From Pastor Neil’s Study

The Christian season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday (February 17, 2021), is a 40-day season of spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter (April 4, 2021). (Sundays are always feast days and are not included in the 40 days of Lent.) For centuries, Christians have been using Lent to reflect on their need for God’s saving grace and to intentionally practice Spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading and study, fasting, worship, sacrificial giving, and service.

As you embark on your Lenten journey, I hope you will make time to observe Lent by setting aside time to nurture your relationship with God. At Trinity, you will have weekly opportunities to reflect on the gift of God’s grace offered through Jesus Christ and deepen your relationship with God. We’ll be preaching a series of sermons and I’ll be offering a companion discipleship study called, Teach Us To Pray.  In the sermons and the study, we will use the example and teaching of Jesus in The Gospel According to Luke to learn how to pray – or to grow in our ability to pray. One of the things we’ll discover is that there are more examples of Jesus praying in Luke’s Gospel than the other three combined. Jesus set an example for his disciples to follow. There are important lessons to learn. That’s why I’m going to challenge the entire Trinity Church family to read the whole of the Gospel as we worship and study together.

In the coming weeks, our online worship will continue, including an online Ash Wednesday service, as we look forward to gathering in-person. Look for details about Ash Wednesday and other services, programs, and events in upcoming bulletins and weekly announcements. I hope that you will join us for worship and for the study, but even if you are not able to attend a single activity, I hope you will make your relationship with God a priority in your life. Make time every day to connect with God in silence, solitude, and stillness. Read the Gospel. Think about the people in need—in our church, community, and around the world—and prayerfully offer some of your time and resources to help them. The five (5) commitments we make as members of the Body of Christ will change your life if you let them: worship, grow, service, share, and give. Keeping those commitments is a wonderful way to observe a Holy Lent.

I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

In Christ,

Pastor Neil

Why Lent Matters

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

It will soon be time for a new season to begin. But don’t go looking for a greeting card or suggested Amazon gift list. There are no movies on the Hallmark Channel romanticizing it. No, there is no hype surrounding Lent. However, millions of Christians, in many different denominations all around the world, observe this liturgical season of preparation. Lent begins Ash Wednesday, February 17 this year, lasting forty days (plus Sundays). When Lent has finished, the joy of Easter begins.  

Lent doesn’t have the feel-good decorations or cookies that Advent and Christmas claim. You won’t find a seasonal scent dedicated to it at the Yankee Candle outlet. It doesn’t have the bold sounds of Easter’s Hallelujah Chorus. For many people, the only thing they can tell you about Lent is that it’s the time when you give up something: maybe chocolate, coffee, or shopping online. Those are some of the biggies. But I would argue this is the very reason why we should turn our eyes toward Lent, when what we really want to do is look away. Lent asks much of us.  

For those who observe Lent, it can be a time of fasting. This is a nod to Jesus’ fasting when he spent forty days in the wilderness. Sopping wet from the baptismal waters of the Jordan River —with a divine voice still ringing in his ears, “You are my Son, the Beloved”—Jesus found himself both full of and led by the very Spirit of God. We read in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) of Jesus’ time in the wilderness. He may have self-exiled from family and friends, but he was not alone. We read where he was tempted by evil; a scripture-quoting Satan tries three different times to tempt Jesus. It is after the final test that Matthew says the devil departed from Jesus “until an opportune time.” Very ominous. All of this took place just prior to the start of his ministry; it was a ministry that would not only change the world but also lead him to the cross.  

It’s becoming more clear why Lent isn’t marketed as the feel-good season of the year, isn’t it? But before you are ready to spiritually sit out this time and set your eyes toward Easter, please let me ask a few questions. Have you ever found yourself in a wilderness? Was there ever a time you felt exhausted, alone, and even tempted? Sometimes our temptations come in the form of money, food, power, alcohol, drugs; the list is endless. There is good news, beloved. Jesus, our God-come-to-earth, has willingly walked into the wilderness, done battle with what is not of God, and can truly feel your pain. Jesus is now willing to walk into your wilderness today, in order to relieve whatever pain plagues you.  

We walk through Lent, knowing what is on the other side: an empty tomb, a resurrected Lord, and the promise of a new life through Christ. Lent helps us get there. Our self-reflection of this season is not always easy, but as Christians we know who we are and whose we are. We are Easter people.
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Children & Youth at Trinity (Jan. 2021)

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

Greetings,

It’s a new year and I pray all things are well with you. Even though we have experienced difficulties in 2020, I am grateful for all the ways God comforted and guided us through it. Furthermore, I pray God continues to be merciful in guiding and helping us through 2021!

Ash Wednesday

As staff, we decided to make Ash Wednesday meaningful for the congregation. One of the ways is to hand out individual ash packets for the congregation. Plus, we will prepare an online service that will be meaningful for all family members. I ask the youth group, confirmation class and families in children’s education to participate in the Ash Wednesday service this year. Because this service is usually in the middle of the week, many families with children or youth could not participate. However, this year we want to utilize this opportunity to introduce the Ash Wednesday service to all ages. Ash Wednesday is on Feb. 17 this year, and we will be distributing the packets on Feb. 14. We will share more info in the future.

Easter

We are in the planning stages, but we hope to offer two outdoor worship services on Easter Sunday. There will be one for the Sunrise Service and another one for the morning. The important thing is that we want to gather to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. It should be quite a celebration. Look for more announcements as we get closer to Easter, April 4. I would like to ask all families with youth and children to participate if they’re able. Also I would like volunteers from youth to help with setup and break down. This event will serve Trinity members who have been longing to be with one another. Therefore, we would need many volunteers to put this together. Please consider volunteering for this wonderful occasion. The Lord is Risen!

Possible Easter Egg Hunt

Last year due to Covid restrictions we could not hold the annual Easter Egg Hunt. This year I’m thinking about holding one when we have Communion and Palm Leaves drive-thru the week before Holy Week. In order to put that together, we need your help! We definitely need someone to be the Easter Bunny. If you want to be a celebrity for a day, this is it! Most volunteers in the past shared with me the thrill of kids coming up to them and being treated as someone special. Also we need volunteers to plan and execute a safe and memorable Easter Egg Hunt. Please contact me via email (klee@umtrinity.org) or phone (703-356-3312, ext 117).

Children and Youth at Trinity

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor
 
It’s been a long time since I communicated through The Spire and I am glad to say hello! Due to in-person gathering restrictions, we have not been meeting in-person but the church has been, and is still, going strong with activities and events. I would like to share some of the plans for Advent.
 
Advent Page
Pastor Neil’s wife, Pastor Anne, is also an elder in the United Methodist Church. Although she’s retired, she continues to carry out her call to serve God’s people. One of the ministries on her heart is Children’s Sunday School. For Advent, she will offer videos and crafts related to Advent. These videos and links for crafts will be available at https://umtrinity.org/children
Make sure to view them with your children. I’m grateful for Pastor Anne’s dedication and service to Trinity’s children and their families.
 
Christmas Eve Family Worship Video
Regardless of our in-person worship status, the staff plans to provide a meaningful Christmas Eve Family Worship experience through the internet. One feature of the service is for families to share a precious memory or tradition from Christmas. It should be about one-minute length and describe Christmas memories or traditions. Please let me know if you would like to contribute (klee@umtrinity.org). I would love to hear your story and make this a unique Christmas celebration opportunity.
 
Christmas Tree Sales
Winter’s coming! That means our Annual Christmas Tree Sale is near! The Scouts and Trinity did not want to cancel it because many in the McLean community depend on us for their trees. When I sent out an email to gauge the Trinity youth group’s interest in holding it, thankfully, I received many enthusiastic responses. Thanks so much for your interest and willingness to participate in serving our community. To ensure everyone’s safety, we will provide guidelines such as wearing masks and keeping socially distanced. Also, we ordered 200 trees so that we can end the sale in two weeks. That means if you want a tree you should plan to come by the first weekend.
 
Tree Sales: Opening Weekend
November 27 – 29
Friday: Noon-5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m.
  
To help unload trees on Nov. 23 please sign up at:
https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b4da8ad22a57-christmas4
All volunteers must bring a signed copy of the following document HealthAcknowledgementform__Scouting Update – 20201012.docx
To volunteer please go to:
https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70A0D44A5A829A13-christmas3
 
Confirmation & Baptism Class of 2021
Confirmation Class 2020 held a Zoom service on June 7 and the video recording of the service was shared on the following Sunday. This class will have an in-person service when the situation allows. I will send out an announcement when the date is determined.
 
The Confirmation and Baptism Class of 2021 began in September! There are over twelve confirmands actively participating through the online platform. Some of the goals of the confirmands are drawing closer to God as well as becoming full members of Trinity. Please keep them in your prayers. As always, I’m so honored to be part of this journey with them.
 

From Pastor Neil’s Study

I once knew a man who hated receiving presents. It wasn’t that he was a modern-day Scrooge. He just didn’t want his family and friends to waste money getting him stuff. He had what he needed and didn’t want or need anything else. I never saw him do it, but I heard that if someone brought him a wrapped gift, he would refuse to open it. He was a faithful, generous Christian man, but he was stubborn. And I think he took pride in being stubborn.

What he didn’t realize was that by not accepting gifts, he was hurting the people closest to him. His wife, children, and grandchildren would get upset when he refused their gifts and thought he didn’t care about their feelings. He thought he was helping, but in reality, he was not. I haven’t seen this man in years, but I hope he has learned to appreciate the joy in the eyes of his grandchildren when he receives the gifts they offer him.

Sometimes, in our attempt to de-emphasize the commercial aspects of Christmas, we say that Christmas is not about receiving gifts. We say Christmas is the “season of giving.” But I think Christmas is a season for receiving as well as giving.  The truth is that, even though it’s not our birthday, God gives us gifts at Christmas. And God is pleased when we receive the gifts God gives us. That’s why our Advent and Christmas theme will be The Gifts of Christmas. The season of Advent starts on November 29. I hope you’ll join us for worship online every week and discover what they are; and I also hope you’ll be willing to receive the gifts that God offers you.

Because Christmas is about receiving and giving, and because it’s not our birthday, I want to encourage you to share the blessings you’ve received from God with someone who needs some help right now. You can support Trinity Church financially and help fund Trinity’s Mission and Outreach programs. You can support SHARE of McLean or Christ House or another local helping organization — the needs are great. You can share God’s blessings through the simple act of offering love and kindness to a friend or a stranger. There are many ways to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Anne and I feel blessed to be part of the Trinity Church family and are looking forward to spending Advent and Christmas with all of you.

Rob, Andrew, and Emily join us in wishing you a safe, healthy, and blessed Advent, Christmas, and New Year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Neil

Advent – Christmas 2020

On Youtube, Facebook & Zoom

Key:

F       Facebook (facebook.com/TrinityUMCMcLean)

Y       Youtube (youtube.com/UMTrinity)

Z       Zoom, Meeting ID shown

DateEventPlatform
SundaysWorshipF, Y
SundaysChildren’s Education Activities :
http://umtrinity.org/children
Mondays, 7 p.m.Engage Bible Study on Zoom: Contact Jim Wilson, jaswilson@sloflt.com
Tuesday, 10 a.m.Bible StudyZ: 894 8087 9762
Wednesdays,
7 p.m.
Bible StudyZ: 886 5257 6837
Wednesdays,
10 a.m.
Prayer GroupZ: 875 6105 5580
Tues., Dec. 8,
7 p.m.
Honduras Mission InformationZ: link will be included in E-News
Sun., Dec. 13Lessons & CarolsF, Y
Dec. 24Christmas Eve WorshipF, Y
Sun., Dec. 27,
5 p.m.
Celtic ServiceF, Y

A Code-breaker’s Legacy at Trinity

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Have you ever looked at the Trinity Church prayer list? You can find it every week in our bulletin. In the list you will find the names of our church family members, loved ones and neighbors, and even people we’ve never met but know are in need of prayer (think: researchers for a Covid vaccine or front-line workers). If you haven’t, I invite you to include them in prayer. Each one makes the list for a reason. You can also join us on Wednesday morning’s at 10 a.m. for our Zoom prayer group. Check our weekly emails and bulletins on how to join the prayer group as well as Bible studies.

Last year, we had the name Dorothy “Dot” Bruce on our prayer list. We prayed for her on her 99th birthday and when she was ill before her death. Then we prayed for her family. If you’ve been a longtime member of Trinity, you probably know her son Jim Bruce and his wife Carol. What you probably don’t know is the remarkable life Dot lived. She was recruited by the U.S. military in World War II. She answered the call to serve in a top-secret group of code-breaking women. Dot and her colleagues were able to discover the locations of Japanese ships in the Pacific, as well as intercept enemy supply movements. There is likely no way to fully know the number of American servicemember lives that were saved, but it has been estimated their work shortened the war by two years.

Dot had been sworn to secrecy and she kept that oath for 70 years. It wasn’t until then that she discovered their work had been declassified. This allowed her to speak to an author about their code breaking and its impact on the war efforts. Liza Mundy wrote the book Code Girls in 2017; Dot is featured prominently as a central character. This amazing women was also an educator, wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. I know Jim and the rest of his family miss her greatly.

Now, the U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed legislation to name a Chesterfield, VA, post office after Dorothy Bruce. She resided in an assisted living center near that post office. The legislation was authored by Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who represents many of our Trinity members. If the bill makes it through the Senate, the new name for the post office will be the “Dorothy Braden Bruce Post Office Building.”

I tell you this story of Dot Bruce as we go into the Advent and Christmas seasons. I hope it serves as a reminder that those mentioned on our prayer list comprise more than an alphabetized recording of names. Each one represents a person—often a family—that is in need of, and is worthy of, all of our prayers. As we celebrate the coming birth of the Christ Child, may we honor his birth, life and teachings. After all, at the heart of most of Jesus’ teachings was the message to love and serve one another. Thanks to Dot Bruce, we are also reminded that each name carries a remarkable story of a loved child of God.

Dear Trinity Church Family,

Neil Hough, Senior Pastor

It is with great joy and anticipation that I greet you today. There is so much I want to say and a lot you will want to know, but I’m going to keep this brief and simply say I am honored and humbled to be appointed to serve as the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church.

My wife Anne and I look forward to getting to know you and sharing ministry with you in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. As we move into the parsonage and get settled, I want to thank everyone who has welcomed us and helped make this transition possible. I especially want to thank Jim and Molly Sprouse, not only for their 23 years of service to this church and community, but for the many ways they have welcomed and helped us over the past several months. I know you join me in praying for them as they transition to the next set of adventures in their lives. I also want to thank my colleagues in ministry, Keith Lee and Eileen Gilmer, the rest of the Trinity staff — along with the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, the Trustees, and the Parsonage Committee for their countless hours of service helping us move and welcoming us to the church and community.

We wish that we could be gathering in the sanctuary on Sunday morning for worship and fellowship. (We will. Eventually. But not until it is safe to do so.) In the meantime, we are going to find other ways to get to know one another. To start with, I hope you’ll plan to join us for worship online on Sunday morning and then sign on to Zoom for a virtual fellowship hour after the service. You’ll find details in the E-News and in the worship bulletin. There will be additional opportunities in the coming weeks. We look forward to meeting all of you!

Finally, I hope you have a safe, healthy, and happy Independence Day weekend. I look forward to seeing you in worship and on Zoom on Sunday.

In Christ,

Neil

The Mind of Christ in Lent

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

Lent is probably the most widely observed season in the Christian year. Remember that Easter Day was originally the only day in the Christian year! The early Christians met weekly on the first day of the week to pray, break bread, and share in the apostles’ reminiscences of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Acts 2:42). Their meetings were characterized by an expectation of their Lord’s immediate, sudden return. In this ecstatic atmosphere, one did not do long-range planning and goal setting. Within the pages of the New Testament, we have indications that time was fast becoming a threat to Christian faith. Time, if it were not to be an enemy, had to be made a friend. It was through this domestication of time that the Christian year evolved.

Although the precise details of the evolution are impossible to know, the general outline is rather easy to discern. First, there was the weekly celebration of the Resurrection. This celebration was of the entire Paschal mystery: the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection and Ascension, the gift of the Spirit, and the promise of the Lord’s return. There next emerged a special emphasis in the spring on the celebration of the Paschal feast in relation to the actual time of the historical event. This celebration extended itself back through the Crucifixion on Friday and the Last Supper on Thursday, thus creating the Paschal Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. We know that in Jerusalem the custom began having the bishop ride a donkey into the city on the Sunday before the Passion and so inaugurate that period of observance that we call Holy Week.

Penitential discipline came to be attached to Lent as the Church increasingly understood itself as the field where the wheat and the weeds grew together. A major disagreement in the second century had to do with how to deal with those who denied or betrayed the faith. Those who had sinned were expected to perform appropriate penance. It soon became customary for all Christians to use the Lenten period as a time for repentance of past sins and self-denial (hence, “giving things up” for Lent), even if their sins had not been of a major or notorious kind.

Lent, then, is not a prolonged meditation upon the Passion and death of Christ, a pre-extended Good Friday. The clue to the meaning of Lent can be found by looking at the two days that frame it, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On Ash Wednesday, it is customary in many congregations for persons to have ashes placed upon their heads while they are being told, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” In other words, we are confronted by the fact of our mortality in a vivid physical encounter. On Good Friday, we witness the death of another human being, and we are told that in this death we all have died. Lent is intended to end at the cross, but it begins with the human condition that we all share, and it takes on the character of a pilgrimage. We’re on a pilgrimage. Keep an account of what you observe along the way.

Jim

 

Out with the Old; In with the New Beginning

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Spring is almost here. It’s on Sunday, March 19. I can’t wait. I love spring and everything that it brings: flowers, more hours of daylight, and warmer weather (although I can’t complain about this winter). But mostly, I love knowing with spring comes Easter. Easter reminds us about renewal and life. We celebrate the God-come-to-earth in Jesus. We reflect on his self-sacrificing love, and we rejoice in our opportunity to live our lives reflecting his time on earth.

This is also a perfect time for spring cleaning. It’s not just about sorting through an out of control sock drawer or clearing out a hall closet. (Although getting rid of extra stuff in our lives can be a form of service if we donate useful items to those in need.) The spring cleaning I’m talking about is more spiritual in nature. It involves searching out the things that are holding us back from, or getting in the way of, our connection to God.

What is getting in the way of your spiritual life? What are the things that you need to pack up and deal with for once and for all? Maybe it’s guilt, envy or shame. Maybe it’s the need to forgive or to be forgiven by someone. Whatever it is, know that God is with you in your struggle. Your church family at Trinity is also here with prayer and support. Please know that Jim, Keith and I are always here to listen and pray with you if you need us.

I invite you to take stock of what’s important in your life and then act on it. I’ll see you Sunday.

 

Youth Group Schedule

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

VBS Aug 3-7

The dates for VBS 2020 will be Aug 3-7. The theme is Knights of the North Castle and according to its publisher, Cokesbury, the curriculum aims to “Go on a quest learning to grow strong in the strength of God’s power by exploring how we put on the armor of God.”

As always, we are recruiting volunteers. We already have a solid core but the excellence we have maintained over the years depends on a high number of volunteers. Also, youth volunteers play a vital role in keeping VBS fun, energetic and vibrant. The VBS prep team consists of Jen Fuqua-Calsyn, Andrea Hager, Melissa Harris, Harriet Latta, Marci Thomas, Melissa Witt and me. We will be meeting continuously leading up to August, so please keep us in prayer. To volunteer, please contact one of us for more information, and we will get you connected!

 

Youth Update-Introducing Ed & Will

I’m proud to announce Ed Booth and Will Todd will join the youth group as young adult volunteers. Ed was entering and Will was already in college when I came to Trinity five years ago. They always attended church when they were in town and kept in touch over the years. Both graduated this winter and have settled back in McLean. They expressed their desire to help with the youth group because they felt blessed by it when they were growing up and want to contribute to its growth and vitality. We are blessed and honored to have them as volunteers. Ed wants to help anyway possible, and Will wants to make the youth group as memorable and relevant as it was when he was growing up. Please thank and welcome them in this new role. Thanks Ed and Will!!

 

Confirmation

The confirmation class has been meeting faithfully. All the confirmands are a joy to be around and have been fantastic participants in this year-long journey. One of the goals of confirmation is integrating them into Trinity because once they are confirmed, they will be full members of Trinity with all the duties and rights. Please keep them in prayer because the class is heading to its conclusion with Confirmation Sunday and Banquet on June 14. They will make a presentation during worship and will read their faith statements during the banquet. Writing faith statements has been a great challenge in the past so please keep that as a prayer topic. The confirmands are Olivia Burgeson, Lily Calsyn, Catherine Dunn, Fiona Keough, Madison Turk, and Zach Yellen. If you see them in service, please welcome and encourage them as they journey on in the confirmation process.