Message from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – November 2018
November 11 is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. My retirement community is excited about our plans for a day of remembrance/celebration for the occasion. We are the last generation to have firsthand memories of people who were involved in that war. So we are planning to have a sing-along of World War I songs led by a local vocal group, to exhibit memorabilia we have stored for decades, to share memories about people we have known. A retired professor of military history from the Army College at Ft. Leavenworth will share for an hour in the afternoon about the US involvement. We will see the film my family produced from a box of 100 year old letters he sent from France in 1918. Amazing things are coming out of the closets: a uniform, a helmet, a purple heart, picture postcards, an Army Songbook, shell cases, even a section of rusty barbed wire! If you have ever seen Steven Spielberg’s movie WAR HORSE, you know about the barbed wire. Anyway, if you want to have your own commemoration of that day in our history, you can watch our film on YouTube by just entering the name “Daddy, What Did You Do in the War?” Add the name Rowlett and click. It is 30 minutes long. This day of commemoration is intended to be a reminder of what our ancestors sacrificed so that we can live in a democracy. It is also a clear challenge to our generation to do what is needed in our time to secure democracy for our descendants.
Message from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – October 2018
North Carolina residents would have been very happy this month to send a gift to our friends in California. It was a big gift that I think would have been very welcome. But we could not figure how to package and ship it. The gift is identified by the name Florence. I woke one morning with a vision of this incredible package of water flying across the country and joyfully spreading its load over northern California. I could see fires sputtering and disappearing. I could see crowds cheering on both coasts. We spent days getting ready, but when Florence arrived in Asheville she had given what she had to give. We had light rain, no wind and only four hours without power. But the damage on the eastern half of the state has been huge and will be long lasting. Nature does this kind of thing, sometimes without warning or explanation – like earthquakes and volcanos. But fingers are pointing at human beings in our contemporary fires and floods. And the sad part of the story is that the forecast is for worse rather than better. That is why I am so pleased to learn that much of the energy to be used by the new buildings at RHUMC will come from the sun. Fossil fuels will be left in the ground and carbon will not be set loose to do mischief in the air while the marvelous ministries of our church move full speed ahead. Do I hear crowds cheering?
Message from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – September 2018
Suellen Fung and I are working together on a story about her family’s experience in Singapore in World War II. When she was two months old, the Japanese took over Singapore and her Chinese heritage family were prisoners of war. I had known a little about this history when I was in Rolling Hills. But in July of 1991, I went to Singapore as a delegate from the California-Pacific Annual Conference to the eight day long Sixteenth World Methodist Conference. Suellen was visiting her family while I was there. The Conference was wisely planned with morning and evening sessions and free afternoons. Suellen picked me up at noon and brought me back after dinner and I saw Singapore. Bob played golf with her father. We also met her family and heard more about their wartime experience. Recently, I have been writing stories, and have just finished one about my ancestors’ experience of the Civil War. I approached Suellen about doing a story on this part of her history. She has shared her father’s summary of his experience and is turning up remarkable resources both about the military history and about the Methodist church in Singapore. Missionaries that she knew there had come from my home Conference in Virginia and my family knew them here. The name of the missionary who baptized her was familiar to me as a child. We are both excited about this project. I have a lot to learn before writing. One of my friends here says, “This ought to keep you off the streets!” I will share the story with you when it is done, maybe by Thanksgiving? In the meantime, you can commemorate the end of World War I on the 100th anniversary on November 11 by watching that story on YouTube. Check the title “Daddy, What Did You Do In the War?” with my last name and it will begin immediately a 30-minute showing. I am looking forward to this new connection with RHUMC friends.
Message from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – August 2018
Well, well, well! RHUMC is going to have a second pastor’s husband and his name is Bob. How about that? How can we be so lucky? I hope that the second Bob Pastor’s husband enjoys the job as much as the first one did. Number 1 thought that Sunday morning was his favorite time of the week. I think it was all of the attention. A lot of women hugged him and a lot of men laughed at his jokes. When I forced his retirement from that job by my own retirement, he was very sad. Neither of us had anticipated how much he would miss that “job” as he had interpreted it. Congratulations to April and Bob. May you find great joy in your shared experience of ministry in the church you both so enrich separately by your presence already.
Message from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – July 2018
I was excited to learn from Jonathan that the congregational meeting about the proposed building program went well and that the children in the preschool will soon be able to watch the fascinating construction equipment that will perform for them nearby. Construction is a love/hate affair. I hate the inconvenience, the dust, the noise. But I love the wonder of watching new things unfold before my eyes, with all of the expectation of opportunities they will bring. I am also excited to learn that the building will be equipped for solar energy with the exception of the actual solar panels. The wiring, the meters, the plumbing (for washing down the panels), etc. And when the cost of the building is covered, the panels can be installed. The good old sun will cover ½ of the church’s electric bills. A substantial amount of fossil fuel with be left in the ground and the air will be cleaner. Makes inconvenience, dust and noise a small price to pay when you get not only the buildings, but this wonderful step forward in caring for our world.
YouTube Video on World War I from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – May 1, 2018
Nov 11, 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on Armistice Day in 1918. That day, my father was in a six-day march with a pack on his back in France after having been through the longest and bloodiest battle in American history. Our family has a box of 100 year old yellowed and fragile letters that he wrote to family while a soldier in the war. I read them last year to get a firsthand view of the war, and was amazed at the picture the letters give. My brother Pete had the discharge document that recounted where he had been in the war. I took that itinerary and the letters and wrote a story to be shared during this centennial year. Last summer I decided to create with professional film makers, a video of the story. The film team got emotionally involved and outdid our expectations. We now have a 30-minute documentary on You Tube and several public presentations scheduled with people sharing artifacts from their families and a sing-along of World War I songs. The name of the film is “Daddy, What Did You Do in the War?” You can find it on You Tube with my name. Or, you can try the link https://youtu.be/6eSnOnu0k5g. My great-nephew and great-niece are narrators. My favorite part of the film is the end when the camera scans the huge military cemetery near that last battle and quotes the battle cry for the war: “to make the world safe for democracy.” The last word is to express gratitude for all who do whatever is necessary in their time to “make the world safe for democracy.” Please let me know if you watch it and your reactions.
Easter Message from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – April 2018
RHUMC April Fool’s Day
Nobody sponsors April Fool’s Day and sees that it gets on calendars every year. Now the day passes almost unnoticed. When I was a child, people would pull pranks and tell people things that were not true and then with delight yell “April Fool!” Some newspapers at one time printed a single alarming fake article on the front page as a prank to observe the day. But that ran its course. Somebody probably sued. Nobody knows for sure where it all started. One theory is that it came from something Chaucer wrote centuries ago. But there in my datebook is April Fool’s Day in the same size print and right under the words “Easter Sunday,” claiming equal status with a day celebrated by billions of people all around the world as the high point in their faith pilgrimage for the year. In a sense, every day offers us this choice. Is it going to be a day of faith or uncertainty, of truth telling or misrepresentation, of helping people find their way or of misleading them, of hope sharing or anxiety producing? In 2018, we gather on April 1 to celebrate again the hopeful message of Easter and in our worship, to affirm the side we join in this eternal choice.
Lenten Message from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – March 2018
“Hang out with God.” This was my pastor’s suggestion to the congregation on the first Sunday in Lent about how to spend this season. Since God is present everywhere all of the time, beyond us and within us, he was not suggesting that we go somewhere to spend time with God in God’s favorite hanging out place. He meant just paying attention to God’s eternal presence with you and within you. One good Lenten exercise is to pay attention to your inner body. Feel the life energy that is in you giving life to every organ and cell. Feel the life energy that is at the same time in every part of your body, in your hands, arms, legs and feet – in your abdomen and chest. Focus on the feeling of life in your inner body without thinking about it. Just feel it. The more attention you give it, the stronger the feeling of life will be. You are connected with God through this awareness of life within you. If you “hang out with God” as a practice in your life, you can feel anchored in your whole body and will find new depth in life. You can withstand troubles and challenges with stability. If you have spent time hanging out with God, you can go within and focus on the inner energy field of your body where God is present. You are like a tree with deep roots, or a building with a solid foundation. The church has used the season of Lent across the centuries to remind us that an important part of our faith journey is time spent hanging out with God.
Expressions of Joy from Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus – January 2018
It was a once –in-a-lifetime experience for me: four unique, beautiful, heartwarming, Christmas Eve celebrations in one day. The nativity story was read from Luke’s gospel four times. The Advent candles symbolizing hope, peace, joy and love were lighted four times. The Christ candle was added to their number four times symbolizing the long anticipated birth of Jesus. The story was portrayed by enthusiastic children dressed as animals, shepherds, wise men, angels and the Holy Family singing with their soft voices and ringing chimes. Nearly 20 traditional Christmas carols were sung, each with its own artistic take on the story. Chimes, bells, guitars, drums, organ, piano, mandolin, solo voices, duets, trios, choirs of children and adults joyfully shared the nativity message that so naturally expresses itself in music. The day ended with communion that felt so right, and a passing of the flame from the freshly lit Christ candle to the individually held candles of the congregation, spreading the light from the Christ candle through the entire darkened sanctuary. The day ended at midnight as the worshippers processed out into the night carrying the light with their candles symbolically into the world. I was so delighted to be in town to join the congregation for this day. It was a once-in-a-lifetime for me because I had done just three of these services for years as your pastor. But Christmas Eve comes rarely on a Sunday to add a fourth service in the morning, enriching the experience by giving both pastors a chance to add the dimension of a Christmas sermon. I came out of this incredible day feeling a palpable sense of hope, peace, joy and love. My friends at RHUMC, I thought, really get the Christmas story and they know how to share it with the world.
Are You Mad at God? – November 2017
If you are, the Chaplain at my retirement community knows a lot of people like you. As he passed my table in the dining room recently, he stopped to tell me: “So many people are mad at God, that I am thinking about just going home to hide.” Hard day at the office! We both chuckled a bit. But at the same time we were feeling sad that people about whom we care are alienated from the resources of their faith by belief that if God is powerful, God should prevent – or at least fix promptly – things like devastating hurricanes and wild fires and mass murders and opioid epidemics, and…and…and.
So is this a time to get mad at God? Not by a long country mile, as we say in N.C. We have known forever that God does not keep us from making bad decisions or getting into messes. The ancient Adam and Eve story expresses that faith of our ancestors. History is full of human encounters with snakes that mess up God’s best ideas. Bad things happen to good people. But our faith is that God’s love for the creation is constant and that God’s will is for the best possibilities for who we are and where we are at every moment.
Could it be that it is time for us rather than turning our backs on God to turn our faces and our hearts toward God? Times like this are times to trust in God’s loving presence with us, to listen very carefully for God’s will for us in every moment, and to respond with gratitude.
One of the joys of being in a congregation like RHUMC is that we can share with other people of faith in trusting, listening and responding.
God’s Creation – October 2017
I am now Great, Great Aunt Martha. Twin girls, born on August 20th gave me the title. I visited them when they were two days old, and held the smaller one at five pounds wrapped in a blanket looking up at me. I was immediately reminded of seeing Niki Lorentzen when she was just hours old. Randy had called to breathlessly announce that Stevie was in labor and asked us to come to the hospital. Bob and I immediately hopped in the car thrilled at the prospect of sharing this birth with this family. By the time we arrived, mother and baby were available for visiting. I have a treasured picture of the two of us beaming with delight at the wonder of new life before us. It is amazing to look at this wholly formed little person and say “Nine months ago this was a nothing but a sperm and an egg.” But here is a brand new human being with all of its complexity and rich possibility. The parents of my little great greats are both elementary school counselors, and they are aware of the challenges of parenting. They witness daily damage done to little people by adults in their lives. They talked with me about this awareness over lunch on Sunday. I thought again about all the Rolling Hills church does day after day and year after year and decade after decade to support parents and nurture children into the full development of their God-given potential as part of God’s creation. That led me into a fresh appreciation of what this congregation is doing to create new facilities so that this incredibly valuable ministry will have a solid future that can bless the lives of tomorrow’s wondrous newborns. I am proud to be part of your team.
Wonder and Awe – August 2017
It happened! Exactly the way we knew it would. On the nano second that we were expecting this to occur, the black daytime moon moved between the sun and my North Carolina home and with beautiful flashes of light precisely totally covered the sun. At 2:38pm on an August afternoon we were in total darkness for 2 minutes and a few seconds. The temperature dropped and we could see the stars. Through our protective glasses we were able to see things about the sun that are otherwise beyond our visual tolerance. Scientists from NASA and around the world had come to an old satellite tracking station tucked away in the mountains near me to observe through high powered telescopes. Also as expected, I was completely awe-struck. The sun and the moon are visible doing their thing every day. We can take them for granted. But when our two primary sources of light get together like this and leave us in the dark, the wonder of the universe strikes home. We are created parts of this same universe, but nobody can predict where we will be or what we will be doing at any time in the future. We have free will. God has created us to be part of this universe and calls us to serve God’s loving will in the ongoing creation. Wonder and awe at what God has done and is doing on this cosmic scale makes me eager to know what God wants me to be doing in my little space. As I read the CORNERSTONE, I think that I am observing one community of people who individually and together are listening to God’s loving and creative call and responding in so many ways.
News from Martha – July 2017
People from around the world are expected to come to Western North Carolina on August 21. They want to share with those of us who live here the awe and wonder of a total solar eclipse that will be visible here at about 2:30 p.m. for, depending on exact location, about 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The whole show lasts about 3 hours from the first “bite” the black moon takes out of the sun until full sunlight reappears. At totality, viewers see an amazing light show, and aspects of the sun not normally visible. We have known for centuries that this will happen here at this time. A total solar eclipse is visible from earth somewhere about every 16 months, but will not pass over this spot on earth again for @330 years. I witnessed one in 1998 with stepson Rob from an eclipse cruise in the Caribbean. I was breathless with awe as the size of what I was seeing and of how small and insignificant I was in comparison. At the same time, I was stunned with wonder that I was a piece of that same creation with my own value and role to play in what God has done and continues to do. I invite you to remember on August 21 those of us who, will be waiting and watching in a straight line across the US from Oregon to South Carolina to see the world go dark early on an August afternoon. I invite you to share in our awe and wonder because what is true for us is also true for you.
A New Year’s Prayer from Martha Rowlett – January 2016
Eternal God, creator of everything that ever has been, is now and ever will be, we give thanks at the beginning of this new year for the amazing gift of life as a part of this stream of history new in every moment to both you and to us. We give thanks that we can trust your presence and your love to be with us always and everywhere. We can hear your voice calling us from the heart of life to be part of what you are doing to fulfill the best possibilities for what is here now. In this season we define as a new year, we remember that our selfishness often has blocked your love. We trust your mercy in forgiving us and your grace in renewing the light and the love with which you would bless our lives. As we step out into this new future, may we be strong in our souls, resistant to the wrongs of the world, compassionate toward those who suffer, and faithful to what is dear to you. In the power of your Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ we pray, AMEN.
Dr. Martha Rowlett, Senior Pastor Emeritus
Advent Prayer from Martha Rowlett – December 2016
In this December season of lengthening darkness, our hearts wait eagerly for the light of the Christmas message. In a time of alienation and anger we are ready to remember your love for all of your creation. In the middle of confused babble of conflicting claims, we are eager to listen for your clear calling to the hopeful future you prepare for us. Touch the deep places of our being with the miracle and mystery of your eternal presence with us, within us and among us. Strengthen our souls so that we may become the people you have made us to be. Bless us with joy as we celebrate your gift of love to us in Jesus by giving to others our gifts of love. We pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.
A Letter from Martha Rowlett – October 2016
Dear Jonathan and the RHUMC congregation,
I am a bit giddy today as I adjust to the honor of being named Senior Pastor Emeritus for my favorite congregation, The Rolling Hills United Methodist Church. I am savoring the implications of being no longer just a previous pastor and friend, but being a current member of the family. Now I am related not just to the good folk who were there 17 years ago, but to everybody in RHUMC. And since you elected me and the Bishop did not appoint me, the Bishop cannot move me. We are in this together! North Carolina is a bit of a commute for regular worship with you. But I may write occasional messages for the CORNERSTONE, and do whatever Jonathan asks. I have just turned 80, and I am thrilled to have this new relationship as a delightful dimension of this new decade of life. I experience it very clearly as something God is doing now with what was once the empty sheet of my life. Thank you very much for the open-hearted gift of this new relationship and for the honor of the naming of Martha’s room.
Love and best wishes to all of you, individually and as a congregation,
Weaving Prayer Into the Tapestry of Life
Martha Rowlett is a minister in the United Methodist Church, a prolific blogger, and author of four books on prayer. Her book, Weaving Prayer Into the Tapestry of Life, provides an overview of the understanding and practice of prayer, offering an invitation to the reader to move from thinking to doing.
Read Martha’s writings from her blog at WeavingPrayerIntoTheTapestryOfLife.Com
Former senior pastor at Rolling Hills, Martha has served in local churches and on Conference staff in the United Methodist Church. Originally from Virginia, she has lived most of her adult life in California and Washington and currently enjoys mountain living in Asheville, North Carolina.