This is where Pastor Ken Barnes shares his thoughts on our church life together. Think of it as a sort of on-line coffee hour. If you want to add a comment or ask a question, just click “read more” then scroll down to the comment box below the post and start typing.
Like many of you, I remain shaken by the traumatic events in Boston this week. As some of you know, I have run marathons. I have found the discipline and training to be a spiritual experience as well as the actual running of the event; the fellowship of other runners, the exhaustion, the insights, the revelations and then the joy of the finish line. But to have tragedy, tragedy perpetuated by one of our own kind. How horrible. It has been very hard to put words to my emotions during this time, so I was grateful to have come across this moving prayer this morning. Let us offer it up for all God’s children around the world whose lives are shattered by events such as these:
Brand New Mourning
by the Rev. Dr. Kwasi Kena
We never know what each new day will bring.
We hope for joy and peace
Or at least the comfort
Of predictable routine.
We’re never prepared
For the intrusion of
Acted out through
Harm and mayhem.
When death rips life
From our grasp,
When horror blurs
Have mercy on us, Lord.
Hold our aching souls
Guide us through
Listen to our wailing “Why?”
Be the Comfort we may not even know we need
As we live through this brand new mourning. Amen.
Finding hope and comfort in a time of uncertainty and fear is challenging, even as we continue to have faith in the goodness and love of God. The effects of grief and trauma can take many forms, whether we are near or far from their source. We will be holding everyone affected by the attacks in our prayers. .
A good friend is Jewish, and a secular one at that! The only reason she even observes the High Holy Days is because she thinks that somehow, her late father will know that she ate when she should have been fasting and went to work when she should have stayed home, and that he will wag the dreaded finger of disappointment at her from beyond the grave. So I was quite surprised recently when she said to me, “you know, I’m really kind of into this whole Pope-choosing thing.”
It seemed like this time around, many people were. I found myself discussing the process with many friends and acquaintances. I followed it on the news, waiting for the white smoke to billow from the Vatican like I waited for the election returns to pour in from around the country last November.
And then it happened….breaking news on CNN! Facebook lit up with comments, Twitter was abuzz. A new Pope had been chosen. And just who was he? What did we think of the choice?
The new Pope is a Jesuit, a teacher and intellectual, a non European. He traveled by bus rather than limousine. (Read more . . .)
In an old Cherokee legend, an angry boy talks to his grandfather about a friend who he felt had betrayed him. The grandfather responds:
“Let me tell you a story… I too, at times, have felt a great resentment for those who take from others with no remorse for what they do. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” The wise elder continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me engaged in a challenging conflict. One is evil: he is anger, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, lies, false pride, and ego. The littlest thing will set this wolf into a tantrum. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. Yet it is helpless anger that will change nothing.”
He continued, “The other wolf is good: he is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, gratitude, empathy, truth, compassion, and faith. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He only fights when it is right to do so, and in the right way. Sometimes, it is a challenge to live with these two wolves inside me, as each tries to dominate my spirit. The same challenge is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
As we move into a time for discernment, we have to ask: What kind of church are we? What style of leadership should we look for in a new pastor? It is a time for pondering past and future, a time for considering those good things we want to take into our future, and deciding which things that are better left by the wayside.
This annual self-reflection is as important for us as a community as it is for us as individuals. (Read more . . .)
As I have come to know you, I am impressed with the diversity I am discovering here. Also I am also impressed by your inclusive attitude. You know that all are important and essential to your spiritual health and institutional vitality.
When I read this article on the history of small churches (the emphasis is on ‘rural’ churches but it also includes us!) I wanted to pass it on. Do you see yourselves in this article?
The Small Church
by Steve Willis
Quite often I drive by the Peaks Presbyterian Church on my way to hike through the Blue Ridge Mountains. The little white clapboard church sits in a beautiful setting, looking up to Sharp Top and Flat Top Mountains of the Peaks of Otter, among the highest elevations in Virginia. This congregation has always been a small country church since it was founded in 1761. It has survived the Revolutionary War, the trauma of our nation’s Civil War, the Great War to end all wars, the Second World War, Vietnam, the culture wars of the sixties, and now continues its ministry today. The Peaks Church’s beginnings hearken back to a time that had a quite different understanding of church and pastoral leadership.
During the period when the Peaks Church came into existence, stability was the norm for ministers, who most often pastored the same church their entire ministerial life. A study of Congregationalist ministers who graduated from Yale College during this era shows the difference between then and now. Robert W. Lynn and James W. Fraser, church analysts, who in 1977 contributed to one of the first books written specifically about the small church, summarize the differences:
“The eighteenth-century New England Congregationalists did not view the successful pastor as one who changed churches. That 7 percent with more than two pastorates consisted of the “ne’er to do wells.” (Read more . . .)
This week we enter into the season of Lent. Most of you are familiar with its history and traditions, but here’s a brief refresher.
Lent is the 40 day season prior to Easter. The season begins Ash Wednesday (Feb. 13 this year) and concludes with Easter (March 31.)
The word “Lent” itself comes from lencten, simply referring to the Spring season when days begin the lengthen. However, since the Anglo-Saxon period (9th century) it has been a popular term for this season of self-examination.
We will be studying the book Five Stages of the Soul by Harry R. Moody. We have ordered copies of the book. We will have Wednesday evening suppers starting February 20 to discuss the specific Stage of the Soul that will be highlighted in the following Sunday service. (Read more . . .)