The Deep Wilderness

Of all the wilderness experiences we’ve been looking at throughout this Lent, the wilderness of death and loss can seem like one of the most profound. 

Each of the other experiences admits of having a reversal: if we want for something, we might get it; if we fear, we might be encouraged; if we despair, we might find hope, and when we face tragedy, we might find rescue. But death is a particular one. Death is irreversible. When we find ourselves in the wilderness of death and loss, we do not console ourselves with the possibility that the one we mourn might return to life soon.

But it is only in the recognition of the reality of death that we truly understand the grace and the power of resurrection. For resurrection is not simply the next stage by nature, it's not what automatically happens to a person after death, it's not really life after death; it's life out of death.

And we know about this stunning reversal because of the witness of one who was the divine Son of God, the one whose death was not the death only of the human Jesus, but also a death of the Son, a death within God’s own being.

What this means is that while death will be no less real for us, we know that we do not walk through the valley of the shadow of death alone. God, the God who took death into God’s own being, walks beside us still. And the God who raised Jesus from the dead, will raise us, too, and carry us from this wilderness of death into the promised land of life eternal.

Rev. Mark Schaefer, Pastor


Thanks to everyone who participated in worship services Sunday. Thanks to Crystal Reed and Cara Schaefer for helping to set up and test the online connections, and to Chiara Griffith for taking the time to record and provide our music. And also to our dog Beny for not misbehaving during the recording for the third week in a row.
         Sermon: “The Wilderness of Death and Loss,” Rev. Mark Schaefer
         Sunday’s attendance: c. 65
         Collection: $ TBD
  • ☛ To watch a recording of this Sunday’s worship, watch our Facebook live video at

NEXT SUNDAY SERVICES, APRIL 5, 2020, 10:00 a.m.—ONLINE (See Below)
Sixth Sunday in Lent—Palm/Passion Sunday

Sermon: “The Wilderness of Betrayal,” Rev. Mark Schaefer
Scripture Lessons: Isaiah 50:4–9a; Matthew 21:1–11; 26:47–75

To Join Online: Want to help out in worship? Use our online sign-up to be a greeter, usher, liturgist, lector, or communion server.

A Special Note from the Pastor

Dear <<First Name>>,

It is with a great deal of mixed emotions that I share with you news that was relayed during worship this morning. Bishop Easterling has offered me a new appointment effective July 1, 2020, and after a great deal of prayer and reflection, I have accepted. This was not something I was expecting and was a very difficult decision to make.

In my short time with you, I have come to love this community deeply and have been uplifted by the depth of love, grace, and hospitality that I have found. I care deeply about our community here at Cheltenham UMC and want to promise a few things. First, until the moment my appointment here ends, I am your pastor, fully and completely. There will be no early check-out, no slow fade. Second, I will ensure that my successor have everything he or she needs to continue the work we have been doing. We have accomplished some wonderful things in these few months and I want your new pastor to understand what a wonderful congregation this is and to have the tools to serve you as best as they are able.

In United Methodist itineracy we are appointed for one year at a time, and thus never know how long we’ll be in any given appointment. The only thing we know is that while we are in a place, we are called to serve as best as we can. That has been my goal since I arrived and will be my goal until my last day. I am grateful for your partnership in ministry and consider myself especially blessed to be your pastor for the time we have together.

Yours in Christ,

The COVID-19 outbreak has been a challenge to so many of us, and yet, in our responses offers us some real reasons for hope. Read Rev. Schaefer’s reflection entitled: Solidarity, the Coronavirus, and Salvation.

Community Events & Information

Out of care and Christian concern for the most vulnerable members of our community, all in-person worship, meetings, and other events are cancelled through Sunday, April 26, 2020, and possibly beyond. Read our pastor’s letter about the cancellations. All our events are moving online and instructions for joining them can be found below.

A mailing has gone out with pre-addressed contribution envelopes for those who would like to make their tithe or offering. We have also recently set up a system that will allow you to do the same thing using a debit or credit card or your bank account information. You can choose which fund to contribute to, make a gift in honor of or in memory of someone, and even set up a profile to speed recurring donations in the future. To make your donation online, visit

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday. Ordinarily that would consist of the distribution and waving of palms as we would celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem before his passion. However, as we are not meeting in person or using the sanctuary, our usual practice will not work. We have combed the scriptures and found that only the Gospel of John refers to "palm branches," Matthew says “branches,” Mark “leafy branches,” and Luke doesn't mention any kind of branches. So, with this in mind, I am encouraging everyone to bring whatever kind of branches you want into our worship and shake them enthusiastically as we sing All Glory, Laud, and Honor and Hosanna, Loud Hosanna.

Next Sunday would normally be Communion Sunday. However, given our inability to meet in person, it will not be possible to celebrate communion. (Theologically, elements cannot be consecrated remotely.) However, there is another ancient tradition that we can do: the Agape Meal or the Love Feast. Our own Amber Reamy has volunteered to make bread for the love feast and to deliver it to anyone who'd like to receive it. Use the link below to sign up. Please sign up by Thursday, April 2 to ensure plenty of time for preparation.
Contact: Amber Reamy,
Sign up for Bread Delivery
Learn more about the Love Feast:

Monday, March 30, 2020, 9 a.m.–11 a.m.?

The Monday Methodists are back in action and will be meeting online for their regular prayer meeting using Zoom from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.. As per our usual custom, Monday Methodists will be followed immediately by the Knitting Group at 10 a.m.. You are welcome to join us for either or both meetings by logging in any time after 9 a.m.  Here’s how you can participate!
  • Using Zoom on a smartphone, computer, or other device
  • Calling in on your telephone
    • Dial  +1 (301) 715 8592
    • Enter meeting ID: 306 194 066#
Contact (Monday Methodists): Lu Lawrence,
Crystal Reed (Knitting)

Tuesday, March 31, 9:30 a.m., Zoom

The Pastor’s Bible study continues this week and every Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m.  We continue our deeper dive into the lectionary texts used on Sunday during worship. Everyone is welcome to attend. No prior experience required! Because of the closure of the church building, we will be having this Bible study online. Here's how you can join!
  • Using Zoom on a smartphone, computer, or other device
  • Calling in on your telephone
    • Dial  +1 (301) 715 8592
    • Enter meeting ID: 456 431 396#
Contact: Rev. Mark Schaefer,
Tuesday, March 31, 11 a.m–1 p.m; Wednesday, April 1, 2 p.m.–4 p.m.

Rev. Schaefer’s office hours will be online this week for both the Tuesday in-office session and the Wednesday in-a-coffee-shop session. You can connect in a number of different ways.
  • Through Zoom Group Meeting:
    • Use the Zoom app to join the meeting via smartphone or other device
    • Or Call in to the Zoom meeting on your telephone at:
      • Tuesday: +1 (301) 715-8592, enter code: 173 570 837#
      • Wednesday: +1 (301) 715-8592, enter code: 493 671 679#
  • Use Google Chat
    • From your online gmail, initiate a hangout chat and invite him ( to chat. Once you're connected, you can talk online through chat. 
If you cannot make office hours but would like to talk with Rev. Schaefer, you can book a time to do so through a handy online tool called You Can Book Me. You can use this to book time to talk online via chat or by phone. You can also reach him by phone at (202) 486-6061.
Contact: Rev. Mark Schaefer,
A Joshua tree in the Arizona desertMarch 1–April 12, 2020

When you’re in the wilderness of want, fear, despair, tragedy, death and loss, or betrayal—where is God then? Beginning next Sunday, we will be embarking on a Lenten Sermon series exploring the experience of journeying through the wildernesses of our lives and where we encounter God in their midst.
Contact: Rev. Mark Schaefer,

Regular Weekly Calendar

  • Monday
    • Monday Methodists, 9 a.m. (ONLINE)
    • Knitting Circle, 10 a.m. (ONLINE)
  • Tuesday
    • Cheltenham Academy, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
    • Pastor’s Bible Study, 9:30 a.m. (ONLINE)
    • Pastor’s Office Hours, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. (ONLINE)
    • AA and Al-Anon, 8 p.m.
  • Wednesday
    • SLOGGS Meeting, 11:30 a.m. (2nd Wed of month)
    • Pastor’s “Office” Hours, 2–4 p.m. (ONLINE)
    • Book Club, 6 p.m.
    • Band, 6 p.m.
    • Choir Rehearsal, 7 p.m.
  • Friday
    • Pastor’s Sabbath
  • Sunday
    • Sunday School, 9 a.m.
    • Sunday Worship, 10 a.m. (ONLINE)
    • Fellowship, 11 a.m.

Prayer List

Family, friends, and all those mourning the deaths of
     Terry Putnam
     Dave Dargo
     Irene, mother of Lydia Gladstone
     The brother of Janice
     Judy Stone
     The son and grandson of Rev. Warren
     Judy’s son
     Amy Mackey

     Bradley Brown
     Ginny Lang
the brother of Connie
Cristina, returning to work as an RN to treat COVID-19 patients
Pets left worried and confused while owners suffer from COVID-19 in hospitals
Dan, called back into service with the army
Maria del Mar, comfort after losing her job of 10 years this week
Porters, doormen, and staff working in apartment buildings to keep conditions safe and clean for residents
Kendra’s friend’s father, elderly and hospitalized with presumed COVID-19 complications
Kris, with a serious illness
Susie, whose son-in-law Steven is a first responder in DC and daughter Brooke, a nurse
Jonas Brachfield, 95, loving in locked down independent living home, struggling with loss of sight
Connie House’s mother and family, mourning death of her brother Steve as her mother’s dementia continues to progress
Sarah, distressed and looking for a job
Ellie, recovering from hip surgery, suffering from COVID-19
Sarah, furloughed from her job
Betty McDermott, dying from COVID-19 and her daughter Martha, quarantined with her
First responders, providing urgent medical care during this pandemic
Doug House, the homeless ministry, and those he serves
Connie, and all those working in nursing homes during the pandemic
Indigo, traveling mercies and all those concerned with job insecurity and finding employment
Joanne and Bill, with health issues
Leonard B., for quick recovery and good test results following recent surgery
The son of Pastor Denise Millett, at high risk for infection, seeking excused absence from work
Clayton, with ongoing health problems
Miriam, with back problems
Eddie, with lung problems
Lucien, with foot sprain
Becky, with a back injury
Jaime, with difficulties in pregnancy
Landon, with a broken arm
Derek, deployed to Bahrain
Jenn, going through a difficult time
Leora, with increasing memory problems
Becky Flade, recovering from a stroke and going through a difficult time
Crystal’s friend, diagnosed with Parkinson's
Elsie and Chuck Tyler, in the hospital

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