Happy New Year! I realize by now you may be settled into 2022, but I am writing this on Epiphany, January 6, 2022. Epiphany is the day assigned to the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem at the manger where Jesus lay. It is especially interesting because it is 12 days after the birthday of Jesus and begins our march toward Lent. The wise men followed the light of the star to find the Savior. Now, when a new idea suddenly comes to mind, we figuratively say that someone is having an “epiphany” as they have seen the light.

At White Bluff Methodist (whitebluffmethodist.org), I hope 2022 will be a season of thanksgiving and expectation as we thank God for the good things that happened in December and we expect Him to do great and mighty things in this new year! I am reminded that the Church is not a building or steeple, the Church is the people. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus encourages Peter by saying, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The combination of the previous two sentences helps us to see that we are the church, yes. But, we are also under the direction and guidance of God as He works through us to build His Church. Sometimes I think we start the process of building of our own design, power, and strength as we forget to invite the master architect and craftsman to show us how. After all, Jesus (God in the flesh) was a carpenter, wasn’t He?! He is the Master Builder. May our daily prayer be something to the effect of “God, we want to build your Church here at White Bluff in 2022. You show us how, and we will follow your design and do it by your strength.” It is when we surrender to His plans that we are able to build the Church bigger and better than we could ever imagine!

For me, one evidence of God building His Church came in December with the Savannah.Christmas Lights Extravaganza (savannahchristmas.online). You welcomed over 2000 people into the White Bluff Methodist parking lot along with many children and young adults who ate popcorn, took pictures with Santa, petted Lola (my furry friend!), and road in the kiddy barrel ride. Those who participated came from both faraway places and as close as next door. The church made the news on WJCL and WTOC (many thanks to you and them for the recognition that came through the stories!). Some drove over the Truman bridge and said, “I never knew that church was down there, but it was beautiful at Christmas!” Others began to see me around town after being on the news and asked me, “Are you that preacher with all the Christmas lights? I saw you on television!” Songs such as Anne Wilson’s (yes, probably a different Anne from the one you are thinking of!) “Kentucky Fried Christmas” rang out as people walked our sidewalks and picked out their favorite lighted piece. Members took down names as they welcomed, popped tons of popcorn, drove the train, and so much more! (Thank you!) Many attendees said, “I remember when you used to do the drive thru nativity!” I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to pray with multiple families. The benefits are too numerous to mention here, but one more thing I am excited about worked together to accomplish something great for the Kingdom and how we now will work to bring some of those who came to the Christmas Lights into our White Bluff family.

One way we will invite people to be a part of our family is through Growth Groups. If you do not already have a Sunday School Class or small group, in February we will be putting an emphasis on starting new Growth Groups that will meet for about an hour weekly at a time that is convenient for participants. The groups will be led by White Bluff facilitators that agree to serve for 10-12 weeks at a time. Growth Groups will occur three times a year with breaks in between. The first set of groups will begin in the beginning of February 2022. For more information or to sign up, please visit http://www.savannahchristmas.online/growthgroups. From there you can receive more information and submit your interest in joining a group. We are sending the invitation to join groups to everyone who joined us for the lights at Christmas. This is just one more way we are seeking to grow our church!

Pray that those who came to our church in December will be moved by God to return. Also pray that we will offer quality ministries that will help people of all ages to fall more in love with God daily as they find a loving place to plug in. And, do not forget to pray for the Preschool Exploration Committee! While I am not saying much about it here, the process is ongoing. I hope very soon to tell you more about how we can welcome the youngest of ages on a daily basis into our church through a fully licensed daycare.

I look forward to journeying with you in 2022! Blessings, Barry

Rev. Barry Giddens

Senior Pastor, White Bluff United Methodist Church