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!
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.
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.
For the past several years I have made a point of trying to celebrate Advent during Advent and Christmas during Christmas— Advent being the four- week period before December 25 and Christmas being the twelve-day season that begins on December 25 and ends on January 5. For many folks, Christmas begins before Thanksgiving and is over on December 26. But I love celebrating the season of Christmas during the traditional twelve days and capping off Christmas with an Epiphany celebration on January 6, recalling the visit of the wise men to the child Jesus.
Sometimes we forget that Easter is also a season on the church calendar; Easter is not over on the Monday following Easter Sunday. Once we have observed the forty days of Lent, the season of Easter begins with Resurrection Sunday and lasts for fifty days until the Day of Pentecost arrives in May or June. Indeed, the Christian tradition is that every Sunday is a “little Easter” as we recall the resurrection of Jesus.
Eastertide (“tide” is an old English word that means “time” or “season’) is an opportunity for us to explore what it means to be “Easter people.” The Easter season gives us an extended period to celebrate and ponder the great good news: Christ isrisen! Heisrisen indeed! Once the Easter egg hunt is over and the ham dinner has been devoured, there is still plenty of Easter to celebrate. There’s no rule in the Bible about celebrating Eastertide, but it seems to me that the good news of Christ’s victory over death and sin and the promise of eternal life merit at least seven Sundays of celebration! So Happy Easter to you all, and a blessed Eastertide as we rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord!
Sunday, March 25, 10:30AM
Worship service includes the children’s parade of palms.
Thursday, March 28, 7:30PM
Worship service with our friends from Crosswinds Presbyterian includes the traditional Tenebrae (service of shadows) and a combined choir.
Friday, March 29
11:00AM until 1:00PM
The sanctuary is open for those who wish to spend a few minutes or extended time in prayer.
Sunday, April 1, 9AM and 10:30AM (Easter egg hunt following the 10:30 service) Identical services include music from our bell and vocal choirs, celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and reception of new members. Fellowship time will follow both services.