These past few months, I have been finding my way around Hattiesburg, meeting lots of new people and finding Mississippi to be a great place of hospitality and a great place to think and grow. Of course, most of what I know now about Mississippi comes directly from my experience with you all here at University Baptist Church. I am so grateful for the work and worship that is being done in this place. It is good to be a part of a community that knows and loves one another, that honors one another, and that has welcomed me in so warmly. Thank you for that. It has been a joy getting to know so many of you, what matters to you, and what makes you who you are. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. As I look forward to the many months ahead, I am excited to be a part of all that will be happening in the life of University Baptist Church: new and continuing programs, trips, retreats, and Bible Studies. Winter Bible Study was a great way to begin our new year, offering thoughtful reflections and a hopeful perspective on a book we rarely hear about. This study was truly a gift to us as we heard from Dr. Tucker, absorbed and wondered along with him throughout the study. I hope that we will have many more opportunities this year to do this faithful work of learning and growing through our encounters and studies of the stories of God.

We have much to look forward to as we continue in our work of encountering God, learning more of who God is and who in turn we are to be as we live out that identity in this church and the broader community. Teachers and committee chairs are hard at work putting together lessons and programs, brainstorming and creating for a wonderful church year of thoughtful study and application. This month we are taking a fresh look at our Sunday School classes, and we are celebrating the educational opportunities that University Baptist Church is and will be offering. This focus has led us to set aside the pages of the February Communicator to share with one another all that we are learning through our Christian Education curriculum.

Our hope is that this Communicator issue will offer—through snapshots of the classes and programs that are being planned and thriving here among us—all of us the opportunity to see what others around us are doing, where our gifts might be used, where we might be encouragers, and where we might, additionally, like to plug in.

In our continual effort to offer meaningful, thoughtful studies, programs and classes, we have revamped the Education council to include Sunday School teachers. As we work to offer more opportunities, we are hoping that this will make all news of such occasions more accessible to members. Teachers have been tasked to keep classes informed of pertinent information shared in the council meetings. Likewise, we hope this will create more accessibility to inspiration coming from members as teachers bring thoughts from their respective classes back to the Education Council. We know that this church is teeming with great ideas and the talent to create meaningful, purposeful experiences as we think and grow together.

I am so thankful for all of you, the wisdom, knowledge and goodness that you bring to this place. May God’s blessings be upon you this new year, and may this place be one of hospitality, love, and meaningful conversation and work.