SNAP stands for Sustainability, Nature, Animal Projects at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. The mission committee has many wonderful programs going on this year. The group feels there is a need to engage in ecology mission aspects for the Emmanuel congregation to be better stewards of the environment and appreciate all of the awesome creatures and resources God provides. The projects will be varied and will involve all facets of the church. This includes facilities and grounds, worship, education and of course, missions. SNAP will occur on the church campus and through mission, fellowship, and outreach off church grounds in our local community. SNAP will be specifically designed to offer a variety of one time or short-term objectives in order to give each parishioner opportunities to be involved as they choose. More SNAP news will be coming out in the near future. If you want more information, have ideas, or would like to assist in this exciting mission opportunity, contact John Fedyna who will be the main SNAP contact from the mission committee.
What is happening in your life right now? Are you in a happy routine of family, work and friends? Are you experiencing a period of upheaval, such as new health crisis or a major job transition? Are you in the exciting initial stages of a new relationship? Or are you in a period of grief because someone you loved has died? Life is not static. As cliché as it may sound, life is full of ups and downs as well as plateaus. One thing we can always count on is that no matter where we are, for good or bad, it won’t always be that way.
The cycle of life is part of what it means to be a human being. Just as the flowers in our backyard will spout buds, bloom and then die, we all go through birth, life and death with all of the drama and joy and despair that goes along with it. That is “natural life” and it can be hard because natural life always ends in death. But resurrection life is different. When Jesus appeared to Mary
Magdalene and announced that he was “ascending to the Father” he introduced eternal life. Often, we picture eternal life as a place we go after we die, where we will live on a cushy cloud way up high, and where harps play and all our loved ones who have also died will congregate and we will do heavenly things like eating wonderful food without gaining weight or always getting to sleep in late. And maybe heaven will be like that (fingers crossed) but that is not necessarily what eternal life means.
Eternal life is life without “Death with a capital D.” Thomas Long described Death as “[a] mythic force…the enemy of all that God wills for life.” This kind of Death is all around us in the world ready to tell us that we should grab for all the money and power we can because there is no goodness in creation, only pleasure. Death tells us that relationships are disposable, selfish acts will satisfy our desires, and
that hate is a sentiment that will sustain us. Simply put, Death tells us we are not children of God but that we are gods ourselves. This is what Jesus conquered through the cross, and his victory is available for us to claim anytime and anyplace.
We are in the season of Eastertide. And while we celebrate the resurrection every Sunday, during Eastertide we remember very intently that Christ has defeated Death and so eternal life is available to us now and forever. And as we live this resurrection life, we discover glimpses of the promise of eternal life, here and now. And eternal life accompanies us no matter where we are in the cycle of life, whether we are caught up in the highs of romantic love or we have plunged into the despair of excruciating grief. Because of Jesus, eternal life is available to everyone who would receive it. Thanks be to God.
“What is a Church Anyway?”
This year the topic for the Tuesday night Lent Soup Supper and Study has been “what is a church anyway?” The first week we looked at Acts and Galatians to see what the disciples were doing right after Jesus ascended and left them the Holy Spirit to guide and shape them as a church. And what did they do? They began to disagree on theology and mission (Acts 6:1-7; Galatians 2:1-23) and formed committees to resolve their differences (Acts 15:1-21) and to distribute the work of the church (Acts 15:22-33). Does this sound familiar?
The second week we considered what happened to the church as it grew and spread during the 1st and 2nd century. One of the effects of growth was that churches sprouted up all over the place (yay!!) and began their own individual practices of worship and mission
(well, that sounds reasonable) and adopted their own Gospels (uh…wait a minute) and defined Jesus in a way that made sense to them (O.K. now, hold on there…). In fact, by the late third century there were so many differences among Christians that what we believed was in danger of getting lost in all the diversity. At that point, along comes a very powerful figure named Constantine who both legalized Christianity and made it possible for a set of rules to be established that we could agree to. (Whew!)
On week 3, however, we learned there was a backlash to all the conformity and centralization that Constantine ushered in. While Bishops waged political battles against each other, some decided all the fighting seemed to contradict what Jesus taught, and so, fed up with it all, they departed into the desert to live as hermits. This
began a movement known as Monasticism, and which proved to be very fortune over the centuries as the Roman Empire collapsed. These small religious communities, dedicated to prayer, humility and work, were able to sustain the resources needed to preserve life and learning (medicine, education and farming technology). Of course, all good things have their down side, and some Monasteries–originally places where men and women could live in poverty and humility like Jesus–became very wealthy and powerful and corrupt.
Week 4 will consider what happens to the church in the Modern Age (1500 to today) as Science became the guiding light for the world. How does faith fare in a world built upon reason and proof and where technology can seem to solve all of our problems (who needs God when humans are so powerful and smart?).
Each of these historical periods tells the story of a church challenged by what is happening in the world around it. When viewed from the comfortable distance that time allows, we can see that God used each of these challenges in ways that could not have been predicted. Not only did the church survive, but it was used to help protect and save. And yet at the same time it become an incubator for elements that ushered in the next collapse.
During week 5, our concluding week, we will use our imaginations. What is the church now that we are beginning to suspect that science and technology may create as many problems as they solve, that economic prosperity cannot protect us against evil, and that human beings can be very smart but not necessarily wise. What are the seeds being sown in our time that might bear good fruit for God? In other words, can we imagine what God is doing here and now among us with all of our challenges and gifts?
Who knows what we’ll discover!
In case you missed the congregational potluck kicking off the interim process, here is the reader’s digest version
*The church (the overall church, not Emmanuel specifically) is facing tough times.
*The church belongs to God, and God’s mission doesn’t fail.
*Therefore, this is an exciting time to be a part of the church.
Emmanuel, as a church in transition (all churches are in transition by the way) is moving into uncharted waters and what we need at this moment is a 10,000-foot view. How do we get that view? Through taking some time out for reflection—seeking insight into who God is calling us to be, here and now. That is what the questionnaire is all about and what the small groups will be focused on.
Some of us love reflecting. Some of us can spend all day and night reflecting on this or that, pontificating on potential futures. Then there are those who like action; who can’t stand sitting around gazing into a future that may never arrive while the rest of the world goes to pot. Action people want to DO something!
The church needs both. The church needs people who have the patience to think through questions like “what we are doing and why are we doing it” so that we aren’t just reacting to a bad situation and making it worse, or spinning our wheels in unproductive activity that gets us nowhere just for the sake of taking action. The church also needs people who can call a timeout on all the talking and processing, and insist that it have a real impact.
So, who are you? Are you inclined to action? Do you get frustrated with
talk and yearn to get on with making things in the real world that have real meaning? Or are you someone who wants to build the vision before you build the reality. Whichever you are, Emmanuel needs you.
For now, we need input for insight and vision. We will continue in the small groups for more “thinking and listening.” So, to all our action-oriented members I’d say, be patient, but be ready to call a timeout and insist that all vision and insight is meaningless if it doesn’t result in action.
Blessings, Pastor Jen
P.S. If you haven’t already, please fill out the questionnaire available on pages 7 and 8 in this issue or in the narthex and place them in the basket in the narthex. And sign up for a small group–sign-up sheets will be in the Fireside Room this Sunday.
The longer I am here at Emmanuel, the more I have come to appreciate the staff. While I mentioned them in the Annual Report, those kinds of mentions can feel very routine and not necessarily sincere. And yet, as those who interact with Carolyn, Michael, Keith (and now) Lori know, they each inspire sincere appreciation and a sense that God is taking care of Emmanuel in a variety of ways. So, let me be specific in what I see:
Carolyn loves and appreciates thoughtful worship. She takes the time to make sure that the music she chooses fits with the themes of the season and aligns with the sermon focus. She brings the spirit of cooperation to every undertaking and is excited to bring new ideas and creativity to Sunday morning. And when the worship service comes together perfectly she radiates this joyful contentment that is contagious. I love working with Carolyn!
Michael is like the rock of Emmanuel church. Our worship service is held together by his consistently strong performances. When I lose my way, I look up toward the balcony to see what he is doing and he is always on cue. It is truly a blessing to have an organist who plays at the level that he does and there have been mornings when his piano performances have taken my breath away. Beyond his musical talent, Michael is extraordinarily kind and one of the most thoughtful gift-givers I have known. I love working with Michael!
Keith is the eyes and ears of the church. He calls and sends texts regularly to update me (and many of you too) on every aspect of the church property you can think of. He anticipates where the next problem will likely arise and how to handle it before it becomes a big problem. We are really fortunate to have a groundskeeper who provides around-the-clock service in the way that he does. Keith does the kind of work that is only noticed when it isn’t done. Nevertheless, when we arrive on Sunday morning and the grass is cut and the sanctuary is clean, it is because Keith was here long before anyone else. I love working with Keith!
Lori has only been here for a few weeks now, but she is already deep into the inner workings of the church. She has gone through the office computer files with a finetooth comb and is busy organizing a system that will keep us on track and help with our communications. She has added some visual elements to our worship slides that give them a little more life. She intuitively understands the subtle things that make church life more connected and meaningful. Lori is the kind of person who takes her time and does things well. She is conscientious and kind. I love working with Lori!
Church work is not for those who want to make a ton of money or even receive a lot of recognition. Church work is for people who are attuned to the Spirit and hear the call to serve the Lord with their unique gifts. Our staff here at Emmanuel love God sincerely and it shows in how they do their jobs. I am very grateful for each of them as I know you are too.
It has been hard to get out of bed lately. Ever since the cold spell hit (well…cold for natives like myself) the warmth and coziness under the covers has seemed like a little Eden surrounded by the outer darkness of the early morning chill. But I don’t imagine everyone feels this way. For some, the cold weather energizes even as it makes others curl up in a ball and whimper.
Because I am more the whimpering type, the timing of the New Year has always seemed a little unfortunate. Part of me is excited at the prospect of a new calendar year and all the beginnings that come along with it while the other part of me cringes at having to generate energy when all I want to do is hit the snooze button and hibernate. But I am not a bear, and it’s time to get going because there are a lot of exciting new opportunities around.
Here are a few items on my to-do list:
- Get my passport ready for AMOR (fingers crossed I’m not too late!)
- Hold a worship arts brainstorming session in preparation for the season of Lent (any theater arts people out there?)
- More planning for the annual Spring Women’s Retreat
- Congregational meeting January 27th!!! (lots of interesting stuff)
- Ordination and Installation of new church officers
- Get to know Lori Page, our new office administrator
- Host the Presbytery’s Healthy Transitions Workshop for Deacons and Elders OK, now I’m warming up.
Just thinking about all that is coming motivates me to get out of bed and, before I know it, I’m running at full speed. 2019 is going to be fun, creative and meaningful at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church. There is no place that I would rather be (even my own little Eden under the covers).
In the 56 years since Emmanuel was first planted as a church community, technology and commerce has sped up our lives exponentially. For example, as soon as we think of the perfect present for someone on our list, we can grab our phones, look it up on Amazon, purchase with one click and Santa’s Elves will deliver it within 24 hours–all without leaving our chair. We can send our Christmas letters out by email instantaneously and share our Christmas morning photos with all our friends before the last present is opened. Long processes that we used to live with, like photo developing and snail mail delivery, have been conveniently erased from many of the tasks we undertake. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does have consequences. One of those consequences is that we are less experienced with anticipation and patient waiting than we once were.
Well, anticipation and patient waiting are what Advent is all about. Christ didn’t just show up on Christmas morning instantaneously as soon as the people had need of him. No, God’s people waited for generations for Emmanuel to come and ransom them from sin and death. Now we are called upon to wait as well. God knows that this is a challenge for us in the world we inhabit. And it’s not just a challenge because we are used to getting what we want as soon as we realize we want it. It’s also a challenge because we have forgotten why we should wait in the first place. What is the benefit of waiting? If there is any season in the church calendar we have lost touch with, it is the long, slow, season of Advent.
For me, the value of waiting becomes evident as soon as I give up the idea that I will get what I want as soon as I want it. When I realize that I have to wait for what I want, the power of wanting and its hold on me is loosened somewhat. When this happens, the scales fall from my eyes and I see that getting what I want often keeps me from receiving what I need. As we have been hearing in Mark’s Gospel over the past few weeks, the disciples thought they wanted the Messiah to be a warrior who would conquer Israel’ senemies by force. Had they gotten what they wanted you can just imagine all that they (and we) would have been denied?
Interim ministry is also a time of patient waiting and anticipation. It is like the Advent season in the life a church. So often, when a pastor leaves or retires there is a rush of anxiety that pushes a congregation to move quickly through the interim period, or to skip it all together. The collective assumption becomes “we know what we want…so why wait to get it?” You, as the members of this church, may indeed know exactly what you want for the church. But do you know what the church needs? I think, at this moment, only God knows what Emmanuel needs.
How wonderful that we have this time for God to reveal it to us!
Happy Waiting, Pastor Jen
Please join us for the following events taking place this week at Emmanuel:
THANKSGIVING EVE SERVICE We will begin our Thanksgiving celebration on Wednesday evening, November 21, at 7:00PM when we join our friends from Crosswinds Presbyterian Church in the EPC sanctuary. The service will include the celebration of Holy Communion and music from a combined EPC/CPC choirs. Please plan to join us for this special service and for refreshments afterward in the East Room.
THANKSGIVING DINNER Please join Church Life for a Thanksgiving meal. We will get together on Thursday, November 22 at 2PM. We will enjoy games, puzzles, and fellowship after we eat dinner. We encourage you to bring your dish as well as your favorite game and/or puzzle. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Melodi Bintz.
CONGREGATIONAL MEETING There will be a meeting of the congregation at the close of worship on November 25 for the purpose of electing additional deacons.
Greetings to you, brothers and sisters in Christ!
It is my great pleasure to join you in your ministry here at Emmanuel. I am so excited about the work, the fellowship and the worship that will unite us during this interim period.
In preparation for October 1st (my start date at EPC), I have been thinking about beginnings in the Bible (there are a lot of them). The beginning that is most vivid to me at this moment is the gathering of the apostles in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). What an exciting moment it must have been when the Holy Spirit lit upon them, filling them with wind and freeing their tongues to speak the truth of the Gospel. Ah, with that kind of confirmation, you would think they would never doubt their calling or who was guiding them and to what end.
And yet, while the events that day in Jerusalem made for an exciting moment, it was a bewildering moment too. The scene is chaotic as well as inspired; confusing as well as amazing. I can relate to that combined feeling of certainty and uncertainty in this new beginning at EPC. By that, I mean, from the first phone conversation with the search committee I felt a strong sense that this would be my next call. In all of my visits to meet the Session and other leaders, I have felt at home. Yet, I also know that there is much to learn about this community and I will stumble around for a while until I find my footing among you—I will make mistakes and miss cues. Nevertheless, I am fine with a little confusion and stumbling because that is a natural part of new beginnings, even when the Spirit is guiding us. Stumbling and bewilderment can be a sign that new connections are being forged, and in those new connections, new possibilities are being born.
So, bring on the new beginnings with all the stumbling and confusion and laughter and possibilities that come along with it. I am ready for it…are you?
George and I want to thank you for all your expressions of love and friendship upon my retirement. We have so many lovely memories of the worship service and luncheon on July 29, and so many tangible tokens of your thoughtfulness. The beautiful olivewood cross is hanging in our living room and the picture of the church with all your names inscribed has a place in the hallway. I love rereading the wonderful notes from the Sunday school children—what treasures! We so appreciate the generous money gift, and we are overwhelmed by your graciousness. And I am honored to know that for years and even generations to come, the lovely baptismal font will be a means of welcoming newcomers to faith in Jesus as they become part of the EPC family.
George and I were deeply touched by your kind words and remembrances at worship and the delicious luncheon afterward. The fellowship hall never looked more festive and the food was scrumptious. I was reminded how much my dad always enjoyed the good cooking at EPC! And I am grateful all my siblings and their families were in attendance to share in the day’s events.
I am finding retirement to be a renewing change of pace. I begin every morning with a long walk; I find those walks to be a useful time for prayer, and you are included in my prayers daily. I continue my work with the presbytery’s Commission on Ministry and Reconciliation Team, so I keep my hand in with that work. The time to read, play the piano, and do some long-postponed quilting is a real luxury, and George and I are enjoying more time together. Serving as your pastor has been one the great privileges of my life. Thank you for welcoming George and me and our family, and for your kind support and loving friendship over the years. I am so pleased to hear that your interim pastor will be arriving soon and I look forward to hearing good things about EPC in the days ahead. George and I hold you in our hearts and in our prayers.