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|Dear Church Family,
This is it! We are going to make a significant change to the way information is sent out to the church family. This is the last monthly newsletter you will receive. Beginning in May, we will send a weekly email with a news brief about the church. This information will also appear in the bulletin every Sunday. So if you or your ministry team has information to get to the rest of the church, please have it to the church office by Wednesday noon before the weekend you’d like the church to start receiving the announcement. We are doing this to save on postage and paper. We have learned in recent months that those who contribute to the newsletter are not very enthusiastic about it, so why beat a dead horse? We are going to try this new way, and if it works, we’ll stick with it.
Our Holy Week observances will be as follows: Palm Sunday will be observed at both worship services on April 1. We will not celebrate the Lord’s Supper at the 11:00 service that day. Maundy Thursday will be observed on April 5, with worship at 7:00pm. We will be taking a break from the Tenebrae service, but I am certain this service will be very meaningful for all who attend. Easter Sunday is April 8, and will be the centerpiece of worship at 8:30 and 11:00am and Sunday School at 9:45. There is a community sunrise service at Jefferson Memorial Park at 6:30am that morning, and the Yokefellows Sunday School class will be hosting a community pancake breakfast at 7:15, after the sunrise service.
May the blessing of Christ’s resurrection be with you and your loved ones in the days ahead!
One Great Hour of Sharing Offering
SHARING brings JOY!
Join with us as we once again participate
in this year’s One Great Hour of Sharing offering. Remembering that SHARING
brings JOY, our Sunday School classes will be collecting this offering over the
next several weeks up to and including Easter Sunday. As we collect our
offerings, you will see SHARING & JOY hearts appear around the Sunday School
building and church. The more we are able to SHARE, the more JOY these hearts
As a congregation join with us and use
the special Sharing Calendar (attached below) to prepare for this offering. As an individual or
family, think each day about the blessings each of us have and how there are so
many in need here in the United States and around the world. You decide your
unit of giving for each day’s note – maybe it’s a nickel or a dime or a quarter
or even a dollar. These notes help remind us of how these offerings might be
used and who they might help.
Our Sunday School children and families
are being challenged to think of additional ways they might add to the
offering… perhaps through assisting around the house or outside with spring
cleaning or chores…or perhaps a family might decide to skip a night out and
instead take those monies and include them in their OGHS offerings. And our
adult Sunday School classes are participating as well.
The OGHS offering will be collected as a
congregation on Easter Sunday. These funds are divided between Presbyterian
Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self-Development of
Peoples. Additional information on the offering, its history and the
distribution of past OGHS funds and grants is available in the Church Library.
Offering inserts over the coming weeks will also help you learn more about the
offering. For instance, past OGHS offerings were put to use by Presbyterian
Disaster Assistance as they were quickly on the ground to help those affected
by the recent tornadoes in the southern US.
Please see Pastor John or any member of
the Christian Education Ministry Team for additional information. One Great
Hour of Sharing…it is truly remarkable what our gifts can and will do!
Dear Church Family,
This month will mark the retirement of our church custodian, Louis Covert. Louis came to the church staff in 1982, making his tenure at Charles Town Presbyterian Church thirty years! In an age where people change jobs on average every five years, this is quite a milestone. Louis will finish serving the church on Friday, March 30th.
To serve as a church custodian is to have the hardest job on the church staff. A church custodian can feel, at times, like there are hundreds of bosses, dozens of critics, and countless people to serve. When you show up for a special function in the fellowship hall with chairs and tables set up, guess who sets them up? On Sunday mornings, when you need to use the lavatory and find clean facilities, even on a weekend when the church was used Friday and all day Saturday, guess who cleans it? When you don’t have to trudge through snow and ice on the church walks after a snow storm, guess who clears them? When you look with pride on the well-manicured church property throughout the spring and summer, guess who mows the lawn? Louis. Louis does all of these jobs and much, much more. We have been blessed to have him on staff.
Thirty years on a church staff is an amazing milestone, and I want to honor him properly. Louis hates public recognition of any kind, so he won’t come to a worship serve for prayer and public thanks or a dinner in the fellowship hall in his honor. So here is how I want us to recognize Louis’ hard work. First, I want to collect a gift. If you can give at least $5 or $10, that would be wonderful. Of course more would be welcome. Please be sure that our administrator, Connie Adams, receives this. Second, I am going to ask the children’s Sunday School classes to make cards for him. Louis has to clean up after the classes, and no matter what happens on a given Sunday, Louis gets the rooms back to tip top shape. Third, I am going to get one of those big cards for as many as possible in the church to sign for Louis. All of this I will give to him when the staff honors him during his last week of service. I hope you will join me in thanking Louis and demonstrating God’s love to one of the most invaluable—and often overlooked– members of the church family.
Dear Brother’s and Sister’s in Christ,
My most favorite time of the year is almost upon us. On Wednesday, February 22, Lent begins with the observance of Ash Wednesday. I cannot wait for this year’s Ash Wednesday service! I stumbled upon an idea (thank you Mary Rider Kline!) that will make this year’s service incredibly meaningful. And then for the next 40 days (not including Sundays) we will prepare for the passion of Christ and the celebration of his resurrection! And just as the Lenten season moves us from death to life, we will move through the cold of winter to the new life of spring!
Special to the 2012 observance of Lent is the focus of the Monday night discipleship group. The Monday night group has been on hiatus since my sabbatical, but will start up this month. During the five Mondays following Ash Wednesday, the group will focus on study geared specifically for Lent. At the end of the five weeks, participants will have the chance to decide if they wish to continue to be part of the group. The first Monday in Lent is Monday, February 27, and we will meet at 7:15pm in the parlor. If you have any questions, please contact me.
Lent is a wonderful time to be deliberate about spiritual growth. If Monday night is a bad time, please feel free to check out one of the Sunday school classes. Each class is unique and will serve to broaden your understanding of God’s Word and your experience of Christian fellowship.
May God richly bless your Lenten experience!
Warmly in Christ,
Happy New Year!
According to the Mayan calendar, this is it! The Mayan calendar runs out in December of this year, and so there are a bevy of nutjobs out there who think this could be the end of the world. You’re bound to hear about this event all year long. No doubt there will be experts examining the Mayan calendar, religious officials chiming in and lots of “news” about this possible apocalypse. I imagine some of us are already tired of hearing about it.
The end of the world is a theme in scripture, as well. The difference in scripture is rather pointed. First, Jesus reminds us that no one knows when it will happen. In Matthew 24:43, Jesus describes his return in very vivid language: “But understand this: If the owner of the house knew what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and not let his house be broken into.” There are a couple other references in scripture to the end of this world, but the common theme is that the end will come when God says it will come. No one else knows.
Second, for the people of God, its not really an end. Jesus will return to judge the sinful, and to give eternal life to his followers. But in doing so, he will make a new heaven and a new earth (see Revelation 21). And the new creation is going to greatly surpass the old.
So when you hear these stories over the next eleven months, don’t panic. God is still in control. And if this is the end, its actually going to be pretty great for us as we begin an eternity in the presence of God, soaking in the New Creation.
Happy New Year,
Dear Church Family,
We are already into the season of advent, the time in which we prepare for the coming of the Christ child. In addition to personal spirituality, the season seems like it is continually marked by preparations of many kinds. There is always something to do!
I am particularly excited for this advent season. On Friday, December 2nd, we will hold our annual advent festival AND we will be decorating the church for the season. We will begin at 6pm with dinner, and then children will be invited to stay in the fellowship hall for advent crafts, while adults and older youth head to the sanctuary to decorate (adults can stay and do crafts if they really want to!). We will conclude the evening together by assembling in the sanctuary and singing Christmas carols. This is a big change from how we have done these events in the past, and I am looking forward to what I hope is the beginning of a wonderful tradition.
In worship this advent season I will be preaching through the book of Ruth, which tells the wonderful story of a woman who is alone and in need of help. Just as she finds help as a result of the stipulations in the Covenant of the Old Testament, so do we as sinners find help and hope in the coming of Jesus at Christmas. As part of worship this advent, I am encouraging children especially – and anyone for that matter – to take the blank sheet that will be in the bulletin and use the materials found in the pews to create artwork based on impressions from the sermon and worship. We will be displaying this artwork near the sanctuary side door in a growing display through the season. '
This looks to be a very exciting advent season. I hope you are able to join with the rest of the church family as we prepare for the coming of Christ Jesus our savior!
and celebrate Christ’s coming into the world with prayer, music and lighting of the Advent candles.
December services in Downtown Charles Town: 18th: Joy Gift Service 7:00 pm
24th: Christmas Eve Family Service 5:00 pm, Candlelight Communion 11:00 pm
25th: Worship Service at 11:00 only
See the calendar for more events.
Dear Church Family,
I can’t believe that, with All Saints Day still more than a week away, I’m going to write about advent! Where does the time go? I am so excited about advent this year, which begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving –November 27. This advent season we are focusing on the Old Testament book of Ruth, which tells a wonderful story of redemption, and will lead us to the miraculous birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
During worship in advent we are also going to try something unique. Every week in the bulletin there will be blank sheets of paper. In the pews there will be colored pencils. When something in worship strikes you, whether it be an image in a hymn, a prayer, or the sermon, you are encouraged to make a quick drawing. We will collect those drawings on the way out of the sanctuary each Sunday, and they will be posted in a display that will grow through the advent season. I know it might seem like a crazy idea, and that we are encouraging people not to pay attention to worship. Far from it – I’m hoping this will reinforce connections to God made by worshipers throughout the service. Of course it will be important to resist the temptation to do just that, and parents will need to watch that worship not turn into craft time. This new endeavor is just for advent and will hopefully prove to be very meaningful.
Before advent begins, we will be celebrating one of my most favorite worship services – Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving day at 10am, we will gather to mark the day by giving thanks to the One who has provided us with so many good things. I have enjoyed how this service has grown over the years, hopefully an indication that we seek to give God the glory for all he has done for us.
On a more personal note, the thing I am most thankful for in the last year is the support I received from the church family during my difficulties over the summer. I couldn’t ask for better responses or any more support than what you all gave. I give God thanks for you all regularly, and am so thankful God called me here to serve alongside you.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
At the writing of this column, I am three weeks since my sabbatical ended. I have simply this to say to the congregation: WELL DONE! Yes, there were decisions and issues that were put off until my return, but by and large you were able to continue moving forward with the work of God’s Church.
Many pastors find themselves easily becoming the center of church life in their ministries. This is a dangerous trap – it is a good feeling to bask in the adulation and to have one’s pride puffed up. The moment it becomes about us, we lose sight of what ministry is about and Who it is for. When those kinds of pastors move on to the next place, things fall apart.
Things did not fall apart this summer. The session, the deacons, and the staff stepped up and continued the work of Christ for both church and community. What a wonderful testimony to the disciple-making that is going on at CTPC! We took a huge step forward in our effort to know, grow and serve - we were able to move forward into a situation we did not like, and we came out better for it! Praise be to God!
October usually kicks off a busy time for the church – we have our fall festival later this month, and soon enough we will be preparing for the holidays. Please be sure to listen for the call of God on your life this fall as we continue in the great adventure of knowing Christ, growing in God’s love, and serving as the Holy Spirit leads.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Life, it seems, is full of surprises. I did not have the sabbatical I wanted, but I did have the sabbatical I needed. When I consider the timing alone, it is obvious God’s hand was in all of this. No, I did not get to do all of the things I planned, and I only read two of the twenty-some books I wanted to get to. And obviously, going through a divorce was something that was never on the table, but managed to show up from the outset of my time away from the church.
So the sabbatical, in a very strange way, became something of a gift. I have been able to spend vast amounts of time with my children, who are doing remarkably well. I have had time to pray, to think, to spend time with my extended family, and to enjoy the support of friends both inside and outside the church. I have been able to do a great deal of “healing” work in a short amount of time – and only because I have had the sabbatical to do it.
I was blessed by being able to do two of the three trips I planned. The Preacher’s Oasis at Calvin College was incredible! I could not believe how big the stack was of evaluations sent by the congregation (mind you, I only saw the folder, not the evaluations themselves). I came away with a few small areas to work on that will make great improvements to my preaching. A couple weeks ago I was able to go to a retreat center outside of Seattle for some time with God – no agenda, no plan, just relaxing, praying and enjoying! I am not sure when it happened, but in spite of the personal issues I am dealing with, I found myself entering the last weeks of the sabbatical eager to return to work. I guess that means the sabbatical accomplished one of its purposes – to refresh and energize!
Overall, I am doing really well, and I give glory to God and credit to this congregation for a good deal of that. Thank for your support, which I know will continue into the months ahead. I will still need your patience and support at times, because I am still making adjustments to my new life. At the retreat center in Seattle, there is a water feature in the garden with an inscription from St. Francis de Sales. I close with his words
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving God who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and every day. God will either shield you from suffering or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.