May 28 2023 – Pentecost/Heritage Sunday (Aldersgate Day – May 24)


A Moment for Mission

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” —Acts 2:4, NRSVUE

What is your local church’s history? Has it existed for more than 100 years? Is it a newly planted church? Was it formed by the merger of two or more congregations? If it is more than 55 years old, was it previously related to The Methodist Church or to The Evangelical United Brethren Church? Our churches’ stories are as many and varied as the churches themselves.

“Each congregation,” said Dr. Ashley Boggan, “has a story, one rich with history and details of ministry to its community and one another. We want to recognize that our shared stories undergird our denomination and serve as the foundation of our connectionalism.” Boggan is top executive of United Methodism’s General Commission on Archives and History.

The 2023 theme for Heritage Sunday is “Local Church Histories: The Cornerstone of Our Faith.” The United Methodist Church celebrates Heritage Sunday annually on Aldersgate Sunday when it falls on May 24 or the Sunday preceding May 24; this year’s date is May 21.

To celebrate the 2023 theme, the General Commission on Archives and History asked local churches to submit their histories to GCAH. The commission will select a dozen histories to be highlighted on the agency website and social media channels and in Heritage Sunday resources.

“Every congregation contributes to the overarching narrative of United Methodism,” Boggan said in February 2023. “We look forward to learning what local churches across the denomination have discovered and to share their stories with others.”

On Heritage Sunday, we reflect on and celebrate our church’s heritage—where it has been, how it understands itself as it shapes us today and the meaning of Christian conferencing. Heritage Sunday encourages United Methodists to remember the past by committing themselves to God’s continuing call.

The General Commission on Archives and History maintains relationships with the five jurisdictional Commissions on Archives and History, the central conferences, the World Methodist Historical Society, the World Methodist Council and the Charles Wesley Society.

Children’s Story
When the year 1999 ended and 2000 began, sixth-graders Katie and Kristen prepared a time capsule to bury at their United Methodist church in Nashville, Tennessee. A time capsule has special items in it that celebrate the local community. In a certain number of years, people from the future will open it and see what life was like now! Inside the capsule were things like a church bulletin, a history of the church, pictures of special events and notes and other items from Katie, Kristen, and their classmates.

Since 2000, we’ve seen big changes in the world. We have Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram. There are now 8 billion people in the world (there used to be 6 billion). In 2008, Barack Obama became the first African American president of the United States. Twelve years later, Kamala Harris, who is African American and Asian American, became the first female vice president.

It would be fun to open that time capsule today, wouldn’t it? The girls who prepared it, now in their 30s, are busy with careers and their lives. But how has the church changed since then? What happened to the pastors from 24 years ago? In the list of that church’s leaders today, would we find the names of the children who made the time capsule in 1999?

History is fun. Over the years, so much has changed. In The United Methodist Church, the General Commission on Archives and History in Madison, New Jersey, helps churches like ours.

The General Commission on Archives and History building is like a giant time capsule, with a collection of books, papers, pictures and other things of The United Methodist Church and the churches that came before us. It’s a fun look into the past and a way to imagine the future!

Let’s talk about this:

  • What is history?
  • Why is church history important?
  • What would you put into a time capsule for 2023?

Offertory Prayer
Loving God, thank you for your gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We celebrate the church’s birthday and thank you for the many believers who have contributed to its rich history. Amen.

From Discipleship Ministries:  Pentecost Sunday God of wind and flame: set us on fire this morning as celebrate the explosion of your Holy Spirit coming into the world on the Day of Pentecost! Remind us that the gift you gave that day was not just the gift to speak in different tongues, but also the gift of hearing and comprehension. May your Holy Spirit keep us attuned to the voices all around us, to those who need us to be bearers of your love and compassion, and may these gifts we give help us, through your church, meet those needs.  In the holy name of Jesus we pray. Amen. (Acts 2:1-21).

Newsletter Nugget
This Sunday is Pentecost, often called the birthday of the church. As recorded in Acts 2, on Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to the believers in Jerusalem. Peter recalled the prophet Joel’s words: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. … Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:17, 21, NRSVUE).

Along with celebrating the church’s birthday, we observe Heritage Sunday, a time to reflect on our church’s heritage—where it has been, how it understands itself as it shapes us today and the meaning of Christian conferencing. Heritage Sunday encourages the church to remember the past by committing itself to God’s continuing call.

Do you have a question about church history? You’ll probably find the answer at the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH), located at the United Methodist Archives and History Center in Madison, New Jersey. GCAH assists local churches and annual conferences through publications, workshops, research services and other programs.

Happy Pentecost! Happy Heritage Sunday!

Adapted from “Heritage Sunday 2023 Theme Eelebrates Local Church Histories,” General Commission on Archives and History, Feb. 13, 2023

United Methodist Communications is an agency of The United Methodist Church

©2023 United Methodist Communications. All Rights Reserved