Thursday, January 17th, 2019

S Shopper Stories


Celebrating Easter’s transformative power

by Rob Lauer

From left: Associate Pastor Brian Boettcher, Senior Pastor Matt Meisenhelter and Director of Ministries Jannette Clavez in the courtyard of Community United Methodist Church.

From left: Associate Pastor Brian Boettcher, Senior Pastor Matt Meisenhelter and Director of Ministries Jannette Clavez in the courtyard of Community United Methodist Church.

We know how to do Easter here,” Brian Boettcher, Associate Pastor of Community United Methodist Church, declares with a youthful grin. “This year, we’re dedicated to having the most celebratory Easter possible.”

While the celebration of Christmas has long been the nation’s biggest holiday culturally, it is Easter—with its message of resurrection and new life—that is actually the most important day on the Christian calendar. This year, Easter falls on April 1, and during the preceding week—known as Holy Week—Community United Methodist Church in Virginia Beach is sponsoring a wide variety of holiday-themed events.

“During Holy Week, the chapel will be set up with the stations of the cross,” Director of Program Ministries Jannette Clavez explains. “Those seeking a quiet, introspective experience can come in at their leisure and contemplate their personal journey.”

The public is invited to join the congregation for a special worship service commemorating Maundy Thursday on the evening of March 29.

On the evening of Good Friday, the church will present the musical cantata Portraits in Grace by Joseph Martin. “This is a musical concert focused on the passion of Christ,” Pastor Brian explains. “It will feature our choir and our full orchestra.”

“Our worship services
are where all of us come together
to experience God...
it’s through our small groups ministries
that we put that experience to work
in transforming ourselves
and the world around us.”

—Pastor Matt Meisenhelter

“Our music program is very impressive,” Jannette observes. “It is so inclusive, and has really been a cornerstone in our congregation for a long time. It’s an entry way for anyone looking for community and a sense of belonging. If someone loves music, we hope that they’ll come to the concert, and maybe consider becoming involved in our music program.”

The celebration of Easter Sunday begins with a Sunrise Service, followed by a pancake breakfast. Other morning events include a children’s Easter Party and two separate Easter Egg hunts—one inside the social hall, and another in the outdoor courtyard.

The morning’s celebration continues with two traditional worship services and a modern service that features a live band playing contemporary Christian music.

“We offer two styles of worship services because people are experiencing a real need for community,” Senior Pastor Matt Meisenhelter observes. “Worship styles that worked 50 years ago don’t necessarily work for everyone today.”

“In all three of our weekly services, worship is celebratory,” Pastor Brian adds. “It involves us, and helps us to grow into the people that God wants us to be. Here at Community United Methodist, our focus is on transforming lives.”

Whereas congregations of all denominations have, in recent years, become smaller and grayer, Community United Methodist’s congregation is intergenerational, with people of all ages participating in every aspect of the church’s life. The ministerial staff has even found a unique way for young children to participate in worship services.

“Kids are given a scavenger hunt list of things to find during the course of the service,” Pastor Brian explains. “So, during worship, some children might be up and about, quietly looking at things in the sanctuary that are either a part of our liturgy or symbolic of some aspect of our worship. This isn’t just a diversion to keep kids occupied while the adults worship: it’s a way to help them understand and value what is going on during worship—a way to bring them deeper into the experience.”

Senior Pastor Matt Meisenhelter

Senior Pastor Matt Meisenhelter

“Our worship services are where we all experience God together, but it’s through our small groups ministries that we put that experience to work in transforming ourselves and the world around us,” Pastor Matt adds. “Unique in the Methodist tradition is the idea of growing bigger by growing smaller.” Early Methodists had their hearts warmed by God in  worship services, but their personal spiritual growth was nurtured through small classes and charitable endeavors. Following in that tradition, Community Methodist sponsors a wide variety of small groups, classes and community outreach programs.

“We encourage our members to invest themselves in transforming the world in which we live,” Pastor Brian attests.

“We house the homeless in our church for one week every winter, feeding and clothing them,” Pastor Matt explains. “We recently packed shelf-stable meals to ship overseas. During the summer, many of our young people go on mission trips to Appalachia where they engage in hands-on work to improve the conditions of those living there in poverty.”
Nationally, membership in churches, clubs and civic organizations is at an all-time low. Trust in institutions of any sort has all but disappeared among people under the age of thirty. A growing number of Americans of all ages admit to feeling isolated from others. The astounding growth of online communities and a rise in social activism at the local level is seen by many as evidence of a growing hunger for a sense of community and a sense of dedication to something beyond mere personal self-interest.

“I don’t think people are sure of exactly what they want,” Pastor Brian observes. “I think what most people hunger for is a transformational experience.”

Jannette nods in agreement. “The wonderful truth is that you don’t have to know exactly what you want or what you believe because Grace meets you wherever you are.”
“The purpose of Jesus’ work is to show us how to be most human,” Pastor Brian testifies. “I’ve found some of those things elsewhere, but I’ve found all of them by taking part in the life of the church. The Gospel comes to us on its way to someone else. It calls us to bring light into the world’s dark places.”

“We aren’t perfect people,” Jannette quickly adds. “We all make mistakes. But contrary to a lot of traditional ideas, church is the one place where we can all admit those mistakes. It’s a place where we can find and give forgiveness, reach out to others in love and offer the grace that we’ve received. We can’t really experience all of that alone or through social media. As human beings we need each other to make it happen.”

“We’re definitely not perfect—no one is,” Pastor Matt says with a warm smile. “So, let’s be imperfect together while serving a perfect God.”

~ March 25 ~

Palm Sunday Services at
8:30, 9:45 & 11:00 a.m.

~ March 29 ~

Maundy Thursday Service at 7:00 p.m.

~ March 30 ~

“Portraits in Grace” cantata at 7:00 p.m.

~ April 1 ~

Sunrise Service at 6:45 a.m.
Pancake Breakfast at 7:30 a.m.
Traditional Worship at 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Modern Worship at 9:45 a.m.
Children’s Easter Party & Egg Hunt at 9:40 a.m.
Courtyard Easter Egg Hunt at 12:00 noon

Community United Methodist Church

1072 Old Kempsville Rd
Virginia Beach, VA 23464