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  

 

November 2017

As many of you know, Judy and I were on vacation the first part of October.  Last spring, we made our schedule to visit family in San Diego and then spend a week attending concerts and touring the surrounding areas of Las Vegas.  Little did we know someone was going to create a tragedy by shooting from the Mandalay Bay Hotel into a crowd who were enjoying an open air concert?  Thankfully, our visit didn’t coincide with that national tragedy.

I admit we were curious to see the place where it happened.  As we entered the city, we saw on the grassy median flowers, cards and a variety of memorials for the people.  The display extended about two blocks and was fenced in to make it safe for people entering and leaving.  At the end of the makeshift      memorial were two small tents for people to visit where someone would pray with them.  Seeing this     created a somber feeling for us.  This memorial was always crowded with visitors as well as creating a   traffic jam.

As I interacted with workers, they were open in telling us how difficult this terrible incident was for them.  It was a surreal experience to be in an environment where people were mourning and yet,       continuing to celebrate the city of Las Vegas.  The people were determined not to let this incident define them.  As a way to support the victims, they were selling T-shirts, caps, sweatshirts and other things with the slogan “Vegas-Strong.”  One hundred percent of the proceeds went to a victims’ fund.  Needless to say I was impressed!  Yes, we came home with several of them.

As a church, you have been and continue to experience transitions.  While your transition isn’t like the one in Las Vegas, you still have feelings which need to be supported.  I think we need to pay attention to the dynamics of change.  “Change” whether it’s chosen or imposed, creates the opportunity to either grow or regress.  What I experienced with you is a strong commitment to “keep on keeping on.” Because of what I have discovered about you, I firmly believe you will also embrace the ministry of Scott as you work and prepare for your next installed pastor.  I have seen your determination to acknowledge your loss and still maintain excitement about your future.  You are “FPC-Strong!”

On a personal note; I am deeply appreciative of the support and love you have shown to Judy and me.  As we change roles, I am thankful for the opportunity to be your bridge pastor.  I give my love and grace to all of you here at FPC.

 

FPC-Strong!

Preston

 

October 2017

October brings a mixed bag of emotions for me.  I am mostly a warm weather person but I also like the fall.  Cool mornings that turn into comfortable days, changing leaves from green to gold, yellow and red, people gathering for tailgate parties, and kids getting off of the school bus laughing and shouting to one another as they walk away in different directions.  There is something about fall that feels, smells and looks celebratory.  Maybe it’s for parents when children go back to school, maybe it’s the beginning of football season—ECU, UNC, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest or whichever school you hail from.

October 31, 1517 is another reason to celebrate fall of 2017.  This date is pivotal to what we know as the Protestant Reformation.  Just imagine what it may have been like prior to this time.  If you “sinned” you could only be forgiven if you presented yourself to the priest and paid penance.  If the priest, bishop or even the pope wanted to achieve a certain goal they could sell indulgences as a way to be reimbursed.  The religious structure was such that members were subservient to the authorities.  “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.”  Are we not sure this isn’t Washington, DC?

Maybe I am over simplifying this important historical event in church history.  What I am not simplifying is the importance this event in 1517 had on us as Protestants.  Martin Luther didn’t intend nor could he have imagined the impact his personal struggle would have on church history.  He wanted to bring reform from within the Catholic Church but instead he became the lightning rod for a simmering discontent.  No doubt there were many priests and parishioners who wondered why they couldn’t talk directly to God and ask for forgiveness.  For us it seems talking with God and certainly asking for forgiveness has always been there.  In fact, we may take this concept for granted that absolution becomes a rote response.  How often have we read the prayer of forgiveness in worship and then heard the absolution proclaimed without an internal reflection?  I confess I have—now I am looking for absolution—how much is it going to cost me?

During the month of October you may hear much more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.  Some of the Wednesday evening studies in October will include viewing a DVD on Luther and a Sunday school class or two will discuss this topic.  Sunday October 29 we will celebrate Reformation Sunday in worship.

Presbyterians are celebrating the 500th anniversary of reform.  Our motto is “reform and being reformed.”  What this means is that we are never complete but always in process.  God continues to forgive and to claim us through his grace.  Thank you FPCRM for who you are and for what you will continue to become.

 

Peace and blessings,

Preston

 

September 2017

     Here we are in September; this summer has really gone fast.  We stand on the edge of fall—new academic year, new Sunday School curriculum, Rally Day with church picnic, meeting new people or being reacquainted with people we haven’t seen for a while—time and life steadily goes on. 

     As I put my thoughts on paper I am feeling overwhelmed with the tragic news of unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia and North Carolina.  How will our community be impacted?  How will I participate in the conversation affecting our community and nation?  To be honest, I really don’t know.  On one hand history, whether I like it or not, is part of who we are.  On the other hand I don’t want to support injustice of any kind.  Even worse, I don’t want to stick my head in the sand and pretend we don’t have a problem.  I think we are part of the problem and the solution.  I’m just trying to understand where I fit in.

      Many will struggle to integrate the emotional fury within our larger community with the theological understanding of our faith.  The emotional fury within our nation and community cannot be separated from the life of FPC.  What we feel and think about in everyday life will be with us in Sunday School and worship, whether it’s our health issues, family dynamics, underlying forces at work or political and social complexities. Life is both a mess and a blessing.

      It is so easy to jump on the bandwagon of emotional issues and get caught up in group mentality where we say and do things that normally we would not say or do.  I need others to help me stay grounded and remember humans are basically good people.  I struggle with how to look beyond the surface of anger, unrest and violent behavior to see the pain, disappointment, and misunderstanding.  When a child acts out in our family it’s usually because of an underlying issue.  Of course the behavior needs to be addressed but if we deal with the underlying issue then there is less need for the unacceptable behavior to occur again.  The social and political dynamics, like family systems, are difficult and convoluted to understand.

      When I peel back the layers of social behavior and attitude, I am better able to remember my core value.  My core faith value is the North Star which guides me to engage and interact with others regardless of where they stand politically, socially, or religiously.  My North Star boils down to what Jesus said to the young man who asked him the greatest commandment.  Jesus said to love God with all your heart, mind and spirit and to love your neighbor as yourself.  The way I understand this is to respect God and to respect others.  While I may not agree with you I will respect who you are.  Remember in my first newsletter article I said my prayer was: “Lord help me to accept people for who you created them to be and not the way I want them to be.”  Sometimes I am able to pull this off.

      Thank you for who you are and may we continue our struggles together so others may see to whom we belong. 

Shalom,

Preston

 

August 2017

Hot! Hot!  Every day I hear something about the hot weather.  I watch the weather forecast at least once and sometimes three times a day. “Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it,” was contributed to Mark Twain.  However, research indicates that Charles Dudley Warner, editor at the Hartford Courant, may have used it earlier than Mark Twain.  Reference to Twain was in 1905 whereas Warner used it as early as 1889.

 

Regardless, we have weather all the time and we (humans) like to complain about things we have no control over.

 

That sounds like me!  I remember those July and August hot days in the tobacco fields.  One year, dad’s rows of tobacco seemed like they were 5 miles long.  Actually, they were only about 6 blocks long.  The flowers in the top were to be removed, called topping.  In between each leaf another little tobacco plant grew which needed to be removed in order to produce quality tobacco.  Of course, many of you know removing this little plant is called “suckering.”

 

As we began the task of topping and suckering (which I thought was crazy) it appeared we would never reach the other end of those long rows.  Looking at the other end of the row and across the field was a daunting feeling—we will never get there, so I thought.

 

I have since discovered if I focus only on the outcome then I miss the importance of the journey.  The journey may be difficult at times but necessary to have the desired outcome.  For   example, the weeks and months planning a vacation often brings more joy than the vacation itself.

 

As a church family, it’s important to remember the journey (living today) is where we find the meaning of life.  A pastoral transition for churches creates anxiety and could lead to unhealthy shortcuts.  I am convinced that if we do our work appropriately, we will have the right outcome.

 

I needed to be reminded how important the tedious work on each hill of tobacco was for quality outcome.  Likewise, trusting the leadership of the Holy Spirit will guide us in our journey.  I am thankful to be in journey with you at this time and place.

Shalom,

Preston

 

July 2017

Each day upon waking up, I have an expectation of what my day may be like.  Breakfast, morning coffee with friends at a local watering hole, chores, hobbies, lunch and dinner with Judy, visiting grandchildren for ballgames and recitals, etc.  You too, have your expected daily routine.  Oops! Then life happens.  A dreaded phone call telling you that a loved one has died, a health report stating you have a significant illness, a neighbor in trouble, job change, etc. 

 

While I know life consists of unexpected events (positive and negative), I arise every morning not anticipating them today. 

 

My plans for the summer and fall consisted of relearning how to fish (new boat), golfing, weekly motorcycle trips with friends, visiting grandchildren in Utah (and their parents) and traveling with Judy.

 

It was an unexpected life event the day FPCRM leaders called to ask if I would consider serving as bridge interim  pastor while they searched for a full-time interim minister.  FPC was not on my radar screen but it didn’t take long before I realized this is what I was being called to do.  You see, I have lived my life with the attitude, “Lord, guide me in ways to serve you.”  However, I expected to serve in smaller “bites,” you know the kind that would match my retirement plans, a little bit here and a little bit there.  

 

As each of you know quality of life is not in the content of what we do but in the attitude we have.  One could play golf and it could be the worst experience or the best experience ever–attitude.  Likewise, I would never have chosen my dad to have Alzheimer’s disease.  Many of you know how difficult it is to have loved ones live with this disease.  When this happened , I learned to pray, “why not us, we are not any better than anyone else.”  When our son was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer we approached it the same way.  Now that doesn’t mean we didn’t cry, hurt, and struggle.  It meant we were not alone as we faced life challenges.  Family, friends and our faith family were there to give us strength and support.

 

I have been blessed to be a part of the FPC family and I think it is in part to my being open to new possibilities (and certainly, the wonderful people I have met.)  I have great appreciation for who you are.  While there are many personalities and multitudes of life experiences in this family, it is my prayer to respect you as God has created you and not the way I think you should be.  I invite you to join with me in living this prayer this summer—“Lord, help me to respect others for the way you have created them rather than the way I think they should be.” 

  Peace and blessings,

  Preston

 

June 2017

At the recent Sunday School Teacher Appreciation Breakfast, our Children’s Ministry Coordinator, Lydia Wingo Kane, delivered a beautiful blessing and with her permission, a portion of it is being shared with you below.  No matter where you may find yourself during the summer months, whether near or far, facing new beginnings or endings, you can rest assured that God is with you.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not bedismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

                                Blessings,

                                     Dionne Seale

                                     Church Ministry Coordinator

“God of Beginnings and Endings,

 …God, it feels like we are constantly coming to forks in the road of life. Any way that change happens, God, it’s hard. Goodbyes are never easy, and we have experience with these forks in the road. We have made both easy and hard decisions, and we have seen where the road leads. Let us take that experience and make decisions that sustain your church, nurture our children and youth, and further your kingdom. We will pray. We will listen. Help us, God… Amen.”                                                                                                

      Lydia Wingo Kane – May 21, 2017