Sunday, March 28, 2021

It has been quite some time since I wrote a blog post; well over a year at this point, I believe. But as I prepare to teach Sunday School on this Palm Sunday morning, the second Palm Sunday that we’ve spent in quarantine, I guess I’m feeling reflective. 

For the second time in my life, Jesus is entering Jerusalem to find her streets empty. The parade, the crowd, the joy that normally comes with this day is distant because we ourselves are distant from each other.

Last year was hard. This year, the difficulty feels different. I’m tired. I’m so tired yet we still aren’t out of the woods when it comes to this pandemic. But today, I feel a sense of joy that I haven’t felt in a long time. Today, the difficulty feels different. 

My best friend, Dustin, is finishing up his time at the Candler School of Theology through Emory University and throughout his time there, has done incredible work with the Howard Thurman Digital Archives. I encourage you to listen and follow along with the reflections of Thurman as you can, but today, I’d like to highlight a reading of a poem written by a friend of his, entitled “Always the Open Hand.”

This poem is from the perspective of Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, as they suddenly find themselves needing to feed a crowd of thousands. Philip is tired. It seems like there is always an open hand, some need from a member of a crowd that must be met. The disciples have been going through an emotional marathon for what must seem like a year. 

Now, when Philip seems to be at the end of his rope, he and the disciples are met with a need to feed thousands of people. Always the open hand, right? 

I am emotionally exhausted. This pandemic has taken so much joy from the things that used to give me life. I don’t feel like I can pour into the students like I should be able to, I feel so distant from my friends, I don’t feel like my cup has been full for quite some time. Yet I still feel a need to be there for others. I don’t want them to feel how I feel. Maybe if I can bring them joy, I’ll find it for myself.

But after a year, I almost feel like I’m going through the motions. I’m seeking open hands while reaching out my own. 

When those open hands extended toward Christ, they were not turned away. Their needs were met with compassion and boundless joy. Maybe not from the disciples, but still it came from their hands. When the crowd of thousands was hungry, the meager amount of bread multiplied!

The poet says:

But, he saw the flocks wanting shepherd and fold. Pity in him a rose and a clear spring, for the world's thirst and love was a pasture land. The Lord blessed the bread. He put it into our hands, and it multiplied-- not in his hands but in mine. 

Even when the disciples felt empty, this act of love still came from their hands. And that’s what this was, an act of love! The poet continues:

My mind is a blank sheet of light in the mystery of the thing. I gave and my hands were full again and again and again. Pity in him fell on my dried dust. It was summer rain, and the husk of my heart expanded and filled again-- and was large with grain. For me, the miracle was this-- that a clear stream of large love-- not mine-- flowed out of my soul-- a shining wave over my fellow man.

The miracle is a great reminder of the power Christ holds. But what always trumps power is the way that power is used. Christ uses power to show love to others. This endless love is incredible to see. The multiplying bread is just a symbol for that endless love. 

Even at their wits end - when their hearts feel as dry as the desert - it is through that endless love that the disciples keep going. In the poem, Philip finds hope in that love and finds himself ready to meet the next open hand. 

The poet closes the poem with this: 

It is a slow truth-- a forbearing truth—that human need is infinite. And, if a man devotes all of his time, all of the distilled essence of his wisdom and all of the manifold complex of his resources to the meeting of human need and devotes himself exclusively to it, every hour of every day of every year for 1,000 years without eating or sleeping or resting-- at the end of the 1,000 years, human need would still be infinite.

Therefore, the wise man learns that since he cannot make a quantitative impression on infinity, he can make a qualitative impression on infinity. So, he puts at the disposal of human need the best that he can give, knowing that when he does this, the great god of life pours through this opening and multiplies his energies and his gifts. Always the open hand, always a teary eye.

After a year, I am tired. I am emotionally empty. But as Jesus prepares to walk into the empty streets once again, I am reminded that he does it time and time again to show us the endless love God has for us. Through the same hope that Philip received, I am refilled with the notion that my best is enough. I don’t have to be perfect and positive all the time, I just need to be there for the open hands in my life - the rest will be taken care of.

I am reaching out my open hand; there is always an open hand. 

May God continue to use those open hands to multiply our best efforts. Amen. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Family Resources for this Lenten Season

Monday, January 11, 2021

For the New Year- January 2021

    I remember when I was very little learning the children's rhyme where you use your fingers and say "Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people."   Walking through the church lately where the halls empty, where it's too dark, too clean, and too quiet, I long to have the music back, to hear crying babies; I miss the sounds of children running the halls and the hugs of friends.  This is now how things are supposed to be...    

    I grew up in the church.  Literally. The churches my dad served were my playgrounds after school and I knew ALL the best hiding places. :) And of course now, I work at a church.  So it's completely foreign to have a year of not worshiping together, not serving together, not being together.  It's foreign to not see the community to whom we belong. We are all experiencing something we have never been through before. And I imagine we are all coping in many different ways.  But I trust that you share my heart felt longing to be together in person again, and my grief that we cannot do so safely. We have the comfort of being "alone together "but even that is waning...

    I've tried to have the perspective that we are isolating now so that when we gather again everyone will be at the table. But it's difficult when we feel hungry for it NOW.  Our favorite parts of belonging to a church are missing for us right now.  We don't know how to "do church" from home, how to be in community with those we don't see, how to worship as individuals or just with our families.  Yes, community is one of the Church's greatest gifts, but it's not our only definer. For the Church IS the people.  I remember another song I learned as a child that goes "I am the church. You are the church. WE are the church together."    We can't safely BE together right now, but WE are still the Church collectively. Our commission to Love God and love our neighbors and make disciples still stands. And the hope is that our church building and community have equipped us to continue in spiritual disciplines that sustain us, that sustain our relationship with God. 

    Fortunately, the believers who helped raise me into discipleship and ministry taught me well. They taught me to use a fork and to feed myself. And I am so grateful for the Sunday School teachers who taught me the books of the bible and how to read scripture, the confirmation mentor who helped explain God's grace, for the youth leaders who created experiences to encounter God through creative worship, and so so many others. Others like Louanne Elliot who served with my as a acolyte when I was too afraid to walk by myself in 2nd grade. She walked down the aisle with me every week for years so that I could participate in worship leadership.  These adults are the reason my faith continues on despite all the changes and challenges this year has brought us. These adults didn't form a disciple dependent on sitting in a pew, they taught me to claim my own spiritual growth and relationship with Christ.  I am grateful. 

    We aren't meant to "do church" alone, but our faith is our own and we alone are responsible. We teach our 6th grade confirmands that when they join the church, that their faith is now their own responsibility.  For me, this looks like daily reading and prayer, and holding fast to a few close friends who love Jesus as I do. I'm grateful to NRUMC and all our staff have done to keep our local church active in mission in our community and for the opportunities for us to worship and study virtually. I'm grateful that we have prioritized the safety and health of all. And, most of all, I'm proud of how we as a church family have been patient and resilient through this year and shown our commitment to protect one another by making tough sacrifices. I hope that when we regather, ALL are at the table together, and that we regard it as the privilege it is. 

    For many years, I thought I could only feel God's presence at church camp. That was the place I had first felt the power of the Holy Spirit, and it felt like I had to be in that space to truly encounter God. It took praying with a friend in crisis over the phone while sitting in my car that helped me truly understand the all surrounding presence of God among us and within us. I remind myself now that we cannot escape the presence of God (Psalm 139:7-12), or the Love of God (Romans 8:38-39)  It's comforting to me to remember that I am not alone.     You are not alone. 

    I haven't made a New Year's Resolution or picked a "word of the year" yet, and I might not.  We are dealing with enough personally, nationally, globally to be adding extra expectations on ourselves to seek 'self improvement' resolutions. It's ok if you are just surviving.  If you're feeling disconnected as I have, here's what's helped me: Call someone just because, use "snail mail" and write a card, create a worship playlist on Spotify, find a new sermon podcast or devotion book, reach out to your pastors... 

   You're doing your best, and so is everyone else.
   Have grace with others, have grace for yourself.

Jen Haselden
Director of Youth Ministry

PS:   I wrote this little poem back in May, never dreaming that we would still be where we are. 
But I'd like to share it again:

Saturday, June 20, 2020

5 Reasons I know that Black Lives Matter

                                                                                                                                    June 6, 2020

Five Reasons I can know that Black Lives Matter:

#1 – The prophetic call for action to end the suffering of those who are being oppressed and to pursue justice is found in scripture:  We hear it in the voices of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Micah, just to name a few... "Learn to do good. Seek Justice. Help the Oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow."  Isaiah 1:17 (CEB)

#2 – Over and over, we see Jesus, and the disciples, paying attention to a particular person or group of people who have been marginalized or outcast. This is not a devaluing of others’ lives, but a needed and necessary acknowledgement of the sacred worth of particular lives which was being denied at the time.        #samaritansmatter #taxcollectorsmatter #gentilesmatter #eunuchsmatter

#3 – To acknowledge publicly that Black livse matter to ME personally- is a form of repentance.
It means acknowledging that far too often we have failed, in word and deed, to say that they DO matter, especially at those times when they most needed us to stand up and speak out.
We remember our United Methodist liturgy of confession says: “We have not loved our neighbors. We have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray.”

#4 – To all who follow Christ Jesus, he tells us: “Deny Yourself” not “Justify Yourself.”
Now is the time to check our privilege. To be grateful for those who lead the way to true equality. To elevate and amplify the voices and experiences of persons whose stories need to be heard right now.
And also to pray for the kingdom of God to be on Earth now through us.

#5 – Jesus prayed “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done” – This is a groundbreaking moment in our history where we have the opportunity to participate in a movement that draws us closer to the reality of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. 

And I don’t know about you, but I don't want to miss it.


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

“God at Work” Summer 2020 @ NRUMC

“Does God really work that hard for one person?”

This is the question a student once asked me after studying Matthew 18: 12-14, where Jesus uses the
image of a shepherd leaving ninety-nine perfectly healthy sheep to find one that has wandered off
- saying that God does the same for us! That is hard for me to grasp (especially the times when I am
the wandering sheep), but if God is willing to work that hard just so one person knows they are loved,
maybe I should too. 

Jesus also tells us that what we do for the least of these, we are really doing it for him. Maybe these
“least of these” people haven’t wandered, but I believe God works just as hard in their lives. 

That is who God is: a hard worker; someone who sees the uncomfortable and the challenging and
says “That is still worth it!” We see this through whenever he goes back to cities that kicked him out or
tried to stone him to death or when Jesus sits with those who are on the fringe of society and gets to
know them. Jesus does the hard things and steps out of his comfort zone because there is work to be

I believe that God works hard for one person, but I believe that God does that work through us. 

This summer, we have some amazing opportunities to do that work! Please take a look at what we’ll be
doing in the summer of 2020 and sign up to be a part of it!

M28 Camp June 28 - July 1
As God works hard for one person, sometimes that work needs to be done in us! We are excited to
return to M28 Camp at Lake Junaluska, where students will experience a weekend of fellowship and
fun in the mountains of North Carolina, while also learning about what it means to be a disciple as we
explore the call Jesus gives us in Matthew 28. 

When: June 28 -  July 1
Where: Lake Junaluska Retreat Center
Who: 6th grade - 12th grade
Cost: $300
Registration and Deposit due: March 1
Register here:

CSM Philadelphia July 12-18
For a carpenter, we never really see Jesus swing a hammer for all the work he did to show God’s love.
While using the gift and hard work of construction to serve those in need is a beautiful thing, we
wanted to provide an opportunity to step out from where we’ve grown comfortable. In this urban
mission, City Service Mission (CSM) will guide us as we serve in various ways around
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania! While this image of serving may seem different from what we’ve done in
the past, this work will still provide the very hands on experience that NRUMC students have come to
Our accommodations are provided by St. James UMC and Joy in the City, two organizations local to Philly! These locations will help us feel integrated in the community that we are serving. Throughout the week, we will visit different mission organizations to work and provide care for their clients and guests. Each evening, CSM will take us to local restaurants as we continue to learn about and build relationships with the community! 

We are excited to say we will have a free day at the end of our week here in Philadelphia, which will give NRUMC a chance to explore the city on our own. We will ll do some sightseeing, find the best cheese steak, and celebrate the time we will have spent together that week!

When: July 12 -  July 18
Where: Philadelphia, PA
Who: 6th grade - 12th grade
Cost: $475
Registration and Deposit Due: March 1
Register here:
Faith Ministries- Reynosa, Mexico July 26 - August 1
North Raleigh UMC has been working with Faith Ministry in the community of Reynosa, Mexico for
many years, building strong relationships (and strong houses!) with those who we have served.
This summer, NRUMC high school students have the opportunity to continue strengthening those
relationships while serving the citizens of Reynosa. The cinder block and cement houses we will help
build provide families with the shelter, warmth and security they need. We are thankful for the faithful
adults in our congregation who have made this opportunity possible for our youth and we can’t wait to
see our youth learn and grow alongside them.

Before going on this trip, each student is required to have a conversation with Nick or Jen. We will also
have team meetings once every month, starting in April and leading up to the trip! Lastly, we are
requiring that passport information be turned in with your registration by March 1 to help with
travel bookings!

When: July 26 -  August 1
Where: Reynosa, Mexico
Who: 9th grade - 12th grade
Cost: $750
Registration, Passport, and Deposit Due: March 1
Register here:

Where YOU Can Help
This Spring, we are excited to once again partner with the United Methodist Men
for our Golf Tournament Fundraiser. We are aware that students may not be able
to attend the day of the tournament, but we can still use your help!

We are always looking for businesses to sponsor this event through monetary donations,

prizes, or by providing refreshments. We have set up a few days that align with your
school calendars for you and other members of the Youth Group to campaign for sponsors!
By helping with this and getting involved with tournament preparations, students will
be able to raise money to go toward their trips specifically!

You can sign up to campaign here:

We are very excited for these opportunities and we hope you’ll join us this summer as we grow and serve together!
Please watch our Youth Summer Trips 2020 video:

Youth Summer Trips 2020 from North Raleigh United Methodist on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Families in Mission- Where will your family serve?

I recently read this article about helping families serve in mission together, and I was instantly proud of the way our congregation at NRUMC encourages families to do this!

If you spend even just a few minutes on our new website you'll see SO MANY ways our church is in mission! From monthly hurricane relief trips to supporting over 75 backpacks of food every week for students in need. Our church's values call us to generosity- to serve and give to others, but also to exhibit courage! Serving as a family might mean giving up something else. I encourage you to be brave enough to SAY YES anyway,  even if it means saying no to something else... 

I pray that
 during this season that your family will take advantage of just a few of the mission opportunities that NRUMC offers. 

YAM JAM  - Oct. 12
-Come dig in the dirt and bag potatoes for the Society of St. Andrews!

Family Promise -Oct. 20-27
- Sign up to cook a meal or be an evening host!

SuperHero Run - Oct. 26
-For the fifth year, friends, family members, runners and walkers will come together to support two families who have suffered too much after their children were affected by rare diseases

UMW Holiday Market - Nov. 7/8
- Bring baked good or crafts to donate to the market.
- Donate used books
- Come shop the market and silent auction on Nov. 7

UMM BBQ- Nov. 8
-Order BBQ plates and Brunswick stew in advance to benefit local missions!

Visit our website to see even more mission opportunities!

“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  
Acts 20:35

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Thoughts from a Small Group Leader- "Big O"

"If you build it they will come." The tag line made popular by the film Field of Dreams. The story followed an Iowa corn farmer who was being lead to build a baseball field in the middle of his corn field.  As it turns out the main reason he was led to do this was to recapture a chance to toss a baseball with his dad. 
Over the past few years North Raleigh UMC has been striving to create and energize a Youth Ministry program that lives up to our Churches "Vision Statement" to  glorify God and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by offering a safe and caring environment for anyone who is searching to be spiritually fulfilled and accepted. Yes we stumbled over the past five years but I'm excited to say that all of the pieces necessary to live up to our goal are in place. The programs are being planned and your ministry team, Jen, Nick and a group of dedicated volunteers are eager to help you along the way.
We've "built it" now who's ready to come play in our corn field, or sweet potatoes if that's your yam. I am so encouraged by the participation we've had  on Sunday nights to start off this year. God has definitely been in the room, leading songs, playing games and speaking through your leaders with messages of encouragement. 
On a personal note though I would love to see a greater participation from the upper classes. We all recognize the many obligations and requirements on your time. With college applications, social events, jobs and school work it's hard to put aside those two hours on Sunday evening. However I also understand the importance of having that one place and time that you can relax and be refreshed, a Refuge- if you will. 
Come see us, Sunday evenings at 6:30PM. If you can't we'd still love to hear from you and know that you are OK. Contact Jen or Nick or any of your Small Group leaders. We are there to "have a catch" any time.
John "Big O" Owen.

Parent Article:

Monday, August 26, 2019

August (Notes from Parent Meeting, Volunteering, and more!)

  • Help us best communicate with you by reading the YOUTH BLAST every Monday!
  • Follow us on Instagram (nrumc_youth) and join our Facebook page (North Raleigh United Methodist Youth Ministries) to stay informed on all upcoming ministry news!
  • If you have not yet done our online registration for the year, please fill it out ASAP. This form will not only register your student for Youth Group, Sunday School, Music and Creative ministries, but will also update your contact information for the year!
  • Our website ( got a makeover. Check it out!
  • Turn in a health/consent form for 2019-2020!

  • Our goal is to make disciples who love and follow Jesus Christ. We strive to keep this priority at the forefront of all programming, activities, and events. 
  • It can be challenging to measure transformation and spiritual growth, but we have three strategies that we believe will help our ministry be sustainable and impact lives:
    • Intergenerational: We see and understand the importance of youth knowing and having relationships with individuals of all ages in our congregation, and recognize that our youth bring important gifts and abilities to our community.
    • Interconnected: We believe students benefit from being included in the WHOLE life of the church, its culture, and its mission. We long to see our church in mission together as the body of Christ, connected in ministry and in vision. 
    • Relational: Relationships are at the heart of our youth ministry. Our goal is to create a space where youth grow relationships with one another, with their ministry leaders, and most importantly with God. We believe this happens best through consistent small groups participation. 
  • Sunday School is designed to guide students in their biblical knowledge and understanding.
    High School Sunday School: 9-12th grade in room Y1
    Middle School Sunday School 6-8th grade in Youth Main Room
       Family Support:
  • Nick and Jen want to do all they can to support you as the spiritual leader in your families. Please let us know how we can be a resource for you and know that we pray for you regularly.
  • If you can do ONE thing to provide spiritual leadership for your family it's this:
    Be in worship together regularly.  (We can show you the research that says so.)
    Make serving together a priority this year. 
  • Adults to help at Kick-Off (Sept. 7 at Honeycutt Park)
  • Confirmation Table Leaders (Sundays 12:30-2:00pm)
  • Sunday School Teacher Subs (Sundays 9:45-10:45)
  • Meal Team for HS Fall Retreat (Sept. 20-22)
  • Golf Tournament committee members
  • Christmas Party Team

    Upcoming Events:
  • First Wednesday, Sept. 4
  • Kick- Off Party Saturday Sept. 7 at Honeycutt Park, 5-8pm, BRING $5 and invite a friend!
  • Registration deadline for HS Fall Retreat is September 15th!
  • Worship on the Lawn, Thursday September 19th  (This is a brand new event! Come support!)
  • High School (Guys and Gals) Fall Retreat September 20-22. Registration OPEN NOW!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Who's the new guy??

Hey everyone! I’ve been able to meet so many of you and you probably know the basics about me
already. But I’d love to take a chance to properly introduce myself. 

My name is Nick Richart and I am loved by God. That’s where everything has started for me.
My decisions, my mistakes, my life story - it all stems from this love that I still can’t fully explain. 

Starting at too young an age, I have faced many hardships and heartbreaks in my life.
I used to think these hard times were what defined me. Granted, they are a huge part of my story and
have helped shape who I am today, but these hardships created cracks in my life that allowed God to
pour through. I’m not certain that God made these cracks, but the love that God offers was certainly able
to work through my times of trial. 

Through death, lies, temptation, guilt, and so many other heavy things that I have experienced in
my life (and I’m sure you have, too!), I knew that I loved God and that God loved me. I thought that these
heartbreaks were necessary for me to love God - and in some ways, that's true - but ultimately, this
love story that God has written is much simpler. Do you want to hear it? Here it goes:

“God loves me. The end.”

No seriously! That’s the whole story.  Everything else that has taken place, good or bad, has been a normal
part of life that our non-normal God is trying to be present in. Now you may think this diminishes the big
events in my life, but I think it adds so much more! God was present with me when I peed my pants in
kindergarten. God was present with me when my 4th grade crush rejected me (no hard feelings, Hailey!).
God was there with me when my mom died, but is also there anytime I remember the times she made me
laugh. God was with me when I met my lifelong friends and has been with us as our friendships have
continued to grow. God was there when my niece and nephew were born and has been present with me
as I get to show them the love that God has shown me. 

The point is, God loves me so much that I can’t get rid of the guy. That’s why I’m here. I have been offered
a love that knows no bounds - one that has seen my mistakes and said “I still love you.” This love makes
me whole and challenges me to be a better version of myself. 

The best part? That love is offered to you too. 

I hope I can show, experience, and teach that love as best I can in our time together. It’s my prayer that
beyond anything, the NRUMC Youth know that they are loved. So let’s talk video games or basketball!
Let’s grab a milkshake or go hiking! However you want to hang out, I’m game. I’d love to be present in
your life just like God is present in ours. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

April: Summer scheduling, Welcome Nick, Big Idea Photos

April 10, 2019

First of all, a HUGE THANK YOU to all who made Big Idea 2019 a weekend to remember!
Remember, you can view all the pictures from the weekend on our Shutterfly ShareSite.

Recap Video Links:
Thank you Sarah and Spencer for capturing the weekend in such an amazing and meaningful way!
I pray that all will continue to explore their calling to "Co-Create" with God through community.

 We have a new Associate Director!  Nicholas Richart

NRUMC is thrilled to announce that Nicholas Richart will be joining our staff as the Associate Director of Youth Ministry beginning April 23rd, 2019. Nick is currently the Director of Youth Ministries at Central UMC in Shelby, NC where he has served for the past 3 years.  Nick grew up in Mooresville, NC and attended Appalachian State University graduating in 2015 with a degree in Religious Studies and a minor in Recreation Management. In his spare time Nick enjoys picking the banjo, rock climbing, and reading comic books.

We hope you will join us in praying for this transition in our youth ministry and warmly welcoming 
nick to our staff and our church community! ALL YOUTH AND PARENTS are invited join us in "officially" welcoming Nick on Wednesday May 1 6:30-8:00! If you feel led to bring a gift for Nick, we encourage gift cards to local restaurants and shops so that he can try all the places you love!

Please check out the last blog post about our current ministry needs! It will take a while for Nick to get his bearings and we need your help going forward!

  • Beginning Sunday June 9th all youth grades 6-12 will meet in room Y1 for Sunday School.
    Summer Sunday school will be more casual as we read through Love Does by Bob Goff.
    Please let Jen know if you are able to help facilitate Sunday School this summer!
    Youth Sunday School classes will resume on Starting Point/ Promotion Sunday, August 25th
  • Beginning Sunday June 9th all youth grades 6-12 will meet on SUNDAY nights for youth group at our normal 6:30-8:00 time. There may be some weeks that we meet earlier for fun events so watch the Youth Blast and our Instagram so you're in the loop!
  • We are still in need of 2 adults each to attend our Middle School Mission trip June 16-22 and our High School Mission trip July 7-13.  Specifically we need adults who can serve as site leaders and lead housing repair projects. We MUST have additional adults sign up or we cannot attend these trips! Trip fees for adults will be waived.

    View my Previous Blog Post on General Conference 2019 and The Way Forward

    Interesting in being involved in a Reconciling ministries?  (Contact Melissa Auten)