Pastor’s BLOG

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

Messages and Messengers

Dear Friends,
We are still in the season of Easter, so I greet you with an Alleluia! Christ is risen indeed!
Jesus always seems to be breaking into disciples’ conversations during the Easter season scriptures. He seems to know just when to appear and encourage his followers along their walk of faith. On the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24), in the locked room of a house (John 20), Jesus offers peace and sends them out into the world in his name. How have you experienced Jesus this past month? How have you shared the Easter story?
As we step into May, each Sunday will prepare us for our own faith journey. On May 2nd, we will return to the theme of the PC(USA) Great Ends of the Church. Do you remember those from winter?
1. The proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;
2. The shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
3. The maintenance of divine worship;
4. The preservation of the truth;
There are just two Great Ends left. We will pick up the 5th Great End, The Promotion of Social Righteousness, on May 2nd. On May 9th we will focus on #6: The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World. May 9th will also be Confirmation Sunday, so the topic seems especially appropriate. We hope you will join us for outdoor worship on the 9th, as our youth make a commitment to follow Jesus and share God’s love. May 16th is Youth Sunday, and we plan for that service to be outdoors, as well. Worshiping outdoors makes it possible for everyone to attend these extra-special services. In the case of inclement weather, however, worship will be held indoors with limited capacity, so go ahead and make a reservation to be on the safe side.
Looking ahead to May 23rd, we will celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ disciples as tongues of fire and emboldened them to proclaim the gospel to the people gathered. This is often known as the Birthday of the Christian Church. We finish the month with Trinity Sunday, on May 30th, when we remember the mystery of our Three-in-One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three of our members will help in the worship leadership this day by sharing a part of their faith story. The 30th is also Memorial Day Weekend.
As you can see, the month is filled with messages and messengers to strengthen our faith and help us deepen our commitment to Christ. I hope this will be your experience.
Deep peace of Christ to you,
Pastor Nancy

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor

Amid Uncertainty, Hope

Dear Friends,
The Easter season is a joyous time. We remember that Jesus, who underwent such suffering, is victorious over death. Even amid uncertainty, we have this hope that we are not left all alone. We don’t have to face challenging times on our own strength. The Spirit inspires life and possibility into us, even when we can’t see our future clearly. Just like the bulb in the ground seems dead for a big part of the year, it breaks through the ground when the season is right.
So does the church go through seasons. We look for renewal and may be impatient for it to burst onto the scene, but our faith reminds us that God’s time can’t be forced. So what do we do in the meantime? Ground ourselves in God’s word and commit to walking alongside one another for the full journey.
The Mission Study Team looks forward to studying the results of the church surveys. As of Sunday morning, over 100 people have returned a survey. Thank you! Once the team receives the results and has a chance to digest the information, they will share it with you. Be on the lookout for articles in the Action, Moments in worship, and opportunities to gather together (Zoom and in person) to share what we are learning.
In the meantime, I invite you to begin thinking about a biblical image or story that resonates with you when you reflect upon First Presbyterian Church. Email, call, or write me your ideas on this. It might be from the Old or New Testament, a prophecy or a parable, a psalm or epistle. What vision do you have of your participation in this particular community of faith? Think on these things over the next few weeks.
Finally, I want to thank the Reopening Team and worship volunteers for their many efforts to provide for in-person, indoor worship. It takes a lot of effort to make this happen and keep the virtual/tech side of things working effectively, too. Staff members Jeanna and Tommy have gone over and above in providing for as safe an environment as possible. We look forward to the day when we will all be able to gather safely and sing the songs of our faith and participate in liturgy and prayers. Until then, we rejoice in the ways we can be drawn together to worship.
Christ is risen, indeed! Alleluia!

Walking Through Holy Week

Dear Friends,
We are nearly ready to begin our Holy Week journey. Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, where the crowds welcome Jesus to Jerusalem with shouts of Hosanna! We move from that festive mood into Maundy Thursday, when Jesus gathers with his disciples for the Passover Meal, what we refer to as the Last Supper. Passover is the remembrance of the Angel of Death passing over the homes of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt, leading to their release. Those who put the blood of a lamb over their doorway were spared the death of their first-born. As we move into the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ betrayal, we understand that now Jesus is the sacrificial lamb. His body broken, his blood poured out for our salvation from sin.
We will offer a worship service live streamed at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 1st. Communion will be celebrated. Then on Good Friday we remember with both sadness and hope how Jesus gave his life over to be crucified. We gather once again in joy on Easter Sunday to rejoice with Alleluias! Christ is risen, indeed!
I hope that you will find time in the coming week to reflect upon Jesus’ death so that we may live again. Take some time journaling or walking or sitting quietly to feel the depth of this holy time. How does Jesus’ life transform your own life?
I am so grateful that we will be able to gather outdoors (weather permitting) for worship on Palm Sunday and Easter. It will be good to see your faces, — masks and all!
Grace and peace,
Pastor Nancy
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor