August 15

I am spending part of this week in North Carolina, staying with grandson Liam as he recovers from having his tonsils and adenoids removed. Today it has been a week since his surgery and I must admit, I thought he would be doing great by now. After all, it has been a full week. But, he’s not. We have spent the days very quietly – coloring, watching movies, reading Harry Potter together, and having a very short visit with my mother. As we’ve awakened this morning, he has yet to eat and has gone back to sleep on the sofa in the family room.
Moving slowly – some small steps forward, larger steps backward. I know he is recovering, but the process seems so slow. This has made me think of our Christian faith. Oftentimes, we can find ourselves ready to be fully formed in our faith, but, like Liam, it is a slow process. Being fully formed takes time, slow growth, and some backward movement. But, in all this. if we keep slowly and deliberately honoring the things that strengthen our faith – prayer, Bible study, support of fellow Christians, worship – we will, like Liam, continue to move into a stronger and fuller faith. It takes time and it takes consistent work, but God is faithful.
So, as Liam rests, takes his medicine, and drinks a lot of liquids, I know that he will return to his former, rambunctious self. Let us all do the same as we move toward maturity in our faith, following the prescription of our Great Physician each and every day.  

-Pastor Jane

August 8

How would you define the love of God? When we think about it, many of us might use the word “indescribable,” meaning God’s love is so large that there aren’t words to describe it. That is the question we will explore this Sunday, using John 3:16 and Ephesians 3:16-19 as our texts for the day.
In 1955, my father-in-law, preached a Sunday night sermon in his small Kentucky church exploring this same question. This sermon and its variations quickly became one of the most requested and most beloved of his teachings. During his lifetime, he preached  “Love In Four Dimensions” over 150 times and in 1982 he published one of his first books under this same title.
This Sunday, my sermon title is the same, as we will dig digger into the question, how do we define God’s love? I hope you will join us as we explore the full meaning of God’s great love for us. And...there will be copies of my father-in-law’s book available for each family as a gift from our family.

-Pastor Jane

August 1

In 1904, J. M. Barrie, wrote a play that would become an instant classic – Peter Pan, or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. Premiering in 1904 in London, it soon became a novel and over the years a variety of adaptations caused it to be considered a classic piece of literature. Almost 50 years later, Walt Disney released an animated version that has become well-loved and shared with generations of children.

What is it about this play, novel, film that caught the fancy of so many children and adults throughout the years? The story centers around the young boy Peter, who, as the story goes, ran away from home the day he was born because he heard his parents talking about all the things he would do when he was a man. Not wanting to live as an adult, he went to live with the fairies so that he would never have to grow up. Peter is a classic character who does something we’ve all thought about – he chooses to never grow up; to remain a child for his entire life.

It is tempting to remain a child. Life is easy – people care for you – feed you, clothe you, pay for your needs and wants. There are no worries, no expectations, and life is simple. While the thought of living that way permanently is appealing, we all know that, in reality, we have to grow up and live in the world as an adult. We understand the need to grow up, get our education, have a job, perhaps raise a family. But, do we also understand the need to grow up spiritually?

This month, during worship, we will be exploring that topic – Growing Up In Christ.  Sometimes we can be like Peter Pan, wanting to stay a child in our faith. It is easy – there are no expectations. But, is that really what we want? If we are truly to follow Christ, to grow up in him, we need to understand what that means. Is there some guidance that leads us to Christian maturity? We will be looking at Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus to guide us on this journey this month. I hope you will join me each Sunday as we learn together.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
E.E. Cummings


July 25

I am glad to be back from a wonderful time away with extended family. Thank you to everyone who stepped up during my time away.
This week, in spite of temperatures and a calendar that would suggest otherwise, we are in a time of transition – from summer to fall. School begins today for many teachers and next week for many students. At church, we will be transitioning back into our fall activities and over the next few weeks, there will be several emphases that call us to new beginnings.

This Sunday, July 29, we will collect our 5th Sunday Benevolence Offering. Over the past two weeks, we have had an influx of requests for help. Your generous giving enables Union to minister to those in need.

Sunday, August 5, is our annual Homecoming worship and meal. This year we will be recognizing Union’s 166th year in Oconee County and all of those saints who have had a vital part in the many ministries that have emanated from this place.

Sunday, August 12, will be our annual Blessing of the Backpacks. All teachers, students, and those who serve in education in any capacity are encouraged to bring their bags to worship and we will offer words of blessing and prayer for a good school year. This year’s tags are from Illustrated Children’s Ministry, the organization that has developed our Advent coloring posters the past few years and the Sunday School curriculum used by our Children and Youth. One side of the tag will say, “Blessed To Be A Blessing,” an acknowledgement of God’s blessing to us, and a call for each of us to be a blessing to others.

Sunday, August 19, will be our All-Church Fall Kickoff Party at Hal and Sharon Tatum’s lake home. More details will be coming. Put the date on your calendar for a wonderful afternoon of good food, good fun, and good friends.

This Sunday I will begin a new sermon series from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, entitled Growing Up In Christ. Living in an agricultural county, we are surrounded by fields of beautiful crops that have been lovingly tended and cared for. A strong Christian life needs the same care as the crops. What do we need to do to “tend” our own lives, so that strong and healthy growth is the result? Let’s explore this question together. I look forward to seeing you Sunday as we begin with Ephesians 1:-3-14, God’s Verbs.

July 18

I often speak of the Union Family when referring to our church. Never was that phrase truer than these past few days. You lived as family as you prayed, hugged, cried, visited, and brought food to the Elsner family even as your own hearts were breaking over the loss of their beloved Sam. On Sunday, those leading in worship stepped into difficult roles and led the service with grace. I am especially grateful to Alan Mace who preached in my absence, offering a much need word of comfort.
What a blessing to be a part of the Union Family.

July 1

Although I was not here at the time, one of the more beautiful stories I have heard about those days leading up to groundbreaking on the new building, has to do with discussions on the purpose of what was to be built. Why are we doing this? Clearly, there was a need for a better and more accessible Fellowship Hall and Gathering/Meeting Space. But over and over, I heard the refrain, “We want to be a church that offers our building to community groups.”

What a beautiful vision that was and continues to be. Did you know that every month our building is being used by more and more community groups? I would like to share some of them with you. The month of June is a wonderful example. The first week, we hosted Union’s Vacation Bible School. The second week, we hosted an annual Girl Scout Day Camp, with around 40 girls, complete with an overnight in our building by a smaller group. The third week, it was our time to again be the Host Congregation for Interfaith Hospitality Network, as we welcomed three families to our facility, providing them a safe and loving place to live.

Interspersed among these larger events, we are hosting a new group, a local Quilters Guild that will be meeting every first Saturday morning of each month. We also welcome the monthly meeting of Woodmen of the World, as well as periodic Lion’s Club events, and community luncheons. All of this is in addition to the many ministry events that are a part of our own church life. Our building is a busy place, and this is how it should be.

It is such a joy to share ministry with you as we continue to support the greater community. Union is truly living out Jesus’ commandment from John 13:34: I’m giving you a new commandment…to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.

June 27

A study released on October 8, 2013, confirms the importance of human touch to healthy brain development. Researchers in the UK found that loving touch, characterized by a slow caress or gentle stroking plays a big part in creating and sustaining a healthy sense of self. Much like the instinct to lovingly pet an animal, gently touching another person is a reflexive gesture that happens automatically in healthy, loving relationships between a parent and a child, romantic partners, and affectionate close friends. We all know from first-hand experience that being touched makes us feel safe and comfortable in our environment.

This Sunday, we will explore the importance of touch through two incidents in the life and ministry of Jesus. In Mark 5:21-43, we will hear the stories of how Jesus healed two women through touch – the daughter of Jairus, and a woman who is known simply as the woman with the flow of blood. I hope to see you as we learn from The Story of Two Touches.

-Pastor Jane

June 20

This week’s Midweek offers me a chance to comment on several things.

I am grateful to all of you and your comments about last Sunday’s sermon. If you missed it, you can access it at Look for the title: Reading ALL of God’s Word, Romans 13. As I have heard from several of you this week, you have expressed a desire to learn more about how to read the Bible and what supplementary materials might be helpful as you learn from God’s word. Over the next few weeks and months we will be talking further about this.

Have you noticed the new quilt on the sofa in the Gathering Space? This is a gift from the Big Springs Quilt Guild – a local group who has begun meeting in our Fellowship Hall once a month. The quilt was constructed by them and is a beautiful addition to our space. Did you know that we host other community groups in our building – Woodmen of the World, Girl Scout Day Camp, Interfaith Hospitality Network families, and various birthday parties and showers. I am thankful for your investment in our community through our building.

This Sunday will be a very special day at Union. It is the last Sunday of the 2017-2018 church year. During worship we will recognize and give thanks for those who have been church leaders this past year and will install new Elders, Deacons, and Church Council leadership for 2018-2019. Following worship, we will move into the Fellowship Hall for our Annual Church Family Meeting. We will begin by sharing a covered dish meal together, followed by a time where different leadership groups will report on their work this year. We will also share the good news of our various ministries and ministry partners. God has truly been working through the people of Union and we will celebrate all of God’s goodness together. I hope you will join us.
-Pastor Jane

June 13

This Sunday, as we continue in the sermon series based on Vacation Bible School themes from this summer, we find ourselves in an unusual place. Using scripture that is most often used during Holy Week, we will explore Luke 23:32-43, a story of Jesus speaking to the two men who were crucified with him. One of the men acknowledges that the punishment he is enduring fits the crimes he has committed. He understands the penalty for his sin and then says, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” When You Do Wrong…Jesus Rescues. Jesus’ response – “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” No matter what the man has done, Jesus is there to rescue.

It is the same for each of us. We all do wrong. We all sin. But sin doesn’t have to defeat us. Sin doesn’t have to get us down and hold us there, because we have this promise that Jesus is there to pull us out of our wrongdoing, out of our sin. All we have to do is ask him to help us, just like the man on the cross did. Will you hold on to this truth this week? It is the most important one. When You Do Wrong…Jesus Rescues.
-Pastor Jane

June 6

We are in the midst of a wonderful week of Vacation Bible School. I am so grateful to everyone who has been involved – from those who worked ahead of time getting our decorations and set ready for the week; to those teachers and volunteers who are here every night, showing Jesus’ love to all the children; to the college students who are volunteering their evenings to help; to every Union member who has prayed for this week. Thank you!!

This Sunday, we will continue with the third of our Vacation Bible School theme sermons, as we dig into a story from Acts 27. The Apostle Paul is on a ship when a tremendous storm arrives. For days the crew battles the storm, losing all their cargo, and living each day in fear. Using this story as our backdrop, this Sunday we will explore the promise, When You Struggle…Jesus Rescues. 

-Pastor Jane

June 1

As June begins, we are fully in Vacation Bible School mode at Union. The stage is set, the rooms are decorated, and the teachers are ready. Our theme this year is Shipwrecked: Rescued By Jesus.” As you can imagine, decorating the church to look like a deserted island has been so much fun. Each year, VBS themes and decorations are a simple way to help the children visualize the Biblical message. This year, the simple message is, Jesus is always with us and will rescue us when times get stormy.

This is an important lesson that goes beyond children. Teenagers and adults of all ages also experience stormy seas in our lives. Each day during VBS, the children will explore a different theme and learn that no matter what – Jesus will be there – walking beside them as they navigate hard times. We all need to hear that same lesson, so each Sunday during the month of June, I will be preaching from the daily VBS themes. We will hear stories of what to do when we are lost or lonely, what to do when we worry, what to do when we struggle, what to do when we do wrong, and what to do when we feel powerless.

I want to encourage you to come each Sunday ready to learn from the stories of Jesus. Take a few minutes each week and read the scripture passage before coming. It will help prepare you for what you will hear and will guide you as you experience each of these life dilemmas. The good news - Jesus Rescues.

May 27 - When We Are Lost or Lonely (Luke 15)

June 3 - When We Worry (Luke 10:38-42)

June 10 - When We Struggle (Matthew 26:36-56)

June 17 - When We Do Wrong (Luke 23:26-24:12)

June 24 - When We Are Powerless (Acts 3:1-26)

May 30

For about six weeks, we have been talking about Vacation Bible School. You have taken flyers and postcards to friends and relatives. Those same flyers were placed in every BBQ order in April. We have placed Facebook Ads and done a mass mailing to neighborhoods around us. Decorations have begun and planning by the teachers is well underway. We are ready!

I would like to ask you to begin praying for this important week. We will meet from Sunday, June 3-Thursday June 7. Each night children will gather to hear stories of how Jesus is always with them – rescuing them when they are lost or lonely, when they worry, when they struggle, when they do wrong, and when they are powerless. This is an important lesson for all of us. Will you pray with me for these children – that they may clearly hear the story of Jesus? Will you pray for the teachers – that they will have the stamina they need and that God will guide them as they share the good news with the children that are here?

Jesus Rescues! What an important truth to remember!

-Pastor Jane

May 23

My dear church family –

I can’t thank you enough for the unexpected birthday celebration yesterday during worship. Celebrating both my birthday and my 4th anniversary of becoming your pastor made it such a joyful day. Thank you for you continued prayers as we serve Jesus together at Union. 

Vacation Bible School is just around the corner! On Sunday an excited group gathered to begin constructing the props and decorations that make Vacation Bible School so special. Over the next few weeks, you will begin seeing them in places around the church. I hope you will be thinking about children you know that could benefit with a week of VBS. Perhaps neighbors or grandchildren would love sharing this week with us. Come and join us as we are Shipwrecked together and as we learn that no matter what, Jesus Rescues!

-Pastor Jane

May 16

Vacation Bible School is just around the corner. In two and a half weeks, we will welcome children to our building for the best week of the summer! This year our theme is Shipwrecked. We will use this image to guide the children toward an understanding that when life is a mess – Jesus Rescues. Whether you are lonely, whether you worry, when you struggle, when you do wrong, and when you are powerless – Jesus is there to rescue you. I am so excited about this theme and ask you to begin praying for the children who will be here and all the leaders who will be walking will them during the week.

This Sunday we need your help. Immediately after worship, we will gather in the Fellowship Hall for a quick lunch and then move into groups to begin building the set and decorations for the week. We will need men and women, youth and children to help as we build a Tiki Hut and a waterfall. There is some construction involved, as well as smaller decorations to create. If you are able, please plan to come and help this Sunday.

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as we explore Jesus’ final I AM statement – I AM the Vine from John 15:1-8.

-Pastor Jane

May 9

Have you looked in the Fellowship Hall recently? We have a lovely addition I want to tell you about.

Several years ago, Union’s Tuesday morning Craft Group, led by Joyce Beckwith, began creating new Chrismons for the Chrismon tree that graces our sanctuary each Advent. These have a styrofoam base and are covered with pearls, sequins, and jewels in colors of gold and white. Each year they are placed on the tree alongside those that were made in earlier years. These different Chrismons tell the history of the church and are a reminder not only of the Christ Child, but of those saints that have been a part of Union’s history.

This past year the Craft Group took on another task. They have created large Chrismons that are now framed and hanging in the Fellowship Hall. Each one has the name of the Chrismon and a description of its important meaning. I would like to encourage you to take the time and walk around the room – looking at each one and reading about its important meaning for our Christian faith. The word Chrismon comes from the words Christ-monogram. I hope you can learn more about the monograms of Jesus and our faith that grace these walls.

-Pastor Jane

May 2

In 1952, a new holiday was born – National Secretaries’ Day. Over the next few decades, the name changed several times, and it is now called Administrative Professionals’ Day - a day to recognize and honor those who carry the heavy load of administration for organizations like ours. This day is observed the last Wednesday of April each year, and this year that day fell just before Union’s Barbecue. As such, it was overlooked by me and I am so sorry for that!!

Nickie Pearson is Union’s Administrative Assistant and without her, the church would be severely limited in our ministry and mission. She greets those that drop by daily with a smile, produces the bulletin, Midweek, and the monthly newsletter, handles the church ministry software that includes our entire financial system, as well as personal profile changes. Every week, she ministers beautifully with those who come seeking benevolence help, guiding them toward other agencies that can also help, offering them a listening ear, and praying with them. She is the office “point person” for every committee and group, such as Elders and Church Council. She guides our advertising efforts for larger events, posts the sermon and manages the church website, and the list goes on and on.

I am so very grateful for the opportunity to work every day with Nickie. She is a jewel! She makes me a better minister and I am honored to be able to call her my friend. I hope you will take the opportunity to express your gratitude to Nickie this week.

Happy Administrative Professionals’ Day, Nickie – One Week Late!! You are loved.

-Pastor Jane

May 1

I am writing this on Friday morning of Barbecue weekend –Union’s 81st. For all these years, the saints of Union have gathered together for a packed 36 hours to create the best barbecue in Georgia. Beside the finished products of chicken, pork barbecue, and hash—a more important product comes out of these hours of hard, back-breaking work. In the midst of the fire building, pot hauling, meat grinding, hash stirring, sop making, Fellowship Hall set up, car parking, and meat picking, comes an even greater product than the sum of all the parts.

That product is community. Of course, we produce the barbecue for the greater community, but what I have found after my own four years of participation, is the loving community spirit among the Union family that occurs over the weekend. Those folks who find themselves standing at the table picking meat for several hours, engage in conversation and get to know both old and new friends. Those men who stay up all night, tending the fire and cooking the meat, dozing off and on, also, as my mama says, “solve the world’s problems.” We are encouraged by those whose job is to sit for several hours and package sop, those who greet people at the drive through, those who plate and box.  In everything, we work together.

One of the blessings of Union Christian Church is that this community extends beyond the barbecue. We saw it just a few weeks ago as we gathered together to welcome families during our first Interfaith Hospitality Network host week. This was Christian community at its finest. We are doing it this morning, as I am writing, at ACTS – serving food to those who are hungry and also helping them gather clothing and other needed supplies.

Community – I am grateful to be a part of the Union Christian Church community who works, serves, and worships together. Thanks be to God!


April 25

Perhaps the most beloved portrayal of Jesus from the I Am statements is the picture of him as the Good Shepherd found in John 10. From this image, and others in scripture, we can be assured that Jesus....

Protects us - "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." John 10:28

Guides us - "He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23:3

Nurtures us - "He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms." Isaiah 40:31

Lays down his life for us - "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." John 10:11

I look forward to learning more with you this Sunday about Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

-Pastor Jane

April 18

We continue in the I Am series this Sunday, with Jesus’ declaration – I AM the Gate. Embedded in the passage are two beautiful images of Jesus. John 10 begins with the picture of a single shepherd, entering a sheep pen filled with sheep from many different herds.

In her book, The Preaching Life, Barbara Brown Taylor shares how the shepherd can distinguish his sheep within the larger herd:
“In Palestine today, it is still possible to witness a scene that Jesus almost certainly saw two thousand years ago, that of Bedouin shepherds bringing their flocks home from the various pastures they have grazed during the day. Often those flocks will end up at the same watering hole around dusk, so that they get all mixed up together—eight or nine small flocks turning into a convention of thirsty sheep. Their shepherds do not worry about the mix-up, however. When it is time to go home, each one issues his or her own distinctive call—a special trill or whistle, or a particular tune on a particular reed pipe, and that shepherd's sheep withdraw from the crowd to follow their shepherd home. They know who they belong to; they know their shepherd's voice, and it is the only one they will follow.”  Later in chapter 10, Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Immediately, Jesus utters the words I Am the Gate for the sheep. What does he mean? I hope you can join us this Sunday as we explore the sheep, the shepherd, and the gate.

-Pastor Jane

April 11

Each year, around the first week of June, something extraordinary takes place in the Great Smoky Mountains. The Synchronous Firefly Viewing Event occurs when tens-of-thousands of lightening bugs gather in swarms and flash in harmony, as the entire forest alternates between light and darkness. Located just a few minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, the largest population of synchronous fireflies in the Western Hemisphere creates an incredible phenomenon that is a sight to behold! What makes this so special that thousands of people request passes to see it each year?

Just steps away from the neon lights of Gatlinburg, viewers enter the forest in the dark, guided only by low-light flashlights with red filters. As the lucky spectators arrive at the viewing location, flashlights are turned off. As everyone’s eyes adjust to the darkness, suddenly the woods explode with the light of these lightening bugs. There, in the midst of total darkness, the light, created by these thousands of fireflies, stuns onlookers with its arrival. Why? Because even though it is expected, the affect is unexpected. For you see, we don’t expect a little ‘ole lightening bug to provide such an amazing and bright show.

Jesus said in John 8 – I Am the Light of the World. But he also said that we are the Light of the World. In Matthew 5:14-16, we read, You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Just like these synchronous fireflies, may we  join our lights together to shine in the darkness so that the world can see Jesus in us.

-Pastor Jane