Sunday, January 31, 2010


Brother Henry Suche preaches "Called" & performs a healing prayer

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That was the one-word title of the sermon preached today, Jan. 31, 2010, by guest preacher Henry Suche, whose ties to Tinney Chapel date back at least to 1978, when he served a three-month internship here under then-Pastor Fred Durham, who was also Mayor of the City of Winnsboro during his tenure.

Brother Henry based his sermon, Called, primarily on the description, provided by Mark, of Jesus calling His first four Disciples: Andrew, Peter, James and John.

The emphasis here was on the word, Called, especially as it applies to all of us today, who are Called to serve the Lord Jesus.

Brother Henry cited Old Testament examples: Moses had to be Called four times, he said, which perhaps makes him a bit more like us. Brother Henry described his own Call to the Ministry as like a two-by-four, a blunt instrument upside the head that he believes was just what was needed at the time to get his undivided attention.

He cited others from the Old Testament: Daniel, and especially Shadrach, Meschach and Abed-nego, Brother Henry's personal heroes of the Hebrew Bible: "They went into the fiery furnace," he explained. "But God the Father was with them there."

And, that was one of Brother Henry's major points: That God will never leave those He Calls into His service. Nor will he allow us to suffer a burden greater than we are able to bear. Neither will He assign us a task for which He will not first equip us and then strengthen us. "And, as He assures us in Matthew 28, He will never leave us," added Brother Henry. "Further, He will lead us, guide us and provide us with the Holy Spirit."

When Jesus Called those first four Disciples, He didn't go to the Temple and pick four of the priests. Rather, said Brother Henry, Jesus Called on fishermen, common folks like you and me. None of them had any idea they would be remembered 2,000 years later as among those who were first Called by the Master.

All of us who are Called are also provided with Gifts of the Holy Spirit, a few of which are common among all us us, such as the ability to discern the Holy Spirit, Who moves within us as we become parts of the Body of Christ. As such, we should avoid petty distractions such as bickering within the Church. After all, we come here to worship, emphasized Brother Henry, but we leave here to serve. We are to remain in unity, taking our authority in His Name, never forgetting that Jesus told us that we can do even greater things than He Himself performed. That's an awesome thought!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Attend strategic plan Listening Conference Saturday, Jan. 23, from 10 am to 12 noon

Coming up: A meeting you and I should not miss

Every concerned lay person in the United Methodist Church should try to attend one of the upcoming Listening Conferences to learn more about the proposed new Strategic Plan for the North Texas Conference.

Fortunately for Tinney Chapel, the first of these Listening Conferences will be in our District, at First UMC Sulphur Springs, Saturday, Jan. 23, from 10 am to 12 noon.

Here's what Bishop Earl Bledsoe has to say about the proposed new Strategic Plan and the Listening Conferences:

Happy New Year!!! This
is an exciting time to be alive

in the world and in the life of

the church.


NTC Strategic



(SPT) has


the first

draft of a

plan to align

the conference with a strategic

missional focus. The team

worked hard to pull together the

hopes and dreams of both laity

and clergy within the conference

as well as researching

other areas to gather knowledge

and information about best

practices and steps forward.

I am pleased that the

outcome of the work will be

focused on the mission field

and how we as a conference

can effectively reach that field

for Jesus Christ. Some things

will remain the same, but some

things will need to change if we

are going to focus our efforts

on leadership development,

starting new congregations and

helping to transform existing

ones, ministering with the poor

and eradicating killer diseases,

such as malaria, in the world.

Each of you will have an

opportunity to review and

comment on the draft proposal

prior to its consideration by

the 2010 Annual Conference.

My hope and prayer is that

you will attend the listening

conferences that are scheduled

for each district within the

next few weeks.

The SPT under the leadership

of Dr. John Fiedler have

done an outstanding job of

getting us to this point in the

process. Your input over the

next few weeks will determine

the success of us being able

to adopt the plan and begin
implementing it right after annual

conference of this year. This will

be a bold step for the conference;

one that I know will require the

cooperation, support and prayers

of each and everyone to see it

through to transition and completion.

During times such as these

I find comfort in knowing that

the spirit of God is with us and

will continue to guide and direct

the work to its completion. I

like what the prophet Isaiah had

to say about change and doing

things in a different way when

the people of God were moving

from a place of comfort to an

unknown place of promise:

“But I’ll take the hand of

those who don’t know the way,

who can’t see where they’re

going. I’ll be a personal guide

to them, directing them through

unknown country. I’ll be right

there to show them what roads

to take, make sure they don’t

fall into the ditch. These are the

things I’ll be doing for them—

sticking with them, not leaving

them for a minute.” (Isaiah

42:16, The Message)

The promises of God are

still with us today. I look

forward to another good year

as we reach out and make

disciples of Jesus Christ for the

transformation of the world.

Following are excerpts from a front-page article in the current North Texas Methodist Reporter which gives a few details, by Rev. Lisa Greenwood of First UMC Commerce, about the proposed new Strategic Plan for our Conference:

We are called to fruitfulness

and nothing less.

The plan enumerates that in

order to reach our mission field

and be more fruitful in our

mission, four strategic changes

are needed:

1 Establish the UMC’s four

areas of focus as the strategic

priorities of the NTC.

2 Reduce the number of

districts of the NTC and revision

the role of the DS’s.

3 Streamline, flatten, and

reorganize the conference

structure and staffing to address

these priorities most


4 Realign our financial resourc-

es to reflect these priorities.

The plan further illumines

how these changes can transpire

in our conference. These

changes occur at the Annual

Conference level and are not

local church programs, but if

embraced and implemented,

will positively impact the local

church’s ability to live out

the mission of making disciples

for the transformation

of the world.

I am genuinely excited by

the direction our conference is

headed and look forward to the

conversations we’ll have over

the next few months as we hone

and polish our plan to get there!
In District Meetings held

January 23 through February 7,

John Fiedler and Fiona Macleod

Butts will lay out the plan for

pastors and key lay leaders.

I, for one, am very excited!

There were times along the way

I thought it would be very easy

to get caught up in yet another

program for local churches OR

to find ourselves limited by “the

way we’ve always done it.”

I believe we avoided both of

those traps!

After months of research,

conversation, discernment,

prayer, and listening, I truly

believe we have a plan that

takes us to new places and has

the potential to dramatically

transform our conference.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Pastor Sue scraps prepared sermon to preach on aftershocks of Haiti earthquake

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Tinney Chapel responds to aftershocks in Haiti

It was a good sermon that Pastor Sue Gross had prepared for this day, but the tragedy in Haiti was on our hearts and minds today, and the Pastor instead spoke to this universal concern.

The other sermon could wait, but relief and compassion were needed today for earthquake victims. A special offering at Tinney Chapel, over and above the regular worship offering, amounted to $700, which went to UMCOR via the North Texas Conference.

Not many of us at Tinney Chapel have been caught in an earthquake, but Pastor Sue has experienced three of them in three different states: Colorado, California and Oregon.

The Pastor referred to the Old Testament Book of Job and its many lessons on suffering and recovery: Over 330 questions are asked in this one Book, she said.

Why? Job deals with a tragedy of epic proportions, and loses all he has. So, like any of us would do, Job mourned for his losses and wondered: Where was God when this tragedy happened? Job wanted an explanation for his suffering.

God responded by asking cosmic questions of Job: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world? And, Job was then appropriately silent. He repented in dust and ashes.

One lesson for all us: God is near the heart of us all.

Another lesson is that we are mortals, fragile and wholly dependent on God, and it is time for us to help rebuild, to honor those who have died.

Job suffered, but in the end he was reinstated.

Pastor Sue also read from the new Testament Book of Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 18 through 29.


Saturday, January 16, 2010


A full house at Tinney Chapel for Helen Tinney Miller's 90th birthday party

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The Big Nine-Oh is a big ole hit for Helen at Tinney Chapel

The early count places attendance at about 150 in the Family Life Center of the quintessential country church.

The big draw was Helen Tinney Miller, matriarch of our church and the founding Tinney Family. What Helen did was achieve the age of 90 while still smiling, still alert and still spiritually sound.

Guests came from all over the Winnsboro demographic map, from elsewhere in Texas and even some came from out of state.

Credit Nyla Tinney Avant, and many of her kinfolk for organizing this event beautifully, and bringing it off without a hitch.

One college classmate brought the 1942 annual from East Texas State Teachers College at Commerce--the year Helen graduated from that institution.

The Vernon School first-grade class of 1942-43 had an unexpected and inpromptu reunion at this birthday event for Helen, who herself for a time attended Vernon, a Wood County country school located less than a mile from Tinney Chapel. The four members of that class were Tommy Boyd, Nyla Tinney Avant, Wanda Gearner Hardin and Sue Tinney Brown (photo above).

Several photographers were on duty today, including Tommy Boyd and Angela Newton Wylie. Prior to the event, Tommy prepared a DVD and CD of photos provided by Helen and others. The DVD was on a circular showing during the event.

Several Red Hat Club friends of Helen showed up today and momentarily stole the show.

There was no formal program, which provided adequate time for everyone to visit as long as they wanted.

Happy 90th Birthday, Helen, and may there be many more.


Happy 90th Birthday to Helen Tinney Miller from Tinney Chapel

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You are invited to attend a birthday party for Helen today, Saturday, January 16, from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Tinney Chapel Family Life Center. No gifts, but a card and a memory will be appreciated. Below are some of my own memories.


Helen is the daughter of my Uncle Buck and Aunt Lucy Tinney, who were among the many Tinneys who helped to raise me and my brother Tommy while we were involved in the daunting task of growing up, while living at the Old Tinney Home Place, just a quarter of a mile from Tinney Chapel, the quintessential country church, founded in 1900 from a land grant made by William Ambrose Tinney, grandfather to all three of us: myself, Tommy and Helen.

Helen was just seven years younger than my mother, Dolly Tinney, and for a time they were next-door neighbors, which allowed a lot of playtime for them despite that age difference. I’ve learned a lot about my mother from Helen, who has many happy memories of their time together. She remembers Dolly as kind, caring, outgoing and a lot of fun to be around: Obviously they had much in common. One of my favorite images from my mother’s photo album shows Helen and Dolly in a precious pose during that long-ago time. Eventually, Helen & Dolly were baptized at Tinney Chapel on the same day, August 10, 1928.

When I was a teenager, FFA responsibilities required that I do some rather extensive travel, and no one in our house owned any luggage. When I learned that Uncle Buck, Helen’s father, owned a suitcase, I was bold enough to ask him to let me borrow it, and he was nice enough to oblige. Soon, Uncle Buck, took me to the W. C. Dodgen Dry Goods store in Winnsboro, where he purchased a brand new suitcase, and gifted it to me. It was my first piece of luggage, and lasted a long time under some rather heavy travel.

Uncle Buck, Helen’s father, may have been the most charming of all the older Tinney men. Blessed with a pleasant voice, a ready smile and dashing good looks, he excelled in several occupations, but probably gained the most success as a salesman. All of us can be grateful for his influence as a model of public relations during our youth, although some of us would not know the meaning of that phrase until much later. We just knew that Uncle Buck had a lot of the Right Stuff and we hoped some of it rubbed off on us.

Helen also presented quite a challenging role model to youngsters like myself, who grew up in the Tinney Chapel Community during the late 1930s, all the 1940s and the early 1950s. She chose to attend college and become a teacher, raising the bar early for many of us who might not otherwise have considered higher education.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Reaffirmation of baptism @ Tinney Chapel

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Baptism: Something to remember.

On this second Sunday of Epiphany, Pastor Sue Gross read from Luke 3:15-17 and Luke 3:21-22 before preaching a sermon titled, I Have Been Baptized, then asking each member of the congregation to remember and reaffirm their own baptism.

To emphasize the seriousness and solemnity of this occasion, the Pastor provided a clear glass basin of seashells covered in water, some of which she had herself brought back from the Jordan River where Jesus The Christ was baptized by John The Baptizer in the Holy Land.

Baptism, reminded Pastor Sue, is not a requirement for Heaven, and not a requirement for Communion, but it is a requirement for membership in the Church. Baptism says that it is God who saves us, and not the water itself, which is just a symbol, including that water from the Jordan River.

Baptism, continued the Pastor, is a sign that we are a new people, that we have been given a new identity, that we now walk in the path of Jesus The Christ.

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. occasionally doubted his own faith, said Pastor Sue, he is reported to have stood before a mirror and strengthened his faith by reciting the words: I have been baptized.

Even we, if we listen carefully, may hear the voice of God speak to us: You are God's Child!

He will not leave us alone.

What great news: I have been baptized.


Afterward, each member of the congregation lined up to approach the basin of seashells, covered with Jordan River water and take a shell for themselves. Last year at this same ceremony, most kept the shell as a treasure, marking it with the date of their reaffirmation of baptism. Doubtless most will do the same this year.

Amen, amen!

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Tinney Chapel @ District Training Event

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Why do Methodists have annual training events?
God isn't finished with us yet?

At today's training event in Sulphur Springs, Pastor Aleze Fulbright, photo above, led the workshop on hospitality, and she began with a famous example from the Bible, Genesis 18:1-8.

It is the account of Abraham responding to an appearance of the Lord and a visit from three men, to whom Abraham appropriately responds with excitement, appreciation, an attitude of invitation and a willingness to recruit others to help him in an urgent display of providing the very best service during this time of unexpected opportunity.

Abraham is presented in this Scripture as being very much in the moment and not at all intimidated by the sudden appearance of important guests, to whom he provides welcome, priority and the very best of everything he has to offer.

Teach that hospitality is at the core of the Gospel, suggested Pastor Fulbright, as she explained how to use this Hebrew Bible lesson in today's 21st Century United Methodist Church ministry.

Convey a clear invitation and a statement of welcome in all communications directed at your community--advertisements, banners, flyers, church website and the like, she emphasized.

Station greeters at all entrances, in classroom areas and in the parking lot or entry walks, if appropriate, added Pastor Fulbright. Escort newcomers to the nursery, classrooms, coffee hours and such--don't just point the way or give directions!

Place information about your church's ministries where a visitor can easily find it, preferably in the pew or a clearly marked location near the entry points used by visitors, she added.

Finally, Pastor Fulbright suggested encouraging visitors to get connected with activities and groups, even if they are not ready to join your church.

She closed with this New Testament Scripture: Be sure to welcome strangers into your home. By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it."--Hebrews 13:2

The Rev. Dr. Keith Boone, Paris-Sulphur Springs District Superintendent, photo above, led the event's worship service, choosing as his primary Scripture, Matthew 9:35-10:16, in which Jesus notes that the harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few!

This is also one of the times Jesus emphasizes the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven as one reason for calling upon the Disciples to get busy preaching, healing, cleansing, casting out devils, even raising the dead.

Freely you have received, Jesus reminds, adding: Freely give.

Jesus concludes this directive by cautioning them to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

Rev. Boone emphasized his message with a reminder to all that our task is to move from discipleship (learners) to apostleship (ones who are sent out to labor for the Kingdom). Just to follow Jesus is not enough, said Rev. Boone, we must also be ready to go out.

Why is this important? Since 1990, said Rev. Boone, the North Texas Conference has had an increase in population of 47.5% and our Paris-Sulphur Springs District is projected to increase by 12% during the next 10 years. That would make our District the second fastest-growing in the Conference!

The District Superintendent also shared one of the great secrets of life to help us meet the challenge that Jesus presents: Always have a specific purpose in your mind and heart, and make sure that it is one that you can NOT possibly do!!!

Rev. Boone said he likes that Impossible Dream attitude toward life.


Sunday, January 03, 2010


Following The Star at Tinney Chapel

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Follow The Star, a post-Christmas sermon by Pastor Sue Gross

Of course, it's only post-Christmas by modern standards, commercial standards, actually. By all that's true and holy, the Christmas Season is still upon us, and Pastor Sue Gross reminded us of that today.

She did so by reading 12 verses of Scripture from the New Testament: Matthew 2:1-12, which records the journey of the wise men, the kings, the priests--take your pick of the interpretations--who came bearing gifts for Jesus, The Christ Child, who was then and remains today our greatest gift from God, His own Son, in human flesh, Incarnate, God With Us, sent to teach, guide and save.

It's still the greatest gift that we can give to others today, reminded Pastor Sue: To tell the age-old story of His wonderful Love, especially to someone who has never heard it, or needs to hear it again with our personal emphasis. One of the ways we can do that, said Pastor Sue, is to love one another, as a more mature Jesus later commanded during His earthly ministry.

After one of today's congregational songs, We Three Kings Of Orient Are, the Pastor suggested that the title of this song actually positions each of us smack dab in the middle of the story--the Greatest Story Ever Told. It positions us in there in part because of our royal dignity, a by-product of being created in God's own image. This is much more than just an honor: It's also a reminder that we need to ask ourselves constantly if we are today following the Star to Bethlehem. Even if the answer is yes, are we doing so for the right reason?

In today's modern society, with travel streamlined mostly to hours, and seldom more than a day, no matter our destination, it's easy for us to minimize the effort, expense, danger and dedication of those three Persian priests who journeyed for months, possibly years, to bring gifts to the Christ Child, whose birth they had seen foretold by a faraway, but far-reaching Star.

These men were not Christians, not even Jews, and their knowledge of this historic event, important as it was, was largely confined to their study of astrology, astronomy and other segments of the cosmos of the ancients. It is unlikely that they were fully aware of the event's historical theology, said Pastor Sue.

The Pastor described how their long-observed Star became an active participant in their journey, actually moving to, and stopping over, the house of the Christ Child.

Everyone in this life has to follow someone, emphasized Pastor Sue, and for Christians, the Star of Jesus is a good one to follow: The Way, the Truth, the Light. Those who don't may wind up in dark alleys or otherwise out of the Way of the Light and not in the Presence of Jesus The Christ with the saving power of His Resurrection.

Today is the first Sunday of the New Year, 2010, reminded the Pastor, who also suggested that we celebrate the unbelievable lives we have already led, even in the face of our personal hardships, some of which have served primarily to strengthen us, to make us more fully aware of the wonderful world of God's Creation that is all around us: fleecy clouds, frost on cotton leaves, green grass of home, stars at night that are big and bright, everyday things that make life worth living and celebrating.

Let's all hereby resolve to share our Christian view of life with others, perform random acts of unexpected kindness, shower others with sincere compliments about their own uniqueness and reflection of the One in whose image they are created, adopt a permanent and expressive attitude of gratitude for all that God has given us and for those He has placed in our lives and in our paths.

Let's all celebrate this past year as our best ever, to be transcended only by what is in store for us in this New Year.


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