A Message from your Associate Pastor

First and foremost - to all our veterans: THANK YOU! Sacrifice: "an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy." Thank you to all veterans who have served and ARE SERVING; have given and ARE GIVING of themselves in so many ways for the sake of freedom and liberty in our nation. Your sacrifice allows for the things we know and love, but also take for granted from sea to shining sea. Today reminds us not to take YOU for granted...

May God bless you and your families! - Brother Greg, all our clergy, and staff of St. James!


Second and, er, fivemost - - (well, what's after FOREmost if not five?)

Friends, I very rarely TGIF "Thank God It's Friday" because I'm more of a "Thank God for EVERY day" kinda guy. But THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY! Can I get an AMEN?! : )

Some would say it's been a long week (although not really because no day, week, or year is noticeable enough to be longer than any other [even though approximately one millionth of a second is added to the earth's rotation cycle each day according to scientists {don't ask me how, but I'm pretty sure it's with miniature robotic nano-fleas using very small microscopes and counting "one Mississippi, two Mississippi" as accurately as one can expect!}.].).

I'm starting with humor - or an attempt to - because y'all: it's been a long week. Or "tough" week. Yes. "Tough" week is what we mean when we say it's been a "long" week, day or year. And as many have said, it's been a tough year+.

Now, of course I'm referring to the political season. Not sure I've heard ANYBODY disagree that our political discourse has elevated to a level that is undesirable. And embarrassing. And scary sometimes. It makes the nation our veterans sacrifice for seem less worthy. And that hurts EVERYone. If "freedom isn't free" then OMGosh this is costing us too much. I know this freedom stuff is difficult. I know politics are messy. Like in sports though, someone always has to lose (an election). As a Christian/pastor/father/husband/one-time-competitive athlete (and this is totally Biblical*) "it's not whether you win or lose, but (say it with me) how you play the game. So whether we win or lose, will people "know we are Christians by our love"? Hmmm...


Post election day, I've seen and read many things from all sides that can be helpful or thought-provoking...

"A mirror is harder to look into than a window."

"What happens in your own house is more important than what happens in the White House."

"We have to agree to disagree in love."

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

...and so many more.

And many from all sides that were not helpful...

...and so many more that I, of course, cannot print here.

My heart breaks for the "better angels of our nature" from non-believers but especially believers. Our call is to - ----- 

OK, wait... let me pause right here for a second. I was going to make a list of unknown size to tell you what you already know about "Letting your conversation/speech be full of grace" Colossians 4:6 and "Let your gentleness be evident to all...do not be anxious about anything" Philippians 4:5-6 ...Etc.etc.

But should I have to tell you what you already know? (The answer to that is yes AND no : )

I saw a lot of pastors - and Christians (as if those designations are different) - get on social media to say what they are supposed to say in times of crisis (see examples above). But the internet is known for not being the best place to have a meaningful conversation. Before you even finish writing the second word in the phrase "I think..." online, you already have a large number of people that disagree with you. So I didn't say much (which, in many cases, is the BEST thing to do {maybe another "Amen"?})

So why didn't I write anything substantive online this week? Because I do that every week.

It's called Sunday.

Worship - on Sunday - is where we go to point to the most beautiful things imaginable! (make a list)

And give thanks.

Sundays are where we go to find there's Good News when we think there's only bad.

And give thanks.

It's where we go to "wrestle with the messy" in ourselves and in others to try to figure out how to "live and move and have our existence." Acts 17:28

And give thanks.

Sundays are where we prepare for the "Tuesdays" of our lives - whether you were hurt by the outcome of the election 4 days ago - or 4 YEARS ago.

And give thanks.

Sundays are where to prepare for difficult election seasons. Or the unkind treatment from others. Or the loss of any kind. Or the really. Long. TOUGH week or year we're having.

And find a way - with others - to give thanks.

I - like all clergy - am called to lead a blue and red congregation
(also green, lavender and teal (if I remember

right from seminary). I preach in front of people that are conservative AND liberal (whatever those are). There are people in the congregation that go to Oaklawn and people that do not. There are sports fans and others who could care less "where the ball goes".  I preach in front of people who liked the book and people who preferred the movie. Some of you are carnivores (meat eaters) and others herbivores (veggies only). Different kinds of people trying to "Acts 17:28" above. And as Christians, we do that "...in Him." In Christ!

Each day this week I didn't "say" much. I just posted a picture of the weather app on my phone and noted the time of the sunrise. I didn't get all preachy every day like I have here and add more "1"s and "0"s to the digital code of the internet. I simply tried to remind you/me/everyone that today is a new day. Christians place their hope in Christ. Nowhere else. "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world." ~ Jesus

Take heart.

I hope to see you Sunday.

Special Words here, Brother Greg

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, November 28, 2016 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Dear St. James family of faith . . .

Preparing my Sunday message for this weekend's traditional services (Saturday at 5:30, Sunday at 8:30 and 10:55), I've been contemplating the joy of the journey.  My message is titled, "Secret Destinations," inspired by Jesus' travels in Luke 10:38-42 and Martin Buber's quote, "All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."

I suppose that's true of all on the "Pokemon Go" journey that seems to have taken the world by I-storm this week!  I hope you're discovering many secret destinations that you had no idea your journey would lead you to experience.

From my a bit older world, I just delighted to listen to Sean Connery recite one of my favorite poems with the music of Vangelis (Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire) in the background, Constantine Cavafy's, "Ithaca," which celebrates the long journey toward wisdom:


As you set out for Ithaka

Hope that your journey is a long one,

Full of adventure, full of discovery . . .


Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

With what pleasure!  What joy!

You enter harbors you're seeing for the first time . . .

Speaking of entering a harbor for the first time . . . our new Associate Pastor, Rev. Matt Carter, will be offering his first sermon this Sunday in The Journey and Vertical Event!   He will be preaching in the traditional services next Saturday-Sunday, July 23-24. 

Hope to see you this weekend!


Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, July 18, 2016 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Friday Greetings, St. James!   

This Sunday is Pentecost, so I know our Sanctuary, Worship Center, and Classroom/Fellowship spaces will glow with the red fire of the Holy Spirit.  Wear red and join the glow of a church alive and on fire for Christ!    

This weekend I will be offering the message in our Saturday evening service and in both Sunday sanctuary services, finishing a short three sermon series I've called "Famous Prayers."  We've visited St. Augustine and Henri Nouwen, and this weekend come to a beautiful prayer by Thomas Merton with a message titled, "I Have No Idea."    

Rev. Greg Schick will be preaching in the Journey and Vertical Event, continuing his series which is focusing on the theme of the United Methodist General Conference being held this week in Portland, Oregon:  "Therefore, Go . . ."   Pentecost, in a very real way, 50 days after Easter, was the launching of the church into the world.  The Gathered Church became the Going Church when the Holy Spirit came upon it and empowered it.  

We Gather, so that we might Go forth in the name of Christ and in the power of the Spirit.   Check out this new Welcome Video we shot for our website.  It's all about a church Gathering . . . to Go!  

Happy Pentecost!   Sieg

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Friday, May 13, 2016 | 0 comments

Spiritual Revival

I am writing this week's pastor's note in place of Rev. Johnson, as he and Sherry are enjoying a much deserved vacation in celebration of Sieg's birthday this past Monday. (and you thought the church was closed for MLK Day).  

 As most of you know Bishop Mueller has challenged the churches of the Arkansas Conference to a spiritual revival.  It is a program deeply rooted in prayer that seeks to draw individuals and congregations into a deeper relationship with God.   God's Love will be the theme of a three week sermon series starting this Sunday, January 24th.  

This theme will be presented in all worship services.  Through these worship services we will hear the stories of God's grace as experienced through God's unconditional, transformational and invitational love. 

 Through these sermons and worship services, we will experience the full breadth and depth of spiritual revival.  This series will also encourage and help guide us in seriously seeking spiritual revival in our own lives.  

 I hope that you will join Rev. Schick (in contemporary worship) and myself (in sanctuary worship) this weekend as we explore what it truly means to be loved unconditionally by God.   Remember to invite someone to church with you this weekend.    

 Bro. Randy  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Friday, January 29, 2016 | 0 comments

Thanksgiving Greetings!

Thanksgiving greetings to our St. James faith family!   I hope this e-pistle finds you, in the aftermath of Thanksgiving, deliciously filled!  I don't mean filled merely with turkey and dressing, but with gratitude for the many recognized (and often, unrecognized) blessings you have received. Chiefest among those blessings, surely, is the experience of God's love and redemption through Jesus Christ.     

Arriving at St. James this weekend you will immediately recognize a difference, as our Welcome and Worship spaces have been prepared for the Advent season with the hanging of the greens.    

This Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent, and I'm excited to begin a five sermon series in the sanctuary that will take us all the way to Christmas Eve.  I've titled the series, "The Fifth Perspective," and I hope you'll take just a moment to click on the brief video introduction to the series' opening sermon.      

Those worshiping in the Journey and Vertical Event will also enjoy an Advent series titled "Can't See the Forest for the Trees?"  This series will help us find Jesus midst all the clutter of Christmas.  Rev. Randy Ludwig will launch the series this weekend in our Saturday evening service and in the Worship Center on Sunday.  Rev. Greg Schick will take it from there through the rest of Advent.    May your experience of Advent prepare your hearts to welcome the coming Messiah.       

God's peace and blessing,   Sieg

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Tuesday, December 1, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor Search for Sanctuary

Friday greetings, St. James!  

 It's been a remarkable week at St. James.  On Sunday Rev. Schick and I began sermon series that are timely and relevant.  Greg continues his series, "Fall Risk," this weekend in our Saturday evening service (5:30) and Sunday in the Journey (9:30) and Vertical Event (10:55).  

I will continue my series "Search for Sanctuary" on Sunday in both traditional worship venues (8:30 and 10:55).    As the refugee crisis deepens daily in the Middle East/Europe, this timely theme offers us an opportunity to explore the Christian response to such massive displacements of peoples.  I was caught by surprise this week by the extraordinary number of responses to my first message in the series through e-mail and social media, some sharing stories from their own lives when they and their families were refugees on a "Search for Sanctuary."  I will share one of those stories, emerging from World War 2, this weekend.   

 While on the subject of responses by e-mail and social media to church news, the enthusiastic response of so many to our announcing on Tuesday the hiring of Craig Williams as our Associate Director of Youth Ministries was incredible!  There's palpable excitement running through our congregation in hearing this news, and I'm happy to be counted among the excited.  Knowing Craig as well as we do through his leading of the Youth Praise Band and his current worship leadership role in our Journey and Vertical Event services, I know Craig will be an amazing leader for our Middle School youth.  When you see Craig, share your excitement for his ministry at St. James!  



Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, September 21, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

It was an unusual hospital visit -- clusters of doctors, nurses, staff, and visitors crowding around the televisions in the Baptist Hospital waiting areas.  It was my last year as pastor of First United Methodist Church of Fordyce, and September 11, 2001 found me driving to Baptist in Little Rock to visit Ms. Garlington.  Knowing I rarely have a radio playing in the car when I drive, Sherry called me right around Sheridan with the news of a plane flying into the World Trade Center, a call followed by another within minutes, news of a second plane.  By the time I arrived at Baptist, everything was different.    


Everything remains different.  Which is why we all have our own stories of what we were doing 14 years ago today.  It's a moment that is static, introducing a new dimension of fear and uncertainty into our daily lives, giving rise to a paramount safety consciousness in a constant Search for a Sanctuary of security.  

 "Search for Sanctuary" is my title for the series I launch this Sunday, a three part sermon series based on Romans 8 and dually inspired by something new and something old -- First, by AMC's current hit television series, The Walking Dead; and Second, by John Bunyan's 17th century allegory of the Christian journey, The Pilgrim's Progress.  

 Join us as we explore the very human drama of our pilgrim journey, traveling in clusters of community that often distrust each other, recognizing danger -- refugees having taken to the road in time of crisis, looking for the gates that will open to them and the walls that will protect them.    What gates will open to us when we need someone to welcome us?  

Within what walls will we sleep safely when we feel most vulnerable?   

 Join us this week in worship and study and fellowship and mission!   Blessings, Sieg

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, September 14, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Pastor of Contemporary Worship

Sometimes from my morning television I hear a host from one of the news shows say "What you need to know before you go". My version of that is as follows!    

This Sunday, Brother Sieg and I are playing the ole "switcharooo"! He'll be preaching in the worship center and I'll be in the sanctuary! The timing has worked out wonderfully because of a sermon series I've been exploring this summer that is drawing to its conclusion with a long look at a songwriter who appears quite a bit in our United Methodist Hymnal! (I don't want to give anything away here but suffice it to say there will be some extra singing than you're used to if your regular worshiping space is the sanctuary!) Sieg is excited to get to use some extra visuals he's been preparing for our contemporary worship folks. I just love the fact that we can share each other's toys and play well together in the sandbox!   

The Guatemala Mission Team will be hosting a Paint Party Friday August 28 and you are invited! It will be a fun evening of fellowship as each participant learns how to make something come alive on a blank canvas! Our own Denise Luft will be guiding us step by step through the process! $25 tickets cover all supplies, some appetizers and beverages! Please join us if you never have - it's a lot of fun! We are totally ok with you bringing a friend or two. We'll begin at 7pm! You can buy tickets from our website OR from any team member. All of the proceeds help us cover the cost of medicines we use in our medical/dental clinic as well as the translators. If you're unable to make it then we'll appreciate your support as well!  

 And from Guatemala to Little Rock: The Pack Shack Party! - Later that same weekend, Sunday the 30th, St. James will do something we have never attempted before. We'll work together to pack 50,000 meals to be distributed here in town to the Salvation Army and the Compassion Center! This is an ambitious number that can only be achieved with your participation. We'll have 3 "shifts" available for you to put your beliefs to work at either 8:30am, 9:30am, or 10:30am. We would like each worshiper that day to either come an hour early or stay an hour later to help pack these meals into their packaging. So for example: If you worship at 8:30am in the sanctuary and then attend Sunday School...stay for the 10:30am shift for an hour and help us finish. If you attend the Journey worship hour then you could either come at 8:30am before worship begins or stay and help after worship ends at 10:30am (extra Jesus points will be given to those who work an early shift, then come back and see where we are at 10:30am and decide to stay for hour-of-service-#2! This is a great way for us to imitate Christ as the entire Body of Christ - His Church!   

That's just SOME of what you need to know before you go! Rev. Greg Schick!

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, August 24, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Greetings St. James family and friends!   

The Arkansas Annual Conference met this week in Hot Springs.  It is always a joy for clergy to re-unite each year with brothers and sisters serving appointments throughout the state as we come together in Holy Conferencing and to conduct the business of the church.  And it is a joy also to see so many our United Methodist laity from around the state, delegates from their local church and leaders in our denomination.   It was a special joy this year to have our own St. James Chancel Choir lead in worship for our annual Ordination Service on Tuesday night.  Special thanks to our choir for making the trip and bringing such inspiration and blessing to that important service.  

I am so blessed to begin next Sunday my 5th year as your Senior Pastor, my appointment to St. James fixed by Bishop Mueller at Wednesday morning's reading of the appointments.  I am so blessed to work alongside an amazing clergy team.  While we will miss Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford, who has been appointed to the Conference Office as Assistant Director of Clergy Development (and who will preach his last sermon at St. James on Sunday, June 28), we celebrate the re-appointment of Rev. Greg Schick for his 12th appointment year at St. James, Rev. Claire Caldwell who begins her second year, and Rev. Randy Ludwig, newly appointed to St. James and who will soon bring such gifts and graces that will become a blessing to our congregation.  We also welcome Deacon Martha Taylor to St. James in her first year at St. James as a secondary appointment (Martha serves at the Conference Office in her primary appointment).   

As I am writing this Friday note the congregation, our Bishop just sent out a call to prayer in the wake of the killings of nine people attending a bible study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.    Let us join in prayer for the families and friends, the congregation and city, and for our entire nation in the wake of such horror brought about through racism.  As Bishop Mueller writes in his call to prayer, "May God's Will finally be as real on earth as it is in heaven."   

 Grace and peace in Christ,  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, June 22, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from the Senior Pastor

Easter greetings, St. James!   

As we continue our journey through the Great Fifty Days of Easter, may the Risen Christ walk with us "On the Road," leading us to become disciples who make disciples for the transformation of the world.   

"On the Road" (The post-resurrection narratives of Luke 24), is the title of a brief two-sermon sanctuary series I will begin this week, as we walk with the disciples "On the Road" to Emmaus.  Rev. Greg Schick is leading this Sunday in the Journey and VE, continuing his post-Easter sermon series, "The Dash."    Our Saturday evening worship is in for a very special treat this week as St. James welcomes the Manchester UMC choir from the St. Louis area.  Sixty members of the church's 155 voice choir will be with us as a part of a regional tour.  Join us at 5:30 for a wonderful evening of praise and worship!     

And let me not forget to mention THIS Sunday evening's "Spring Sing and Ring," a performance by the St. James Children's Choirs. 

 Come out and join us at 5:00 THIS Sunday for a joyful evening of praise and fun as we support our children's choirs.   

Have a blessed Friday, and I hope to see you in multiple worship events this weekend!    Sieg

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Tuesday, April 21, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Spring Break and Lenten Greetings, St. James! 

With Palm Sunday we enter the most sacred week of our Christian calendar - Holy Week.  We will enter the Gates of Jerusalem this Sunday in a spirit of celebration, our children leading the procession with palms to remember Jesus' triumphant entrance into the city.  But the exuberance of Palm Sunday will wither quickly throughout the week -- gathering on Maundy Thursday to remember the Last Supper in the Upper Room and Judas' betrayal in Gethsemane, followed by the darkening of our Good Friday services as we walk the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) with Jesus to Calvary's cross.    

Then, on Easter Sunday, we will celebrate Jesus' victory over the grave with great joy.  With Easter, our Lenten walk of 40 days will have ended.    

 I hope you've enjoyed the Dennis-in-the-Corner Lenten series of messages in the sanctuary and through social media, and that they have helped you experience a meaningful Lent.  Perhaps, like the Dennis-in-the-Corner frame here, you will be able to say of Lent 2015 as Dennis says here of his childhood, "When I look back on (Lent 2015), I'm sure I'll remember this corner."    

Hope to see you in one of our five worship services this weekend and don't forget to check out our Holy Week schedule of events and services!       


Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, March 30, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Greetings, St. James!   


It's been a crazy week with the ice, but we were thawed enough by Wednesday to open and have two wonderful Ash Wednesday services.  Dr. Bradford brought the word of God with power and the crowds were large in both services as so many traded Ice for Ash.   

As we lean into Lent, I hope your own Lenten disciplines will include a renewed focus of worship, bible study, and prayer.  Our worship in all venues will be focused on the message of Lent, and I'm excited to begin my Dennis in the Corner series in the sanctuary this Sunday.       

I've also written and will offer on Tuesdays in Lent, my eighth Pastor's Study Series since coming to St. James, "O, Ye Gates! (The Gates of Jerusalem)."   Our lives bring us often to significant "gates" of change, and every culture develops ceremonies to mark the most significant changes, our "Rites of Passage."    

Using the famed Gates of Jerusalem as metaphors we will explore how ritual and ceremony help us navigate the gates we pass through on our Journey from Here to There.     

 "O Ye Gates!" will be offered in the Worship Center in 5 sessions beginning February 24 and running through March 24.  Each session is offered twice, at 2:00 and 6:30.  No registration is required, so simply come and join us for "O Ye Gates!"    

 May your Lenten walk be blessed,  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Friday, February 20, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Greetings, St. James!  

I want in my Friday greetings this week to include (below) a message from our Finance Office, concerning the 2014 Contributions statements which were mailed out recently.   

Because of your generosity, St. James was able to finish 2014 with Annual Operating Fund income over actual expenses of more than $60,000!  This level of giving, concurrent with our congregation's faithful fulfillment of capital fund pledges for our current building project, is amazing, allowing us faithfully to fulfill our mission and ministry.  Thank you!     

And thank you for your continued faithful and generous giving in 2015.  Now take a moment to read a special message from our Finance Office . . .     Hope to see you this Sunday!   


St. James 2014 Record of Contributions statements were mailed at mid-month; you should have received yours sometime in the last weeks of January.  If you didn't, please contact the Finance Office so we can send you a new one. Also,before you put it in your tax file, please open the envelope and do 2 things -             

Review your record of contributions - our finance staff works diligently to ensure your gifts are recorded properly, but we are all human.  

Please make sure we have a record of all of your gifts to St. James and they are recorded as you intended. Read and enjoy the 2014 Year End Giving brochure - our finance and communications staff has provided a brief summary of our gifts to God in 2014 and a look back at how we at St. James have used those gifts to know, love and serve God. 

 St. James Finance Office is open Monday through Friday to assist you if you have any questions.  You can reach us at 217-6713, 217-6714, or giving@stjames-umc.org.  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Greetings, St. James!  

A bit of switch in store this weekend as I will offer the message in our contemporary worship venues (The Journey and Vertical Event) and Rev. Claire Caldwell will offer the message in all our sanctuary services, Saturday evening and Sunday at 8:30 and 10:55.   

I wonder if virtually every pulpit in America will, on this Super Bowl Sunday, refer to slightly-deflated footballs in the sermon?  

I know I am, and Claire is, also.   I've found that Dr. Blake can do about anything data-wise, so I wonder if he might conduct some scientific research and offer a final tally on the homiletical "gift" which Deflate-gate has bequeathed to preachers as a way to enliven Super Bowl Sunday worship by "catching the moment"? Such an image gets our creative juices flowing!    

 Hope to see you this Sunday!    


Posted by Debbie Kelly at Wednesday, February 4, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from Your Senior Pastor

Greetings, St. James' family!   

Other than a TSA agent searching you as you boarded a plane, have you ever met someone who seemed, at a glance, to know you more deeply than you were comfortable with allowing them to know you?  How could they, merely looking into your eyes, detect in you the very things - insecurities, fears, doubts, failings and, yes, even sins -- you may rather have remained cloaked to all peering eyes?      

That's how Nathaniel must have felt when Jesus, at their very first meeting, seemed to search him through and through.  Nathaniel, feeling searched, said, "Where did you get to know me?" (John 1:43-50).  

If Epiphany (this Sunday is the 2nd Sunday after the Epiphany) reminds us of the light that is shining, this week's scriptures remind us that God turns that light to shine upon each of us.  "O Lord, you have searched me, and known me . .  you hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me!" (Psalm 139:1, 5).    

Is it possible that through God's knowing of us -- the Word of God shining on us -- we can come to know ourselves?  It can be an uncomfortable theme for this Epiphany weekend, but I hope you'll join us as we explore it.     

It's also Martin Luther King weekend, and what was his period in American history and the Civil Rights Movement, but a shining of the light upon injustice.  As uncomfortable as that shining light may have been, it made a difference, making ours a better country.    

"Let your light shine, O Lord!"  I hope you'll join us this weekend at one of our five worship services . . .  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Tuesday, January 20, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Happy New Year!   As we step across the threshold into 2015, I want to wish a Happy New Year to each one of our St. James family and friends.  I'm excited as we look to this New Year and see a promising horizon for the mission and ministries of St. James!      

As we say goodbye to 2014, it's a joy to look back upon the life of a church Knowing, Loving, and Serving God through our many members who joyfully offer their Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service, and Witness.     

2014 finished with beautiful Christmas Eve services at St. James attended by over 2000.  Our Director of Evangelism, Marcia Dunbar, has put together a beautiful video of the day which I've attached here.  As you view it, let me say as your Senior Pastor how very blessed I am for the opportunity to lead such "a vibrant, growing church, changing lives and reshaping futures for Jesus Christ."      

May the light of God's presence enliven your endeavors in 2015 and give you peace,  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, January 5, 2015 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Christmas greetings!  

Though you are receiving this e-mail on the day after Christmas, I am writing it on Tuesday (taking a break from preparing my Christmas Eve message, which I will have the joy of offering in 4 of our 5 Christmas Eve services tomorrow). By the time you read this, Advent will have come to a close, and we will have entered the Joy and Wonder of Christmas. May these "Twelve Days of Christmas" (December 25 - January 6) be filled with wonder for you and yours as we greet a New Year!  

It's hard to believe that THIS Sunday, the 28th, is the LAST Sunday of 2014! What a year of blessing for St. James, as we continue to be a "vibrant and growing church, changing lives and re-shaping futures for Jesus Christ!'   

St. James IS MAKING A DIFFERENCE! As a part of the St. James faith family, I believe YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE! Together, as we fulfill our vow to support St. James with our Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service, and Witness - we are impacting our church, our community, and our world. Thank you for your commitment to the mission and ministry of St. James that is transforming lives both within these walls and far beyond.   

Several have asked me in these last weeks about our financial status as we come to the end of the year. As we finalize 2014, I invite you to give a second-mile Christmas gift to your church. I believe we have the ability to continue the trend of recent years, starting the New Year in a healthy financial position. But, as always in December, we have a bit of a stretch to get there!     

I do know this -- YOUR year-end gift WILL make a difference! And remember we have only until Wednesday, New Year's Eve, to get those gifts to the church office for inclusion in our 2014 records.   

 Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Tuesday, December 30, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Thanksgiving greetings, St. James!   

I'm pushing up my usual Friday e-mail to wish you all a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.  Many of you will be gathering with loved ones and joyously offering thanks to God for abundant blessings.  May your joy be full and overflowing tomorrow and throughout the holidays! 

Let's remember that there will be others for whom this festive season will not be experienced with the joy of abundance, nor surrounded by family and friends.  Thanks to all who reach out to these homeless and hungry, both at Thanksgiving and throughout the year, to make a difference in lives that are hurting.  

This season of thanksgiving can also be a time of sorrow for those who are grieving the recent loss of a loved one.  St. James' "Service Light and Hope" will be in our sanctuary this Sunday, November 30, at 2:00 p.m.  All are invited, of course, but the service will especially be a source of comfort and peace to those who are experiencing Thanksgiving/Christmas for the first time without their loved one.  Greg and Marcia will be singing, I will offer a message titled, "We Catch Our Breath . . .", and special thanks to Jenny Smith, our Director of Congregational Care, who plans and leads the service each year during Advent.  

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, and we will be lighting the first candle of the Advent wreath in our weekend worship services.  Join us as we begin our wait for the coming of the Christ child in Bethlehem on Christmas Day.  

May you have a Happy Thanksgiving and Blessed Advent!  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, December 1, 2014 | 0 comments

Pastor's Note

Friday greetings to our St. James family! 

Last night was an amazing annual Church Conference meeting.   Led by our District Superintendent Richard Lancaster, our Church Council Chair Don Riggin, and our Senior Pastor Siegfried Johnson, we had the opportunity as a congregation during this meeting to share our vision for the future.  God is blessing our community and world through the people of St. James, and we are ready as God's people to be witnesses for Jesus Christ! 

One of the highlights of the 2014 Church Conference was voting on candidates on the pathway toward ordained and licensed ministry. Our Evangelism Director, Marcia Dunbar, was recommended as a candidate for the Order of Deacon, and Craig Williams, our Contemporary Worship Leader, was recommended for the Licensed Local Pastor track.  They each have much work and discernment ahead, and so last night we laid hands and prayed over both of them. 

We also looked back over the year: the disciples made, the lives changed, the futures reshaped, and the hearts transformed!  We are HAPPY to be disciples of Jesus, making even more disciples. Watch the video and see how happy this last year has been:  


Peace, Grace, and Happiness in the name of Christ,
Rev. Blake 

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, November 17, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Friday greetings to our St. James family and friends!   

I love early November, the color of the trees and the falling of the leaves.  Even the rainy days earlier this week seemed absolutely perfect!   And . . . no more political ads!   

I'm so excited as I write to you today, knowing that we are on the verge of a very special weekend at St. James as we host Bishop Thomas Bickerton (Western Pennsylvania Conference) as our inaugural speaker for the Fiser-Christie Endowed Mission Lecture Series.   

I heard Bishop Bickerton speak at our Arkansas Annual Conference in Little Rock a few summers ago and, like everyone in attendance, was moved by his words.  You will be, as well, I believe, as Bishop Bickerton, the lead spokesperson for the United Methodist Global Health Initiative, shares with us the lifesaving opportunity in Imagine No Malaria.    

Join us for worship this Sunday morning, as Bishop Bickerton will be preaching in all our services.    

Sunday evening will be a powerful Imagine No Malaria Youth Rally, with youth from around central Arkansas joining our own youth.     

Monday from 11:30 - 1:00 Bishop Bickerton will lead in Lunch and Learn.   

And we will wrap up the Fiser-Christie Mission Lecture Series with a Monday evening presentation in the Worship Center at 6:00.   

I can hear you saying, "What can I do? "  I'm glad you asked!  First, PRAY for the Fiser-Christie series, and for Bishop Bickerton as he prepares to speak at each gathering.  Second, commit to being PRESENT for worship, and for a special event or two.  Third, SHARE the opportunity with a friend.  And last but not least, pray about how you might GIVE.    

Friends, every $10 will SAVE A LIFE!   We can, with the 2014 Fiser-Christie Endowed Mission Lectures, make a difference in the world!  

Grace and peace,  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, November 10, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Friday (All Hallow's Eve) greetings to our St. James family!  

I hope you all have a wonderful time this evening with your Fall and Halloween Festivities.  Last Sunday evening was great fun as some 600 participated in our Fall Carnival.  Special thanks to our amazing youth for leading in this event and to all who came and participated in the fun.   

This Sunday is All Saints' Sunday, an opportunity to celebrate the "Church Militant and the Church Triumphant."  In each service the names of our St. James UMC members who passed away since last All Saints' Sunday will be read, their memory cherished by friends and loved ones, and their part in building the legacy of St. James United Methodist Church honored.   This week is a time to remember that the church, from generation to generation, continues to build upon the foundation laid by those who came before us.    

Speaking of building on those who came before us . . .  as St. James' sixth senior pastor, I am honored and humbled to know and love as colleagues four of our congregation's former senior pastors - Dr. John Miles, Dr. Jack Wilson, Dr. Guy Whitney, and Rev. Fred Haustein.  Only Dr. Joe Phillips, St. James' first pastor, is deceased among this group blessed to serve St. James as Senior Pastor, and I never had an opportunity to know him.    

Most are aware that portraits of all of St. James' senior pastors are placed in the sanctuary hallway.  I am honored that my own portrait, the work of artist Glenn Beasley and paid for through a private donor, is being placed this week alongside those who have served St. James as Senior Pastor.  The timing of the portrait's completion and display is a good "All Saints" reminder for me that (in the words of the hymn, "What Gift Can We Bring?") we must:   

Give thanks for the past, for those who had vision, 
Who planted and watered so dreams could come true. 
Give thanks for the now, for study, for worship, 
 For mission that bids us turn prayer into deed.    

Give thanks for tomorrow, full of surprises, 
For knowing whatever tomorrow may bring. 
The Word is our promise always, forever; 
We rest in God's keeping and live in God's love.   

 Grace and peace,  Sieg  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, November 3, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Executive Pastor

This Sunday we welcome Rev. Siegfried Johnson back into the sanctuary pulpit (and back into the country after following the footsteps of St. Paul) as we conclude our "round robin" sermon series focused on discipleship and stewardship.  In our contemporary services, St. James is pleased to welcome the Rev. Dr. Clif Christopher to our worship center.  Clif, a graduate of Hendrix College and Emory University and an ordained Elder in the Arkansas Conference, and his wife Melanie (one of our Chancel Choir members) are part of our St. James family.   Clif has published several books through Abingdon Press, including Not Your Parents' Offering Plate and The Church Money Manual.  Craig Williams, our gifted and spirit-filled contemporary worship leader, will be preaching in our Saturday evening Cokesbury Worship Service.  This weekend will certainly be a celebration of God's Word!   

By now you will have received our church's "Big Church, Big Heart" brochure, providing a glimpse of how your contributions to St. James are allocated in Ministry and Mission.  An Estimate of Giving Card was mailed this week, along with a giving guide that explains the process of making a 2015 financial commitment. As we approach Stewardship Sunday on October 26, I encourage you to pray about God's leading as you contemplate the level of your giving to your church.  St. James seeks to be a vibrant, growing church that is changing lives and reshaping futures for Jesus Christ.    

Marcia Dunbar, our  Director of Evangelism, recently put together a heartwarming video that reminds us how our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness matter to God and fulfills our mission as the people of St. James:   

Everything we do matters.  
Good Day St. James,   

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, October 20, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Friday Greetings to our St. James family and friends!   

Can you believe summer is hastening to an end already?   School bells will be ringing soon! Over the next couple of Sundays St. James will be focused on school - Sunday School - in one way or another, with teacher gatherings and promotion on the immediate horizon. So I thought I would focus my sermon this weekend on Sunday School.  This image is the interior of St. Mary de Crypt Church in Gloucester, England.  I had the privilege only three Sundays ago to preach from the very pulpit (left in the photo) in which the famous early Methodist preacher George Whitefield preached his first sermon (this was his home church where he was baptized) on June 27, 1736.    

This church is famous for another reason, though.  It was here that the Sunday School movement began, the inspiration of a lay person in the church, newspaper publisher and philanthropist Robert Raikes.  It was inspiring to visit the room where he held the first Sunday School for boys in July 1780.  It was a day when education was only available to the very wealthy.  The Sunday School movement helped move an entire culture toward free public education.   Robert Raikes had seen a problem, a gap, and did something about it.   

May the Spirit that prompted Robert Raikes be always with us, having eyes to see, not just how things are today, but what they might become tomorrow if we will walk as disciples of Christ.    

"Lord, give us eyes, today, to see the gaps in what is, to work for justice and for the good of all."   

 Blessings, Sieg

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, August 11, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Executive Pastor

Thanks to all the Vacation Bible School Servant Volunteers
and Students for helping with almost 450 children this  year!    

Our 2014 Vacation Bible School was a success!!!  I especially thank our co-directors Kate Bitely, Erin Dees, and Amy Lewis for their leadership, teaming up with Sean Dunbar, our Director of Children's Ministries, to lead such a dedicated crew of servant disciples. We topped last year's attendance, and I thank our amazing servant volunteers and staff that made it possible to touch the lives of hundreds of children with the love of Jesus Christ.   Through your gifts, your service, your prayers, and your presence (often in silly hats), everyone in the congregation shared in this ministry in some way.  Over the last few weeks, the pastors have challenged you all to pray daily for our VBS and its students, and your prayers made a difference!  

I invite you to watch the video from our website to see some of the adventures our youngest disciples experienced this week.   I also invite you to our weekend worship services.  Rev. Greg will begin a new summer series this week in our Worship Center.  Rev. Sieg Johnson, back from a historical pilgrimage to John Wesley's England to learn more about the birth of Methodism, will jump right back into his series on the power of stories to shape our souls. This Sunday will be amazing!   

Blessings in Christ this wonderful day,  
 Rev. Blake Bradford

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, July 28, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

4th of July, Freedom greetings to our St. James family!   

As I write this on July 3 I just came back to the office after a wonderful breakfast at the Joseph Pfeifer Kiwanis camp west of Little Rock.  The camp has a long and proud history, today its summer programs serving underprivileged, at-risk kids ages 9 - 14.  Several Kiwanis and guest supporters of the camp gathered this morning (many from St. James), and it was a special moment for us, prior to breakfast, as we participated in the raising of the flag ceremony led by the campers, and all reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with hand over heart.   

 Looking up at the raised flag, and across at the scores of kids in the camp who had marched into a semi-circle around the flagpole, prompted a special moment of gratitude for our nation and its tradition of lifting others up.  What a beautiful day in Arkansas is this July 3rd, and what a wonderful opportunity it was to make my July 4th all the more meaningful, poised to cross the threshold into another year of our nation's history.   

What ways will you celebrate July 4th?  I hope you will be blessed to do so in various arenas of your living - family and friends, church and faith, civic clubs and community - as we join hands and voices in thanks to God for the blessings which are ours in this great land, the United States of America!   

 Happy July 4th!   

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Tuesday, July 8, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Hey St. James, Friday greetings!  

Last week at this time your clergy and lay representatives were in Rogers in the midst of the Arkansas Annual Conference.  Very unusual for Annual Conference to extend through Sunday, but it did this year and I know our congregation was blessed by Rev. DePue (Tracy's dad) in our sanctuary services and by Craig Williams in the Worship Center.    

It will be wonderful to be back at St. James this Sunday, a Sunday that marks the beginning of my 4th year as your Senior Pastor.  I feel immensely blessed for the opportunity to lead such a vibrant congregation with so much potential to make a difference in our community and world.   

It is a time of transition for many Methodist clergy in Arkansas and I hope you'll drop by the Welcome Center from 10:30 to 10:55 for a Farewell Reception for Rev. Clark Atkins and Rev. Sonna Key, who will begin their new appointments next week.  A basket will be there for your cards and well wishes.   

Remember, too, that the Arkansas Conference Youth Choir will be at St. James this Sunday at 7:00 p.m., a great opportunity to worship with music, movement, reflection, and fun, as the Conference Youth Choir joins St. James on their Choir Tour, Facing Giants.  

Hope to see you in worship this Sunday!  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, June 30, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your St. James Pastors


Hello St. James Family,   As you receive this Friday Pastor's Note, our clergy and our lay delegates are in Rogers at the annual meeting of the Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  "The Way Forward: Live for God, Love as Christ, Lead with Excellence" is theme for this year's conference. The ordination service, in which Rev. Clark Atkins will be commissioned as a provisional elder, will be live streamed from Rogers Convention Center at 1:00 pm on Sunday afternoon.  Conferencing has been a Methodist Tradition since the days of John Wesley in the 1700's, and this year, there is a special focus on leadership and evangelism.   

Meanwhile, this weekend in Little Rock, St. James will have special guest preachers in our Worship Services.  See below for more information from Tracy DePue and Rev. Greg Schick about worship this weekend.    

Please include our Bishop, conference leadership, and the United Methodists of Arkansas in your prayers this weekend, as we work together to fulfill the Arkansas Conference mission of  "Creating vital congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world."  

Blake Executive Pastor           

Guest Preacher for The Journey and Vertical Even

Craig Williams has been leading contemporary worship at St. James for a year now - and what a year it has been!  Craig's many gifts in singing, playing, and leading the worship band are evident any time you are in the room with him.  Craig was born and raised in Southeast Texas and graduated from Silsbee High School in 1985 and moved to Arkansas, where he attended the University of Central Arkansas as a Kinesiology Major with a minor in Music Performance.  Craig "caught the music bug" at 8 years old!  He started playing for a small church choir at age 12.  Craig continued to play for various churches in different denominations through high school and college.  After graduating from college, he got his first official job as a worship leader at Faith Temple Baptist Church in Little Rock.  Craig became a member of the United Methodist Church in 2008 with the launch of Canvas Community downtown.  Right now Craig is in the discerning process within the United Methodist Church considering ministry.      

In addition to serving the church, Craig is a personal fitness trainer.  For the past 6 years, he has enjoyed helping others realize their personal wellness potential.  Craig believes in developing both the spiritual and physical aspect of a person. 

Guest Preacher for the 5:30 Saturday, 8:30/10:55 Traditional Sunday Services      
Rev. Dale DePue was born in Oklahoma City in 1935.  He graduated from Northeast Jr. and Sr. High School in 1953. Rev. DePue attended the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship and graduated with a degree in Petroleum Engineering.  Dale was a member of the University of Oklahoma National Championship teams in 1955 and 1956, never losing a game in college and establishing the longest winning streak in college football with 47 straight victories.  Rev. DePue worked for Continental Oil Company for 12 years before responding to the call of God to become a minister.  He entered Louisville Presbyterian Seminary and received his Masters of Divinity Degree in Theology in 1972. Rev. DePue has served Presbyterian churches in Oklahoma and Texas. During his ministry, he established the Pan American Medical Mission Foundation, Inc. which built a medical clinic in the village of San Cosme, located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and cooperated with the local villagers in building a worship facility.  He retired from full-time ministry in 2000 but has continued to serve at his home church in Edmond, OK several times over the past 14 years.  Following his retirement, he also served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives for one term.       

Dale and Barbara were married for 55 years before her death in 2011. They have two daughters, Pam Lovelady and Tracy DePue, our Director of Music, Worship & the Arts here at St. James.  Dale recently married his wife, Crystal and they reside in Edmond, OK.    

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, June 23, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Pastors

Friday greetings to the St. James faith family!  

This Sunday offers a virtual mosaic of possible themes.  Of course, it's Father's Day, a wonderful time to celebrate the Christian family by worshiping together.    

But there's more.  Liturgically speaking, the First Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday.  Now that the Holy Spirit has descended with power on the church at Pentecost, the entire Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - have been presented in the redemptive drama.     

There's yet more.  Denominationally speaking, it is Peace with Justice Sunday, a grand opportunity to address themes of peace and justice as the Holy Spirit moves within our world.   

Not yet finished!  There's another piece to this mosaic.  Congregationally speaking, this will be a week to hear one of our Associate Pastors in the pulpit, Rev. Clark Atkins, who will be leaving St. James after Annual Conference, having been appointed to First United Methodist Church in Harrisburg.   

Clark will be in the pulpit this weekend in all services except Vertical Event (where I look forward to be preaching this Sunday) and will offer a Love Letter to St. James.  Our congregation has had the privilege of nurturing Clark in ministry and watching him grow to this point of receiving his first full-time appointment.  Come hear Clark this Sunday!    

Oh, and keep reading, as Clark's message below will help you understand how he conceived and wrote this Sunday's special message to St. James.   

*(Also remember that June 29 we  will have a reception in the Welcome Center for both Rev. Clark Atkins and Rev. Sonna Key, who has been appointed to Hunter Memorial UMC right here in Little Rock).       

For some the words "love letter" will invoke images of correspondences between persons with a deep and sometimes complicated love.  In the pre-Email/Internet Age it was an intensely personal form of communication and I was reminded of this recently as I was packing up my house to move and came across some of the letters written between my wife and I during our summers apart while in college.   

For others, perhaps the younger among us, a love letter may seem like a foreign concept or antiquated means of communication, but I tell you there is something special about putting pen to paper and writing out one's feelings without use of emoticons or texting short cuts.  Often it becomes a therapeutic release of emotions.   

So, I have penned a love letter to a community which I have a deep love and affection for.  That community is St. James.  The idea to write a love letter to the community of St. James is inspired by another love letter written nearly two thousand years ago-Paul's Letter to the Philippians.   

This letter is different from all the rest of the Apostle Paul's letters.  Some of Paul's letters were rife with admonitions towards the churches he was writing.  In the case of Paul's Letter to the Philippians though, we have a much different tone.  Rather than a letter full of admonitions, what we have is a deeply heartfelt letter to a people Paul had great affection for.   

Thus, Paul spends much of his time delighting in the work of the church, providing encouragement to its people, and challenging them to go even deeper and work even harder for the glory of God and in service to Christ.  So, this weekend I seek to do likewise.  Please join me on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in the Sanctuary or Sunday at 8:30, 9:30 Journey Service, or 10:55 Traditional Service where I share "A Love Letter to St. James."   

<><    Clark        

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, June 16, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from Your Senior Pastor

 D-Day at Seventy

This Sunday is Pentecost, which evokes thoughts of the Number Fifty.  Fifty days after the Easter resurrection, the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the church with power, freeing them from the confines of Jerusalem to emerge into the world, into "Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth," just as Jesus had told his disciples before he ascended into heaven.    

But today, June 6, we who live free are thinking of a different Number . . . Seventy.  Seventy years ago today, June 6, 1944, was D-Day, Operation Overlord descending upon the beaches of Normandy with power, freeing a continent from the grip of evil.    

Today let us honor the courage and valor of those who stormed those beaches, remembering with quiet reverence the horror of their intense suffering and sacrifice.  And let us cherish their victory, and the freedom that gradually spread through Europe.    

And let us be thankful, in this 70th year, for the Greatest Generation.      

See you on Pentecost Sunday!  And remember if you are out of town that you can join the life streaming of our worship at our website, www.stjames-umc.org     


Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, June 9, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Jesus Is Gone   

Today (I'm writing this message on Thursday) is Ascension Day, 40 days after the resurrection, a period of time during which Jesus "presented himself alive to them . . . appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).     

This is that day, forty days after Easter.  In some church liturgical traditions, Ascension Thursday worship includes a ritual extinguishing of the Christ Candle, which has been lit since Easter.  The extinguishing of the candle signals what the disciples experienced, that Jesus is gone.  That is, his bodily presence is gone.  A new story is about to begin.    

The new story begins with a pause, a lacuna.  Didn't expect that!  The disciples were ready for action.  "Lord, is this the time you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"  Jesus' answer?  Wait.  "It is not for you to know the times . . ." (Acts 1:6-7)   

 I love a new poem by Mary Oliver: 

Things take the time they take.  
Don't worry.
How many roads did St. Augustine follow 
before he became St. Augustine?    

This wait won't be long.  10 days, until the 40 will have become 50.  Pentecost!  Fire and wind, pushing the disciples out from the known, from the realm of familiar ideas and ways of thinking, to the unknown, to the wide open territory of living truth.   

Where will the Spirit push you?  Where us, our church, our denomination?  Perhaps, do you dare believe, into a life larger than you ever imagined possible?  That's what happened for these disciples gazing into heaven for the Jesus now gone.  That's what happened for the freshly born church.  Lord, send your Spirit upon us!          


Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, June 2, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Confirmation Sunday is always an exciting day at St. James, and I am looking forward to this Sunday we combine Mother's Day with Confirmation Sunday in a worship experience that will mean a sanctuary PACKED for an incredible worship experience.

Liz Robinson, our Director of Middle School Ministries, has led our Confirmation Class this year, an extraordinary year culminating this Sunday with 46 confirmands making profession of faith in Christ and taking vows of church membership.  It's an experience you won't want to miss, and it will happen in our 10:55 Sanctuary Traditional worship service, with the confirmation rituals being simulcast into our Worship Center for our overflow and contemporary worship crowd.    

This Sunday will be VERY crowded so please, if you are able, consider parking across the street -- at Fulbright Elementary, our Christian Life Center, or at the Waterworks Department - in order to free up parking on this side of the campus for those who need to be close to the sanctuary.   

Please note the announcement below about St. James beginning live-streaming of our worship services THIS Sunday!    


St. James is now livestreaming!  
 Visit www.stjames-umc.org/live-streaming-links to watch the 10:55 Traditional Service
or the 9:30 The Journey Contemporary Service.

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Tuesday, May 13, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

 "Stay With Us!"    

The disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter day implored Jesus, "Stay with us!"  Those words (my sermon title this Sunday) make me think of the long-term needs of disaster-stricken areas, and our pledge as United Methodists to stay for the long haul in the recovery of those areas.  Seems to me this is nothing less than the Easter spirit of resurrection.  

In the wake of this week's tornados impacting Arkansas and surrounding states, it is clear to me that extraordinary communities arise in disaster.  The outpouring of compassion -- both in first responders to the immediate aftermath of the storm in Mayflower and Vilonia, and in the continued offerings of prayers, supplies, financial aid, and on-the-scene teams assisting in recovery - reveal the dignity of the human family, and are consistent with the most fundamental of our Christian values as Easter people.    

While we cannot and will not welcome disaster, we cannot but recognize its awful reality in our living, the fragility of our lives, and thus value the response of the human spirit in such outpourings of grace.    

There are, as Jim Garrett has said in leading the formation of teams from St. James, and as Bishop Mueller has indicated in his video messages to Arkansas United Methodists, both sprinters and marathon runners in bringing needed aid to stricken areas.  Both are necessary, but we are equipped to be, and will be, marathon runners, on the scene in many ways in the weeks and months ahead   

To find information on how you can help, go to our St. James website or to the Arkansas Conference website at: arumc.org/arkansas_disaster_response and click on the Volunteer tab.   

Learning Center Auction!   

This year's Learning Center auction will be online and bids open on Monday, May 5, at 7:00 a.m.   

Simply visit the auction website at  www.bidonstjames.com and bid on great deals on hotels, spas, toys, services, and more.  All items start at only 20% of their retail value, so you can both save and help raise money for the kids of the St. James Learning Center.  Remember that bids close on Monday, May 12th at 8:00 p.m., so remember to go online and participate in the auction. 

All proceeds benefit upgrades to the St. James Learning Center classrooms.   

Easter blessings,

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, May 5, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senor Pastor



This Sunday will be incredibly special, even historic, for St. James.  At such moments, I believe it's good to Look Back with gratitude upon St. James' 45 year history, even as we Look Forward with faith.   

We will be Looking Back as we celebrate 45 years of music ministry leadership (the entire span of St. James' history) by Martha Lynn Thompson.  Felix and Martha Lynn Thompson were Charter Members of St. James, leading the music program on staff through St. James' first 33 years, and Martha Lynn has continued to volunteer by leading the Angelus Ringers for 12 years. This Sunday will conclude that blessed ministry as the Angelus Ringers ring for both the 8:30 and 10:55 sanctuary services.   

We will also be Looking Forward as we conclude our 10:55 worship services with a Congregational Procession across the street to the Christian Life Center, where we will have a brief celebration of Groundbreaking for a multi-faceted building project, including (1) New Youth facilities added to the CLC; (2) extensive renovation of Children's Ministry areas including renovating the current Youth area for use by Older Elementary children; (3) Renovation of the Great Hall and restrooms throughout the older parts of our campus; (4) Building an enclosed connector between the Peck Building and the sanctuary, as well as adding an elevator, which will allow those parking on the upper lot to the east of the Peck Building a barrier free access to the Sanctuary and other areas of our campus.   

Don't miss Sunday, as we Look Back to celebrate St. James' legacy of bold vision leading to growth of ministries and mission throughout our 45 year history, and as we Look Forward with Groundbreaking, striving to build upon that solid legacy!    


Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, April 28, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

First, I want today to say "Congratulations!" to Rev. Blake Bradford, who on Wednesday successfully defended his dissertation for the Doctor of Ministry degree at Perkins School of Theology (SMU).  We join Blake and Kerri in excitement as May's graduation date nears, when the D. Min. will be conferred on the Rev. Dr. Blake Bradford!  St. James has been richly blessed by Blake's ministry as Executive Pastor, and I'm very proud to be working alongside Blake and rest of our clergy team at St. James.   

Tuesdays of Lent have been busy!  We've just completed my four Tuesday, "Mountains of Lent" Pastor's series, a series well-attended throughout.  I've greatly enjoyed writing and sharing these studies and appreciate the many who were able to participate.       

We have TWO MORE Tuesdays in Lent, and I'm really excited about next Tuesday, our Passover Seder on Tuesday, April 8!  We had to limit participation to 200 in the Great Hall for this Seder meal, which will help us connect to the "Judeo" part of our Judeo-Christian heritage, remembering the Exodus from Egypt and how Jesus was observing Passover when he instituted the Lord's Supper.   

 Then, on Tuesday of Holy Week (April 15) we will gather in the Worship Center for our Church Conference, the last step in approving the plans of the Building Committee prior to launching the project.     

St. James United Methodist Church is a church alive and vibrant, changing lives and re-shaping futures in our community and beyond.      

 Have a great weekend, and hope to see you in church this Sunday!   


Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, April 7, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

How's Your Health?

(A Lenten question)


I am filled with gratitude today, not just for the 40 Day Journey of Lent, but for a 40 year journey. It was 40 years ago yesterday, Wednesday, March 20, 1974, that I went into the pulpit to offer my first sermon.  Then a just-turned-twenty-year-old sophomore at ASU in Jonesboro, my first sermon was titled, "How's Your Health?" (which seems a great Lenten question as we seek wholeness of body and soul as disciples of Christ).  

I hope you'll join us as I revisit some of the themes of that message this weekend in our sanctuary services:  Saturday night at 5:30 and on Sunday morning at 8:30 and 10:55.   

Rev. Greg Schick is preaching this week in the Journey at 9:30 and Vertical Event at 10:55, and I know he and the band are ready to lead you in an exciting morning of worship and praise.  

I am pleased by the good response to The Lamad Class, an opportunity during the Sunday School hour (9:30 - 10:30) for me to lead those interested into a deeper application of the text and themes explored in the sanctuary sermon.  We're now two weeks into the class, which meets in Jones Hall, and I've been encouraged by the over 30 who are already attending.  If you're not attending an Adult Sunday School Class, please come join us this Sunday.   

Amazing response to the opening of our Holy Land 2015 trip for registration last week!  We've already had 40 register, and with a limit of just over 50, there aren't many seats left on the bus.  If you're interested in faith-based travel to the Holy Land next April, please let me know ASAP.    

What a blessing it is for me to be Senior Pastor of St. James United Methodist Church, a church alive and vibrant, touching and changing lives in our community and beyond.      

Have a great weekend, and hope to see you in church this Sunday,  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, March 24, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Noticing Purple   
What a blessing to begin Lent with a full sanctuary on Ash Wednesday for the Imposition of the Ashes.  On this First Sunday in Lent the first message in my new Lenten series is "Noticing Purple!"  Why not help us "Notice Purple" by wearing the Lenten color this Sunday!  

This is the weekend for our Children's Musical, "Table for Five . . . Thousand!"  The children will perform the musical in our Saturday evening service at 5:30 and Sunday in both The Journey (9:30) and Vertical Event (10:55).  You're invited to the table, so don't miss out!    

Tickets go on sale today for our April 8, Passover Seder!  Sherry and I will co-host our Seder meal along with Dr. Scott and Cindy Stern.  The event will be at 6:00 in the Great Hall and the cost is $15 per adult and $6 per child.  You'll be hearing much more about the Seder in the days ahead, but with a limit of 200 people, don't delay in purchasing your tickets.  You may do so at www.stjames-umc.org or at the Welcome Center on Sunday morning.  The Seder, an ancient ritual meal dating back to the Hebrew Exodus from Egyptian bondage, the meal Jesus and his disciples were sharing when he instituted the Lord's Supper,  is a wonderful way to connect to the "Judeo" part of our Judeo-Christian heritage.   

Finally, I'm especially excited as we step into Lent to begin two classes we've been talking about for several weeks:  (1) My Lenten Pastor's Study Series, "The Mountains of Lent" (Tuesdays in the Worship Center at 2:00 and 6:30) and, (2) "The Lamad Class," a new adult class I'll be leading during the Sunday School hour (9:30 in Jones Hall), in which participants will be given an opportunity to "go deeper" into the text and theme of the Sunday sermon.    

Exciting things at St. James United Methodist Church!   

Grace and peace,   

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, March 10, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senor Pastor

One of the most moving moments my groups to the Holy Land experience is inside the Old City walls at the Pool of Bethesda.  I lead our pilgrims deep into the ruins of the once ornate, colonnaded pool of Jesus' time.  Standing in a circle, we read John 5, Jesus at this pool, healing a man who had been ill for 38 years who couldn't make it to the pool when the water was "Stirred."   We sing a song such as "He Touched Me" and invite the sharing of testimonies from our pilgrims about healing, closing with a service of anointing with olive oil.  

I'm thinking of this experience today for two reasons.  First, my message this Sunday, "The Stirring," as we continue my Epiphany series, is based on that story in John 5, Jesus healing the lame man by the Pool of Bethesda.  Second, many were indeed "Stirred" last evening as KARK and ArkansasMatters aired the story of a healing within our St. James faith family, featuring the story of M'Lou Giese.  What a wonderful, miraculous story of healing, of love and faith.  I hope you'll take a moment to watch this inspiring, this Stirring, piece.   


Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, February 17, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your St. James Pastors

Epiphany Greetings to our St. James family and friends!  

In the midst of my Epiphany series on "Living in the Thin Places," I am so thankful for the many responses to my invitation for you to share your "Thin Place" stories - moments of sudden and unexpected clarity, perhaps surprised by joy where no joy should be, or filled with peace contrary to the circumstances.    

 It's clear that Epiphany moments of spiritual impact are in no way limited to worship while seated in the pews of a beautiful sanctuary.  As you've shared your stories, we've discovered that "Thin Places" are equally found in Hospice rooms and in the hospital room of a new born baby with excited and thankful parents, in the incarceration of a narrow cell, in the relaxation of a spa, and in the eyes of a beggar outside Strasbourg Cathedral in France that prompted your generosity.   

Just now another of our St. James family has responded to speak of her "Thin Place" once found in performing as a dancer, making me think of the phenomenon athletes speak of, being "in the zone."   She wrote, "The Holy Spirit dances and swirls through the artist.  Some just don't recognize it as such."    

Such different experiences of the divine!  Yet each one draws our eyes and hearts to know that we are made for Something More, Made for an Other World.  To quote Mufasa as he spoke to Simba, "You are More than what you have Become."   

You are, you know.  More than what you have become.  May our "Living in the Thin Places" this Epiphany open our eyes, may it ever open our eyes, to the More for which we are created.   

Grace and peace,  

P. S.  I am so excited that Rev. Clark Atkins begins this Saturday a new February sermon series for our Saturday evening congregation!  We're attaching his description of the series below.  Come out on Saturdays in February and listen as Clark shares the words of the Sermon on the Mount.                 

Oftentimes when we read the bible we do so from above-both physically and in time.  Consider for a moment that when we read Scripture we do so reading it from above-staring down at words on a page.  In some ways this creates a barrier-a physical detachment if you will.  The words seem foreign, even when we read them in a contemporary translation that uses more familiar words or phrases.  Sometimes this detachment causes our minds to drift because we struggle to locate ourselves in the strange customs and culture.  We also encounter Scripture from above by reading and hearing the words across time.  We have the advantage of reading the full history.  This has the advantage of providing context, but it also robs us of experiencing the words in a way a person living in that time might have heard or discussed what they were hearing.   

For the next four weeks we'll travel back in time and hear this first part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount-Matthew 5 from a place where the original hearers would have encountered such words-from below.  We will hear these words with fresh ears as if we were among the crowd listening to Jesus speak for the first time as we place ourselves at the foot of the mount hearing Jesus address us and the gathered disciples.  We will imagine that we are first century Galileans discussing these disorienting and revolutionary statements made by Jesus.  What do they mean for us in the first century and what could they mean for people two millennia later?   

Join me this Saturday evening at 5:30 in the Sanctuary and the rest of the month of February as we take A View from Below: Conversations on Matthew 5.

 <><  Clark  
 Rev. Clark Atkins
 Associate Pastor             

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, February 3, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Epiphany Greetings to the family and friends of St. James! 

 I love the second verse of the great Hymn of Praise, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee":
 All thy works with joy surround thee, earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
 stars and angels sing around thee, center of unbroken praise. 
 Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
 chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in thee.  

Field.  Forest.  Vale.  Mountain.  Flowery meadow. 
Flashing sea.  Chanting bird.  Flowing Fountain.   

All of these places can be "Thin Places," a phrase from the Celtic Christians of Ireland in the 5th century, imagining certain places as peculiarly able to draw back the veil between our physical reality and the spiritual world.  In "Thin Places" that veil is somehow sheer, porous, allowing the Divine world to penetrate our ordinary, oft-dreary, reality.  

Perhaps it's my next Faith-based journey (leading this July a pilgrimage to England and Ireland for the John Wesley Heritage Tour) that has me thinking about "Thin Places," but I'm excited this Sunday to launch an Epiphany sermon series in our sanctuary worship services, "Living in the Thin Places."   

I would love to know your "Thin Place" experiences, whether you went on pilgrimage in search of such a spiritual moment when you sensed you were "Standing on Holy Ground," or if the "Thin Place" found you . . . Unsought.  Unexpected.  A God-burst piercing the tedium of the ordinary.  Perhaps your "Thin Place" was in an ICU ward or even a jail cell.  I'm re-reading Rev. Martin Luther King's 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," which I can't read without thinking how that cell must have blazed with light, a Thin Place with shafts of light bringing unusual clarity of understanding and expression, a shimmer of serenity, and a soul at peace.    

May the eyes of your heart be ever-open to recognizing such Spots in Time, moments when you are "Living in the Thin Places."     

Rev. Siegfried Johnson

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Tuesday, January 21, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Executive Pastor

A New Year's Covenant Prayer


Dear friends,    

Happy New Year!  We are approaching the first weekend after January 1, and I hope that you have remained faithful to all the New Year's resolutions that you made a few days ago.  I must confess that I have given up on making New Year's resolutions.   Over the years, it seemed that any resolution I made on January 1st  had a 0% chance of succeeding.  On my own, and without any accountability partners, I just couldn't stay faithful to whatever fleeting promises I made while eating a bowl of black eyed peas on New Year's Day.  If we are serious about change in our own lives, we really do need accountability partners.  When it comes to our faith journey, I hope that your fellow St. James church members can become your accountability partners as we, together, seek to promise God our lives and discipleship.    

Part of our Methodist Heritage since the days of John Wesley is to renew our covenant with God as we begin a new year.  Written in the mid 1700's as part of a Covenant Renewal Service for New Year's Eve, the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer is a method for us to promise to God that we will offer ourselves to him.  This Covenant goes beyond a New Year's resolution. This Covenant is about being courageous enough to walk a new path of grace, giving God all that we are, and expecting miraculous transformation in our own lives and in the lives of those we touch with our ministry- be they your family, other members of your small group or Sunday school class, or those in our community and world who are in need.  

I invite you today to start the New Year off right by praying this prayer, and by helping your fellow church members be accountable to the life of discipleship imbued in this holy Covenant:   

A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition

(United Methodist Hymnal #607)
I am no longer my own, but thine.
 Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
 Let me be employed by thee or laid aside by thee.
 Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
 Let me be full, let me be empty.
 Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
 I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
 And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
 Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
 And the covenant which I have made on earth,
 Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.  

 We have copies of The Covenant Prayer printed on wallet cards available in our Kirkpatrick Welcome Center. I invite you to pick one up and make a promise (a resolution!) to pray this prayer regularly.  Let's also do our part to help others live out the disciple's life. We need the company of fellow Christians in order to fully experience the grace and transformation that Jesus offers us.  It takes all of us together to be faithful.

I'm so excited to be a part of St. James.  I know 2014 will be a great year for the congregation.  We have an amazing family of Christian disciples who are making a difference in people's lives, and I feel the power of Jesus Christ running through our veins.  May we all continue to be instruments of God, to be used for God's holy purpose!   

 Abundant blessings in 2014!

 Rev. Blake Bradford 

 Executive Pastor

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, January 6, 2014 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Advent greetings!    

Wow, what a busy church, made even busier this Advent due to the cancellation last weekend of all church events due to the ice.  So much going on . . . such as the re-scheduled Children's Musical, "Hurry to Bethlehem" at 3:00 Saturday in the Sanctuary.  And of course, you won't want to miss Carols and Candles on Sunday evening at 6:30, presented by the St. James Chancel Choir and Festival Singers with Orchestra.  This event has become one of the most awaited sacred moments of our year, so come early for a good seat and experience the soul-stirring Wonder of Advent with Carols and Candles.   

My sermon this weekend in our sanctuary services will focus on the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary in Nazareth.  It's a moment for Mary when her soul is swept away with a sense of possibility contrary to all circumstances, but highlights (as my title indicates) "The Minute . . . When She Could Still Refuse."    

And do we not, in our living, occasionally know our soul swept away with annunciations of new possibility contrary to all circumstances?   I think we do and, when we do, is there not always that "Minute . . . When We Could Still Refuse."   Perhaps we feel ill-equipped and unworthy.  Or, perhaps we have grown complacent with what is.  Or perhaps we refuse opportunity because of outright fear due the risks involved.   Any of these could have been Mary's reason to refuse, but her consent was courageous, opening her . . . utterly, to what God was doing in her life.   

May Advent open us  . . . utterly, to the newness of God's movements in our lives, in our church, and in our world.      

Grace and peace in Christ,  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, December 16, 2013 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

With Weather Coming In . . .  

 . . .  Advent greetings!      

As I write this message on Thursday, weather-prompted cancellations are beginning to mount throughout our community as the much-heralded arctic blast makes its way toward us.   Already our always wonderful UMW Christmas Luncheon is re-scheduled and it's possible the weather will impact us throughout the weekend, so please follow St. James through our website and social media outlets for the latest in cancellations.  

Thinking of "With Weather Coming In" makes me think of a favorite Advent text in Matthew (4:15-16), the tax-collector-turned-disciple quoting Isaiah to describe Jesus' ministry:  "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned."   

As I watch the radar images on the storm, in seems a great shadow of clouds pillowing toward us, with potential to bring darkness to large swathes where power could be lost for a time . . . "For a Time," (and may that time be BRIEF, thanks to the skilled crews from Arkansas and other states, standing ready even now).   

"For a Time" is an Advent theme worthy of pondering, as Advent remembers the Wait of the Hebrew people for the Promised Messiah.  In the birth of Jesus, the "light has dawned."   Throughout Advent we are celebrating that Dawning of Light - in our worship, yes, but also in our mission endeavors to help others for whom life's circumstances may have brought clouds and darkness.  St. James seeks to be a Dawning of God's Light and Love for those who, for whatever reason, are experiencing darkness.      

What a joy to be a part of such a vibrant community of faith . . . Sharing the Light . . . even, and especially, "With Weather Coming In!"   

 Grace and peace in Christ,    

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | 0 comments

A Message from your Senior Pastor

Friday greetings!   

This past Tuesday night at St. James was exciting, as our annual Church Conference heard  the Preliminary Plans from our Building Committee and approved a motion allowing the committee to develop detailed plans and cost estimates.    During that conference I offered my third "State of the Church" message as your Senior Pastor, which I titled, "Saluting history?  Or, Making It?"     

So for this Friday's e-mail I'm sending that brief State of the Church message with the link to the Delta Airlines ad that inspired its title. I hope you'll take a few moments to read the message and rejoice in the Spirit's moving in our midst.  


To read the State of the Church message, please click HERE.  
To watch the Delta Airlines ad, please click HERE.    

Blessings,   Sieg  

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, November 18, 2013 | 0 comments

A Message from your Executive Pastor

The Feast of All Saints

"For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed, thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia, Alleluia!"  For all the Saints, UMH#711

All Saints is a sacred day layered with special meaning. It is a "Feast Day" of the church calendar, and the day we remember and honor all Christian saints, known and unknown, who have gone before us. At St James, we celebrate the communion of saints as we remember those members of our congregation who have died and passed on to the Church Triumphant within the last year, and the names of the persons being remembered will be called out as part of our Liturgy. These sacred moments are bittersweet for me as a pastor.  My heart breaks for all who have experienced loss, and yet I also experience Christian joy and hope in that I know it is God who greets our loved ones as they join the communion of saints, who from their labors rest. A few years ago, following the death of my father, I deeply remember my voice cracking as I read his name at that first All Saints Remembrance.  It was also a time of healing for me - a reminder that the death is not the end, but a new beginning for him.

We will be celebrating the Feast of All saints in all 5 of our weekend services.  In the Sanctuary on Saturday and Sunday, I will be preaching verse-by-verse on Psalm 23, sharing wisdom from a book by Phillip Keller titled, "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, " which has deeply shaped my understanding. In the Worship Center, Rev. Greg Schick will be preaching from the book of James. Join us this weekend as we remember the saints who have blessed us and celebrate the grace that binds us all together.  

Blessed by a cloud of witnesses,
Rev. Blake Bradford
Executive Pastor

Posted by Debbie Kelly at Monday, November 4, 2013 | 0 comments