Pastor’s Pen 4.4.2020

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Pastor’s Pen 4.4.2020

Pastor Doug Smith

Pastor Doug Smith

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Thoughts for Palm Sunday

If you have followed the Bible reading schedule I suggested for the season of Lent, you should be reading John’s rendering of all that transpired prior to and including the Crucifixion of Jesus. As I stated in last month’s newsletter article, the purpose of this slow but deliberate reading of the Gospel of John is to add the spiritual disciplines of scripture reading and meditation to your spiritual discipline of fasting.

I will welcome in Palm Sunday by sitting quietly outside as the sun breaks the horizon. Once the dawn arrives, I will walk slowly as a kind of commemoration of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. If you are able to go out into your yard, I encourage you take a similar spiritual walk. If you cannot, I invite you from the comfort of your favorite chair to take this inner spiritual walk. During that walk, I will reflect on how at times I too have made a choice to not see Jesus as the suffering Messiah, but as a military leader as did the crowds on the first Palm Sunday (See Palm Sunday Sermon).

It is very easy, and very seductive to replace the Servant Christ of the Bible with our contemporary Christ, who bears little resemblance to God’s Messiah. I invite you to pray with me that God will draw us along the narrow and difficult path of righteousness and help us avoid the broad road of cultural self-righteousness.  Every day of our life we must make a choice which one we will follow: the one that leads to calling out for the powers of this world, or the one that leads us to align with the Christ.

Actually the readings for the coming week provide us with ample opportunity to place ourselves in the text, to see ourselves more clearly and to grow more deeply in our spiritual walk. Think about it – when have we claimed Christ when it suited us (as did the people on Palm Sunday  who wanted a conquering King)? They sided with those who want the power of the world as did those who wanted Barabbas released instead of Jesus.

Do you truly understand the Christ, who washed the feet of the disciples, as the humble servant of the least and the last, and that as his disciples we are to do the same? How did that work out the last time you were at a church luncheon and you were the last one through the line?

When your Christian walk got a little tough, how did you desert Jesus as did the Disciples in Gethsemane? It is one thing to say “I would die for Christ,” when things are good, it is another thing altogether to stay with Christ when people are swinging swords at you.

What was the setting where, when you had the clear opportunity to say, “Yes, I believe in Jesus the Christ,” but you demurred or said nothing at all?  Peter denied Christ in the courtyard of the High Priest, but he didn’t deny his failure to himself. That fact led him to a dark night of the soul and once he pressed through, he moved on to redemption and a closer walk with Christ.

In some way, we all should intentionally walk this journey if we really want to experience the Easter Resurrection.

Rev. Douglas E. Smith

Gravel Hill Update 4.1.2020

By | Events

Gravel Hill Update 4.1.2020

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Dear Members of Gravel Hill United Methodist Church:

We are currently living through an unprecedented time. Not only are we being impacted by a serious and pervasive virus, the attempt to stop its destructive path has led to a serious economic downturn, the likes of which has the potential to drive the world into a deep recession if not a depression. In an attempt to stop the economy from skidding out of control the United States Congress worked together to pass what is called the CARES Act. This act of Congress offers loans to business and Charity Organizations to cover salaries, loss of income, and other expenses incurred due to an organization’s response to the virus pandemic.

The Lead Team made the decision to close the Gravel Hill Day Care. Unfortunately, people who work for Church Organizations are not entitled to unemployment. The CARES Act will fund such salaries, at least until the middle of May if necessary. The Act will also cover salaries of Church staff, and other expenses, should the church suffer a significant decrease in giving through an extended period of time.

If the salaries and expenses related to the virus total the amount the church borrows through the CARES Act, the loan in its entirety may be forgiven. What portion of the loan that is not used for these expenses will be repaid to the CARES Act at a 4% rate of interest over a period of approximately 10 years.

The Lead Team has made the decision to apply for the CARES Act Loan in an amount (yet to be determined) that will cover the salaries of Day Care Teachers and all Church Staff, as well as expenses related directly to our response to the COVID-19 virus.

In order to borrow funds from the CARES Act, Gravel Hill must call for a Charge Conference for an official vote. The Charge Conference is an official (legal) entity of the United Methodist Church. It is made up of Members of the official Administrative Team of the local Church. In our case Gravel Hill Lead Team becomes the voting Members of the Charge Conference.

This correspondence serves as the official notice that I, as the Elder of Gravel Hill, am calling a Charge Conference to be held on April 10, 2020 for the specific and sole purpose of voting to borrow funds from the CARES Act to cover the estimated cost of salaries and other expenses incurred due to the virus induced economic downturn (exact amount is currently being researched). As Elder of Gravel Hill UMC, I have been given permission by Bishop Johnson to call the Charge Conference and I have been given permission to preside at said Charge Conference.  I ask for your prayers and support as we continue to serve Christ in these difficult days.

Rev. Douglas E. Smith

Pastor’s Pen 3.28.2020

By | Events, Pastor's Pen

Pastor’s Pen 3.28.2020

Pastor Doug Smith

Pastor Doug Smith

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Through the Wilderness to the Light

At 8:00  on Sunday, March 22nd, I sat in the empty Sanctuary of our church; the lights and heat were off but I was strangely warmed by a sense of the presence of God and the church who were in prayer with me. Shortly after the beginning of the second hour of prayer, I began to think of the darkness Jesus’ followers  must have felt as the religious landscape around him began to shift.

Throughout his ministry there existed a measure of confrontation with the Pharisees.  Jesus walked among them in Galilee and by and large he was able to move and minister freely. Once Jesus turns toward Jerusalem, however, the moderate confrontation with the Pharisees morphed into high level hostility with the religious leaders of Judaism. Nowhere is this shift seen more clearly than in the Gospel of John. Jesus did teach in the Temple, but he was protected by the masses of whom the leaders were afraid.

The first hint of a darkening outlook for the ministry of Jesus actually came when Jesus told the Disciples he was going to Jerusalem.  Peter demurred, suggesting such a move was not advisable. Peter was actually very astute. On some level he knew that nothing but darkness lie in the direction of Jerusalem. Jesus rounded on Peter, because Jesus knew there was no way to the light of salvation without walking into and through the darkness that lay ahead of him.

It is that same terrible darkness that accompanied all the visitors to Jesus’ tomb (but particularly the women) on that first Easter Sunday morning. It was the deepest kind of darkness that completely obscured sight and sucked the air from their lungs. The walk toward the tomb was surreal.  Just weeks before they had been filled with a sense of hope that things were really going to get better. Then a betrayal, an arrest, a trial, a crucifixion and a death. The darkness had closed in and it was tight and complete.

And then, in an instant, the darkness is dispelled by the blinding light of the resurrected Jesus with the calm call, “Mary.” We don’t often think about it but the light of Jesus is made even more brilliant because of the depth of darkness through which Mary and the rest of the Disciples had walked. In part, this is because in the darkness Mary and the rest of the believers saw themselves for the lost souls that they were.

In many ways Lent is designed to make us walk through the darkness of our inner being so that we might more clearly see and more deeply appreciate the light of eternal life. As I sat in the darkened Sanctuary on a Sunday morning it occurred to me that this entire 40 days of Lent has been covered with the darkness of a growing pandemic. We saw the shadow on Ash Wednesday as the coronavirus exploded in China and had already spread to several other countries. And now the darkness of a serious virus has covered all of us, causing panic in some and serious worry in most others.

It occurred to me that perhaps for the first time in our life we may actually have a visceral understanding of the darkness that hung over the followers of Jesus as they approached that first Easter morning. Life right now seems surreal, as if we are walking around in a dream, or rather a nightmare; not sure if we will wake tomorrow to life as normal or to the news that a loved one died from this virus. This is a staggering darkness that causes us to ask the existential question, “Where is God?”

Like the original followers this is the kind of darkness where we truly see ourselves for who we are and know intuitively that we are lost without Jesus. This is the kind of darkness that causes us to know how deeply we need the light of Christ. Most of the time we actually avoid this dark place, but as Noah floated on the deep for 40 days and nights; as Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years; and as Jesus faced the devil in the wilderness for 40 days; we too must walk right through the valley of darkness to see the light of Christ. After all, Noah came to a deeper appreciation of the goodness of God; the children of Israel grew into the people of God; and Jesus defeated evil. If we are serious about our walk, the darkness is to the soul as a wet stone is to the knife; it sharpens the senses, it turns dullness in to a clear focus on our Redeemer.

Perhaps our present darkness will lead us to a much deeper appreciation for the gift that is Easter!

Pastor’s Pen 3.19.2020

By | Events, Pastor's Pen

Pastor’s Pen 3.19.2020

Pastor Doug Smith

Pastor Doug Smith

Thursday, March 19, 2020

What is Really Important

I had a phone conversation with a member of the church this morning who had gotten so busy with work that church and family had been essentially pushed aside. Before long our conversation drifted to the coronavirus and the social distancing necessary to help mitigate the extent of the virus.

After talking about how the virus had brought her working life to a standstill, she reflected on how the forced seclusion had reminded her of what was really important. It was not work, it was not the push to make money, it was not even the hope for a great vacation this summer, it was her family. The full-stop brought on by this dangerous virus caused her to be thankful that her Mother is well and that she is home with her spouse and children. That is what was ultimately important to her.

That is what happens in difficult times. People begin to ask existential questions. People begin to refocus on what is ultimately important to them. When this move to the existential happens, most of the problems, irritations and stupidities of life melt away and the ultimate issues of life loom large.

This period of seclusion and distancing has reminded me of how important the interactions of the community of faith are to me. We have only gone through one reduced worship schedule and have not yet experienced the first of two planned cancelled worship services and I am already missing my faith family! I go into the office every morning and the church is empty. The building itself seems to mirror my melancholy. This period has brought to a deeper focus on my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, everything else falls away from Christ.

Exploring Ways To Engage

Since the Community of Christ is so dear to me, I have been exploring ways to engage one another while maintain the physical distance that is so necessary.

  • First, I intend to address, via email, the readings from the Gospel of John that I invited you to read through the season of Lent. They will be short, but they will help keep us in touch. You are invited to email questions or thoughts to my home email address:
  • Second, I spent a lot of time today investigating how we can use the business meeting software “ZOOM” as a way to stay in touch by streaming Worship and/or Bible Studies until we can get back together.
  • Third, I am seriously considering conducting a Drive Through Communion Service in the church parking lot , if we are not able to conduct Maundy Thursday Services. I am interested in your feedback.

Please be in prayer for each other, for those who are ill due to this virus, for the church of Jesus Christ, and that God will remove this current scourge for our world. To God be the Glory.

Rev. Douglas E. Smith

Pastor’s Pen 3.19.2020 and What Can You Do:

Pray for each other, the ill, the church, and our world.

Look for emails from Rev. Smith and provide feedback for Rev. Smith’s possible action plan.

Worship online this Sunday. Worship will be online for the following weeks (March 22 & 29).

Tithe online. Create your account and give here.

Want to revisit a message that really spoke to you? Check out our Sunday Sermons.

GH Virus Response

By | Events

GH Virus Response

Friday, March 13, 2020

Dear Members of Gravel Hill United Methodist Church:

After extensive discussions with the leadership of Gravel Hill (Lead Team, PPRC) and with advice from Bishop Johnson, I have made perhaps the most excruciating decision of my ministry.

Gravel Hill will offer a reduced Worship Schedule this Sunday, March 15, 2020: 8 am Traditional Service and 9 am Contemporary Service. There will be no Christian Education. However, I strongly recommend that you exercise personal and social responsibility and not attend if you land in one of the more serious COVID-19 categories.

I.e. 60 years of age or older,

…have some form of immune deficiency,

… traveled for business or pleasure in the last two weeks,

…or if you have the slightest hint that you are coming down with something.

Further, Gravel Hill will cancel Sunday worship services for the next two weeks, March 22 & 29, (unless an all clear is given) as a responsible civic partner in order to help stem the spread of this pandemic.

Please be advised that the Staff and I will continue to carry out our normal duties and the church will be open throughout the week. We will video tape the sermons for the next two weeks and upload them to the church Website (Sunday Sermons). You will be able to view sermons and enjoy some traditional hymns. For those who do not have the capability to get on the church website we will have DVD’s that we can deliver or send to you at your request.

Further, even though we are canceling worship for the following two weeks (March 22 and 29) the cost of ministry will continue. In fact, I fully expect the needs of the marginally employed, single income households, and week to week income families will increase as the economic slowdown leads to possible recession and layoffs. Please remember to use your envelopes via mail, or perhaps consider setting up automatic withdraw for your tithes to continue to underwrite the ministry of your church through these exceedingly trying times. (Learn about Tithing and Giving at Gravel Hill online. Scroll to the Give Online Button on the right-hand side of the page to set up your own online account. You can also contact the church office to have an account set up for you.)

Finally, I ask for several things: Do not panic! This current problem needs levelheaded action, not wailing and gnashing of teeth. Wash your hands at every opportunity. Consider not going out to eat for a while. There may be no crowds there, but your server may have had contact with ill people. Second, please understand that we are trying to be a responsible partner to the larger world so that we can help mitigate not spread the virus. Third, for the next couple of weeks do not go anywhere there is a large crowd. Such is not only dangerous for you, but is also dangerous for anyone you come into contact with for up to two weeks. Fourth, remember “this too shall pass.” God is good. This virus is very serious, but it does not have power over God! Places that have taken serious proactive steps, such as limiting large groups, have experienced a far lower spread rate than areas that did not.  Fifth, this is Lent, you may not be able to worship here for several Sundays, but that does not mean that you cannot worship. Visit the church website, download the worship service, worship together in spirit and strive toward Easter.

Sincerely Rev. Douglas E. Smith


GH Virus Response Summary:

Reduced worship schedule this Sunday at 8:00 & 9:00 AM. No Sunday School.

Tithe online. Create your account and give here.

Worship will be canceled for the following two weeks (March 22 & 29) unless we receive an all clear from the government.

Can’t make it to worship? Or want to revisit a message that really spoke to you? Check out our Sunday Sermons.



By | Events

Calling all 2019 Graduates!

Graduates, we want to celebrate you and your accomplishments! To do so:

Complete the Graduate Recognition Form by April 21st (to be guaranteed a gift May 19th).

Send the photos (jpeg format) to by May 15th. We would love to have you share 2-3 photos of yourself. These will run during the recognition part of each service on Sunday, May 19th.

Join us on Sunday, May 19th for our Graduate Recognition.

Graduate Recognition

Please complete the information regarding your graduation so we may recognize you on Graduate Recognition Sunday.
  • Please select the service you will attend.
  • Please list the full name from where you are graduating (High School, College, Trade School, etc.).
  • Please list where you plan to further your education.
  • Please list the major you are choosing (high school) or have earned through your graduation (college or masters).
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

3 J’s Offer 3/22/19

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3 J’s Offer 3/22/19

3Js 3.22.19 offer


One purchase, double the fuel: you & the Caring Cupboard! 3 J’s Offer 3/22/19 (today only): Swing by 3J’s Coffee Shop in Palmyra and support the Caring Cupboard. Purchase a coffee drink, mention the Gravel Hill Spring Trail Run, and $1 of your purchase goes to the Caring Cupboard!  Thank you 3 J’s! *Check out their menu here:


Gravel Hill Spring 5K is a walk/run this Saturday, March 23rd. Learn more: click here. Packet Pick up in Holy Grounds beginning @ 9 AM on Friday, March 22 or 7:30 AM Sat, Mar. 23.


Chicken Pot Pie DinnerSaturday, March 23rd is also the date for the 8th annual Pot Pie Dinner! Eat in (4 PM – 7 PM in Fellowship Hall) or take out.

Weekly Wink: 10.17.18

By | Events, Weekly Wink, Youth

The Weekly Wink 10.17.18 activities are as follows:

Activities Tonight:
  • 5:30 – 6:30 PM Be In The Light Meal for all who sign up at the Welcome Center or online by Noon prior to the meal. $5/adult, $3/child, or $15/family. (Fellowship Hall)
  • 6-6:30 PM Kidz Choir: *Drop Off Tonight: Sanctuary.  Tonight’s Focus: our song for Sunday, My Lighthouse. (Sanctuary) Please see the special note from Miss Joyce at the end of this post.
  • 6:30 – 8 PM Pioneer Clubs (Fellowship Hall)
  • 6:30 – 8 PM Youth Group: For grades 6th -12th. (Heritage Room aka Library)
  • 6:30 PM 33 Series: Authentic Manhood (Balcony)
  • 6:30 PM Revelation: For returning attendees only. Began Sept. 12. (Room 201)
  • 6:45 PM Son Seeker’s Ladies Bible Study (Room 305) *Please note: No meeting on 10/31.
  • 6:45 PM Adult Choir (Room 301)
Coming Soon:

10.18.18 6 PM: For those with tickets, Annual PACC meeting @ the multipurpose room of Palm Lutheran Church, 11 W. Cherry St. Palmyra.

10.20.18 7:30 AM: Check In for the Fall Feeding Frenzy 5K at the Londonderry Village Pavilion, 1200 Grubb Rd. Palmyra, PA 17078. Race begins at 9 AM. Kid’s Fun Run occurs at completions of 5K run/walk.

11.2.18 9 PM – 11.3.18 7 AM: Youth All Nighter: GRAVITY @ Flightpath Sports Park. $20 for the whole night of activities! To register, click here.

2018 Gravity: Youth All Nighter


Kidz Choir Parents & Members: “Please make sure your kiddo is here on Sunday morning at 7:45am in the choir to sing in the 8am worship service.  We (my helpers and I) will take your child from that worship service to the choir room for practice for Christmas!!!!  Yes, Christmas! ????We will take them to Sunday school and then have you pick them up from Sunday school and drop them off to Miss Barbi and Miss Ashley in the welcome center area prior to 10:30am worship. After they sing there they will dismissed to you from the front of the church.Please remember that we are a safe sanctuary church and you must escort your child (birth to sixth grader)  to and from programs in the church.  Also , just a gentle reminder, please try to make sure your child uses the restroom facilities before coming into the choir room on Wednesdays and Sundays. As you can imagine when needs to go we have a deluge of all needing to go ???? Thanks for understanding and see you tomorrow night in the sanctuary!” ~ Miss Joyce

Thankful Thursday 10.11.18

By | Events, News

Thankful Thursday comes from our Pioneer Clubs!

We had a great time at Pioneer Club last night. We are so happy to have some old friends join us again.



Welcome back Miss Angela!

                     Thanks for helping Miss Megan.



Pee Wees show off their fall craft.

Enjoy these photos bringing some rays of sunshine and gratitude to your day!

P.S. What are you thankful for today? 🙂

Weekly Wink: 10.10.18

By | Events, Youth

The Weekly Wink 10.10.18 activities are as follows:

Activities Tonight:
  • 5:30 – 6:30 PM Be In The Light Meal for all who sign up at the Welcome Center or online by Noon prior to the meal. $5/adult, $3/child, or $15/family. (Fellowship Hall)
  • 6-6:30 PM Kidz Choir: *Please note: No Kidz Choir on 10/31. Tonight’s Focus: Songs for Thanksgiving Worship. Christmas practices will begin soon. If your child would like to be a part of Christmas Eve Service, please be sure to have them at Kidz Choir practices. (Room 301)
  • 6:30 – 8 PM Pioneer Clubs (Fellowship Hall)
  • 6:30 – 8 PM Youth Group: For grades 6th -12th. (Heritage Room aka Library)
  • 6:30 PM 33 Series: Authentic Manhood (Balcony)
  • 6:30 PM Revelation: For returning attendees only. Began Sept. 12. (Room 201)
  • 6:45 PM Son Seeker’s Ladies Bible Study (Room 305)
  • 6:45 PM Adult Choir (Room 301)
Coming Soon:

All Saints Sunday Preparation: If you have a loved one who has passed this year and would like their photo as part of our All Saints Sunday Worship prior to November 4, 2018, please bring their photo to the church office by Monday, October 15. We will scan in and give it back to you.

One week left to sign up online for the Fall Feeding Frenzy 5K!