Pastor’s BLOG

PNC, RUC, and Matthew 25

Dear Friends,
 
Congratulations! Your Session approved the Pastor Nominating Committee’s Ministry Information Form (MIF). Later this week it will go to Salem Presbytery’s Commission on Ministry to be approved.  Once that happens, the MIF will be uploaded to our denomination’s “Church Leadership Connection” (CLC). The CLC is a matching service between pastors and churches. This means that pastors searching for a new call will be able to find our MIF and decide if they wish to apply. It can still take months for the right match, but the PNC is moving along in the process. We give thanks to God for this team and their attentiveness to one another and the Holy Spirit.
 
Last Sunday, I began a series on the Matthew 25 Church. Our Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination encourages congregations to commit to being a Matthew 25 Church, meaning that the congregation is committed to at least one of these three denominational priorities:
 
1. Dismantling Structural Racism by fearlessly applying our faith to advocate and break down the systems, practices, and thinking that underlie discrimination, bias, prejudice and oppression of people of color.
 
2. Eradicating Systemic Poverty by acting on our beliefs and working to change laws, policies, plans and structures in our society that perpetuate economic exploitation of people who are poor.
 
3. Building Congregational Vitality by challenging congregations and their members to deepen and energize their faith and grow as joyful leaders and disciples, actively engaged with their community as they share the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed.
 
On January 23rd, I preached about the first priority. Did you realize FPC Lexington is already addressing this?  Your Race Unification Committee has been wading in these waters for over a year now. The new book study on America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis had its first meeting last week. It’s not too late to join.  Let me know if you need a copy of the book. The city of Lexington recently hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) agent, Dr. Patricia Smyre, which tells us this is a priority for your community, as well. 
 
On January 30th, I will address the second of the three, and then touch upon the third one on February 6th, our First Sunday blended service, followed by the Annual Meeting and Baked Potato Lunch.  If you would like to learn more about the Matthew 25 Church initiative, I encourage you to go to our denomination’s website, www.pcusa.org, and put “Matthew 25 Church” in the search.  There is great information and you’ll find examples of what other churches are doing, as well. 
 
{{If you Google Matthew 25 on your web browser, be sure that it is PCUSA or Presbyterian Mission Agency related.  There are many choices that will come up, and many of them are not tied to our denomination!}} 
 
For your convenience, you may wish to check out this link:
 
We have so much to learn as we work and grow in God’s kingdom! 
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Nancy
 
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor
 


Staying Connected in the Time of Omicron

Dear Friends,
 
Happy New Year! It is hard to believe we are stepping into 2022. I expect it to be a big year for this congregation as your Pastor Nominating Committee is hard at work. While they do their task, it is important for you to keep doing yours! That is, participating in the mission and ministry of First Presbyterian Church. I know that the Omicron variant has brought on some limitations to in-person gatherings, but there are still many ways to be involved. Here are some ideas for you:
 
1. If you have internet access, you could join the Thursday Prayer Group at 11:00 each Thursday via Zoom. This group has met faithfully over a number of years, first in person, and then when the pandemic hit, they turned to praying together online. They see the Holy Spirit active in our church and world as they pray for concerns and celebrations among our church family and world. Emelie North is the convener of this group.
 
2. Stretch your Bible knowledge by becoming a participant in “The Story,” and reading through the Bible this year. Talk to Ann Keifer, our interim Director of Christian Education, about this great opportunity for spiritual growth.
 
3. Send cards to some of our shut-ins or others experiencing a hardship. It means the world to folks who are isolated or going through a tough time to hear from their church family. Consider writing just one card a week and see if that doesn’t help you feel more connected as well. Ask me for a startup list of names.
 
4. If you like hands-on work, but not in a crowd, talk to Building & Grounds elders Sammy McFarland and Ryan Gobble about how you might help with some of the odds and ends work that needs doing around the church.
 
5. Worship! You can join us at 9:00 or 11:00 in person, or 11:00 online. It’s important to continue feeding your spirit with God’s word.
 
6. Drop off a jar of peanut butter and/or a can of mixed vegetables (or more!) in the church lobby to help stock our local food pantries.
 
These are just a few ideas for living your faith this winter. There are plenty more! Pastors searching for a new congregation like to know the members take their faith commitment to heart. FPC is a wonderful, dynamic family of faith! I know God is preparing the right pastor for you and look forward to that day when you can welcome him or her into your fold. Please hold your PNC in prayer.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Nancy

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor
 


No Room?

Dear Friends,
 
Advent Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to you! On this evening of the Third Sunday of Advent, I have been pulling my holiday dishes out of their packing boxes, washing them, and trying to figure out how they will fit in my already full cabinets. There’s no room. Does that refrain sound familiar? It’s been a few years since I’ve even used my festive dishware, but this year we are hosting our son and Chris’ mother and brother for Christmas so it seems right to spruce up the table with the holly dishes. I guess I will have to pack away some of my everyday plates and cups to make room.

It seems like a parable for the season. We have to juggle so much – the ordinary everyday responsibilities and expectations along with the special additions to the calendar and all those heavy expectations that come along with the holiday celebrations and family gatherings. Take time this week to consider what you need to put away to make room for this holy time. Old grudges that are so easy to bring up to the surface, differing viewpoints that divide the table instead of enrich conversation, the constant worry that not everything will go perfectly. These elements, and others I am certain you can name, have the ability to blast the holy right out of the holiday!
 
On January 9th we will celebrate the baptism of Jesus and reaffirm our own baptismal covenant. In preparation, I encourage you to ask others who may have been present at your baptism what they recall about that day. And/Or…have a conversation with some whose baptism you witnessed and share with them what you remember. What was the baptized wearing? Who stood with them? What happened in the service? How did the family or friends rejoice and honor the sacrament? Worshipers at both services will be invited forward to touch the water and remember their own baptism. Those who choose may be anointed with oil by Pastor Nancy. It will be a special day. We hope to see you there. Remember your baptism and celebrate!
 
This year, take a few moments to write down one or two things you value about the season. What traditions are most meaningful? What new thing(s) would you like to try? Maybe it’s a recipe from an in-law. Perhaps it is a different way of beginning the meal or letting someone else host this year. It could even be asking for 20 minutes of quiet time Christmas Day afternoon! Whatever it is that will enrich your Christmas, write it down! Ask your loved ones to do the same. Then find a little bit of time before Christmas Eve to share your thoughts with one another. There will be some give and take, some bending and stretching, but think of how you can gift each other with a holy-day that puts the focus on where it needs to be.
 
Emmanuel means God with us. I hope that in the midst of the busy-ness of the season you are able to take time to reflect upon God’s gift of Jesus Christ to the world.
 
Merry Christmas,
Pastor Nancy

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor
 


Happy New Year!

Dear Friends,
 
Happy New Year! The first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the New Year in the church liturgical calendar. Advent is a time of waiting. Just like Christians throughout history, we wait for Christ to come again. While we think of late November and all of December as a time to get ready for Jesus’ birth, Advent puts emphasis on the promise that Christ is coming in all power and glory. We wait with Advent Hope. It’s not that we are “pie in the sky” waiters. No! Christians are called to continue the work of Christ as we wait. We have been given a road map on how to live: feed the hungry, visit the sick and those in prison, work toward justice and peace, and worship God with heart, soul, mind, and strength.
 
This Advent, we have a number of opportunities for you to prepare the way of the Lord.
 
On November 28, we will have just one service, blended, in the sanctuary at 11:00. This allows for the extensive setup to happen for our afternoon Christmas Family Night in Fellowship Hall. In morning worship, we will welcome our Boy Scout Troop #205 as they hold a short Eagle Court of Honor for our member Hoke Ayers. This is an incredible achievement and a milestone in Hoke’s life. Scouting is a long-time ministry of this congregation and we rejoice in this special award for one of our youth.

Be sure to return for Christmas Family Night at 4:00. This gathering brings us together with activities for all ages and a fellowship meal. Perhaps you’ll want to make an Advent wreath for your home or nativity ornaments. There will be lots of choices. It is a beloved tradition and everyone is welcome.
December 5th is a first Sunday of the month, which means an 11:00 blended service. It is the 2nd Sunday of Advent, and we will celebrate with a service that uplifts Jesus in the Signs of the Season. Children and adults will help lead the service this week as we unpack the meaning of some of our most cherished Christmas traditions and decorations.
 
December 12th and 19th we will be back to our two services for the 3rd and 4th Sundays of Advent. The 19th will be a service of lessons and carols telling the story of God’s gift of Emmanuel, God with Us.
Christmas Eve Service will be at 5:00 on December 24th.
 
As always, these 11:00 Sunday services will be available online at our YouTube channel so you can be connected online and/or in person.
 
May your Advent season be filled with hope, peace, joy, and love.
 
In Christ,

Pastor Nancy

Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor