Paul’s Message: Steadfastness and Newness

BalloonInFallTake a look at our congregation. On one level, we have to celebrate many things that are, for the most part, abiding – things that haven’t changed for a long time. Our red brick building has been here since the twenties. Much of our liturgy comes from scripture and the early church. We enjoy potlucks like the church has had since Peter first said, “Thomas, pass the pita.” That steadiness is good. It reflects the abiding character and essence of God’s love. It is comforting to recognize that the steadfast love of the Lord is just that, steadfast.

But if you look carefully, change has also always been part of the church. In the 50’s, the building added a gym. Many different faces have come and gone. Different preachers have offered their thoughts and prayers. A praise band has added its joyful sounds to the organ in out music ministry. The gym has become a multi-use space that ministers to us and to many in the community. We have added Derek to our staff and he is doing wonderful new things. We are, I believe, discovering the significance of the gospel ever more deeply. It is inspiring and empowering to know that our steadfast God is ever and always “doing a new thing.”

Steadfastness and newness, two blessed sides of faith.

God’s vision for our congregation today also reflects both steadfastness and newness. As we have discerned it, our vision is to continue to offer the same grace-filled, hope-planting, justice-building, peace-fostering ministry that this church has offered since we opened our doors in 1878.

At the same time, we believe that God wants us to grow. God wants us to grow in faith, and grow in our outreach to the community and to the world.God has new things in store for us – a new era of ministry at First Presbyterian that reaches out to more youth and young adults, that guides more people of all stripes of faith, that heals the creation in profound ways; all this through the abiding gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fall is here – a new season. Fall is part of the abiding cycle of nature that brings new life. But before you get tot he newness of spring, you have to shake all the old leaves off the tree to make room for new ones to grow. In that spirit, we are having a capital campaign this fall. A mailing has been sent to all attending this congregation. Through the campaign, we want to shake off the leaves of debt that we still have from the last building renewal. We need to make room for new leaves. This is what the campaign is about.

Steadfast and new – this is what the gospel is. This is what we are. When you come on a Sunday morning or on any day for any church activity, we believe you will find comfort in the abiding gopel. At the same time, you will be empowered by a breeze of new, challenging,refreshing ministry. This ministry comes from God through you, and it is for you. It will bless you, and it enables you to be a blessing. We hope you’ll be a part.

Peace, Paul

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  • After all this time…

    Well, this is it my fellow followers of Jesus, we are returning to in-person worship at First Presbyterian Church. It has been fourteen long months of us learning to be a worshiping community in the best ways we could figure out (thank you Jesus, even for things like YouTube and Zoom). It’s been challenging for me as your pastor (I imagine Pastor Meg would say the same). It’s been challenging for all of you in faith and life and with family and friends. 

    But we’re going back to church, praise the Lord.

    Many things seem to be happening in our world at this moment. How are you handling it all? We’re opening the church doors again. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. Many of you have your Covid-19 vaccinations. It’s Springtime and the tulips are starting to bloom. The Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds are back in the valley. So how are we doing as we process all of this? How are you doing?

    Relief? Sorrow? Joy? Sadness? 

    All of the above?

    I’ve heard several phrases of late, including ‘pandemic pain.’ I’ve felt fatigued myself. But having received the vaccination shots, I am ready to be back in our church building with you praising the Lord together. With high vaccination rates among our church members and several safety precautions, Session has voted for our return to in-person worship. Details are listed in another article inside this edition, but our first Sunday back will be Sunday, May 9th, with our regular service times of 9 & 11 a.m.

    This worldwide pandemic is not over. Not by a long shot as I watch the news from places like India and Brazil, or even Michigan. But many of us have received our vaccinations and we are implementing some practices that should allow us to worship the Lord together, safely. And to be clear (I cannot say this enough), if you do not feel safe coming to church in the near future, please continue to worship from home. I will do my absolute best to make sure our worship live-stream allows you to connect with God and connect with the rest of us from the safety of your own home. We have purchased a small and simple (yet high quality) camera that will live-stream Sunday morning worship directly to YouTube. You have the option to watch it ‘live’ as we are worshiping or watch it at a later time that is more convenient for you.

    So, what might we expect on Sunday mornings in May when we go back? First and foremost, we will be together singing, praying, and praising the Lord. Hallelujah! There will be a few changes, of course. We ask that everyone wear a mask while in the building. We will not have indoor fellowship to prevent ‘grouping’ around the food. Both services will be in Bruner Hall (this is to allow for social distancing). We will initially space chairs out in groups of one, two, three, four, etc. (please find a group of chairs that matches your household). Our air handling system will be on during the service. We won’t use hymnals so that multiple people aren’t touching them each morning (lyrics will be in the bulletin and projected onto the wall). And finally, if you are feeling under the weather, we ask that you please be extra-considerate of your fellow worshipers and remain home.

    Every day of life is a new endeavor. The same is true for us in this process of returning to worship. May we prayerfully and carefully take actions that promote good community health, along with our spiritual health. Thank you for your patience with us, and I look forward to seeing every one of you, whenever that might be.

    —Pastor Derek

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