Pastor Mary’s Updates

Over the past several weeks cases of Covid-19 have been spreading rapidly in Kane County. Therefore Kane County will enter Tier 2 Mitigation level effective Wednesday, November 11. With gatherings limited to ten persons, in-person worship will be suspended until further notice.  

In the midst of these changing times we count ourselves blessed. First, on-line worship will continue and we are blessed to have beautiful on-line services planned for the Advent and Christmas season. In-addition, now that we know how to hold safe in-person worship services, we expect to resume worship quite quickly after restrictions are lifted. Finally, so far as we know, members of our Baker Memorial family who have contracted Covid-19 have recovered well.

As Thanksgiving approaches, let us remember to give thanks for these blessings, and to pray for our neighbors here, near, and far-away. I look forward to praising God together in the not-too-distant future!

Peace in Christ
Pastor Mary

Friday June 19 is Juneteenth, a day that celebrates the end of slavery across the United States. It is a holiday that started in Texas because it marks the day that the Emancipation Proclamation was finally made known to the slaves there. That was June 19, 1865, 2½ years after the Proclamation which freed slaves in the Confederate States was made law. Texas slaves were the last to hear, so June 19 marks the official end of slavery.
Although this holiday has largely been celebrated by people of African descent, the end of slavery is cause for celebration for all people. Please plan something special for this day. Something that helps you grow in understanding, or takes a step toward ending racism as it is currently experienced in our nation that stands on the principal that “all men are created equal;” a lofty value that we are still trying to practice fully today.
Here are some ideas for Juneteenth 2020
• If you are able in the midst of the pandemic, take the day off of work and let your employer know you are doing it to celebrate Juneteenth.
• Prayerfully read Isaiah 58-61 and see how God feels about slavery, oppression, and injustice. Ask God to help you see how you can be a part of doing God’s justice work.
• Spend some time learning about the Emancipation Proclamation and Reconstruction Period. You might try for the first, or watch Henry Louis Gates documentary on Reconstruction at a PBS web-site for the second.
• Watch one of the many movies that are now available for free – Selma, 13th, or Just Mercy are three that you can probably find on YouTube from Netflix.
• Do some reading, there are many books available on racism, history, and equality. You might consider reading works of Martin Luther King Jr, or Howard Thurman (Jesus and the Disinherited) as well.
• Check out the UM General Commission on Race and Religion at for additional resources.

Here are a few verses from Isaiah 61 to get you prayerfully thinking.
Isaiah 61:1-3, 7-8 (NRSV)
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.
Because their shame was double, and dishonor was proclaimed as their lot, therefore they shall possess a double portion; everlasting joy shall be theirs. For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

The Upper Room has gathered some resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism. I haven’t read them all, but in general The Upper Room is a good source. Perhaps reading some of this could be part of your Juneteenth celebratinon this Friday. Click here to read the article.

Lord, in your mercy hear our prayers. We have not done as your prophet Micah called the people of God to do – we have not done justice, loved kindness, and walked humbly with our God. Grant your followers the humbleness, courage, faith, love, and perseverance to repent of our sin and cast out injustice. Guide us in the hard and long work of reconciliation, sharing of power, and deep building of respect and care. Open our ears to hear and our eyes to see clearly. We do not want to live in the spirit of racism and prejudice any longer. In Christ—Amen.

I imagine many of you are wondering when we will return to in-person services at the church building. That is unknown at the moment.

We will re-open for up to 50 person services when we can be confident that we can do it in a way that is worshipful, welcoming, and safe. Each of these aspects is challenging under our new circumstances.

The church’s Strategy and Administration and Spiritual Formation and Leadership Teams have both had initial discussions about the procedures that would need to be followed for spacing, music, liturgy, flow of persons through the building, and the various rooms that could be utilized so we could accommodate more than one service on a Sunday morning. We will continue to learn from our sisters and brothers in other states, as well as other large community gatherings in Illinois such as our school systems and sports.

In the meantime, please join us for ONLINE CHURCH.

You are welcome here—for any and all of these opportunities.
Facebook Live: Wednesday, May 27 at 7pm.
Zoom Fellowship: Starting Sunday, May 31 at 10am—watch for more info.
Small Groups: Our next all church offering begins in early June. Join us for 5 Cups of Coffee (discussions about faith and discipleship). The link to sign up will be coming soon!

Today is the National Day of Prayer, and Methodists are strong pray-ers, so please take a moment and pause to pray in your own words and own way.
Here are some ideas to get your started:
• Write a short prayer
• Pray for our nation, state, and community leaders as they navigate the challenges of COVID-19.
• Pray for small businesses that provide so many jobs and support so many families. Pause to remember the roughly 25,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19 in our nation today.
• Observe 100 seconds of silence in recognition of the more than 100 people diagnosed with COVID-19 at BRIA in Geneva.
Please pray for God’s guidance and help to bring us through this global outbreak safely. God in your mercy—hear our prayers!

I was on a Zoom call when the world hit a painful milestone. There are now over 3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world.

I was on another Zoom call when our country hit another painful milestone. We now have over 1 million confirmed cases in the United States.

I remember when I first heard about this new virus. It was Sunday January 26, almost exactly 3 months ago. There were very few cases, but a lot of concern about what was happening in China. I knew at the time that it could be serious for us too, but had no idea just how serious it would become.

On this day, I invite you into a moment of silent prayer. Prayer perhaps to acknowledge all that has been lost. Prayer to ask for God’s guidance in ending this pandemic. Perhaps prayer to learn what all of these means for life after COVID-19. God in your mercy—hear our prayers.

Today is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and it strikes me that today is a good day to remember the important role that trees play in our faith story. In the Bible, human history is book-ended by the story of some very special trees.

In the beginning of the Bible we hear the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:9). The first people were invited to eat from the Tree of Life, but told not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:17). That rule was eventually broken, and thus the innocence and ease of human relationship with God was also broken. Humans were sent away from the Garden of Eden so they could no longer eat the fruit of the Tree of Life.

At the end of the Bible the Tree of Life reappears (Revelation 22:2) in the middle of the new creation. It is no longer off limits. In fact its leaves are for the healing of the nations and it produces twelve crops of fruit over the course of a year. It is a celebration of abundance and nurture. And as a special bonus, there’s no longer just one tree, but it seems at least two. Somehow God’s grace and provision has expanded.

We live in-between these two stories of special trees, and we are given the task of caring for the earth that God has filled with trees of many kinds. So today, let’s celebrate God’s love of trees, which were created before humans, have fed and supported humanity over the millennia, and will continue to thrive in eternity.

Many people seem to be quite certain that they know what is right these days. Some are quite certain that it is time to lift the stay-at-home policies. Others are certain that we need to remain quarantined longer. Unfortunately it may be impossible to know what the “right” next step is because there are too many unknowns about this virus and about our economy. In addition, what is advantageous for me, may not be at all good for you.

This prayer from Psalm 25:4-5 is one I have prayed many times when the way forward has been unclear:

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long. It reminds me that with my limited perspective, it’s normal that the next step may not be clear. However God’s perspective is both vastly wider in terms of considering all people, and infinitely longer in terms of time.

It’s a prayer for each of us to pray during this uncertain time. We all need wisdom. In addition, it can easily be rewritten into a prayer for those who are tasked with the difficult job of leading. I invite you to pray with me…

Lord, help our leaders to know your ways; teach them your paths. Lead them in your truth and teach them, for you are the God whose desire in Christ is salvation; for you and your guidance we await. Amen.


About 500 years ago, God touched the soul of an amazing woman named Teresa of Avila. She was a dedicated Catholic nun who wrote some amazing works for her time. The poem below is a beautiful reminder of how we are called to love our neighbors, not as ourselves but together as Christ’s body.

I am so grateful to know that people of Baker Memorial UMC understand this. Thank you for being the Body of Christ to those who are hurting the most in these difficult days.

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
(Attributed to Teresa of Avila)

Today is Maundy Thursday when Jesus met with his disciples for a final meal together. The shadow of the crucifixion was looming. It would have been a very stressful time for Jesus, but according to the Gospel of John he chose to begin that meal by caring for others. He washed the feet of the disciples.

This made Peter very uncomfortable.

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.” “No!” Peter said. “You will never wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.” John 13:6-8 (Common English Bible translation)

There’s an important theological message about the work of Jesus washing away our sins, but there is also a practical faith lesson here. One of the things we need to be able to do is receive the care and love of Jesus. It sounds simple, but it can be challenging.

Many of us have been taught that it is better to give than to receive. Couple that with our culture that strongly values self-sufficiency and we begin to see how difficult it might be to receive Christ’s care. We do not like to see ourselves as needy.

Today, as an exercise for Holy Week, take a few minutes to imagine Jesus coming to wash your feet and note your reaction. What about this brings you joy? What makes you uncomfortable? How you’re your reaction to this imagined activity translate into your willingness to let Jesus care for you in the midst of your daily life?

May God bless your prayers and reflections today.

A prayer for today
Breathe on us breath of God, as you have breathed the breath of life across the ages. Breathe eternal life into all who have lost the battle to this tiny but powerful invader. Breathe renewed strength into anyone struggling to survive this day.
Breathe new energy into those working day and night to bring us through.
Breathe new love into homes that are stretched and stressed.
Breathe the gift of generosity into those who are blessed with gifts to share.
Breathe new hope into those who cannot see the light that still shines in this darkness. Breathe new insight into what is truly important in life.
Breathe the gift of faith that guides us when times are good, and sustains us through the darkness.

We are not the first people to experience the disorientation of being in exile from the life we have known so well. Others around the globe are further ahead of us on the Corona virus curve, but there are also the people of ancient Israel who lived in exile for decades. When their exile began they apparently weren’t sure what to do or whose predictions to believe, so God sent the prophet Jeremiah with instructions.

What the people wanted to hear was reassurance that they could go back home soon. What God said was more like, “this is going to last awhile.” In fact God suggested they should, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” In verse 7 God instructs them to seek the welfare of that new place rather than just tolerate it.

We may long for the way things were, grieve what we have lost, and hope for normalcy to come soon. However at this moment maybe we are better served by settling in and learning to live where we are.

It looks like we are going to be here until at least April 30. Possibly longer. What do we need to stop longing for in order to live here well? What do we need to cherish about this time so we do not miss the blessings it offers?

I love this greeting from Paul in his letter to the church in the city of Philippi. It is especially important now. I thank God for each of you every day. I may know you well, or I may be just getting connected to you through Facebook, still I think God for each of you. This is a special time for us to lift all of our neighbors and friends up in prayer. My prayer for you today is:
1) Health in body, mind, and spirit.
2) An opportunity to do something that is good.
3) A deeper awareness of who you are to prevent you from doing something that might be harmful.
4) A growing faith connection to God.

What are you praying for today?

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:3-6(NRSV)

Please join us in celebrating Holy Week. Here’s what you can do to join in.

Palm Sunday | April 5 | Take a picture or very short gif/mp4 video of someone waving something green. It may look like a palm, or it may look like a pillow, whatever you have that is green! Alternatively, take a picture of a path of coats laid on the ground to signify that Christ is invited to come to your home.
ALSO – please find a largish rock and bring it inside where you can see it.

Facebook Live Event | Monday, April 6at 7pm | You’re invited to join us at 7pm for a Facebook Live gathering for prayer and church news.

Good Friday | April 10 | We had a candlelight and Easter Carols service planned and so we will do something similar using video. Start searching your homes for 8 candles so that you can follow along. We will post the service on our website and Facebook page some time Friday. I am hoping that we can create a Facebook Watch Party at 7:00 on Friday evening so we can watch together.

Easter Sunday | April 12 | We cannot gather on this joyful day, but we can all celebrate the resurrection. Send a picture of some beautiful flowers end we’ll use them as a backdrop for our video recordings! We will enjoy the flowers that were planned for Easter when we gather. More on this service later!

It was difficult to decide not to hold services on Sunday, March 15. Looking back I am grateful that we did. I mourn today with the LifeChurch in Glenview who decided to go ahead with worship services as late as March 15. Eighty people attended to hear a guest speaker; forty-three of them now have symptoms of COVID-19. The ten people who were tested all tested positive. Two days ago one of their members died from COVID-19.

Christians must always discern the message of the times. In these times, an abundance of caution is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of great love.

Please stay well! Peace in Christ – Pastor Mary

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast
and our eternal home.

Isaac Watts wrote these words in 1714 when it felt like his world was on the verge of breaking apart. In those days the issue was the death of the queen, and thus the personal safety of his family under a new unknown monarch. In the midst of the unknown the opening line to Psalm 90 (Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations), reminded him that God has walked with humanity through all the good times and the difficult times.

What an important perspective to hold on to. God has been our help across all of the troubled times of human life. Many of those times were more challenging than these times, yet humanity as a whole made it through to a new time of blessing. God has been our help in ages past, and is therefore our hope for the months and years to come.

A prayer that might be helpful for this day:
Gracious God, help me remember that in Christ I am your beloved child even though I struggle with Facebook, Zoom, and GoToMeeting. Help me feel the steadying comfort of your embrace when fear of the unknown future threatens to overwhelm me. Fill me with your peace when my lips (or my fingers on my keyboard) want to declare frustration or critique. Remind me that I am one your beloved children, and that is enough for You, and for now. You do not judge me by the sum of my accomplishments on this crazy day, and so neither will I judge myself. Shine your light on the path ahead of me so I may take the next step. Help me learn to walk by faith through this time of uncertainty. In Christ—Amen.

You may have noticed that many people are not their best under stress. Each person has their own stress reaction pattern. Some people get angry at everything and everyone. Others go into a mode of over-analysis as they study every statistic in order to try and figure out the best way through. Some go into denial and others into doomsday mode. Some people even become over-helpful; they try and do everything for people who really want to do something themselves!

The reactions seem different, and yet they are often rooted in a common issue. We feel stressed when we feel out of control. We cannot control the situation around us during this pandemic, but with God’s help we can gain some control within ourselves and in our homes. Prayerfully understanding our own stress reaction helps. Once we know our pattern, we can ask God for strength to react differently. We can ask others for forgiveness, and we can grant forgiveness more easily too. In Christ we can choose faith, hope, and love in place of our well-worn patterns.

Holy God, help me through this time of stress. Help me understand my go-to reactions and how they impact others. Help me put on your ways of faith, hope and love each day. Build up your Kingdom in me, and in my home, as you have already built it heaven. Amen.

I am thinking this morning of Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on the Psalms. He said there are Psalms of orientation, disorientation and re-orientation.

In fact, this is the rhythm of our lives. We go through times of being sure-footed and able to predict what is going to happen (oriented). Then something happens and we are disoriented. However the good news is that God leads us back and we are re-oriented (able to live in a new way). Much of the world is going through this now. We thought we knew what our days would be like. Then a pandemic swept our orientation away and left us tumbling and wondering. We cannot go back to what was because we have learned that life is fragile. What we can do is walk forward into a new way of life. In faith we believe that God will lead us to green pastures as in Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd….

These little buds in the snow reminded me that God is leading us into new life even now. We will find ourselves re-oriented at some point. Watch for the signs, and find hope in even the small glimmers of light.

I had the opportunity to talk to one of our more senior members of the Baker Memorial Church family last week. She is essentially locked inside her senior residence, which is a place she never wanted to live. Her words are important for everyone to hear as our “shelter in place” order goes into effect.
• I am so grateful to be in a place that is safe, and so grateful to everyone who is working hard to keep it that way.
• I never wanted to be here but here I am, and so I am trying to be faithful. I am trying to stay calm so I can encourage the people who are discouraged, talk to the people who are lonely, pray for people who are unsettled, and get people to help each other because it is so important for us to have something good to do.
• It is humbling how hard it is to try to live my Christian profession here and now. My faith is stretched, and growing.

She is being a living example of what Paul asked the church in Thessalonica to do in the passage below. I don’t recall spending much time with these last verses of Paul’s letter before. How interesting that they are so relevant now! You are welcome to share your stories!

1 Thessalonians 5:14 (CEB) – Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are disorderly. Comfort the discouraged. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul directs the people to “Rejoice always.” This may seem impossible, but I’ve walked through some pretty dark valleys myself and have found it helpful to realize that in the midst of pain, uncertainty, and even grief, there is something beautiful to rejoice about if I watch for it.

Pause for a moment today and look around you. There is something there to rejoice about. Maybe that stockpile of toilet paper?

The United Methodist Church General Conference has been postponed until an unknown date. It was supposed to meet in Minneapolis in the beginning of May to determine whether and how to split the global United Methodist Church into multiple denominations. All events are cancelled for that time period at the convention center.

Please pray with me that these times will remind us of what is truly important and help us learn how to work together to build up the body of Christ.

Pastor Mary

You can read more at click here

At the end of the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul provides all kinds of advice about Christian living. This one seems appropriate for the living of these days! This is the Message translation.

And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (MSG)

Two verses later is another simple one – “Pray without ceasing.” That’s hard to do on your own but we can do it together! Click here, and choose a 30 minute interval of the day when you are willing to say a short prayer (you don’t need to take the whole 30 minutes) each day.

On the Sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. Acts 16:13 (NRSV)

Since I (Pastor Mary) offered to meet with people for coffee the world has changed. Since no restaurants are open, there’s no place to sit. Instead of meeting at the coffee house, anyone who wants to chat can meet by that simple instrument called the telephone. You can call 605-313-4100 and enter code 420201 to connect with me. That number leads to a conference calling bridge that is very reliable. I will be the host of the call. Unfortunately, if you don’t have free long distance/free calling on your phone—you will receive charges for calling in.

I’ll be available at that number from from 12:00 til 1:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No agenda, just an opportunity to chat, exchange ideas, ask for assistance etc. If the weather were more stable I would suggest a meeting by the river like Paul did, but I think that is going to have to wait a little bit! Hopefully we’ll be able to connect with each other in person by then….

03.16.20 UPDATE
We woke up this morning to the news that the CDC recommends no gatherings of more than 50 people for eight weeks. That’s through May 11!

The good news is, this kind of disruption is not unprecedented. When the ancient Hebrew people were freed from slavery, they took worship on the road by creating a special tent. When the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, people gathered in synagogues. When it was too dangerous for early Christians to meet in public, they met in homes and even in the catacombs!

In 2020 we will produce worship videos every week, use Google Classroom, and possibly start a VLOG. We are also starting to think about Easter Sunday morning in a new way. Have no fear, the Church will be present and active in whatever way we need to be. We just need to be attentive to God’s guidance and be ready to accept creative approaches. Feel free to provide your ideas by sending an email to info@bakermemorialchurch.orgon or on Facebook by clicking here — but please don’t be hurt if we find another equally creative way!

They should make me a sanctuary so I can be present among them. You should follow the blueprints that I will show you for the dwelling and for all its equipment.

Exodus 25:8-9 (CEB)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
I am sad to let you know that we will not be meeting in person for worship on March 15, 22, or 29. Our current plan is to join together with shouts of Hosanna on Palm Sunday April 5. All events at the church building have been cancelled or postponed through Friday, April 3 and the church building will be closed except to staff. At this point we are unclear about the April 4 Purchase with a Purpose event. Please assume that it will go ahead as scheduled.

The building is not open, but the church goes on and even thrives in face of adversity. Please watch your email and the website for a short worship video from Pastor Mary each week.

• Confirmation students, Carl King will be convening you in the Google Classroom you used last summer to do your Bible Unit.

• Chancel Choir members, Jeff Hunt will be sending an email with midi files so you can practice the anthems for Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter.

• Immerse Group participants, please delay your reading by three weeks. Next meetings will begin Sunday April 5.

• Day Guests will be received outside the building on Tuesdays and Thursdays and provided food for their bodies and prayer for their souls. Judy Schlarb will be coordinating lunches.

• Sunday School families, Shelly Steinbarger and Carl King will be using their usual means of electronic communication to keep connected.

• EVERYONE, expect a call from one of your staff members each week. We will be doing a check-in, offering prayer, and are happy to receive and assist with any specific needs.

• ANYONE, if you want to get out of the house Pastor Mary plans to be at Colonial Café East (Tyler Road) on Tuesdays from 11:00-1:00, Wednesday 6:00-7:30pm at Colonial West (Randall), and at Kava Diem on Thursdays from 11:00-1:00 to share prayers and coffee/tea with anyone who comes. This is subject to these restaurants staying open.

• Stay Connected. We will be checking the church voice mail and email regularly. You can call the church at 630-584-6680, or send an email to If you do become ill please let a staff member know or leave a message so we can follow up. Do not hesitate to call Pastor Mary on her cell phone 630-276-6910 at any time.

This decision has not been made lightly. The challenge we are facing in Illinois is that some of the diagnosed cases of COVID-19 are of unknown origin, indicating that there may be an element of community spread. Social distancing will help with that. Our challenge as a church is to not let social distancing become spiritual distancing. This somewhat quieter time can be a time of drawing near to God and finding new ways to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Let us all seek to use this time well.

God’s peace to everyone. I hope and pray that we will be back together the weekend of April 4.

Pastor Mary