Archive for April, 2010

Confirmation Sunday & Lunch

Just a reminder that this Sunday, April 25th is Confirmation Sunday. We will have a covered dish lunch in the Fellowship Hall immediately after worship in honor of our confirmands. Please bring your favorite side dish and dessert to share – we’ll provide the chicken and drinks.

This is always a wonderful and exciting day in the life of our church! Come help us celebrate!

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(Note: this was Steve’s letter in the April edition of The Grapevine.  He also preached on sabbath and rest this past Sunday in his sermon, “The Seventh-Inning Stretch,” which you can read here).


If you were in worship back on November 15, you may recall Heather Hatcher, moderator of the Personnel Ministry Team, announcing that our church had been awarded a National Clergy Renewal grant from the Lily Foundation, and that we would be taking a three-month sabbatical in the middle of 2010.  If you weren’t there that Sunday I assume you got to read about it in the December Grapevine.

It is hard to believe that the time for our sabbatical is almost upon us.  And I mean it when I say our sabbatical.  Like so many things that make up our wonderful pastor/parishioner relationship, this sabbatical is not a solo venture.  Both you and I will experience “sabbath” – a time for rest and renewal, a time to take a step back from the busy-ness of our lives together and ponder what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ.  The only difference about this particular venture is that we will do it apart from each another.

Over the past few months some of you have approached me with specific questions about “our” sabbatical, for which I’m grateful.  I imagine others have questions they haven’t voiced.  As someone who believes in the importance of “full disclosure,” let me take a moment to address some of the commonly-asked questions:

  • WHY ARE YOU TAKING A SABBATICAL? By design, sabbaticals are times of renewal for both minister and congregation through an intentional short-term period of separation.  Churches and ministers who participate in sabbaticals find it is a wonderful experience for both pastor and church, enriching their relationship and service together.
  • WHEN IS IT?  May-July 2010.  My last day in the office will be Thursday, April 29th.  I will return to my normal pastoral duties on Monday, August 2.
  • WHO WILL BE OUR PASTOR WHILE YOU’RE GONE?  Steve McCutchan, a familiar face from his time with us during our 150th celebration, will be your pastor in my absence.  He will be here Sunday mornings and in the office 2-3 days during the week.  He’ll be responsible for all pastoral duties: leading worship, managing staff, visitation, funerals as needed, etc. – he’ll do everything I would do if I were here.
  • WILL YOU BE INVOLVED WITH THE CHURCH IN ANY CAPACITY?  The sabbatical is best for both parties when there is total disengagement.  So while you will be in my thoughts and prayers as you always are, I will not be coming to worship here, hold office hours, or be available for weddings or funerals.  Steve McCutchan will handle all of those duties and do a wonderful job.  Heather Hatcher and the Personnel Ministry Team will be the ones to decide if there are any extenuating circumstances that merit letting me know.
  • HOW WILL THE CHURCH PAY FOR THIS?  It won’t! The Lilly Foundation, which awarded the church the sabbatical grant, is paying for everything – from my sabbatical expenses to Steve McCutchan’s salary/travel expenses to what the congregation gets to do (more about that later!)
  • WILL YOU STILL GET PAID?  Yes, the church will continue to provide my regular salary, as required by the organization funding the sabbatical grant.
  • SO WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING?   I’ll be exploring the spirituality of music.  I’ll start songwriting again and hopefully do some recording.  I’ll take trips to Austin, Philadelphia and Harrisonburg, VA to engage music in different ways.  I’ll also get to enjoy a lot of time with Lorie and the boys doing neat things from special trips to just being together!
  • WOW!  SURE WISH WE COULD HAVE A SABBATICAL!  Well, the truth is, you will! The sabbatical grant provides some special things for the congregation. Each church family will get a copy of Soul Feast, a wonderful book by Marjorie Thompson, that looks at the importance of the Christian spiritual life.  I’ll be reading this on my sabbatical and encourage you to read it on yours.  You will also be treated to two special concerts by Bryan McFarland and Melva Houston – all funded by the sabbatical grant.
  • IS THERE ANY WAY WE CAN KEEP UP WITH WHAT YOU’RE DOING WHILE YOU’RE GONE?  Yep.  I’ll be writing about my sabbatical experiences at my blog, http://thoughts-musings.com. Feel free to read as I post them or subscribe so you can have things emailed directly to you.

One final thought that typically arises when a minister goes on sabbatical: as Heather Hatcher so aptly conveyed to the session when the plan was approved last year, this sabbatical is about me being “on leave,” not leaving.  I want to be very clear about this because you all deserve to know the truth.  I am not taking this sabbatical because I’m burned out (in fact, sabbaticals are designed to prevent that); nor am I taking it because I’m uncertain about my calling to this church or to ministry in general.  I am taking this sabbatical because I recognize that taking time to tend to myself, my spiritual journey, and my family will only help me be a better pastor to each of you in the long future we have together.  My hope is that you’ll find this sabbatical time to be just as renewing for you, too.

I trust this has answered some of your questions – but if there are others, please don’t hesitate to call me or drop by the office this month for a chat.  Life is full of good transitions, even if they’re only three months long.  I give thanks to God every day for you and continue to be excited about the time God has in store for us together as pastor and church!  Let the journey go on!

Blessings and peace,


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Because last week was Easter (and what a service – 267 worshippers!), we decided to hold off on our Hope & Hunger offering until this coming Sunday, April 11th. The basket is already set up in the sanctuary to receive your food offerings for Yokefellow ministries – this month’s food items are cooking oil and dried beans. And our youth will be collecting your pennies and other monetary donations for our Cents-a-Bility offering, to assist our presbytery’s and denomination’s efforts to put an end to poverty and hunger, both here and around the world.

THANK YOU, the Easter people, for living out the hope of the resurrection by participating in this Sunday’s Hope & Hunger Offering!

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Easter Sunday Worship at 10am!

Please make plans to join us for Easter Sunday Worship at First Presbyterian Church, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

As part of the service, we invite you to bring flowers to help us flower the cross, an annual tradition of our church.

We will also celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and all people who wish to receive the gifts of God are welcome to the feast!

Finally, PLEASE remember that the worship service starts at 10:00am!

Have a wonderful weekend and we’ll see you for the celebration on Sunday!

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