Pastor’s BLOG

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

Questions to Ponder

Dear Friends,
In my sermon on March 7th, I quoted an article by Karl Vaters titled “Will the Congregation Come Back?” Should Not Be Our Biggest Concern (6 Better Questions). The first three questions Vaters proposes are:
1. Have we represented Jesus well during the lockdown?

2. Are we representing Jesus well as we come out of the lockdown?

3. What have we learned – and what are we still learning?
I encouraged the congregation to ponder these over the next week. In fact, Session met that night and responded to these.

For those of you who are curious about the other three questions…here they are!
4. How can we better serve the people at home?

5. How well are we serving our online church members and visitors?

6. How are people hurting, and what can we do to help them?

Vaters ends his article by saying “How we honor Jesus by reaching the hurting people outside our doors is what matters. Ministry needs to happen from the church, not just in the church.”

We are grateful for the many ways our congregation has been able to keep reaching out, in spite of the restrictions the pandemic has put before us. Even though we haven’t been able to worship in person, there has still been a strong sense of community. Your Session and care ministry teams have been doing their best to connect with you regularly over the months. The food collections continue in the lobby to provide nourishment for our hungry neighbors. Technology has enabled not only the congregation to worship, but people from all over the country! Who knows how many lives have been touched through your ministry this past year? Thanks be to God!
In the special Session meeting on Sunday night, we discussed when we might begin to reopen the sanctuary for in-person worship. This was a long and thoughtful discussion, and it was clear that we were not all of one mind. Concerns for people’s health and safety remain a priority. Not everyone has been vaccinated yet. We don’t know about the various strains of COVID-19 and what the long-term effects of exposure will be. Is it right to open if not everyone can be together? Is it best to open if worship will be so altered? And yet, there are many who feel ready to be back together, many who are longing for “God’s courts of praise.”
The Session did make a decision, as seen in the Clerk’s report elsewhere in The ACTION. We will (weather-willing) hold our Palm Sunday and Easter services outside so everyone who wants to attend may do so. You’ll need to dress for the weather and bring your own chairs as you did last fall. Then, beginning April 11th, we will offer indoor worship with a limited number of attendees. The service will continue to be livestreamed. In the last March ACTION (next edition), we will remind you of the protocols and how to make a reservation for indoor worship.
I hope you will offer thanks to your Session members for serving so faithfully in such a time as this. They certainly have lived into their ordination vows to pray for the people and serve with energy, intelligence, imagination and love!
Grace and peace to you,
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor