Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Signs of Glory

How wonderful it is that God should schedule Easter this year on the three-month anniversary of our time together. It is as though the good news of Easter morning and the good news of what God is doing among us were intended to share a common celebration. And what a celebration it is, for we are seeing exciting progress in each of the goals the Session set for our interim season. I have also had enough experience with God to know that where signs of glory appear, they represent only a fleeting glimpse of what God is doing behind the scenes, beneath the surface, and way beyond our wildest dreams.

For any one person to take credit for our progress would be to miss the greater miracle that the Lord of Life is at work among us. Let us, therefore, engage in our First Quarter Reflections with wonder, love and gratitude.

Goal: To build a viable membership.

This goal is measured by signs of increased commitment to the life of the church, and we have been blessed with encouraging signs—like the promise of two of our members to gift the church with $100 for each new member in 2016. On Easter we received one new member, and acknowledged others whose reception had never been recognized; even as efforts are underway to encourage more to strengthen their commitment to Christ through membership in our church.

The Session has also resolved to draw upon all of the talent that the Lord has entrusted to our keeping, and will be proactive in inviting all members to participate in the work and witness of the church.

Goal: To build a sustainable stewardship.

This goal is measured by signs of increased generosity—not only financial but also in the generosity of spirit that inspires willing volunteers. From church leadership, fellowship groups, and personal gifts of time, talent and treasure, we have seen the spirit of abundance that the Lord is awakening in our church family. Projects long stalled because of lack of resources are moving forward because the spirit of the congregation is excited about the future that God is unfolding before us.

Goal: To build a world mission outlook.

This goal is usually measured by an awakened sense of adventure—the realization that what the Lord is doing locally He is also doing globally—and by the excitement with which we are drawn to participation. Though we do a lot of things with an eye to mission, we have been detached from the work that our denomination is doing globally; but when the call went out to attend a global mission seminar this month 15 attended. That's almost 10% of our congregation!

Furthermore, at the annual meeting, a motion was made and unanimously approved to raise an additional 1% of our 2016 budget for world mission, and to increase that commitment by 1% each year until a 10% tithe was dedicated for our denomination's world mission. The Lord's influence is surely behind it.

Goal Four: To build a program that inspires growth.

This goal is measured in increments by the educational experiences we share. They begin with worship where we learn to appreciate the variety, and depth, of our relationship with God, and mature in the program life of the church, as we identify and implement those programs that encourage the kind of growth we believe the Lord is inspiring among us. Many ideas are being considered, and I am certain many more will follow as the Lord leads us into the future that He has already envisioned.

I can still hear the sound of our Easter congregation singing about the Risen Lord and of the dedication by which He draws us together and leads us forward. It is exciting!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Photos from the Fish Fry

Fry cooks at work!

Interim pastor David Hodgson gives the blessing.

The Great Bells of Fire setting up their equipment.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Fellowship Dinner News

Thanks to everyone who helped out with our second Lenten Fish Fry! Special thanks to Ron Schultz, who donated the fryers we used this year; John Szantho, who assembled the fryers; Carolyn Lopez, who did all the shopping and supervised the kitchen activities; Mary Lou Klatte and the Great Bells of Fire for the entertainment; and those who pitched in at the last minute to help with the cooking. It was a fun night, with enough food for everyone, and next year we’ll really know what we’re doing!

Thursday, April 21
5:00 pm in Swain Hall

If it’s April, the menu must be loaded baked potatoes!

Our guest speaker for the evening is not Mr. Potato Head; it’s Kris Coates, the desert landscaping expert and arborist who is helping us to save thousands of dollars every year in water and landscaping costs. Come learn more about the advantages of using native and other drought-resistant plantings in this area.

We need greeters, setup help, and a cleanup crew for this event. Sign up now to work (or just to come eat) in the church office, or in Swain Hall after worship. Your freewill offerings support all our fellowship dinners.

Thursday, April 7
10:00 am in the Office Conference Room

What would you like to eat at next year’s fellowship dinners? Do you think the Shrove Tuesday pancakes should be served at breakfast or supper? Do you know of some great entertainment we could book for a reasonable price?

We need your input!

Come to a brainstorming session for the 2016-2017 fellowship dinners and help to make them the best yet!

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Tonight is our annual Lenten fish fry, followed by a hymn sing with entertainment by the Great Bells of Fire Handbell Choir!  Enjoy batter-fried fish with lemon, ketchup, or tartar sauce; cole slaw; rolls and butter; and pistachio ice cream, followed by hymn classics such as "How Great Thou Art" and "In the Garden."  The bells will accompany many of the hymns, and play additional numbers including "The Gift to be Simple," "'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime," and "A Joyful Ring."  Your freewill offering will support this and other fellowship events.  Come and bring a friend!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


"Make sure your worst enemy doesn't live between your own two ears." ~Laird Hamilton

Monday, March 14, 2016

Holy Week Services

Maundy Thursday worship will be at Faith Presbyterian on March 24 at 5:00 pm. The Good Friday Tenebrae service featuring our handbells and voice choir will be March 25 at 6:00 pm in our Sanctuary.

Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday services will be at the usual Sunday worship time of 9:00 am in our Sanctuary.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Season of Rebirth

This Lent, the spirit of rebirth is definitely alive and well in our congregation! During the last month:
  • Charles Herr and two assistants cleared the weeds from the front of the church. Bob Sietsema paid to run an ad for the church for 8 weeks in the Daily News Sun. 
  • David Hodgson and individual members of Session pledged funds to landscape the area in front of the Chapel, with Craig McCoy volunteering the labor for the project. 
  • A donor has pledged the labor and materials to paint four rooms in the office wing, including the reception and conference areas.
These contributions—whether monetary or “sweat equity”—are helping us to gain some needed traction for forward momentum. Watch them improve morale and help attract new members!

Last year’s Capital Campaign took care of our most pressing safety and maintenance issues (paint for the exterior and Sanctuary , bathroom upgrades, new ceiling in Swain Hall, etc.), but didn’t handle the less urgent projects the congregation had asked for. Those “wish list” items include:
  • A wireless projection and sound system for Swain Hall (approximately $1200). The remaining front landscaping. 
  • A shade solution and outdoor furniture for the courtyard. 
  • An LED sign for the front of the church. 
  • Covered parking with solar panels for the handicapped parking area behind the church. 
  • Replacement gutters for the overhang above the office wing sidewalk. 
  • Continued ads in the Daily News Sun, plus in The Independent and Westbrook Village Lifestyles.
  • Regular gardening and maintenance formerly handled by the now-retired “Saturday Crew.” (Either money or labor would help here.)
This list—with any changes, including new items you suggest, plus cost estimates—will be published in every edition of The SPIRE and distributed in the bulletin on every Communion Sunday from now on.

Does one of these items speak to your heart? Then please consider a designated donation, now or in your will. Ultimately, each of us is responsible for the future of this church. Help to make it bright!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Safe and Sacred Place

I want to say a brief word about chapel space - the sacred space of the chapel we now lease to our Baptist sisters and brothers, and which is also available for our occasional use.

We met there on Ash Wednesday to set out together on a devotional pilgrimage that will take us to a new and glorious experience of Easter. Our whole congregation was clearly represented by the forty souls who gathered there; and it was my distinctive impression that the Spirit of the Lord also gathered with us in that space.

In the months ahead, I would like to create opportunities for us to use that space more often. We began and ended our Leadership Retreat there last month, and it helped us to start the Interim Season there with spiritual resolve. Your Prayer Partners are meeting there every Tuesday morning at 10 o'clock to offer to God the prayers you entrust to our keeping. It is indeed sacred space to be used and cherished.

Our prayer chain shares your prayer requests to those who cannot gather with us there; but I think it is also helpful for our church family to know that there is a time and place where prayer partners intentionally gather to talk to God on behalf of our church. It is a confidential time. And it is a safe sacred place.

I am inviting staff, church leaders, and church followers to join me in exploring other ways in which we can utilize our chapel - whether for private devotion or for alternate styles of worship. It seems appropriate to me that our Baptist sisters and brothers are birthing a new congregation in our chapel space, even as we will be rebirthing our congregation in that same chapel space.

My hope and prayer is that it will become the very place to which strangers gather to feel at home with God, to which our members gather to discover God's expanding family, and in which God nurtures and blesses all who seek him there.

With love and praise,

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Peace and Justice

This information was received today from Phebe Packer, Peace and Justice Network, Presbytery of the Grand Canyon:

In this time of tumult and strident discourse, it is easy to feel left out and helpless to bring about change. It can also be difficult to cut through the rhetoric toward true understanding of important issues. At the Peace and Justice Network our area of focus for 2016 is Tolerance, including areas such as combating racism, welcoming strangers, and mass incarceration. We seek to bring awareness and offer resources for understanding and action. Here are some suggestions:

  • Contact the Office of Public Witness. Once on their mailing list, they will periodically send you issues with links for contacting your congressional representatives and signing petitions.
  •  Visit the websites of the Southern Poverty Law Center and/or Sojourners for information and resources.
  •  Consider writing letters to detainees in Florence. Contact the Florence Project for more information.
  • Read to further your understanding:
    • Islam and the Future of Tolerance, A Dialogue (Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz) 
    • The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Michelle Alexander) 
    • The Righteous Mind, Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (Jonathan Haidt) 
    • Just Mercy, A Story of Justice and Redemption (Bryan Stevanson) 
    • Tattoos on the Heart (Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries)

We are developing two workshops – more information on these soon!
  1. Tolerance (Becoming Models for Listening and Discussing) 
  2. Toward Right Relationships (Native American legacy)

We will add to this information on the Presbytery website during the year.

We hope you will consider joining us to bring forward your own areas of concern!