As you may have already heard, Session voted on a recommendation from the Renewal Committee at our December meeting to transition into having only one service of worship. Last Summer we had one worship service, and we received a lot of positive feedback from the congregation. At the June meeting of Session, we discussed the possibility of permanently switching to one worship service. We ultimately decided to refer this question to the Renewal Committee. Based upon an overwhelming preference heard in the congregational surveys, the Renewal Committee recommended to Session that we make the change to one service of Worship.
One service of worship will unite our two worshiping communities into one, and this will strengthen our church. Last Summer we found that a larger attendance in the Sanctuary brought more energy and joy into the experience of worship. This is not only a benefit to the worshiping community, it also makes a significant difference to visitors. A full sanctuary will unquestionably make a better impression. Combining our worship services will help us grow.
There are two decisions that need to be made – the time for worship to begin each Sunday and the day when we will switch to one service. Our Worship Committee has been assigned the task of evaluating the pros and cons of various alternatives. Worship will then submit a report and recommendation to Session, and Session will ultimately decide. If you would like to share your thoughts on these questions, please contact one of the members of the Worship Committee. You will find a list of the Worship Committee members, as well as the members of Session, in this Newsletter.
Session firmly believes that transitioning to one service of worship will be in the best interest for our church and church’s future. Your thoughts, your opinions, and your support are greatly appreciated.
The Session of First Presbyterian Church
Roger Goin ‘18(Chair) Peggy Smith ’19
Liz Stothart ‘18 Lynetta Johnson (At large)
Sue Redmon (At large) Carol Francisco (At large)
Jimmy Oliver (At large) Paula Scott (At large)
Jenny Clemmer (At large)
Mark Davis – Staff Liaison
Rev. Sharon Amstutz, Moderator Dorothy Lightfoot, Clerk of Session
Class of 2017 Class of 2018 Class of 2019
Chuck Bachelder Stewart Baggett Rebecca Combs
Jennie Benton Mike Bunch Carol Dixon
Tony Cole Roger Goin John Good
Spencer Correll Mary Glenn Lively Andrew Hagan
Dee Dee Dietrich Chris Raines Wes Mink
Catherine Tucker Liz Stothart Peggy Smith
I used to have a computer that I hated with a passion, except for one thing- it came loaded with a game called Galapago that I loved. It was a pretty simple game, in concept at least -you match three butterflies, turtles, or other island inhabitants, which turn to gold, and you move up through increasing levels of difficulty. My favorite part was the two shrunken heads in the corner of the screen that cheered me on in gibberish that sounded like fake French.
Eventually the despised computer was replaced with a MacBook, and I was sad to learn that Galapago was not available for Apple devices. And then I discovered Candy Crush. Sadly, no one cheered me on in fake French, but the basic concept was about the same: match three or more of the same colored candies and move up through the candy kingdom and increasingly difficult levels. At the beginning of each level you are told what your goal is: rack up a certain number of points, clear all the jelly, match up three wrapped candies and nonpareils, or some other confectionery goal.
But just when you think you’ve got the hang of the game, ‘problem candy’ begin to appear and threaten to take over the game board. When those turn up you have to work toward the game’s stated objective, while at the same time not letting the chocolate multiply out of control or the candy bombs explode. If you aren’t careful, you can easily find yourself giving all your attention to combating them, and forget about the real objective of the game.
Not long ago it occurred to me that that was a pretty good metaphor for life in the Church. It’s very easy to let ourselves get distracted by the problems and threats that surface and forget that we have a mission we are trying to accomplish.
Before Jesus left his disciples for the last time he told them to go out into the world and do whatever it takes to tell the story of God’s great love that doesn’t just promise an afterlife of bliss, but means to have signs of heaven visible right here on earth as well. So we park our cars and come in intent on feeding the hungry, welcoming the outcast, freeing those who have been unjustly beaten down or imprisoned, and healing all of the wrongs that our world has done to people. And then the roof leaks. A lot. A declining Sunday School class is asked to give up its prime real estate to a class that has outgrown its room, and resentment grows. A new hymnal comes out. Doomsayers (or are they prophets?) warn that without a screen and drums, or some other newfangled thing, we will surely close and lock our doors in 20 years. No one wants to volunteer to head up the prayer group that everyone has been asking for.
And all of them need attention, money, sensitivity and compassion, and boldness. None of the problems and conflicts that come our way – the Church has always had them and always will – can be ignored or brushed off. But if they get all of our attention, or even a very large measure of it, then our true mission isn’t.
We have spent a lot of time in the mainline church wondering why our membership is declining. I don’t happen to believe it’s because we still use a hymnbook (although we are missing out on some wonderful new music if we restrict ourselves to that alone), or because we don’t wander around on the ‘stage’ when we preach, or any of the other causes that have been kicked around. I believe it is because we have lost our focus. We have let ourselves be distracted by all of the things we think are a threat to us, and have no energy, imagination, passion, and yes, faith, left over to be bold, risk-taking witnesses to the Kingdom of God here on earth. A reactive, fearful church cannot be a joyful, vital church.
In her sermon at the opening worship service at the Big Tent a few weeks ago, Jana Childers pointed out to us that we are trying so hard not to die that we have forgotten that we have already died. Did you know that? “Anyone (or thing) who is in Christ is a new creation; the old life has gone, and a new life has begun.” (2 Cor. 5:17). We can let that worry go, she told us. Let the Spirit fly freely among us, and do what Jesus left us here to do.
My father spent the last year of his life in a small facility for memory-impaired people. It was a busy place – my father roamed the halls all day, and many nights, with his brief case looking for the meeting he was supposed to be in. Elizabeth watched the door like a hawk, waiting for someone to come and take her home. Phyllis sat in her wheel chair and yelled obscenities at anyone she didn’t like the looks of. Mary played the piano, but was otherwise silent. Tom leered at women visitors and made inappropriate comments as they passed. To the best of my memory, only one or two of the residents there could accurately give you their name and hold any sort of a meaningful conversation.
Because it was a small place that worked hard at being as home-like as possible, we all pitched in. A son visiting at lunch would help set the tables and serve plates to the residents. If my visit coincided with snack time I would help take cookies around to the ‘elders,’ as they were referred to by the staff. And here is what I noticed: almost without fail, the resident would say “thank you.” It was automatic. Even the ones who were usually aggressive, or very confused, or, like my father- had difficulty finding the appropriate words to communicate. But hand them a drink or a Popsicle and their “thank you” was immediate and clear. Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases had taken their ability to dress themselves, to recognize their closest family members, to remember that mashed potatoes should be eaten with a fork, not hands but it hadn’t robbed them of gratitude.
I hope that the ability to express gratitude is not a generational thing, but I worry that it is. These were the people who had lived through the Depression and World War II. They knew what it was like to go without, and to work hard for what they had. They appreciated what was done for them or given to them.
Will our last clear and intelligible words be “thank you?” When everything else is stripped away, will gratitude be what is revealed at the very foundation of our beings? Or are our caregivers more likely to hear, “I don’t like chocolate – don’t you have sugar cookies?” Or, “Is that all?” Or, “You didn’t do that right – you should have brought them on paper plates, not napkins.” Or, “These aren’t as good as the ones used to make.”
Gratitude is tough- it’s easy to say “thank you” when someone holds the door open for you at the store, or when your waiter puts your dinner plate in front of you at the restaurant. But what about the rest? When the dinner at church Wednesday night isn’t to your liking? When your substantial and cool/warm house isn’t up-to-date? When your crunching knees impair your otherwise near-perfect health? When the brand-new day ahead is dark and rainy?
Jesus left us here to practice being the Kingdom of Heaven together. That’s what the Church is all about. The hope is that, like Moses and the burning bush, people will see how amazing it is that we forgive each other 70 x 7, and share what we have so no one is ever in need, and enjoy being in community with each other, despite the fact that we have almost nothing in common besides being transformed by Jesus, and they will be drawn to us to see how such an impossible thing could be. And maybe we could add being grateful – and expressing our gratitude- to that list of things we can practice. Gratitude for the work of all our committees. Gratitude for the efforts of the hard-working staff. Gratitude for the person who steps forward and volunteers to spearhead a project for the church. And above all else, gratitude to God, for, well, everything.