Evolving Stewardship

East Elevation.1There are lots of good nonprofit organizations that do meaningful work in the community and world.  If we look back on the history of the property and missions of these organizations, we will see a story that begins to illumine.  Does their history tell a story of survival or thriving?  Is it one of adaptation, constant, or stagnant?  Does it vividly highlight the organization's mission, vision, items of importance?  Yes.  Let’s think about specifically Christian organizations.

In the spring of 1640, a group of English Puritans left Massachusetts, to settle in Long Island NY.  They went to the New World to find freedom from religious persecution and other opportunities.  The church first gathered in the Community Meeting House.  It served them well for twelve years for social, civic, and religious activities.  They established and built a new structure by 1652.  Tons of churches planted, grew, and built bigger structures over the years.  Different types of churches began to pop up with varying beliefs.  Churches were looking to plant with intentionality; where they were located, how they looked, what they did inside the church and outside of the church mattered.  Some moved to inner cities, some moved out of the center, and structures varied based on the important focuses of the church. 

First Presbyterian Church, Madisonville is a church built on the faith, dedication, and discernment like so many other beautiful churches.  Some of those structures are full and yet others are reflecting the truth of the rapid decline in western Christianity.  Churches are closing, merging, reimagining, and those places and those people are flourishing...growing deeper in their relationship with God and one another, reaching the community in new innovative and necessary ways.

Read more: Evolving Stewardship

What Is Lent?

Lent 2024What is Lent?  Lent marks the 40 days leading up to Easter, mirroring the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.  It is a practice that began during the 4th century as a way that Christians can prepare for the holiest days of the year.

During Lent, we ask God to show us the world as it is.  We begin with the reality of our finiteness rubbed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday.  "From dust we were made and to dust we shall return."  Then we walk through the reality of the downward slope of God, as the whole church walks toward the cross.

Lent is one of my favorite parts of the church calendar, because it is a time when the whole church is on the losing team.  It is a time when we all get a minute to tell the truth - life is so beautiful and life is so hard for everyone.

Of course, the cross isn't the end of the story, but this season of grief is carved out to acknowledge the reality of Christ's sacrifice and the reality of suffering that so many of our circumstances reflect too - our own pain, grief, and despair.

Read more: What Is Lent?

The 2024 Church

2024The church this year is going to continue to change.  Gone are the days when people went to church out of obligation or to meet a spouse.  The role of the church is to provide opportunities to worship, study, play, pray, and serve together.  How that happens may shift and shake, but we can trust that God’s love is never changing.  God wants us to find meaning in His church and use it as a tool to spread the Good News.

One way we can continue to be God’s church is by working to communicate well with one another.  It’s a big task but if we all seek to be effective communicators we'll eventually get there.  If we fall short, just keep asking questions for clarification. Help folks see that perhaps we can work together to close communication gaps.

A new endeavor for us this year is setting up texting groups to help communicate a bit easier.  You’ll have the opportunity to opt in to various text groups (prayer list, session, reminders, etc).

Pastor Jen

Hurry Up and Wait

wearyworldrejoice iconThe hustle and bustle of the season is here, and while advent is about waiting, we don't seem to intentionally do much of that these days.  In fact, most of us have patience that grows thin when waiting in line, waiting for test results, and waiting for our adult children to recognize that we are aging, not helpless.  We wait for cease fires, for safe places for our children and grandchildren, and for families to be together.

We grow weary - weary of not having enough, being enough, and wanting enough for all those we love.  "O Lord, how long?"

It is in the midst of this weariness that we realize joy is not the same as happiness.  We can be both weary and joyful at the same time.  The Gospel of Luke tells Jesus' birth narrative parallel to the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah.  As we read the text, we find the fullness of human emotions wrapped into the story.  During this season, don't we too find (and exhibit) a wide range of emotions?  People experience fear, isolation, connection, joy, sadness, and more during this season and scripture isn't much different.  Zechariah is weary and seeks clarity by asking, "How will I know this to be so?"  I don't hear a lot of hope in that question.  As we read the scripture, we find him unable to speak to the crowd.  The crowd interprets this as a lack of hope.  Now what?

Read more: Hurry Up and Wait

What Does It Mean to Be Faithful?

deuteronomy 11 18What does it mean to be faithful?  Have you ever thought about that question?

Typically, people like you and me have some idea about how to answer the question, even if following through is more difficult.  We know that we are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).  We know we are to "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).  But what does it mean to be faithful as a church...as a community of disciples?

That is a little more difficult because while the behavior may remain the same, it involves coming together, listening, praying, and deciding together how to move forward.  It means that there is discernment from everyone to determing what exactly "being faithful" looks like from a group perspective.  Does it mean that God is calling something to end so that something new can grow?  Does it mean we do something differently because it brings life-giving energy?  Or maybe what is discerned is that we "don't worry about tomorrow because tomorrow has its own worries (Matthew 6:34)," but instead "commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine.  Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.  Teach them to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)."  What if instead of worrying we became the face of Jesus for all those around?

God measures success by faithfulness, not by attendance, membership, dollars, or even souls saved.  God tells us that above all be faithful.  Get to work.  Who's in?

Pastor Jen

Why It's Called a Faith "Journey"

footprints in sandI began a new ministry journey that afforded me the opportunity to serve and grow in one congregation and yet physically live and connect with my home congregation.  This opportunity is one that not very many people get – to simultaneously have two very different but both positive church bodies from which to learn and grow.  One was very conservative and unintentionally “run” by a specific group.  Things were a little lopsided but upon closer inspection those that “ran” the church were the ones who showed up to make church happen.  I paid attention to that group dynamic.  The other congregation was considered a “purple church”, a place where scripture can be read and proclaimed and individuals in the congregation wrestle with what God might be saying to them from it.  The congregation isn’t looking for someone to always affirm what they individually believe.  Instead, they receive what God might be saying through the pastor or teacher and then wrestle with it individually and within a small group.  There are people who are more “red” and people who are more “blue” in the same space, and they clearly articulate that unity is not the same as uniformity.  We are united but not all the same.

Read more: Why It's Called a Faith "Journey"

One Path in My Faith Journey

faith journeyI can’t believe that I’ve been here in Madisonville for a year!  Since many of you haven’t heard it before, at this important milestone I thought it would be appropriate to tell you a little more about my faith journey.  I grew up going to a medium sized church in what was back then a rural area of Charlotte, North Carolina.  It was one of those churches where everyone knew everyone because they had mostly grown up together.  We young people were mostly just later generations of the same families.  I felt at home in this church for many reasons.  Everyone watched after us, and if we got in trouble someone was going to tell on you.  These people helped each other when category 4 hurricane Hugo came unexpectedly all the way inland to Charlotte, taking the power out for 95% of the city, destroying homes and trees, and stranding people.  We were without power anywhere from a week to three weeks because of all the huge oak trees plucked up.  Unfortunately, everyone here is all too familiar with this type of unexpected devastation.  Just like here, the community of faith pulled together and helped one another with food, water, clothing, cutting trees, and fixing homes.  They loved deeply and I’m truly grateful for being enfolded in that love.

Read more: One Path in My Faith Journey