Pastor’s BLOG

Celebrating Our Independence

As our nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, I am spending a week of vacation in Williamsburg, VA, right in the heart of United States history! The “Historic Triangle” (Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown) is one of our family’s favorite places to visit. So much to see and do and learn. This week especially, the energy there is high!
 
It can be easy to get carried away in patriotism around the Fourth of July, when we remember the sacrifice people made (and continue to make) in the fight for independence and freedom. With each fight for freedom, we know blood has been shed, and we grieve the loss of life, of family member, of service man or woman, of friend. We give thanks to God for all who have given so much so that we may enjoy the privileges we experience today, such as freedom of worship or freedom of speech.
 
The shadow side of patriotism is to think that the United States is the only land God has chosen to bless and her people the only ones deserving of God’s blessing. Sometimes we think that for the United States to be the best, other peoples, other places must be “less than.” Shortly after 9-11, I heard This Is My Song sung by a church choir. It is such a gentle and important reminder that all are precious in God’s sight. I share it with you as a prayer-song that is as strong and meaningful as America the Beautiful or God Bless America. Perhaps you will add it to your lineup of patriotic songs this week, remembering that God’s blessings are not limited to time or space.
 
This Is My Song
Hymn text by Lloyd Stone, 1934; Tune: Finlandia (Be Still My Soul)
 
This is my song, O god of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
 
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
So hear my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
 
May we remember with servants’ hearts that the whole world is in God’s hands.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Nancy

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor
 
 


Summer is Nearly Upon Us!

Dear Friends,
 
Summer is nearly upon us. That time of cookouts, swimming pools, and lightning bugs! I enjoy the change-up of schedule that summer often brings. This year is somewhat different. Instead of things slowing down, they are starting to open up!
 
After more than a year of COVID-19 limitations, we are now able to gather more safely and even, praise the Lord, begin to sing in the last part worship! We rejoice in the miracle that is taking place with the various vaccinations that allow us to be together. If you are a teenager or adult and have not yet received a vaccination, I encourage you to make an appointment for one. Just like wearing masks, the COVID-19 vaccination is a way to love your neighbor. As of June 13th, 35% of Davidson County has had at least one dose of vaccination and North Carolina is almost at 46%, but we can do better. Talk to others about it and let’s do our part to improve our county statistics and health! We can be part of this unfolding miracle.
 
Peace to you,
 
Pastor Nancy
 

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor


Caught in the Acts!

Dear Friends,
 
Grace and peace to you! Thank you to all who joined the Mission Study Team for lunch and conversation on May 23rd. We are grateful for your participation as the team continues to discern God’s direction for FPC.
 
In June we will begin a worship series on the Acts of the Apostles. Acts is written by Luke. Where in Luke’s Gospel we read of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, in Acts, we learn how the Church came to life and continues the work that Christ began. In Acts, God sends Gospel into motion. The Risen Christ accompanies the church. Gifted by the Spirit, apostles preach, teach, heal, baptize, and witness God’s expanding inclusivity and grace.
 
While at first, the church is painted as a nearly perfect group of people, we soon come across their humanity, foibles and all. Acts helps us imagine that early community of believers. It includes harmony and dissonance, unity and division, sharing and withholding, wilderness roads and riverside chats, jailbreaks and shipwreck, and even someone falling asleep during a sermon! All the while, the word of God moves into the world. The Apostles’ response might be, “The Spirit led us to it. In Jesus’ name we’ll do it. God will see us through it. So be it, Amen!”
 
I first read Acts as an older teenager and couldn’t put the book down. It read like a novel. I encourage you to open it up and take a look this summer! You will get to know the Church a little bit better!

See you in worship!
 
In Christ,
Pastor Nancy

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor


A Season of Waiting

Dear Friends,
 
This past Sunday, the scripture was Acts 1:1-11, the story of Jesus’ Ascension and a commissioning of the disciples-turned-apostles. Before Jesus sent them out as witnesses to the ends of the earth, he told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Holy Spirit.
 
Waiting. It’s such a chore. The apostles probably didn’t even know what Jesus really meant, even though he’d talked to them about the Spirit before. Waiting is rarely easy. We usually know what we want and want to go for it. As children, we couldn’t wait until Christmas morning—but we did! And what an exciting gift we found under the tree or in the stocking. When was the last time you waited with such anticipation?
 
As adults, we often interpret waiting as a waste of time, as not getting anywhere. We murmur under our breath that all “this time” will be for naught.
 
When Jesus told his disciples to wait for the gift, it’s not as if they sat and did nothing for another 10 days. They added to their circle of leadership. They gathered as believers and prayed. When the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, they were ready to move out and proclaim God’s word to the ends of the earth, to exhibit the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, as our sixth Great End of the Church calls us to do.
 
First Presbyterian Church is waiting for a new pastor. And the Mission Study Team has heard your laments about the length of time it is taking. The Presbyterian Process is a lengthy one. It is not unusual for a transitional pastor to serve a church in transition for 18-24 months before the church calls a new pastor. Even though Pastor Lee left a year ago, I have only been here for 7 ½ months. The Mission Study Team is working hard. They have met 16 times in 19 weeks and have completed assignments in between meetings. Their purpose is to do an in-depth study of the congregation, its mission and ministry, discern where God is leading, create a new mission statement and write a report. When you think of the size of FPC and the variety of ministries and mission work you have been involved in, you may begin to understand the breadth of their responsibility.
 
The past couple weeks they’ve been discussing the church survey results and how those fit in with all the other information they’ve been gathering, including the feedback elders received from their weekly calls earlier in the year, the current programs, the financial health, and well-being of our membership. It is a ton of information to work through, and they are doing it with energy and faithfulness, with an eye to FPC’s future.
 
The Mission Study Team hopes you will join them for lunch and discussion outdoors at the church on Sunday, May 23rd, at 12:30. We will use this time to present some of the themes that are rising from your feedback. There will be large and small group conversation. (More on this elsewhere in The Action.)
The Mission Study Team’s goal is to complete their report by early to mid-summer. The report then goes to Session for approval and then on to the Commission on Ministry (COM) of Salem Presbytery for final approval. I happen to serve on that committee, so I will make sure it gets before them!

Once the Mission Study Report is approved, the COM will grant the church permission to form a Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) to begin the work of calling a new pastor. Don’t be alarmed to hear that their work takes time, as well. The church, using the Mission Study Report, will write a Ministry Information Form (MIF). After Session and COM approval, the PNC will begin to receive Personal Information Forms (PIFs) from interested pastors. The PNC will conduct interviews and eventually select a candidate to bring to the congregation for approval.
 
Why is the process so long? It is to give time for the church to discern where God is calling them so they have an idea of the kind of pastor they need to fulfill their mission. God also uses this time so that just the right pastor will be ready for you!
 
In the meantime we wait. . . . We expand and equip our leadership, we consider how God is working in our midst, and we discover where our church’s strengths and passion intersect with the community’s need. And we pray, deepening our prayers for the person God is preparing, even as we pray for the church and world.
 
We wait and watch together. We continue to participate with worship, study, and mission. And we anticipate the gift of the Holy Spirit who will match just the right pastor with this wonderful congregation. Keep the faith!
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Nancy

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor