. Many individuals have applied for unemployment benefits, some families are dipping into their emergency funds, and all of us have had to adjust our lives as we practice social distancing and follow “Safer at Home” orders.
It would be very tempting to give in to fear. It’s taking more effort to keep thoughts of doubt or despair at bay given the current situation. If you find yourselves worrying more than usual, then I encourage you to look to God’s Word and discover joy and hope during this time.
Turn your minds to the Easter story found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 28. Here, we see two women discover the empty tomb. An angel instructs Mary and Mary to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead. They hurry away “with great fear and joy” before meeting the risen Christ on the road. These women demonstrate how it is possible to live a faithful, joy-filled life and still experience moments of fear, doubt, or anxiety.
Earlier in the same Gospel, we see how Jesus’ followers had concerns and worries about their basic needs being met. Jesus, as their teacher and friend, points to God’s provisions. God supplies food for birds and dresses the wildflowers so that they’re more beautifully adorned than any runway model. If God cares about these living things, then how much more will God care for humankind—beings created in the image and likeness of God?
Psalm 46 begins with some very powerful words: “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.”
Our community, our nation, and our world is experiencing a time of great trouble, but I don’t think we’re alone. I believe that God’s Holy Spirit is present with each and every one of us, and I trust that God is guiding us through this pivotal moment in world history.
Psalm 46 also references earthquakes and tsunamis, the rantings and ravings of nations, and the destruction of weapons used for war. In the midst of this chaos, the Psalmist does not fear. Through it all, her eyes are on God.
The women at the empty tomb are filled with both fear and joy at the thought of Jesus overcoming death. The angel speaks a greeting, “Don’t be afraid,” and Jesus repeats these comforting words when he meets them on the road.
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus says to his followers, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Instead of worrying, the Messiah encourages his disciples to pay attention to what God is doing right now and to not get worked up about what might happen tomorrow.
Friends, it’s completely natural to experience fear in times like these. Becoming worried about our health, our safety, and our finances is a very real, human response.
Through it all, I pray that you will seek God first. Discover joy and hope in the Psalms and in the Gospel stories. Put your trust in the Lord, because God will protect and provide for us. God is always ready to help when we need Him most. Thanks be to God!
The following is a transcript from a video I streamed earlier today via Facebook Live. Contained in this article are helpful links and updated information for how Peace Tree is continuing to address COVID-19 concerns in our community. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. God bless!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
Hey friends, I wanted to give y’all a quick update on how our faith community is currently addressing coronavirus concerns as we look ahead to the month of May.
The last time I went LIVE over Facebook with an update, it was Friday, March 13 - that’s a little over 6 weeks ago. To put things into perspective, back on March 13, there were only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County.
With more testing being made available in the weeks since then, health officials quickly discovered that community transmission had occurred, and as of April 28 in Shelby County alone, there are 2,320 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 45 deaths.
Friends, now more than ever, we need to practice healthy habits, we need to remain at home if possible, and if we do go to a public place for work, or to pick up groceries and meals from local restaurants, or for any other reason, then we need to wear cloth masks or other face coverings to protect ourselves and others.
For six weeks now, Peace Tree has encouraged our members to stay at home. We’ve gathered together as an online community through a number of different methods. We’ve premiered worship videos on Sunday morning at 10AM Central across three sites: YouTube, Facebook, and our church website: peacetree.church.
We’ve also been hosting online Bible studies on Wednesday nights at 7:30 Central using Facebook Live. We have a dial in prayer call every Thursday at 2:00. House Groups have been keeping in touch with Zoom meetings, emails, group text messages, and phone calls.
Our United Methodist Women circles and Peace Tree Kids have been calling and writing letters to our home-centered members, and our Congregational Care Team and church staff have done an excellent job of keeping us connected as well.
Many of you watching this video may already have a church home, and we hope that you’re staying connected to your church family.
But for those of you who don’t currently have a faith community, or for those who haven’t attended church in some time and are looking for a comfortable, casual way of getting plugged in, I invite you to check out Peace Tree.
We’re continuing to foster community using these online opportunities and we’ve had friends and family members join us from places near and far including Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, California, Amsterdam, the Philippines, and Hong Kong just to name a few.
Search for Peace Tree on Facebook and YouTube: I think you’d enjoy all the people you’ll meet during a Wednesday night Bible study, a Sunday morning worship service, a Tuesday night Book Club gathering, or during a Thursday afternoon dial-in prayer call.
Back on March 13, the president declared a national emergency. He also proposed a 15 day plan for slowing the spread of COVID-19. That original 15 day plan got extended through the end of April.
And now, there are guidelines from the White House that governors, mayors, and community leaders are referencing when making decisions regarding a phased re-opening of our cities, counties, and states.
Our church’s leadership team is staying up-to-date on what local health officials and government leaders are advising, and we’re also looking to our denominational leaders, specifically our conference bishop and our district superintendent.
On Friday, Bishop Bill McAlilly shared a blog post with United Methodist pastors stating that it’s in the best interest of the churches we serve in Middle Tennessee, West Tennessee, and Western Kentucky for public worship and other in-person gatherings to remain suspended through May 31.
We at Peace Tree agree with the Bishop’s decision and we will continue to gather online and stay connected through mailed cards and letters, email blasts, social media posts, Zoom meetings, telephone calls, and Facebook Live videos.
In these unprecedented times, the act of physically distancing ourselves from one another is an act of love. Doing so helps us protect ourselves and our families, it demonstrates care and concern for our neighbors (especially those who are most susceptible to this virus), and it could literally help save lives.
If you’re isolated and you need someone to talk to, you can always reach out to me - message me directly over Facebook or Instagram, or email me at email@example.com. If you have a prayer concern, send it to our Congregational Care Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need to contact our office staff, then email email@example.com or call 901-286-5532.
Lastly, if you’d like to financially support our online ministry, then text the word PEACE to 77977 or visit peacetree.church/give.
I leave you with a thought from Psalm 82. In this Psalm, God is presented as the supreme Judge, and God is examining all of those who are in a position of responsibility. They were commissioned to defend the weak, to stand up for the powerless, to uphold the cause of the poor, and to deliver those who are being exploited.
Friends, all of us, in some degree or another, hold a position of responsibility. Throughout every community around the world there live individuals who are immunocompromised, those who have underlying medical conditions, and those who suffer from chronic disease.
They are your grandparents, your parents, your neighbors, your best friends. I’m staying home to help keep them safe, so that one day, I can see them again face to face.
Remember to thank our frontline health care workers, our first responders, grocery store employees, restaurant owners, and other essential workers who are risking their health in order to keep society functioning.
Wash your hands often, stay home as much as possible, and if you do go out in public, then please cover your mouth and nose with a mask or face covering.
Stay in touch. Share the good news of Jesus. Be the good news by helping those in need. And remember that Church Can Happen Anywhere. Thanks for watching and God bless!
We are in an unprecedented time as we deal with COVID-19 and adjust how we go about our normal activities. There are many changes happening, and this can overwhelm our capacity to cope.
The news media continually monitors the spread of this virus, government officials regularly put out new community restrictions, events are being cancelled, stores cannot keep shelves stocked with basic supplies, and some friends are losing their jobs.
All of this leads to an increase in stress, anxiety, depression and/or grief during a time of uncertainty and social distancing.
People handle situations like this in different ways. Some may be more irritable, some may be more emotional and cry, and still others may isolate and close themselves off from their loved ones.
We need to remember there is no right or wrong way to navigate or cope with stress and that everyone is doing their best.
The good news is that you are not alone even while social distancing. Having a connection with others is innate in each human being. All of us need to know we are valued and loved.
It can be challenging to stay connected when we are supposed to limit our exposure to others, but it is not impossible. Here are few ways you can stay connected with others:
Along with staying connected to others, remember to practice self-care in order to regulate and handle the stress associated with issues related to COVID-19. There are many ways to practice self-care. A few examples include:
Amid uncertainty, please know you are unique and amazing. There is no other person like you who can fill your shoes. Be a courageous person…talk with someone about how you feel and what you are experiencing.
If you want someone who will talk with you and help you find resources, the people of Peace Tree are here to assist. You can start by messaging our Congregational Care Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out the Prayer Form on our Connect page.
Hang in there! We will get through this together.
Behavioral Health Safety Net Insurance for those without mental health insurance and do not qualify for TennCare. (further details can be provided)
-Contact Leigh Ann Pray by calling 615-804-7164
Memphis-Area Food Curbside and Pick-Up Options via I Love Memphis Blog:
United Way Community Response and Recovery Fund
Memphis Food Industry Emergency Worker Assistance
GoFundMe organized by Edible Memphis
Talkspace Coronavirus Resource Hub
Free Resources for Mindfulness and Meditations
RELIEF FUNDS AND ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE
MEALS FOR SENIORS
Members of City of Memphis Senior Centers will still receive a daily meal from their respective seniors.
Members registered to receive MIFA meals can opt to pick up their meal from the center they attend or have it delivered using the van service.
Members at other senior centers have the option to pick up their meals at their respective center for their regular nominal fee.
Leigh Ann Pray has worked in mental health in Tennessee for over 20 years. She has a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and is a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist. During her career, she has worked as an In-home Counselor, a Case Manager, a Case Management Supervisor, a partial hospitalization Program Director, a Director of Quality Assurance and Training, a Chief Clinical Officer and a West TN Regional Director. Leigh Ann has been a part of implementing trauma informed care with Foster Parents, as well as developing trauma informed curriculums for clinicians. She has trained counselors, therapists and community partners on a wide variety of topics such as effective discipline, communication, trauma informed practices, and many more. She was a cohort leader with the National Council for Behavioral Health, in a collaboration to create trauma informed communities. The Collaboration focused on creating sustainable trauma-competent environments to allow children and families to thrive. Leigh Ann has spoken at events in multiple states on topics such as secondary traumatic stress, cross generational trauma, how to create trauma informed communities and trauma informed foster parenting. Leigh Ann believes in empowering people to identify and develop their strengths and abilities so they can maximize their potential.
The following is a transcript from a video I streamed earlier this evening via Facebook Live. Contained in this article are helpful links, practical advice, and updated information for how Peace Tree is addressing COVID-19 concerns in our community. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns. God bless!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
Hey friends, I hope everyone is having a blessed day today! It is March, Friday the 13th in the year of our Lord 2020, and I wanted to take a moment to share some information about Peace Tree and what our congregation is doing to address recent COVID-19 / coronavirus concerns.
We’ve recently received word from Bishop McAlilly, the resident bishop of the Nashville Episcopal area, advising churches across West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and Western Kentucky to consider suspending worship and other large gatherings for at least two weeks in order to slow the rate of transmission of the coronavirus.
So, after consulting with several of our church leaders and office staff, we’ve decided to suspend our Sunday morning large group worship services at Peace Tree for March 15th and the 22nd. Following this period of time, we’ll regroup and decide on whether to hold future in-person worship services on a week to week basis.
Even though we will not be gathering as a large group for worship on the 15th and 22nd, a small group of worship leaders will meet with me on Sunday mornings to broadcast a worship experience online via our Facebook Live video stream. We hope you’ll participate in this online worship service by asking questions in the Comments section, Liking and Sharing the video to your profile, and sending us Prayer Requests through Messenger or the form on our website.
The easiest ways to access this live stream is to visit our church website, peacetree.church, and click on the box that says Worship Online. You can also log onto Facebook and search for Peace Tree UMC. If you’re on our Facebook page at 10AM Central Time on Sunday morning, you’ll be notified that the Live Stream is in progress.
For my friends who live in other states, and even for local friends whose churches don’t offer a live stream service, we invite you worship with us on Sundays at 10:00AM Central Time. Leave a comment on the video to let us know where you’re watching from.
As we continue to respond to the situation, please know that office hours at our Shelby Drive location may change in the upcoming weeks. We encourage you to call ahead if you plan to stop by office. The best number to use is 901-286-5532.
If you do come by the office, please know that we have several hand sanitizing stations throughout the church building as well as flyers from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization with helpful information for the public.
We’re encouraging everyone in their everyday lives to practice “social distancing” by not shaking hands with your friends & co-workers. Instead you may simply smile, nod, and wave to your neighbor as you greet them.
Since we won’t be meeting in person for the next couple of weeks, we won’t be passing an offering plate. However, if you’d like to support the work and ministry of Peace Tree, you can make a donation to the church from your smart phone by texting the word PEACE to 77977 or by visiting the website peacetree.church/give.
Not only are we suspending our Large Group in-person worship services, but we’re also asking Small Group leaders and their participants to suspend their in-person meetings for the next two weeks.
This includes our Sunday school classes, UMW Circles, House Groups, and our various monthly gatherings. If you’re a member of one these groups, please reach out to your hosts and leaders to see if there are ways to share prayer concerns, conversation, and other interactions via group text, email, or video chats & online hangouts.
We’ve also been in touch with outside groups who utilize our church facilities, specifically our gym. We’re here to support them in their decisions, and each group leader is communicating with their members letting them know whether their regularly scheduled events are still being held or if they’re being cancelled.
There is no outbreak of the Coronavirus in the Memphis area, and right now there are only two confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Shelby County. We’re trying our best to take responsible steps and to do what we deem necessary in order to keep our church family and community members safe from the potential spread of this disease.
You may already know that the symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild to severe and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Older adults and individuals with underlying medical conditions are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and since the age of our church family spans a wide range from a newborn only a couple of months old to someone who is over 90 years old, we want to ensure everyone’s safety and prevent unnecessary risks for our older church members.
We’re continuing to monitor the situation, staying up to date with announcements from the CDC, the Shelby County Health Department, and the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Just earlier today, President Trump held a press conference declaring a national emergency. As I understand it, certain federal regulations will be put on a temporary hold to allow hospitals to make decisions that are swift and in their patients’ best interest. The government is also partnering with the private sector to make testing kits for this virus more readily available at drive thru testing locations. You can learn more about these protocols at coronavirus.gov.
We will keep the lines of communication open with you, sharing information through your small group leaders, social media posts, email blasts, text message groups, and newsletters which we will mail to our home-centered church members.
If you have any concerns or questions, you can message me directly over Facebook and Instagram. You can also email me at email@example.com, and you can reach our office staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remain vigilant, practice healthy habits, and be kind to one another. Stay safe and God bless!
The following article was shared by Pastor Kris during Vision Sunday on January 26, 2020 which concluded our "2020 Vision" sermon series. Architectural designs and concept art were shared with our congregation at a special meeting following the 10AM worship service that day. During the meeting, church leaders guided table discussions as we dreamt and imagined how a potential building renovation would impact our ministry and extend our missional outreach into the community.
If you'd like more information about the renovation proposals, please visit us in person at 9315 E Shelby Dr and pick up a copy of our FAQ document. You can also take a look at the design boards displayed in the main lobby with images of the entrances, hallways, chapel, and signage. Questions? Email us at email@example.com.
These are exciting times! God is at work with the people of Peace Tree, and we have sought to live into God’s vision for our growing congregation. What began in the summer of 2015 as a dream for a new church led by a church planter with a launch team of 12 people, soon became a network of house churches which met in neighborhoods, apartments, and restaurants touching dozens of lives.
Our mission was simple back then, and it remains our focus to this day: To Love God by Loving Others. As a new church plant, we sought to love those who had left the church for one reason or another, to welcome back those who had fallen away from the community of faith, and to reach those who had never been exposed to Christianity or encountered Jesus in their lives.
Instead of asking people to “come to church,” we worked tirelessly to “take the Church to them,” and to “meet people where they are.” We accomplished this through community events and weekly House Groups. As God grew Peace Tree during the course of our first year, our church leaders saw a need for a Sunday morning worship service.
“Church Can Happen Anywhere,” so we decided to rent space in a non-traditional location for our Sunday morning Large Group Worship Celebration - we believed this would make us more approachable and that it would clear any hurdles for individuals who were weary of walking into a traditional church building. After considering the YMCA at Schilling Farms, Collierville Schools, and the Malco Collierville Towne Cinema, the best value for our money was the local movie theater.
The Malco Collierville Towne Cinema provided us with a large lobby to greet families and neighbors, Safe Sanctuary compliant classrooms for our Nursery and children’s church, and an auditorium that could seat over 250 people comfortably. The staff was wonderful and we included them as fellow team members.
The Sunday morning worship service introduced us to people who had not yet encountered Peace Tree, and it also welcomed others who could not attend a mid-week House Group. These individuals came with talents, gifts, and ideas for new monthly gatherings like Family Fun Night and Book Club. They helped us live out our core values: Love All, Serve All, Live Together, Follow Christ.
The Malco Collierville Towne Cinema was planning a number of renovations and this ultimately caused us to move locations to the Malco Forest Hill Cinema in Germantown. New families discovered us because of the change in location, and we saw the number of people involved in House Groups and Sunday morning Large Group steadily grow.
We were pushing up against our maximum capacity in the Malco Forest Hill Cinema during big worship services (Easter, Christmas Eve, Founders’ Day, etc.) and we started looking for a larger space to rent that would also be accessible during the week for other programs and ministry opportunities.
We looked at buildings and office suites that other churches had previously occupied - one in an office park and another off of Highway 72. We toured spaces that were available for lease in shopping centers and at Carriage Crossing. We even found an online listing for a church building & parsonage in Collierville priced at $2 million.
God continued to grow our church and we continued to look for a new home, and that’s exactly when the pastor of CrossRoads Church reached out to me about a potential church merger. The Peace Tree Leadership Team proposed the “baby step” of renting the gym from CrossRoads while their congregation continued meeting in the chapel with their pastor continuing to serve the CrossRoads congregation. But after meeting with the lay leaders and committee chairs from CrossRoads, it was clear that they wanted to merge with Peace Tree.
During the merger process, we learned a lot about CrossRoads - how many of its members had once been part of St. James UMC and decided to move out to Collierville and re-charter as CrossRoads Church, how the people of CrossRoads worshiped in a warehouse for several years while the building on Shelby Drive was constructed, and how worship took place in the gym while the chapel was being built.
Wherever we go, God is already there! So whether we gather for worship in a warehouse, a movie theater, a coffee shop, someone’s home, a chapel, a gymnasium, or a restaurant - we know that God is with us. Since we shared the same spiritual DNA with this sister congregation, we decided to proceed with the church merger.
The leaders of Peace Tree emphasized our desire to renovate the building, updating signage, replacing carpet, painting the walls, and transforming the chapel into a space that could function in many different ways, welcoming community organizations and outside groups into our sacred space.
CrossRoads had opened their doors to outside groups in the years leading up to the church merger. The YMCA had hosted Y Camps in the children’s wing during the summer months; fitness classes, team sports, and pickle ball take place inside the gym; and Cub Scout Pack 37 was chartered and continues to meet inside the building.
We hope to build upon this important work and to open the doors of this church facility even wider. There is so much potential for this space, and there are plenty of opportunities to reach new people whom other churches have missed in the past.
I had absolute trust that the church merger would help our congregation grow and that moving into this building would give us a safe space for individuals and families to call home - and by all accounts, that’s exactly what’s happened.
I believe that the proposed renovations will extend our reach into this community and the surrounding areas. As we take our next faithful steps together, I hope you’ll pray for me and for our church family as we continue to seek God’s vision for Peace Tree.
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
In the year 2015, April 28 fell on a Tuesday. I woke up early that morning and drove my rental car to Idlewild Baptist Church, just north of Tamp, FL. I was attending the Exponential Conference, the largest gathering of church planting leaders in the world, and on Tuesday the 28th of that year, I was taking advantage of a pre-session forum titled “Planting a Church.”
Fast forward four years to April 28, 2019 and the dream of planting a new church in Collierville and the Memphis metro area has become a reality! Peace Tree is many things to many people: a church that meets people where they are, a congregation that is not defined by its location but by the relationships formed by its people, a faith community that lives up to its vision statement, “Church Can Happen Anywhere.” And now, as of Sunday the 28th of this year, Peace Tree is an officially chartered United Methodist congregation!
Some may read that statement and ask, “Officially chartered congregation? So what have the last four years been about? Haven’t you been baptizing and receiving members? Didn’t you have a Launch Day back in 2017? Aren’t you already a church? Why is chartering such a big deal?” And those are all valid questions, so let’s start at the beginning.
Yes, we began our work in the summer of 2015 with community events that were meant to make a splash in our town and garner attention. Yes, our House Groups were small in number and size but eventually multiplied and helped launch new expressions of faith reaching upwards of 140 people each week. Yes, our Sunday morning worship service has grown year to year, reaching more people with the Gospel, teaching more children about Jesus, and welcoming in those who might otherwise be “spiritually homeless.”
But we accomplished all of these feats as “a fellowship of the United Methodist Church.” Our hope to one day charter as a full-fledged congregation was never guaranteed.
Peace Tree started out as the “daughter church” of Collierville UMC, and our work was sustained through funding from the Metro District and the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Each year, we were slowly being weaned off of this institutional support so that now we are no longer receive assistance with program fees, and we are no longer considered a “daughter church” (but please know that as a pastor, I still receive modest support from the Conference for my housing and health benefits which are being stepped down over the next 19 months).
Even more important than the blessing of financial backing has been the faith of God’s people. We believe that Peace Tree’s success is more dependent upon God’s blessings than human plans, skills, or aspirations.
This past Sunday, we read from Matthew 16:13-19 and I pointed out how Jesus declared his Church would be built on the rock of Peter, his right-hand disciple. I interpret this to mean that God’s church is not dependent on budgets or the number of degrees the pastor holds. God’s church is dependent on the faith of God’s people and the relationships that exist between them.
We are the building blocks of Jesus’ Church, and we believe that God is continuing to build up God’s Church on earth; thankfully, this includes the faith community known as Peace Tree. Our Charter Sunday on April 28, 2019 serves as a milestone in our journey as a church, and I am thankful for everything it stands for.
Being chartered means that we are fully included and recognized by the United Methodist denomination, blessed by its connectional nature and challenged by the wide spectrum of its global membership (conservative and progressive, domestic and international, traditional worshipers and modern worshipers, large congregations and small congregations and everything in between).
It means that we are no longer a “fellowship” of the UMC, but a proper congregation. It also means that over 120 individuals who were either baptized at Peace Tree or who transferred their membership from other congregations are now Charter Members of Peace Tree United Methodist Church.
No church planter arrives at this point by themselves, so I’d like to thank a handful of people who helped make our Charter Sunday possible. First, I’d like to thank my wife, Alyssa, for supporting my call into ordained ministry as an Elder in the UMC as well as my call to church planting. Her faith and trust has served as an encouragement to me, especially during times when I doubted my decisions or grew anxious about the future. I would not have made it this far as a church planter had it not been for her.
I’m thankful for the Launch Team who first followed me into this church planting work as well as the Leadership Team which evolved from that original group. These disciples of Jesus Christ followed me into the unknown, ready and willing to do whatever was asked of them. They all have gifts and graces that complement each other, making us whole, demonstrating how it takes all of us to make up the Body of Christ. Their excitement and commitment for reaching new people with the Gospel of Jesus has made this work meaningful and rewarding.
I’d like to thank Bishop Bill McAlilly, the staff of the Memphis Annual Conference, my church planting coach, Rev. Chad Pullins, the congregation which served as our “mother church” for three years, Collierville UMC, and my District Superintendent, the Rev. Dr. Deborah Smith. All of these individuals and organizations played a huge role in our start up and in our continued success.
An additional Thank You is given to Dr. Smith for worshiping with Peace Tree this past Sunday. She was the one who made us “official.” All United Methodist congregations are ordered and organized by the Book of Discipline (BOD), and given our denomination’s name, you can bet that there is a prescribed “method” contained within the BOD for how a new church is meant to be chartered.
We first held a Constituting Church Conference during which time we named the first members of our Nominations and Leadership Development Team. Once we finished that task, we shifted gears and held a Charge Conference which is when we nominated church leaders to serve on our Administrative Board and Finance Team. Once all of this official business was completed, we ended our time together with the reading of Scripture, the proclamation of the Word, and by gathering together at the Table for Holy Communion.
We’re still Peace Tree and we’re still focused on our mission to “Love God by Loving Others.” God continues to grow our numbers and build up our church. We’re the same people that you’ve met and worshiped with over the last four years. We’re still prioritizing our House Groups and the real community that takes place in those small, intimate settings.
The only thing that has changed is our status; we are now an official congregation of the United Methodist Church, fully chartered and recognized by the denomination. Thanks be to God!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
This morning, Pastor Kris joined with local pastors to pray for the town of Collierville and the city of Germantown as we observed the National Day of Prayer. Prayers were lifted up for parents, first responders, those serving in the military, young people, teachers, elected officials, local pastors, and local business leaders. The 9:30 a.m. observance was held at Central Church with singing led by The Orchard Church. The Noonday observance was held in front of Germantown's City Hall, and several lay people participated by leading prayer.
It truly was a blessing to see neighbors, government officials, and faith communities come together for a single purpose. Below, you can read the prayer that Pastor Kris shared, and at the bottom of the post you'll find some snapshots of the ceremonies. We hope that you will be in prayer today for all Americans as well as our neighbors in countries near and far.
"A Prayer for our Neighbors and for Those in Need"
God of all peoples, we thank you for your presence with us today. We approach your throne this morning as a community which is made up of many different people. We look to the future excitedly, and at the same time we hold onto our traditions and remember our heritage. We preach tolerance and inclusion; however, we tend to favor our own tribes, customs, and ways of living.
As human beings, we often put our own needs ahead of others — our access to housing, food, education, and security. And yet, your Son taught us to die to self. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus called his disciples to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and to follow him. Later, the apostle Paul wrote, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
Father Almighty, help us to look past our own selfish ambitions. Challenge us to put the needs of others above our own. Encourage us to not only read the Bible but to follow the example of your Son, our Messiah, in how he lived his life.
Send us your hungry so that we may feed them. Send us your thirsty so that we may offer them a cup of cool water. Send us the stranger so that they may be fully seen, fully known, and fully loved. Send us those who are shivering so that we may clothe them. Send us out to visit those who are sick and in prison so that they may know that they are not forgotten.
Gives us eyes to see and ears to hear, so that when we encounter a neighbor who is in need, we may see them as a beloved child God. And help us to understand that when we serve the least in our midst, we are in fact serving Christ.
Who is my neighbor, Lord? Your Son taught us to look in unexpected places. Is it the church leader from my local congregation? The lay leader from my Sunday school class? Lord Jesus, what about the person who practices a different religion from me, the one who comes from a different country of origin, the one who speaks a tongue other than English as their primary language?
Yes, this is my personal Samaritan, the one who shows me mercy, the one who would pull me out of a ditch, bandage my wounds, and restore me to health. Humble me, Lord, so that I may see this person as my neighbor, that I might lay down my own prejudices and biases to see all people as my neighbors.
Mold us into your likeness, so that others would no longer see us, but would see you living through us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that our cups would run over. And use us to build up your Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven.
May we love our neighbors as you first loved us, so that others would know who we are and whose we are.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ash Wednesday is coming up Wednesday, March 6. This day has traditionally served as a call to repentance and reflection for Christian communities. Ash Wednesday (which follows Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras) also marks the beginning of Lent, a season when followers of Christ prepare for the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
As a new congregation that has primarily met in House Groups since the beginning of our church planting ministry, we have always celebrated Ash Wednesday in someone's home. The experience in the past has been particularly meaningful as we gathered together as a small group of believers confessing our sins to God, acknowledging our mortality, and preparing for our Lenten journey as we drew near to the Cross.
But this year, we are coming together for our first-ever Large Group Ash Wednesday service. We currently have three groups which meet on Wednesday nights, and we're preparing to start a fourth Wednesday night House Group later in March. It didn't seem proper to choose only one group to host our Ash Wednesday service, so we found a way to open up this worship experience to include everyone: all of our House Group participants, all of our Sunday morning congregants, and anyone from our community who desires to worship God with a faith community on this holy day.
Pastor Kris will make the sign of the Cross on our foreheads. The ashes will serve as a sign of our sorrow for having committed sins against God and neighbor, and they will also serve as a reminder that "from dust you came and to dust you shall return."
We welcome you to worship with the Peace Tree family this Wednesday night, and we hope that you will invite others who are wrestling with their faith, struggling with their sin, and discovering what it means to be redeemed by our glorious Lord.
Doors to the Quonset will open at 6:00 p.m. and our Ash Wednesday service will begin at 6:30. See you in Collierville on March 6. God bless!
How many of you remember the climactic scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? If you’ll recall, Indiana has to pass through three challenges in order to reach the Holy Grail and save his father from certain death. His father, played by Sean Connery, had been researching the Holy Grail and wrote down three clues to allow for safe passage through the challenges, allowing someone to successfully reach the Grail.
Indiana makes it through because he has a book to guide him. Now, I don’t know how often you feel like you’ve had to make a Leap of Faith. For me, agreeing to be on the Peace Tree Launch Team in 2015 was a Leap of Faith. Like Indy, I’m not sure I would have made the leap if I didn’t have my book, the Bible.
My first year on the Launch Team was my last year of Disciple Bible study (six years earlier when I started the Disciple series, I wasn’t sure I would get past the first year much less complete the whole series). Planting a church was not on my radar. I had no thoughts of leaving Collierville United Methodist Church.
I was comfortable. Paul and I had joined Collierville UMC in 1999. We had been members long enough that we had been involved in several areas and knew many people. We liked our Sunday School class a lot. I even started to occasionally fill in for our Sunday school teachers during the summer months to give them a break.
Our youngest child, Caleb, was very involved in all of the children’s programming and continued to be involved as he grew up and joined the youth program. He earned a trophy memorizing the books of the Bible and taught himself guitar so he could play in the youth praise band. Rev. Harry Durbin had invited him to be on his team in a Scrabble tournament, and he went on numerous youth trips to Mountain TOP, Breakthru, BigStuf Camps, Lake Junaluska and Lakeshore Camp.
I had been intrigued by Disciple Bible Study for a while. I knew many members of my Sunday School class had taken Disciple lessons, and they all spoke highly of the courses. I had enrolled once before but I was still working a full-time job, and with the kids’ schedules it was a struggle to keep up.
Finally the time came where my husband, Paul, and I could take the course at the same time. We started with over 20 people that first year. People came and went over the six years we participated in Disciple, but a core group of six made it through all six years. We formed really close friendships with those people as we studied Scripture together and prayed for each other during that time.
Little did I know that as I was working through these lessons throughout the Bible and on Christian & Methodist theology, God was preparing me to take my Leap of Faith. Just getting the overview of the Bible in the first year and understanding how the Old Testament and the New Testament work together was eye-opening. By Year Six we compared the Gospels and talked about what was the same, what was different, and why.
When we heard at Collierville UMC that Pastor Kristofer would be planting a church and putting together a Launch Team, I was immediately excited. But that excitement was followed by a great sense of doubt. What if I wanted to serve on this team but my husband didn’t? What if we wanted to do this but Kristofer had enough volunteers or didn’t feel he needed us? How long would we have to commit before we could return to CUMC?
I am not sure how called my husband felt to this new church plant, but he agreed to join me for a face-to-face talk with Pastor Kris. I do remember telling Paul after our talk that I did not want us to be at separate churches, so if he wasn’t comfortable with moving forward then we would stay at CUMC. However, since we had built up a better Biblical foundation through Disciple, and because we truly believed Kris was answering God’s call, we decided to take the leap.
Then as Rev. David Atkinson, the senior pastor at CUMC said, it got real! It became clear to us with each passing week that church planting was bigger than we realized and better than we hoped.
Faith is not a one-time thing. Faith is part of the lifestyle of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Faith is trusting Him. John Wesley was particularly concerned about inviting people to experience grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. He emphasized that Christian living is putting faith and love into action. Wesley believed in salvation by God’s grace but was convinced that salvation should evidence itself as faith and love in action.
We each are called to take a Leap of Faith. We each must answer our own call. Your call may be the similar to someone else’s call; it may be completely different. The point is that we have a Good Book to help us get ready and to prepare for that call. The Bible is a book that will help us see the signs and recognize them. It’s a book that teaches us the correct response to God’s call. It leads us to the understanding that faith grows through our participation in the church community — a community where we are nourished and equipped for mission and service to the world.
Every House Group host at Peace Tree takes a Leap of Faith when they open up their home to both church members and guests. Young people and families take Leaps of Faith when they come forward to be baptized and when they decide to join our congregation as members. Our service groups SIS and BRO have taken Leaps of Faith when they decided to organize and begin serving the people of our community with their time and energy. Our students have taken Leaps of Faith by joining multi-generational House Groups instead of joining a more age-specific children’s program or youth group.
So, now the questions for you are: How is God calling you? Are you ready to take your Leap of Faith? May God bless you as you answer the call.
Follow the journey of a new church as we answer the call to reach people in Collierville, Memphis, and the Mid-South.