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.
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
The following report comes from Pastor Kris and Johnny Jackson, our congregation's Lay Leader. It was shared with Sunday morning's Large Group on September 8, 2019. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see video from the worship service.
KRIS: We want to take a moment to recognize our first 100 days as a newly merged church worshiping together in this space as Peace Tree.
Many of you know that conversations began last year to bring the congregations of CrossRoads and Peace Tree together as we sought to further God’s mission, to build the Kingdom of Heaven here in our corner of the world, and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
A team of faithful individuals came together to discuss the details, to list our rocks in the river, and to share our dream and vision for the future. I’m extremely grateful for all those who contributed their energy and effort to the merger of CrossRoads and Peace Tree, and today we want to report on the progress that’s taken place in a little over three month’s time.
I’m going to touch upon the Mission, Vision, and Values of our church and how we’ve been living those out, then Johnny Jackson, our Administrative Board Chair and Church Lay Leader will talk about some noteworthy successes from our first 100 days.
Peace Tree’s mission is to Love God by Loving Others, and I feel as though we do a good job of demonstrating that. In fact the first of our four core values is to Love All.
We remember that God first loved us, so we try to express love in all that we do, whether it’s greeting people at the front door, offering coffee and donuts on Sunday morning, welcoming newcomers to House Groups and Large Group worship, or interacting with our followers on social media. We want everyone to know that they’ll be loved, respected, encouraged, challenged, and welcomed by the people of Peace Tree.
Our second core value is to Serve All. For decades, this facility has been utilized by multiple groups in the community such as the Cub Scouts, Futsal Escola girls’ soccer team, pickleball players, and even our neighborhood's Homeowner’s Association, and we’re continuing to nurture and build upon those partnerships.
We’re dreaming up more ways to use this facility to serve the community, and at the same time, our people have taken the church out of the building to meet people where they are. We have more House Groups and monthly gatherings than at any point in Peace Tree’s history which means we’re reaching more people than ever before.
Our House Groups have supported the Big Heart Fund, the Family Violence Council of Collierville, the Reynolds Hospice House, and several local schools. Our UMW circles and BRO and SIS groups have supported local reading programs, the Page Robbins Adult Day Center, and My Town Miracles’ Family Picnic & Field Day. And for the fourth year in a row, our church is organizing volunteers for the Guatemalan Mobile Consulate.
Live Together and Follow Christ are the last two core values at Peace Tree, and we participate in this work every time we gather in this place for Sunday morning worship. Members of our House Groups and small groups come together to form one Large Group in order to pray together, to sing God’s praises together, and to learn together as we explore God’s Word.
Our Adult Sunday School class started back up this morning after taking a break for the summer, and we’re exploring ways to launch a Confirmation Class for our young people. Groups which meet in coffee shops, restaurants, and neighborhood clubhouses have given us a chance to evangelize and witness to our neighbors. And House Groups have used a variety of resources for their studies as we all seek to follow Christ ever more closely.
Now, I’d like to pass the mic to Johnny Jackson, our church Lay Leader, as he shares a word about our first 100 days…
JOHNNY: Thank you Kris and thank you congregation for this “first” 100 days. It is right to pause, reflect, and to celebrate this milestone.
In the first 100 days:
Speaking of the children, one of the real motivations for Peace Tree joining with CrossRoads in this merger was the need for a safe and inviting space for our children to learn and grow. Over the past 100 days we have renovated 5 classrooms to create this space for our children of today and for those families and children to come.
I would like to extend a huge thank you from Connie and myself for the work of all the volunteers who pitched in and helped out.
If you have not yet checked out the new children’s space, I invite you after today’s service to walk down the west hall and check it all out. As you do, dream about the possibilities that the Peace Tree campus offers for extending the kingdom of God.
As you observe the new children’s space and imagine the future, let me give an update for proposed renovations of our facilities. Over the past 100 days we have had a number of meetings with ANF Architects reimagining our facilities. In the coming weeks we will be compiling the design recommendations to review with the district board and the district superintendent. We will be presenting this recommendation to you, our church, as we prayerfully consider what God would have us to do. The renovations under consideration include:
As stated we will be presenting this information in more details in the coming weeks as ANF wraps up the conceptual design. It's been an active 100 days. I am excited to be a part of what God is doing here at Peace Tree, and I look forward to the future.
KRIS: I want to end this time by reminding you of our overarching vision statement: Church Can Happen Anywhere. At its core is a simple reminder that I am the Church, that you are the Church, that we are the Church together. Whenever we walk out of the doors of our homes or this building, we are walking out into the mission field.
God is already out in the world, waiting for us to arrive so that we might participate in God’s mission of disciple-making. Demonstrate God’s love to your classmates at school, be the Church in your workplace, pray for each other and encourage one another with words of affirmation online and in person, seek out the path that Christ has prepared for you.
Four years ago, Peace Tree was approximately two dozen people meeting in two different living rooms - Wednesday nights in Collierville and Thursday nights in East Memphis. Today, we’re a congregation of 350 members & regular attenders on the roll with an average Sunday morning worship attendance of 140. There are also 100+ people each month who get together at House Groups or other Peace Tree gatherings.
We reach hundreds of people each month online with our worship service Live Streams, and we reach thousands with our Causely check-ins which have encouraged your friends to message you and ask, “Hey, what’s Peace Tree? I see you checking in at the location all the time. Can you tell me more?” We’ve entered an age of digital evangelism, and you are at the cutting edge!
Just as Jesus told Peter that he would build his Church, we trust that God is building up this congregation, using each of us to serve as living stones for God’s holy temple. In the upcoming weeks, you’ll have opportunities to hear about our renovation proposal so that our facility can reflect the joy, hospitality, and spirit of our people while attracting newcomers and partner organizations to utilize this space seven days a weeks, extending our reach into this community.
But for now, let’s celebrate our first 100 days, let’s give thanks to God, and let’s continue worshiping together at the table. Thank you!
The following post has been adapted from the sermon, "Remember," preached on July 21, 2019 at Peace Tree. Scroll down to watch the live stream video from that day.
Have you ever considered how important memories are? They place us in a larger story. They remind us who we are, where we came from, how far we’ve traveled, what makes us tick, and why we behave the way we do. Memories cause us to say things like “When I was your age…” Memories make us feel nostalgic; we think of simpler times, or perhaps we look back fondly and simplify the difficult times because we’re no longer in the midst of storms or battles.
Our stories are filled with memories, but oral and written stories aren’t the only mediums which arouse memories. Sometimes smells, places, people, and songs carry their own memories. Think about your grandmother’s house and the aroma which filled the air right after she had finished preparing your favorite dish. How often do you return to the restaurant you ate at when you and your spouse went on your first date? Have you ever returned to the hospital where your children were born? Do the fun songs you sang at summer camp ever pop into your head after all these years?
As individuals, we remember stories and recall memories that are important to us and our families. As the church, it’s important for us to remember too. We must share our memories with those who are younger in the faith. We have a responsibility to show others where we came from so that we have a better sense of where we are going.
We do this every time we read Scripture, every time we pray the Lord’s prayer or recite the 23rd Psalm, every time we sing a hymn like Blessed Assurance with the refrain, “This is my story, this is my song…” It’s important for us to remember God’s story and to locate our lives inside that larger story.
We’re able to recall certain memories from Scripture readings and prayers, and we remember moments in our faith journey whenever we sing certain songs. But there are particular rituals and sacred moments that have actually built memory into their own practices and liturgy.
For instance, every time we celebrate Communion, we repeat Jesus’ words: “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you…Drink this wine, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Jesus asks us to remember him. In our faith tradition, Holy Communion is one of only two sacraments with the other sacrament being Baptism. These are sacred moments when heaven comes down and kisses earth, when the community of those who have passed away surround us and celebrate with us. It’s a moment when God reaches out and imparts His grace, allowing us to glimpse the character and fullness of God.
Now, there’s nothing magical about the wine or the bread; the baptismal fount isn’t enchanted. However, there is something that can only be described as life-giving when the water of baptism touches our head. When we’re given opportunities to remember our baptism and to feel the cool, familiar touch of the water on our skin we are reminded that Jesus has washed away all of our sins.
I grew up in a very traditional United Methodist church with a pipe organ, a 40 person choir, acolytes, torch bearers, and a crucifer who lifted high the cross and led the choir in by processional every week. We even took the Bible off the altar, walked it into the middle of the sanctuary, and read Scripture while everyone stood and turned to face the God’s Holy Word.
During baptisms, the pastor of my home church would take this silver object filled with baptismal water, and he would shake it at the congregation so that drops of water would land on us, and he’d say the words, “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”
One of our pastors conducted infant baptisms in a way that would make me chuckle. He’d get a squirmy baby in his arms, typically in a fancy white baptismal gown, and he’d dip his hands in the water and place it on the child’s head and say the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” But then, he’d take the baby in his arms and walk the child down the length of the middle aisle, showing the congregation this newly baptized member of God’s family.
The reason this practice of showing off a newly baptized baby made me chuckle was because it always reminded me of how Rafiki from The Lion King presented Simba as a newly baptized lion cub to the animal kingdom at the start of the movie.
The opening scene from this 1994 animated classic contains everything we see in church baptisms: parents who are proud of their child, friends and family who are there to lend their support, and an over-excited pastor who likes showing off babies to the entire congregation.
What an incredible moment it is when the sunlight breaks through the clouds and shines down on Simba, Rafiki, and all those on Pride Rock. I have to believe that the animators took some inspiration from Jesus’ baptism as seen in the Gospels. For instance, Matthew 3:16 reads, “Once he had been baptized, Jesus emerged immediately from the water. And behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God, descending like a dove and alighting on him.”
There’s another part of Jesus’ baptism that I swear the writers of the Lion King ripped straight from the Bible. After Simba’s birth, baptism, and presentation on Pride Rock, his father Mufasa dies at the hands of Scar; however, Simba blames himself for his father’s death and runs away. But then, Rafiki, the shaman mandrill from the beginning of Simba’s story, is able to track down Simba. Rafiki finds a lion who is all grown up, and he tells Simba that Mufasa still lives before leading him to a pool of water.
Simba looks into the water and sees himself. He mutters to Rafiki, “That’s not my father! That’s just my reflection.” Rafiki says, “No, look harder. You see? He lives in YOU!”
Immediately, Simba hears his name called from the heavens: “Simba, you have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself…Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember who you are…remember, remember, remember.”
Compare this scene to Matthew 3:17 which reads, “And behold, a voice from the heavens was saying: “This is my son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’s baptism this way: “The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit - it looked like a dove - descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: ‘This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.’”
Simba forgets who his father is and thus loses his identity. It’s only by working through the tough memories, by reclaiming his place in the larger story, by remembering who is father is that Simba fulfills his purpose and recovers from the trauma of his childhood.
The baptisms and epiphanies we witness in Matthew’s Gospel and in The Lion King are enough to make us ask: Have we forgotten who we are? Have we allowed ourselves to be distracted by outside influences? Have we allowed the hurts from our past to cloud our memory and cause us to lose our identity?
Perhaps it’s time remember who you are and whose you are. Remember that God has claimed you. God has adopted you. God has spoken your name. The Almighty has covered you with grace, has anointed you, and has washed away your sins.
Let’s remember our baptisms and be thankful! Let’s live according to the example of Christ. Let’s demonstrate love and forgiveness to each person we encounter. Let’s continue making disciples of Jesus Christ, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Let’s remember who we are. Amen.
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.
In January, I had the opportunity to travel to Israel and visit the holy sites on a Christian pilgrimage. On the first day of our trip, we visited Cana of Galilee, the site of Jesus’ first miracle in which he turned water into wine for a wedding celebration at the behest of his mother.
While we were in the basement of a church built over the spot where this miracle took place, I noticed a minister performing a ceremony for several couples who had come to Cana of Galilee to renew their wedding vows. What better place to renew your vows than the wedding site where Jesus performed his first miracle!
In that moment, I was reminded of a lesson we receive from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Whether a couple is renewing their marriage vows, or an engaged couple is standing at the altar reciting wedding vows for the very first time, we all need to remember that marriage involves three important individuals: you, your spouse, and God.
Ecclesiastes talks about the value of a friend. Chapter 4, verse 9 reads, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil” (NRSV). This same sentiment can be heard in the words of Lyn Collins’ 1972 funk hit “Think (About It):” “It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it out of sight!”
The Scripture goes on to say that friends help each other up, keep each other warm, and watch each other’s backs in a fight. Then verse 12 ends with the words, “A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Up to this point, we’ve only read about two friends. So, why does a THREEfold cord suddenly appear? This is where God is reminding us that His presence is a necessary part of any relationship, including the marriage relationship.
As we consider God’s presence in the midst of our relationships, we must first acknowledge that we are made in God’s image. We see this in Genesis 1:27 where it says, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV).
Those who practice the Christian faith believe in the Triune God. In the midst of the Trinity’s mystery exists a community: God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Just like our Creator, we are meant for community, and at the center of our community is God. It is God who blesses and sustains our communities. In our hearts, we know there is no life apart from the Divine Presence. Jesus demonstrates this with his own life by surrounding himself with friends and family as he begins his three year ministry in Israel.
He healed individuals, families, and entire groups of people. Before He was arrested and ultimately sentenced to death on a cross, He taught his disciples a new commandment: “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34).
When a couple marries, they start a new family. If they decide to have children or to adopt, then their community grows larger. God desires to live at the center of this community, to bless these relationships, to serve as a necessary strand in the threefold cord.
Whether you’re planning a wedding and preparing for a lifelong marriage this year, or you’re celebrating another anniversary with your spouse, I encourage you to always put God first.
Abide in God and remember that you are made in God’s image. God the Father exists as community, so be mindful of the community surrounding you and your significant other. God the Son cared deeply about relationships, so remember to invest time and energy into the relationship and friendship you share with your spouse. God the Holy Spirit holds everything together, strengthening your marriage so that it will not be broken. Love each other the way Christ loves you.
Treat your spouse the way Christ would treat them. And together, ask yourselves how the two of you may make a difference in your world, in your community. God is part of yours and your spouse’s threefold cord, ready to bless you both as you tie the knot. Thanks be to God!
+Peace and Love from Pastor Kris
(This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 edition of Tour Collierville Magazine)
Follow the journey of a new church as we answer the call to reach people in Collierville, Memphis, and the Mid-South.