Friday Greetings — September 21

Dear Centenary friends,

For all of us, this has been a week to remember.  You have been on my mind,  in my heart, and in my constant prayers.  As you return to your homes to begin the process of recovery, remember that your church home is waiting for you with a warm welcome and the peace and joy that God alone can give.  We are grateful that the church facilities sustained very little damage, and grateful also for every opportunity to serve the God who is at work all around us even now...especially now.

A good part of the last week, I've spent searching for Centenarians about whom we've heard nothing, particularly in areas prone to flooding. Sometimes I've succeeded, sometimes I've not been able to make contact.  So, if you haven't already let me know you're OK, please do.  You can reach me by email at susanpg2@gmail.com, or you can text/call my cell phone at 252-474-0680.   If you have information about the whereabouts of other Centenarians, please feel free to share that with me, too.  I'd rather hear it 20 times than not hear it at all.

For the last couple of days, I've also spent time making arrangements for the U.S. SBA (Small Business Administration) to set up a temporary field office at Centenary.  Their closest permanent field office is in Greenville, which is too far away for many storm wounded and weary folks.  We did this at the request of Centenarian Lynne Harakal, Director of Swiss Bear, and with the concurrence of our Trustees.  The SBA is moving in even as I write this, and they will be opening tomorrow.  Downtown New Bern and many other areas of our city thrive largely because of the presence of small businesses; this is one of the most important things we can do to help our community recover.  It will also make it easier for individual homeowners in our area to get the assistance they need to recover from the storm.  In case you don't know, FEMA forms have an SBA pre-req, even if you're an individual homeowner seeking FEMA assistance, so this will help all kinds of folks in our beloved community to move forward. 

Centenary will soon be offering New Bernians an opportunity to come together and support one another in this challenging time:  "Coping with Life After Hurricane Florence," a 4 week workshop series on loss and recovery, will be offered on October 4, 11, 18 and 25 from 10-11:30am.  This program is specifically for those grieving the loss of home and/or property, and will be facilitated by Centenarian Pam Bonina, one of our Griefshare leaders, and the Rev. Barbara Borneman, a retired chaplain and a bereavement counselor.   More details on that in the near future. 

Rick Moser has become the "point man" for ERT’s (Emergency Response Teams) in our area, and will be working with the Conference and District levels of United Methodist Disaster Response.  If you have experienced damage at your home, or know others who have, please call or text Rick at (910) 330-4665, and he will discuss with you whether an ERT or some other form of response will be best for you.  Rick will be assisted in this effort by Centenarian Ron Bonina, who is our congregational Disaster Response person. 

Time would fail me to tell of all that Centenarians have been doing this week to help each other and our community.  Some Centenarians have been working with Samaritan's Purse to help New Bern neighbors in the initial phases of recovery.  Others have helped folks whose homes are not liveable to pack up any belongings that were perhaps salvageable...a sad but necessary task.  Centenary's Oaks Road Volunteers have been distributing meals in the hard-hit Oaks Road area, and helping out at the school itself as well.  Centenary Caring Cooks Coordinator Dawn Ferreira has been cooking meals and personally delivering them to folks without power, and CCC will gather next Tuesday to cook meals and restock our commercial freezer, as all our frozen meals have been distributed.   And the list goes on...

The vast changes in our physical environment over the last week make me glad that there are some things we can count on, no matter what: the powerful love of the Savior, the love of our family and friends, and the love of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Which, wonderfully enough, is exactly where we find ourselves in this Sunday's Scripture lessons:  at the intersection of God's welcome for us, and our welcome for one another. 

So, come to worship scripturally prepared!  This Sunday's Bible readings are Psalm 1 and Mark 9:30-37.  Read both passages, and then ask yourself:  When has God's welcome for me exceeded anything I might have expected?  When have I felt most welcomed by God's people? Whom is Jesus calling me to welcome in his name right now?

Opportunities to welcome and be welcomed come to us moment by moment; but there's no better time to celebrate the One who welcomes us into God's embrace, than when we're in worship together.  See you on Sunday!

Pray for us as we pray for you,

Pastor Susan