• Sermons

    Knocking Paul Off His High Horse

    by Michael Usey Acts 9.1-20, The Message Before my children were able to read, they knew several stories by heart. The stories were picture book favorites that we read to them again and again. When Ann dared to skip a page or change a word, they would protest, “Mom! That’s not what it says. Read it right.”  Ann was the night owl, so she read to them much more than I; when I read to them, I would sometimes try to cut the story short: “Then everyone died.  The end.  Okay, time for bed!”  They never bought it. The conversion of Saul is such a story—so familiar and pivotal that…

  • Sermons

    The Easy Cure

    by Michael Usey 2 Kings 5.1-16, The Voice It’s difficult to know where to begin with this week: Still deep in Pride month, this week we remembered with sadness the Mother Emanuel massacre six years ago, as well as Mildred Cottrell’s passing a year ago. Today is Father’s Day, as well as a blazing hot summer solstice, and the first national holiday of Juneteenth.  So this is a week populated with keen significance. But the last item I mentioned is perhaps the weightiest.  “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” Frederick Douglass asked in 1852. Not much, was his conclusion. White Americans celebrated their independence from an…

  • Sermons

    Planting Seeds

    by Lin Story-Bunce 2 Cor 9. 6-15; Mark 4.26-29 “Planting Seeds” Mark 4.26-29 June 13, 2021 The Kingdom of God is like someone planting seeds in the rich soil of Kenya. Wangari Maathai grew up in the highlands of Kenya. When she returned from studying biology in the United States, she discovered that her homeland was being destroyed by deforestation, which caused water and food shortages, malnutrition and disappearing wildlife. In response, she formed the Green Belt Movement – empowering other women about the need to care for the land and equipping them to re-plant forests one tree at a time. The Kingdom of God is like someone planting seeds…

  • Sermons

    The Far-Off Land

    by Michael Usey Luke 15. 11-32, The Voice Like the father in Jesus’ story, I have two sons (and the added bonus of a daughter). But unlike the sons in his story, my children could not pay for much dissolute living with their inheritance. When my first son left for college, I did not cry.  I moped and I worried, I snapped at friends, but no tears. I excused myself from his dorm room shortly after Nate’s new college friends arrived–it was painful to leave him, and I wanted it to be over. I remember that Ann and I had the long drive home from Wilmy, the first 100 miles…

  • Sermons

    The Kindness of Strangers

    by Michael Usey Genesis 12:1-9 (NRSV) In 2017 I was in a group of ministers, priests, imams, and rabbis who met with two of the lead ICE agents from the Winston-Salem office.  We had two main requests: first, we asked if ICE agents would quit identifying themselves as POLICE when they were knocking on doors, or leading a raid.  We asked this so that undocumented persons would not become afraid of our local police, or at the sound of someone yelling “Policia!”  Undocumented persons are often the victims of crimes, yet they are terrified of police, so they are often the ones most vulnerable.  The second request we had was…

  • Baptismal Statements

    Maura Toole’s Baptismal Statement

    May 2, 2021 Read by Kara Toole My journey with faith started when I was baptized for the first time… in the kitchen sink. I was three weeks old and my grandmother, who I adoringly call Maws, was in town visiting. In the midst of discussing whether or not I should be baptized as an infant, my parents took a walk. Maws and I were alone for all of fifteen minutes. While my mom and dad walked around our Denver, Colorado city block, Maws blessed me and poured water from the tap over my head. While my first baptism was not technically legitimate in the eyes of any church, my…

  • Sermons

    Let The Bad Times Roll

    by Michael Usey Psalm 13 (The Voice Translation)Matthew 11.28-29, John 16.33, 15.11 (The Message Translation) I hope you’re wearing red, orange, or yellow as it’s Pentecost today, which marks the birth of the Christian church by God’s wild spirit in Jerusalem two centuries ago.  It’s more central of a Christian holiday than is usually celebrated in the US.  It’s probably underplayed here for several reasons, not the least of which is that typically occurs in late May to early June, an ultra-busy time of testing, transitions, and graduations for students, teachers, professors, and parents.  Our lives shift at the end of the academic year heading into summer, and even more…

  • Sermons

    Witness or Watcher

    James Blay Acts 1.1-11, CEB Earlier in the week, Michael shared a cartoon about the Ascension and it went something like this: disciples gather and Jesus says, “got to go dudes, don’t forget what I have taught you, see you in the funny papers.” The disciples respond, “bye boss”, and proceed to ask themselves, “wait, what have we learned?” They quickly figured out that it all boils down to love God and love your neighbor and are excited because that seems easy. But then the theologians showed up, and we can all guess what happened next. I had a good laugh after reading the cartoon, but it also gave me…

  • Sermons

    Healing from Hurry Sickness

    Maura Toole Youth Sunday, 2021 As I’ve reflected on the past year and all of the adventures that have come with it, I’ve been working on a list of things that I’ve learned. I want to share some of those with you. So, here is an abridged version of ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned During a Pandemic’ by Maura Toole: 10. Trying to be perfect is exhausting. 9. Those cardboard cutout heads in the stands of basketball and football games are really weird.  8. I never want to hear the word “unprecedented” again.  7. The choruses to “Jolene”, “We Will Rock You” and “My Sharona” are all…

  • Sermons

    Resisting Change

    Max Goetz Ecclesiastes 3.1-14, Youth Sunday I like to resist change. I like to get things right the first time. I hate to change my routine. I don’t even like the changing weather and I don’t like to change my mind. Yet, the bible verse we are reading together is all about change, one of the things I dislike the most. Ecclesiastes 3 discusses how there is a time for everything, or, as I interpret it, the inevitability of change. Recently, this verse has hit home with me as I finish up my senior year. Only a week or two ago, I played my last high school tennis match with…

  • Sermons

    New Beginnings

    Addison Coughlin Ecclesiastes 3.1-14, Youth Sunday “In the beginning, God created the heavens,” the bible begins.   “I am the “alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” “Our God is the same yesterday, today and forever” is what it says in Hebrews chapter 13.  God embodies this idea of beginning and ends for a blueprint of life’s journey.  My journey with faith and my journey with  life has been filled with beginnings and ends that  have shaped  me into the person I am today. I began my relationship with God and faith  in a small church in Virginia where I was baptised. Growing…

  • Sermons

    Drowning the Old

    by Michael Usey Acts 2. 37-41; Romans 6. 1-11, The Message Baptists like to call their ministers “preachers.”   Whenever a minister begins his or her ministry at a church, other Baptists are prone to remark, “Well, I see that you got a new preacher at your church.”  “Yeah, that’s right.”  Nowadays they might add: “A right pretty one too” although this is said more often about female/nonbinary ministers than men. To call us “preachers” is fine, because what we are about is proclaiming God’s word—in music, deed, and word.  And, at churches such as College Park, you have a 50-50 chance of being called “preacher” as you will being…

  • Sermons

    Thinking Aloud About Our Trans Siblings

    by Michael Usey Acts 8.26-39 (MSG) A couple of years ago a Triad transgender group contacted me about using the parking lot of College Park Church for their annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, which (I learned) is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  I said we’d be glad to consider it, so I took Lin along to meet their rep, Mary, at Port City Java.  We three met, and had a productive time, listening to part of her story, and being made aware again of the statistics of violence against transgender persons.  The event was to be a candlelight service, and she asked if one of us could give the invocation.  That…

  • Sermons

    Stuck in the Middle with You and Jesus

    by Michael Usey Luke 24:13-32 (NRSV) This Monday we bought Ann a new used car, a pretty bronze-colored 2008 Honda CRV.  Her speedy Civic was hit and totalled a month ago by a guy running a yellow light on Friendly.  Ann was fine; I was more shaked up than she.  This week Ann was at work on Monday when I picked up the car, which had no license plates, not even a dealer temp one.  I drove it to the DMV to pay the tax and title and get new plates.  As it turned out, I didn’t have the correct proof of insurance form, so no new tag for me…

  • Sermons

    Doubt It

    by Michael Usey John 20. 19-31, MSG Thoughtful Christians have raised questions about the resurrection from the very beginning. You can see that in the lesson that was read to us this morning from the Gospel of John. It is the famous scene of Thomas, seeing with his own eyes the evidence of Jesus’ Resurrection. Thomas was not present the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room. And because he hadn’t been there, when they told him about it, he doubted it. He said, “I won’t believe until I can see the print of the nails in his hands, and put my hand on them.” In…

  • Sermons

    I Have Called You Friends

    by Michael Usey John 15:9-17 (MSG) Gumba. Amigo. Chum. Mate. Droog. Buddy. Dawg. Homeslice. Chingu. Bestie. Comrade. Bruh. Pal. Jesus did not say lightly to his disciples at the Last Supper, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. I do not call you servants any longer, but I have called you friends.”  Scholars think they were celebrating a Jewish friendship meal in John; in other gospels it’s the Passover meal, which is actually being celebrated today. A 1st century friendship meal is one in which people pledged their love and fidelity to one another regardless of what might befall them. In view…

  • Sermons

    Blind Ambition

    by Michael Usey Philippians 2.3; Mark 9.30-37 I can remember a story that my father told me once about a man whose great ambition was to become an admiral in the Navy. He imagined all the attention he would get, everybody saluting him, somebody to drive him around, all the perquisites of that high rank. One day he reached his goal. He was promoted to Rear Admiral. The next day he moved into his new office, sat behind his new, big desk. He could just feel the power emanating from that office. His aide walked in, said, “There’s a man here to see you.” The admiral said, “Send him right…

  • Sermons

    No One Gets Left Behind

    by Kari Baumann 1 Thessalonians 5.9-15 (NRSV) If you have ever worked in a school, you probably know about the 4-1 ratio. We school staff are supposed to give students four positive comments to every one redirection. This is a great goal for interacting with students, but as you can imagine, there are times when this is particularly difficult, whether because of the dynamic between the adult and the child, the overall school dynamic, or maybe just because someone is having a bad day.  In my own house, as a parent, I absolutely struggle with this ratio sometimes. At one particularly fraught point in the past year, Atticus said that…

  • Sermons

    Burden Sharing

    by James Blay Galatians 6.2 I have always considered Lent as a journey, a journey of reflection, a journey of hope, a journey centered on discovering purpose. Lent’s commercialization has meant that a lot of that focus has shifted to giving up trivial things as some self-righteous proclamation.  How can we again reclaim Lent as a journey? How can we also find purpose in deeply searching ourselves and acknowledging our shortcomings and limitations? How can we again find community, even as we journey? When I was in Liberia, before coming to school here in the states, I worked for a private K – 12 boarding school (don’t worry, the kindergarteners…