Pastor B.J.’s Update

Hi Everyone:
I am, like you, appalled at the events of the past few weeks. In my own little cocoon of pandemic security, I’ve watched the revelation of another racially driven African American death (how many have there been this year alone?), in Minneapolis a police officer with a long record of abuse, in Louisville a swat team, in Georgia a couple of “good old boys,” and on and on we go. Racism is sin. White privilege is real. Our nation is in turmoil (once again) and we wait for a word of hope, grace, and compassion from our leaders . . . and they remain deafeningly silent.
As a student of history I know this is not unusual. The halls of power in the history of the world have seldom been the halls of justice for all. As a student of the Bible I know this is not unusual. Even when the nation of Israel was divinely inspired and led, the leaders and the powerful seldom had a heart for God or followed the divine path. As a student of human nature I know that human beings do not change until it hurts too much not to. And so here we are again.
I pray for African American mothers and fathers who fear for the safety of their children. I pray for Police officers and their families and I pray for their safety. I pray for innocent bystanders who so often get caught in the fray. I pray against the spirit of destruction and those who attempt to leverage the grief of others for their own agendas. I pray for our leaders . . .
For my friends who are people of color, I see you; I stand with you.
We are a diverse, multicultural, global community of Christ followers (Revelation 7:9). We believe water is thicker than blood (ties of baptism outrank all others) (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). We believe a color blind God created a Technicolor universe. We believe in justice for everyone.

Here is what is happening at Erwin First . . .

Did you see our Virtual Choir on Sunday? Go to: to see our Virtual Choir rendition of “All in All”

Pastor Karen is setting up another Virtual Choir effort and is inviting anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of it to join in. Here’s how it works: She is putting together a base track. You listen to the base track (in your ear) while recording yourself singing or playing your part. OK underground musicians . . . here’s your chance. If you want to be a part of it please contact Pastor Karen at

This Sunday Live Stream celebrates Trinity Sunday. I will be preaching from Matthew 28:16-20. Jesus says “GO!”

We continue to build our online community both through our Sunday Worship and our Zoom Bible Study and Prayer Groups.

Do you want to be a part of a small group or Bible Study? Please let me know and I will find a group for you or, if none work, we’ll start another one.  Current Groups:
Monday at 7:30 (studying the Book of Acts)
Wednesday at 7:30 (Book Study)
Saturday at 9:00 (Home Group studying Sunday scripture)
Saturday at 11:00 (Bible Study studying Sunday scripture)

There is a 30 day experiment that is half way through that meets Monday at 5:00 . . . Want to experiment in the Christian journey for 30 days? Let me know (

WE NEED YOUR HELP: We are looking for a new Director for the Erwin PreSchool. Details, job description, etc. went out with last week’s UPDATE. But please pass this information among your family and friends as we begin to gather resumes.

If you have a friend, family member, coworker, neighbor, etc., who would be interested – have them send a resume to us at the church.

In our Prayers: Bob has pancreatic cancer and is exploring treatment; pray for the Brittain family and death of Mary at 92 years old; We have had a few of our members diagnosed with Covid19 in the past week. They are in appropriate quarantine and people are being tested (I tested negative). Please be careful and keep all safety protocols in place as we begin to move around.
Pray for our shut-ins and those in managed care
Pray for the peace of our nation
Pray for justice for all
Pray for everyone on the front lines of protecting the country
Pray for our leaders

Please pray for me and our city pastors (Alicia Wood, Andy Anderson, Jee Hae Song) as we figure out how to lead in these unusual times.

We are working on a “reopening the church” protocol document. It has some revisions yet to go, but rest assured we will not be opening the doors for public worship before the first of July (and maybe later). Our Live Stream worship format has been connecting with all of you and we are working hard to improve it every week (THANK YOU ROD). We will not rush any of this and will send everyone our plans as we get them finalized.

Our Annual Conference Office has chosen to remain closed until after Labor Day in September. Many of our churches are making the same choice. As I said, we will take this very slowly and we will continue with our live streaming  whether the building is open for public gathering or not.

Gethsemane United Methodist, (1700 Butternut Street, Syracuse, NY 13208), in keeping with its mission to connect people with God and to connect with the community, has embarked on a new community project in the form of a neighborhood thrift shop. Before the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and guidelines, we had earmarked the last week in August for the opening. We are hopeful and are working to meet our opening day of August 28 pending the directive from our government officials. We are reaching out to you soliciting your help for clothing and small household items that are in GOOD condition.

If you or anyone you know would like to donate any of these items please call Gethsemane UMC church office at 315-479-7971 or email and let us know.

RESTART – For those who haven’t heard, the RESTART ministry of the Syracuse United Methodist Ministries will need to relocate its storage by August 1. The James Street UMC building has been sold and the new owner does not want a tenant in the building. Watch for more information as we’ll need to move a lot of things and, more importantly, we will need to find a new location for storage (any ideas??).

I’m compiling a list of High School Graduates. Currently my list is
Alex, (Brown Memorial UMC) from Fowler
Morrigan, Liverpool High School

THANK YOU – for your continued support. We have been deeply blessed by all of you.
We are a little over half way to purchasing a new Sound Board for our worship services. If you’d like to help, mark your check “Audio/Video”.
THANK YOU: Rod, Pastor Karen, for your continued great work and ministry in these difficult times.
THANK YOU: Martani and Ben; Nancy, Milka, John, Will, David, and for your continued hard work in providing quality music for worship at Erwin First on Sunday mornings. You are a blessing to all of us!

Parting Thought
As I approach the 40th anniversary of my ordination (June 12) I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my journey. Some of it makes me laugh. I learned a quote when I was in college by Walter De La Mare because I thought it was funny. It said: “Fools of a jest which God plays ever and again, we who thought the old men odd have now become the odd old men.” As a 20 year old that was hysterical. Now, at 63, the wisdom and truth of the statement has come home to roost.

I remember the year I was ordained was also the year Bruce Lee-Clark’s father, W. Russell Clark, retired. In his retirement speech Rev. Clark said: “I’ve discovered that there is no direct correlation between age and wisdom. If you are a young fool you stand a very good chance to grow up to be an old fool.”

I’ve reached some critical conclusions of my life and a life time of ministry. The only thing I have invested in that will outlast me is people. I believe Jesus came to change the human heart one person at a time and I believe that the evidence of a changed human heart is seen in that human being working for mercy and justice in the world for Jesus sake.

This poem currently sums it up for me:

I Wanted To Change The World
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world,
so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation,
I began to focus on my town.
I couldn’t change the town and as an older man,
I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man,
I realize the only thing I can change is myself,
and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself,
I could have made an impact on my family.
My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
Their impact could have changed the nation
and I could indeed have changed the world.
Author: Unknown Monk 1100 A.D.

I love you all, stay safe,

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