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.

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A Year Down the Road

country roadWell, I've been at First Presbyterian for almost a year!  It will be a year at the end of July!!  When I reflect on the year with gratitude, I think about how grace-filled this community has been, how we've learned and grown from each other, and how we have developed a deep appreciation for one another.  Has it been easy and conflict free?  No, but anything that is worth something has challenges.

Researchers suggest that how we approach one another, concern, conflict, etc., automatically sets the tone for how the response or relationship will continue.  I think that is true.  If we assume positive intent, empathize, become less defensive, and remind ourselves that we are on the same team, that is the type of church that we hear about in the New Testament.  I'm grateful that we have meaningful conversations and opportunities to grow and share in Christ's mission even though there will always be conflict.

When I was called to be the pastor here, that meant that I had to stop communicating (even online) with any previous "sheep" from the prior congregation.  All of those relationships are paused for roughly two years.  It is part of how we Presbyterians do it so that the new pastor can build and maintain relationships with the new congregation.  If I were still chatting with my previous sheep (even as a friend), their view of me doesn't change, but it impacts how you and I relate.  Lots of tears.  But this means that when I accepted the call, I was all in with this community.  We are now partners, for which I am grateful.  You mean a lot to me and my family.

I pray that we continue to move forward so that we can see how God will move next, and that we approach one another and everyone we meet with hearts full of gratitude.

Reflections on the Great Banquet

great banquet 200In a recent sermon, I shared how the Spirit was evident and visible to me during my Great Banquet weekend.  The Spirit was untamed and clearly calling our church forward to move into action.  My experience was different - and also meaningful.  The Banquet is not the same as it used to be.  Was my experience like many of yours?  Probably not.  Was my experience a reflection of how the Banquet was intended to speak when it was created?  After lots of listening - no.  Has the Spirit used the Banquet in the current form?  Yes.  You all experienced that in the worship service following my Banquet weekend.

Many of you know that I like my calendar, my notebook or planner, my water bottle, and my pens.  Luckily, I got to keep some of those life staples at the Banquet - my water bottle, notebook, and pen.  While I didn't have my calendar, I had enough of my essentials to bring some relaxation.  I'm sure you aren't surprised that I loved the regimen of the Banquet schedule as it kept things moving.  We didn't stay with a particular topic or experience long, unless it was a time of introspection and listening for God's voice.  In a world that is nonstop and busy, and where the expectation of constantly being busy is affirmed, we "guests" were unable to control the schedule.  Nor did we have any awareness of the length of an allotted time.  It was oddly comforting to know that I was not in charge of my own schedule for a while, and all of you extended grace for the things that didn't get done around the office.  It was a gift to me to receive this grace, as well as several others.

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Love God, Love People

love god love peopleDo you know what humans are really good at?  Arguing.  We want to tell/convince others they aren't right to confirm our own rightness.  I'm grateful that scripture is loaded with nincompoops like us who try to get it right and yet get it wrong too.  Unfortunately, Jesus isn't standing here for us to ask all the followup clarifying questions to the parables and biblical happenings.  Since we believe in a sovereign God - a God that is bigger than our understanding and comprehension - and it is beyond our capability to know what God thinks or what God will or will not do, we have to leave room in our convictions for God to show us differently.  We can be truthful without being harmful to God's people and to our relationships.  Jesus often asks questions as a way to teach us and to be in a relationship with us.  What if we did that?

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Ash Wednesday 2023


Ordination and Installation

ordination and installationSunday, January 22nd was an important day in the life of those ordained, those installed, FPC, the church universal, and the world.  Before the worship service, I had the privilege of hearing faith statements from our elders who are currently serving.  It was a sacred space to hear the beliefs and testimonies of the individuals who are leading this congregation.

Being a ruling elder in the PC(USA) church isn’t about “ruling over” others (Matt. 20:25); it’s about being called by God and chosen by the congregation to exhibit wisdom, maturity of faith,  skills in leadership, and a compassionate spirit.  Ruling elders, together with ministers of word and sacrament, exercise leadership, government, spiritual discernment, and discipline.  They have responsibilities for the life of a congregation as well as for the whole church, including ecumenical relationships.  These servant leaders, with the Spirit, discern and work to strengthen and nurture the faith of the congregation, reconciliation, and vision.

Pray for the leaders of FPC.  Pray for our congregation.  Pray for all.

Pastor Jen

Advent - Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love Are Coming


Church family, it's that time of year where we bustle around and are supposed to be happy and energetic.  Today, hear this: you aren't supposed to be anything but you.  It's okay to not be okay.  It's okay to be joyful one day and have a hard day the next.  Trust God and lean on each other.  Hope, peace, joy, and love are coming...again and again.

Pastor Jen