September 2018

Coming To Worship

Scriptures tell us that we were created to worship and that our relationship with our awesome God is central to faith and life. We are not just a personal religion that can be practiced in secret and without interaction with fellow believers. We are the Church, the body of Christ, and individually members of the whole. Each Sunday we gather to build the body and to worship our gracious God. In worship, God is the focus, Christ is the message and the Holy Spirit is the power. It is important that before worship we prepare ourselves both as individuals and as a community of faith.

Each Monday at noon, the Brown Bag Bible study meets and focuses on the Scripture for the message on Sunday. This helps me as a preacher and those who are gathered to prepare for the next Sunday’s worship.

In September, Sunday School begins again. This is also a way to prepare for worship. Often the Sunday school lesson follows the lectionary and theme for worship and gives an opportunity to discuss the topic of the day with fellow worshipers. It is also a time to get to know some folks that you share this ministry with.

As we gather for worship, it is important to “build the body” by catching up on news of your friends and welcoming visitors. Sunday morning may be the only time that some are able to interact with one another. Come a little early and gather in the narthex or in the pews and visit. And the friendliness of a church (or the lack of it) is the greatest determination of whether a visitor will return the next Sunday.

But worship begins not with announcements or the welcome by the pastor. When the prelude begins all conversation should stop and all attention should be drawn to the presence of our magnificent God. It is not “dinner music” to accompany your continued conversation. Or worse yet, an impediment to your speech so you have to talk LOUDER to be heard.

It is not simply rude to whoever is offering that part of worship, but a misunderstanding of the important role the prelude plays in gathering our attention to the one we worship. Visit, welcome new people, but also be a model for true worship. Be inspired not only by the Scripture reading and message but the wonderful music that is not there for entertainment but to draw attention to our awesome God.

Scott

 

August 2018

Chart of Progress in the Pastoral Search

This is a check list of the process in finding a new pastor. We will provide this as a way to keep you informed about where we are and what needs to be done next.

(Completed) July 2017 – Bridge interim is hired and search for an interim begins.

(Completed) November 2017 – Interim minister is hired and begins work.

(Completed) March 2018 – Mission Study Review Committee is appointed and begins their work.

(Completed) July 2018 – Mission Study Report approved by Session.

________  Updated Mission Study is approved by Presbytery.

________  Pastor Nominating Committee is elected by congregation.

________  Ministry Information Form is circulated and search begins.

________  Candidate is found, and approved by Presbytery.

________  Congregation votes on candidate.

Scott

July 2018

Chart of Progress in the Pastoral Search

This is a check list of the process in finding a new pastor. We will provide this as a way to keep you informed about where we are and what needs to be done next. The next two steps should be accomplished quickly.

(Completed) July 2017 Bridge interim is hired and search for an interim begins.

(Completed) November 2017 Interim minister is hired and begins work.

(Completed) March 2018 Mission Study Review Committee is appointed and begins their work.

________  Updated Mission Study is approved by Presbytery.

________  Pastor Nominating Committee is elected by congregation.

________  Ministry Information Form is circulated and search begins.

________  Candidate is found, and approved by Presbytery.

________  Congregation votes on candidate.

Scott

June 2018

An Update on the Pastoral Search Process

In keeping the congregation informed, let me update you on where the search process is for your new pastor.  A Mission Study Review Committee has been appointed by the session.  A congregational survey has been circulated, compiled and the results are being reviewed.  The next step for the committee is to update the rest of the 2016 Mission Study for approval by the session and then the Committee on Ministry of New Hope Presbytery.  When the Committee on Ministry approves the Mission Study they will also give permission to form a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC).  At that time a congregational meeting will be called and the Congregational Nominating Committee will offer the seven member Mission Study Committee as the PNC.  The congregation will be given the option of nominating from the floor additional members to this committee.  The PNC will work on the Ministry Information Form (MIF) which will be circulated and used to match candidates for the position.  The committee will be then ready to receive Personal Information Forms (PIF) and begin interviewing potential pastors.  I believe that the PNC will be interviewing ministers by the early fall.  When there are new developments, I will try to alert the congregation through the newsletter.

 

Scott

 

 

May 2018

Just as Advent, Lent, and Easter are seasons of the church and not simply one day, Pentecost is also a season. The day of Pentecost (50 days after Passover) was the Jewish harvest festival. The word  Pentecost (fiftieth), is found only in the New Testament (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8). The   festival is first spoken of in Exodus 23:16 as “the feast of harvest,” and again in Exodus 34:22 as “the day of the first fruits” (Numbers 28:26). Besides the sacrifices prescribed for the occasion, everyone was to bring to the Lord his “tribute of a free-will offering” (Deuteronomy 16:9-11). The purpose of this feast was to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest. Its distinguishing feature was the offering of “two leavened loaves” made from the new corn of the completed harvest, which, with two lambs, were waved before the Lord as a thank offering.

The day of Pentecost is noted in the Christian Church as the day on which the Spirit descended   upon the apostles, and on which, under Peter’s preaching, so many thousands were converted in Jerusalem (Acts 2). It is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter. But the Christian season of Pentecost goes from the day of Pentecost (May 20, 2018) all the way to Christ the King Sunday (November 25, 2018). In recent years there has been a move to de-emphasize this time as a season and transfer the designation as “Ordinary Time”. The liturgical color for Pentecost is red but for Ordinary Time is green. Now red is only displayed on the Day of Pentecost.

 

For Christians this is the season of the Church. We celebrate the establishment of the church when Peter gave his speech to the crowd and thousands were added to the Church. But it is also the time we celebrate the life and work of the Church throughout history. As we enter this season, let us    remember our own life and work in the church.

 

Peace,

Scott

 

April 2018

Easter for Christians is not just one day, but rather a 50-day period. The season of Easter, or Eastertide, begins at sunset on the eve of Easter and ends on Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (see Acts 2).

 

Easter is also more than just an extended celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. In the early church, Lent was a season for new converts to learn about the faith and prepare for baptism on Easter Sunday. The initial purpose of the 50-day Easter season was to continue the faith formation of new Christians.

 

Today, this extended season gives us time to rejoice and experience what it means when we say Christ is risen. It’s the season when we remember our baptisms and how through this sacrament we are, according to the liturgy, “incorporated into Christ’s mighty acts of salvation.” As “Easter people,” we also celebrate and ponder the birth of the Church and gifts of the Spirit (Pentecost), and how we are to live as faithful disciples of Christ.

 

March 2018

Three months have passed since I have joined you as your interim minster. I want to thank you for your gracious welcome of my family and me. Though I am still in the process of learning and remembering names, I feel that I have gotten to know many of you well. I am now in the process of setting up visits with congregational members to hear from you about your dreams for this church and your hopes for leadership.

Questions have been asked about where we are in the process of finding a new Senior Pastor. First let me explain the interim ministry process. There are five developmental tasks that I need to “check off” with you before a new minister is installed. These don’t need to be accomplished sequentially, but must be addressed during my time with you.

The first is helping the church deal with the past. There may be feelings of loss, confusion, anger, or mistrust that remain among members after the leaving of the last pastor, but the church needs to also celebrate its ministry and history. The second task is to discern a new congregational identity and mission. This is where a mission study is undertaken or, in your case, probably reviewed and updated. Third is to facilitate needed shifts in its leadership. Both the staff and the committee structure need to be examined to see if they are appropriate for the stated ministry of the church. The fourth is to make sure the church is connected through our denominational linkages. And finally to commit to new leadership and ministry.

The Call process itself has already begun by the formation of your congregational nominating committee. In their work they will not only begin thinking about elders and deacons for next year but this is the group that will nominate the Pastoral Nominating Committee to begin the search for a new pastor. Normally a Study Committee is formed first and a self-study process begun. But because your last self study is recent, the Committee On Ministry can waive the requirement of doing a new self-study. Once COM gives permission for the PNC to be formed, a congregational meeting will be called to elect the members. When in place, the PNC will review the self-study and facilitate a dialogue with the congregation in determining what characteristics and ministry skills are needed. A Ministry Information Form (MIF) is then generated to be published, matched with prospective candidates, and given to those who apply for the position. The COM then again gives permission to begin the active search and the PNC can start interviewing ministers for the position.

My involvement with the process will diminish as the PNC gets closer to the search, and the interim minister is not to have any input into the evaluation of individual minister candidates when that time comes. Though interims can be employed up to two years and for some churches the process may take longer, I do not believe that will be the case with this church. If all goes well, I believe that the PNC will be fully engaged in the search sometime this Fall.

I hope this answers most of the questions you might have about the process and where we are. I will try to keep you informed and up to date as often as I can, but if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask.

Scott

 

February 2018

Lent

The season of Lent begins on February 14 with Ash Wednesday. For protestants, Lent sometimes seems like an ancient “Catholic” tradition not relevant for anything outside of a Vatican mandate. However, Lent offers a real chance for all Christians to deepen their walk with God.

Traditionally in ancient times, new converts were baptized and taken into the church at Easter after a long period of study, examination, and preparation called the catechumenate. This might last years. The months before Easter became an intense time of prayer and fasting for these catechumens and many fellow Christians began to fast and pray along with these new sisters and brothers. It eventually became a practice of the whole church and a part of the liturgical year as a way for Christians to walk with Christ in remembrance through the 40 days in the wilderness. And just like Advent, it is a time for preparation and counting down to the holy time of Easter.

During the Reformation many Protestant churches abandoned the practice because of its association with Roman Catholicism. However, in the last 60 years or so, many Protestants have rediscovered Lent as a season of discipline and renewal of their Christian walk.

The practice of giving something up or only eating a certain type of food still is a tradition. On Shrove (from shrive meaning “absolve”) Tuesday or Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), pancakes abound because they use up rich oil and butter not allowed during Lent. Though giving up things for a time or taking on certain personal disciplines can clear and focus our faith if we do them sincerely, many have recently taken on the tradition of doing something new, taking a service project, or finding someone to befriend.

As we move into this holy time of tradition and preparation, may our faith be renewed and our walk deepened in Christ.

January 2018

New Beginnings

 

The New Year brings new beginnings. Renewal is a basic theme of our Christian faith.  We are given a chance to start all over and get it right.   This is a time of hope and change full of energy and resolve and, if we stick with it, we can see an improvement in our situation in life.  But this is a process that may bring some hard choices.

 

Giving up things may be the first step in positive change.  Creative destruction clears the way to a new opportunity in life.  Old decaying structures may need to be pulled down and removed before a new, energy efficient, earthquake resistant, and beautiful building can be erected. Sometimes we need to get rid of the bad habits before they can be replaced by good ones.

 

Sticking with the change is probably the hardest part.  How many New Year’s resolutions have come and gone unfulfilled because we couldn’t keep up the new good habit?  Perseverance was one of those things that Paul often wrote about- running the race, keeping your eye on the prize, and finishing with integrity.

 

Besides the same old resolutions of weight loss, better money management, and stronger relationships, how about your spiritual life?  What realistic positive changes can you make in this upcoming year to draw closer to God and your sisters and brothers in the faith?

Scott

 

December 2017

Advent Is Coming

 

Advent is coming!  Now, that may sound strange since the word Advent means “the Coming”.

So, what we are saying is that The Coming is coming!  This year, Advent starts on December 3.  Many believe that is the beginning of the Christmas Season.  Certainly the retailers would like us to begin celebrating Christmas as early and as long as possible.   Christmas in July sales, Christmas decorations in September, and Christmas carols on the radio before Halloween seem to become more and more invasive.  “Brazil”, a movie filled with dark British humor, presented an overbearing bureaucracy that declared every day to be Christmas Eve and required everyone to offer presents because “it was good for business”.

We tend to rush through Advent in the Church as well, jumping to the joys of Christmas.  There is always the desire to sing Christmas hymns starting after Thanksgiving.  But Advent is a season of the church on its own with its own hymns and traditions.  It is a time of preparation not only for the Christmas season but for the Christian life.

There is an excitement about anticipation that brings life to ordinary day to day existence.  If you ever “stumbled” across the Christmas presents your parents hid under the bed and secretly peeked, (I, of course, am not admitting to such a scandal) you know the deflation of excitement experienced on Christmas morning when you tried to fain surprise.

We have not suddenly made it as Christians, we are in a constant state of becoming.  The Biblical images of a journey or a race for the Christian life speaks to this process.  We have the destination in mind, the Kingdom of Heaven, but the journey is a great part of the experience.  We should savor every moment as well as make preparations, asking questions along the way like: How can I be more like Christ in my treatment of family, friends, and strangers?; How can I deepen my relationship with the God who walks with me?;  How can I share the grace given me to others who so desperately need it?   This we do in preparation for the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

As the countdown of Advent comes, we should do more than tick off the shopping days till Christmas or make the house ready for company.  We should examine ourselves to see where we are in our Christian walk and what the next step should be.  Merry Advent everybody!

 Scott