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You know who some of my most favorite people are? They are people who take a week off from work and sometimes their families and then go on a week-long mission trip with a bunch of teenagers! They are folks that are NOT vacationing! They work incredibly hard on the projects they are assigned. They manage the teens, doing their best to keep them safe and from not getting into too much trouble. They become their guides, friends and mentors, even if just for a week. They go all in!! They are amazing!

The main reason I see them as amazing is not because it makes the trip easier for me, the leader, but because they live in to what they believe God is calling them to do, and they make it a priority. They set an example for our young people about what is really important, not the mission trip, but the putting of God first! Over my tenure as a youth pastor I have always been amazed at the professionals who give a week of their hard-earned vacation time to be able to provide life impacting opportunities for young people.

I have another friend who is a dentist. His calling is not so much to work with teens, but uses his gifts and talents to serve dental needs of people in the third world. He will take two weeks off from his very successful practice to travel to South America and spend countless hours helping people who would not get any kind of dental service, and well as hours in teaching families about how to care for their teeth. I have that a time or two he has taken some of his staff with him and has paid their way.

There is another lady I knew from a previous church that was a true prayer warrior. She was truly amazing. You had to be careful about what you asked her to pray for because something was going to happen! It might not have been what you were expecting, but God seemed to be really present when she prayed!

I share these things because after a phone call from a youth pastor friend of mine who reminded me of what should be really important in all our lives as Christians, our priorities. God truly wants us to put Him first, and we all know that, but few strive to live it. In this culture it seems like our priorities are everything but God. It is easy to see. Ask yourself where do you spend the bulk of your time and money? Do you think about what God wants from you when making decisions, especially ones about attending church events and meetings when something else happens at the same time? Do you ever consider what you might be missing out on when God is not the priority for your life? God is amazing! When we put Him as the focus and priority in our lives the journey becomes incredible and life full of so much grace and love. It is not always easy, I know, I have been struggling with this for about 45 years now. I do know when my life revolves around God, it is so much greater than when it revolves around Richard, especially in the tough times.


Matthew 22: 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’[e] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. NLT

Pastor Richard

Our Money Story

Pledge Form 2022

Week three 10/17/21 — Our MONEY Story — Release

Worship Service 9 a.m 

Worship Service 11 a.m. 

Yesterday I talked about the invitation from God’s word to reimagine our economies (household rules/ the way we do things) in light of God’s call for us to radically trust him and to care for the most vulnerable. I shared John Wesley’s advice around money:


Make all you can

Save all you can

Give all you can

In this advice is an invitation for you to take some time to reimagine your economy around these matters.

As you prepare to offer your pledge to ministry in 2022 we encourage you to prayerfully reimagine your money story. Where might God be calling you to reimagine your story in light of God’s Money Story? What do you need to rememberabout who God is? What do you need to release in order to know God’s freeing grace? Where might you reimagine what can be? How might God be able to restore your broken places around money and possessions through your life in him?

At the start of all this we challenged you to tithe for just one month to see how it feels. If you have done that, what have you discovered? If you have not yet made that one month commitment we encourage you to give it a try and see how God works through your faithfulness.

As we come toward the end of October, please take time to fill out and return the pledge card we sent you or, even better, complete your pledge online through Realm using the link below. Thank you so much for your faithfulness and your generosity! We pray God will draw you ever closer to His boundless grace in this and every season!


Week two 10/10/21 — Our Money Story — Reflect

Worship Service 9 am

Worship Service 11 am

This past Sunday, we continued this month’s stewardship series Our Money Story by looking at what it means to release our money stories to God. We saw in our first reading from Deuteronomy 15 that God commanded the Israelites to release all debt every seven years. This is similar to the manna in the desert story in that if anyone tried to hoard their manna, it would rot. God is adamantly opposed to greed and selfishness among His people, whether its daily bread or money and debt. This is radically different from the values we see every day in our world. We live in a culture that far too often encourages and even celebrates greed.

This disconnect is not unique to 21st century America, however, as we saw in the Gospel reading from Matthew 19. The story of the rich young man vividly illustrates how money and possessions can pull us away from Jesus and from fellowship with other believers. We know all too well the very human tendency to seek meaning, value, and security in our money and our possessions.

We shouldn’t simply hear judgment or rebuke in these stories, but rather an invitation to a better way to live – the way of Jesus. God calls us to release our grip on those things we cling tightly to, so that we might be freed to cling to Jesus. God calls us to release the grip that money and possessions has on our hearts so we might be freed to be generous to our neighbors. God calls us to release our fears and anxieties to Him so that we might be freed to find our security in God’s steadfast love and abiding presence. God calls us to release one another from debts, to forgive one another as we have been forgiven.

God calls us to release our money stories – especially those parts of our stories that move us away from God’s love and from generosity. We release our stories so that God can begin writing new stories in our lives that reflect the values of the Kingdom of God and the reality of God’s abundant grace given to us in Jesus Christ. This week, I pray that God would open our eyes to new opportunities to live into new story of forgiveness and generosity.

Week One 10/3/21 — Our Money Story– Remember

Worship Service 9 a.m 

Worship Service 11 a.m. 

On Sunday, I shared part of my money story and shared some reflection of the good and bad of some lessons I learned about money and possessions in my childhood. This week, we want to encourage you to use your “Our Money Story” Journal (either picked up on Sunday or mailed to you this week) to begin reflecting on your own money story. You can find the questions to guide you on pages 1-6 of your journal. The remembering is helpful, but even more helpful is the invitation to reflect on how the things you learned in your life are impacting you today. What parts of your story are good, helpful, and Biblical? What parts of your story might bear untruths and unbiblical ideas that have kept you from the freedom that God offers us?

Being honest about our story is the beginning point of God’s redemptive work. Here’s a hard truth: unredeemed history repeats itself. In other words, holding on to lies (like mine around productivity and personal value), mistakes of the past, false narratives about the role of money and possessions in our lives, will continue to keep us locked in cycles of unhealthy behavior and belief. Our deepest prayer for each of you this month is that God will help you to see the places that need his redeeming touch, the infusion of God’s Money Story of enough for all, trust in God’s provision, generosity, sharing, and sacrificial love that we see so clearly in the life of the Lord Jesus. We pray for your courage and vulnerability to ask these questions and have the conversation for the sake of your following of Jesus in greater wholeness.

Pastor Toni Ruth

As Rebecca Douglass, Chair of the Finance Team, mentioned on Sunday, we encourage you to bring your pledge card at any point this month. For your convenience we do have an online pledge card. This card can we accessed at on our website and connects directly to Realm so that you can not only set up your pledge but also set up recurrent gifts if you would like to do so. Filling out the pledge card online is very simple, so we encourage you to use this tool.


Intro to our Money Story

We all have a money story, whether we recognize it or not. Perhaps we are living from a story of fear or shame. Or a story that the church is dying and no longer relevant. Or a story that our actions won’t have an impact. Or a story that we don’t have enough. Where might God be speaking a new narrative into the limited ones we have told ourselves? This theme invites us to discover and tell our money stories in light of God’s money story of liberation and justice. This series encourages us to transform our stewardship practices into more full expressions of who we are and what we believe.

This theme is intentionally direct—it invites us to name exactly what we’re talking about and not skirt around it. To speak of money is to invite tension into the room. We so quickly want to avoid it. But it’s time we reframe this. Money and possessions are one of the most common topics in scripture, and Jesus talked about money more than faith and prayer.

Our money story, therefore, is a spiritual story. Thinking about God’s money story should be liberating, inviting, and transformative.

This stewardship season, we invite you to remember, release, reimagine, and restore your money stories so that we can write the one God is begging us to live into.




Devotion for 9/15/21.  Rest

Sometimes we all just need a little rest. Summers for me in my line of work are always very busy. They are awesome and fun, but it really is non-stop from the time school lets out till the time kids go back to school. There are the mission trips, VBS, back to school planning and this year was getting back to a normal Sunday School after being out for over a year and half. Then on top of those big activities there were movie nights, tubing, bowling, and other youth and children events. So, at the end of the summer I feel a little like Sofi looks like in the picture! Just whipped!

I look forward to September when I can finally slow down a little and recuperate. Rest is a good thing. When I was a kid, I was one of those nap haters! Now I would do anything to get a few minutes of midday sleep. I now realize just how important good rest is.

Today’s stress levels are sky high, which leads to a lot more tension in all of our lives. People are so worn out by all the battles we are facing that are above the norm as we continue to try to navigate through the pandemic that will just not go away. Just today I encountered several friends who are truly facing exhaustion. Their tiredness is not from their normal jobs, but stems more from the long term of facing and dealing with the pain and suffering that Covid has caused all of us.

They need real rest. I believe we all need real rest. Even God took a break after completing His wonderful creation. So, are you getting proper rest? Where are you finding the rest that revives your soul? I am not talking just about sleep, which is critical, I am also talking about soul rest, emotional rest, and even mental rest. We are designed as one unit, not multiple pieces. Our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual pieces are not independent parts, but are interdependent. One of the parts directly affects the others. I have lately discovered in a real way that my lack of physical health cause my mind not to be as clear as it should be. When my mind is not clear, it directly impacts my emotional and spiritual sides as well.

Where do find your rest? Maybe it could begin with seeking that rest that God tells us we all need for our souls. There is a reason “Remember the sabbath and keep it holy” is one of the Ten Commandments. That verse is so totally about resting and remembering all that God has done for us, and looking forward to what He will do for us! Do you ever really take a sabbath, a day of rest? A sabbath day for me is a long walk with my wife and dogs, enjoying God’s creation. It is a chance to slow down and breathe out all the stuff I have to deal with, and breathe in the magnificence of God’s handiwork present all around me. It restores me. Go find your real rest. God does not just give you His permission, He pretty much demands it from us.


Pastor Richard

In-Person Worship Times

The huddles in front of us as we all learn what “normal” will look like as we emerge the pandemic can feel overwhelming.  When we focus too closely on what is right in front of us we can forget the help, perspective, purpose, hope, and power that surrounds us.  Join us this season as we lift our eyes and see Jesus alive and showing us the way to life.

In Person Worship Services  9:00 & 11:00am

Both services will be live streamed on Facebook


Stephen Ministry

Stephen Ministry

From time to time we all go through difficult times when we could use a little support and help to get through.  Having someone to listen with compassion and offer support can be a difference makerThat’s one reason why Stephen Ministry is at Harrisburg UMC. 

Stephen Ministry is a system of caring ministry where members of a congregation are specially trained to provide one-to-one care to people who are facing a difficult or challenging time in their lives.  Stephen Ministry St Louis, a non-profit ministry organization headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, is a transdenominational ministry that maintains a support network to Stephen Ministry congregations in the US, Canada, and 30 other countries around the world.  It is a distinctively Christiancaring ministry in which pastors and lay people work together to meet the needs of people within the church and community who are experiencing a wide range of life circumstances.  

The team of people who direct Stephen Ministry at Harrisburg UMC are called Stephen Leaders and were trained at a 7-day Leader’s Training Course taught by members of the Stephen Ministry Organization. Our current Stephen Leaders are Pastor Toni Ruth Smith, Pastor Richard Smith, Sandra Bilbro and John Lomonaco.  

Lay caregivers, called Stephen Ministers, who have spiritual gifts appropriate for caring ministry are trained by our Stephen Leaders. Stephen Ministers receive 50 hours of training, learning principles and skills that equip them to provide high-quality, Christ-centered emotional and spiritual care to others.  Through training, they also gain insight into the thoughts, feelings, and actions of people who are hurting.  For whom are Stephen Minister’s trained to provide care?  Stephen Ministers care for people experiencing grief, separation or divorce, job related stress or loss, chronic or terminal illness, relocation, unplanned pregnancy, infertility, birth of a child, loneliness, military deployment, spiritual struggles and much more 

Our Stephen Ministers provide one-to-one, Confidential, Christ-centered care to help people, called Care Receivers, through many of life’s issues whether in times of transition or major life crises.  Stephen Ministers meet with their Care Receiver on a weekly basis in a private, confidential setting to listen, care, encourage, and provide emotional and spiritual support.   

The joy that motivates our Stephen Ministers to commit to this ministry is based on serving Christ with their best gifts.  Our entire Stephen Ministry team is committed to helping individuals experience the support and concern they need for as long as they need it.  Through our commitment to care, it is our prayer that the hurting and vulnerable among us will experience the hope and healing that Jesus Christ offers. 

Contact Pastor Toni Ruth  should you be interested in receiving a Stephen Minister

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PO Box 970
4560 Hwy 49 S., Harrisburg, NC 28075
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(704) 455-2311

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