Archives

Pastor’s Post – May

Pastor’s Post

For the next six months we will be worshiping not in our sanctuaries but in the social halls of both campuses.  First, we will be in Massapequa social hall until the end of June, then in Miles Hall in Levittown during the summer.  These settings offer an opportunity for us to try different things with worship.  The atmosphere is more social and more conducive to communication between the worship leaders and the people and also allows for better communication among those in attendance.  Worship can be more interactive and multi-dimensional.  I encourage you to offer your own thoughts and proposals about our time with God and each other on Sundays.

+++++

I urge more of you to stay for the Gathering, our hour of study and reflection that follows worship.  You don’t want to miss Larry Rugen’s presentation on the Oberammergau Passion Play this Sunday, May 5.  The play is performed during the summer in Germany, only once every decade, and 2020 is the next scheduled time.  On May 26 we start a series on The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, a recent publication by Matthew Kelly that helps us understand how our faith can be strengthened and shared in the current climate of secularism and cynicism.  Thanks to Marilyn Rodahan for finding this book and to Janice Kincaid for organizing and leading our discussions.

+++++

On Sunday, May 19 the congregation will host the Rev. James Rea of Bethany Presbyterian Church in Huntington Station.  Rev. Rae is a    long-term pastor who has served in many different capacities in the Presbytery of Long Island.  Currently, Rev. Rea is a member of the Merger Commission that provides a liaison for us with Presbytery.  He will preach on the 19th and then stay for a discussion with the congregation during the Gathering hour.  This will be a good opportunity for all of us to learn more about what Presbytery can do to assist us as we start out on a new congregational life.

+++++

Tuesday, May 28 at noon we are invited to the third in a series of four lunches at Sweet Hollow Church with national Presbyterian workers on the subject of regenerating congregational life in aging churches.  This time we will be looking at case studies of congregations that have found successful pathways into renewed life.  Rev. Flannagan always likes to know the numbers who are coming, so please tell me by May 21 if you can join us.

+++++

Finally, thank you to all those of you who made Holy Week and Easter so successful.  I know there is a lot of work that goes into making these services so special and memorable, and I realize there are fewer hands than their used to be to share in the preparation, so thank you so much all you good and faithful servants!

-Pastor Lou

Pastor’s Post

Dear Members of United Presbyterian Church:

What a joy it is to address you in this new way!  We have traveled a long way over the past three years, we have gotten to know each other well, and we have learned to worship and work as one body of Christ’s followers.  Now, our shared experience is being validated in official unification of the two historic churches.

I am thankful that the ecclesiastic and legal processes of unification have synchronized, so that we can move in coming weeks to consolidate our legal and financial management even as our new, unified session will begin to make decisions.  We need to work on creating a new system of committees, being clear about the tasks each committee is assigned, and appointing chairs.

 

Most important, I believe, is that during the next several months, we need to systematically think about the nature of our life together and our mission in this new era.  In 2016, almost three years ago, a joint committee wrote a “Plumbline Report” to assess the community we serve and the direction we wished to take in congregational life and mission.  The Report was accepted by both sessions.  Now, we need to re-visit that report, and see if we can develop a more specific set of goals as we consider where we are now.

To assist with this new process of discernment and planning, I am organizing the Gathering sessions for the Lenten season Sundays of March 17, 24, and 31 and April 7.  We will meet in Miles Hall (4/7 will be held in the Massapequa Social hall) following a brief coffee hour.

 March 17         How we worship

March 24         How we govern ourselves

March 31         What is the future of our buildings?  Issues and ideas.

April 7              What is our Mission both local and global?  How do we achieve It? 

These sessions will be planned and led by me with input from elders and other members.

I will create a summary of points made and ideas brought forward.  This will become a background paper for a one-day member planning retreat I hope to organize sometime in May.  (I should add that this plan of mine will be discussed at the first meeting of the unified session, so it is subject to change.  Stay tuned.)

 

-Pastor Lou

 

 

Pastor’s Post – February 2019

From-the-Pastor-2

A few days ago, members of Session and I attended a lunch with representatives of a new program of the Presbyterian Foundation called “Project Regeneration.”  Along with people from several other Long Island congregations, we listened to a presentation that provided information about congregations around the country much like ours:  that is, established churches that once had hundreds of members and now are much smaller and struggling to maintain their ministry.  This lunch was designed to be the first of four gatherings to be held over the next year on Long Island to explore ways churches are responding to their situation, especially financial strategies.

Although it was not said in so many words, the theme of this first lunch seemed to be: “You are not alone in your experience of decline.”  Here are just a few of the facts that were shared with us:

The national Presbyterian Church in the USA (PCUSA) has lost over a third of its membership in the last fifteen years and has 13% fewer congregations.

A “typical” Presbyterian is 63 years old.  The average American is 38 years old.

The median Presbyterian congregation has 81 members.

85% of mainline Protestant churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian etc) have plateaued in membership or are declining.

If the sanctuary is less than 40% full for worship, visitors are much less likely to return.

Congregational mergers are rare.  (Nice to know that we here are special!)

In the face of these sobering facts, churches around the country have found ways to re-define their mission and to maintain their financial viability.  I am hoping that over the course of the next three lunches, we will learn about creative and inspiring examples that will help us to think “outside the box” in terms of continuing ministry in these difficult times.  Our guests from the Foundation provided this helpful thought:  “The situation you and your church find yourself in is not your fault, but it is your problem.”   I would only add: “It is our problem but also our opportunity.”  Although our situation may not always feel hopeful, I believe we have the resources to fashion a new way of being a Christian church here and now.  God is challenging us to use our creativity and to gather our courage.

Please let me know if you would like to be included in the next lunch, which will take place on Tuesday, March 26 also at Sweet Hollow.

Pastor Lou

++++++++++

 

 

 

Pastor’s Post January, 2019

Now that Christmas, 2018 is behind us, it’s time to close the books on our poet friend, W. H. Auden and his long Christmas poem, “For the Time Being.”  Here are some of his final words as he brings the story to an end:

Well, so that is that.  Now we must dismantle the tree,

Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes—

Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic.

The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,

And the children got ready for school.  There are enough

Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week—

Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,

Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully—

To love all of our relatives, and in general

Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again

As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed

To do more than entertain it as an agreeable

Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,

Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,

The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.

Sort of captures the mood of the days just after Christmas, doesn’t it?  Those feelings of joy, love and warmth wear off, and we are back in the rut of everyday existence before we know it.  As Auden says, “we have failed to do more than entertain it (the spirit of Christmas) as an agreeable possibility.”  Auden says we are like children who can’t keep a promise for very long.

Does Christmas simply offer a momentary respite from the ordinary?  Or, can we learn to live the whole year in the spirit of that special day?  You may read this after January 1, but there is still time for a resolution or two.  I would suggest more regular attendance at church—try to be present at least three out of four Sundays.  Don’t get upset if we are worshipping in “the other” church building.  All the buildings, all the meeting rooms are now “ours.”  Nothing is “theirs” any more.  The more time we spend together in worship and prayer, the easier will be our transformation into a united congregation.

Here are some special dates that I would like you to put in your appointment calendar:

Sunday, February 24.  We are planning to hold the final annual meeting of the two historic congregations and also the first congregational meeting of the new United Presbyterian Church. The session of the new congregation will be elected that day, along with its board of deacons.  This will take place immediately after the worship service.

Wednesday, March 6.  Ash Wednesday.  Please plan to attend the traditional evening service.  This is the beginning of Lent, and this will be an important season of prayer and re-commitment for all of us as we begin the adventure of being a revitalized, unified congregation.

Thursday evenings in Lent, March 7, 14, 21 and 28 and April 4 and 11.  These evenings will be dedicated to the study of our church’s mission in community—our relationship as a congregation of Christ’s followers to the social issues that affect us and those around us.  We will also spend some time at each meeting in group prayer.  Time and location to be announced

Sunday, April 21.  Easter.  We will have our third annual “sunrise” service on the lawn at Levittown and our 10 a.m. service at the Massapequa campus.

I hope you will be present for these events.  Please be a part of this new enterprise of the spirit as we begin life as a new church!  As poet Auden said in the closing lines of his Christmas poem:

“He is the Way.

Follow Him through the Land of Unlikeness;

You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.”

 

-Pastor Lou

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor’s Post – December

 

From-the-Pastor-2

Christ and the Grinch

Shortly after Thanksgiving, my family went to see the “Grinch 2” movie, in which Benedict Cumberbatch (don’t you love that British name?) takes over from Jim Carrey as the chief Christmas gremlin, determined to ruin the holiday for his neighbors in Whoville. Early in the film, before
we were even through the first bag of popcorn, there is a seen with a group of Whoville carolers. They are singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (and Ladies, we must presume).” Here are the words to the first verse, all of which were sung in the scene:

“God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay, remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day, to save us all from Satan’s power, when we have gone astray, Oh, tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. ”

I suddenly sat up straight (well, actually you can’t physically sit up straight in modern movie seats), startled by this unexpected appearance of religious language in the middle of a popular Christmas movie. What, one had to ask, were Christ and Satan doing in this PG rated candy cane
of a film? I immediately developed a theory that this caroling scene was a little sop given to the “put Christ back into Christmas” crowd. Why not have a bit of theology thrown in, just in case someone wanted to raise a question about the moral value of this entertainment?

Lest you think I am becoming the Grinch by raising any question about our latest sugar-plum movie for kids, I hasten to say that there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the rest of the story. Although I’m afraid that I fell asleep before we got to the resolution, it seems that the Grinch was converted to cheeriness at last, after trying to steal all the Christmas decorations and toys in his village. The catalyst for his conversion was a kind, adorable little girl, Cindy-Lou Who, voiced by child actress Cameron Seely, who wanted to meet Santa but instead encountered the
Grinch. Cumberbatch gave an interview in which he explained that his version of the Grinch was less mean than the original Carrey version, and the audience could see that the Grinch’s behavior was rooted in his loneliness and feeling of isolation from the villagers.

Films like this can be good family fun, but our kids need to hear the real Christmas story from their parents and their church. They need to be told that Christmas began as a way of remembering God’s great gift to us, the gift of his Son, and that our seasonal giving and receiving is simply a way of reminding us of that wonderful truth. All the rest is, well, tinsel.

Pastor Lou

 

 

Pastor’s Post – November 2018

From the Pastor

Pastor’s Post

During the past month, I attended two Saturday mini-conferences that looked at the prospects for the Christian church and its American congregations in the near future.

The first event was sponsored by Lutherans here on Long Island and featured a lot of practical information about congregation building.  Two words of wisdom that summarize a lot of that day are:

“People are drawn to a church with a purpose.”  The speaker suggested focusing church   attention on one or two community needs.

“People are drawn to a church when they can see that it is changing lives.”

This speaker had quite a bit to say about stewardship practices and evangelism, and I hope to share those with you as occasions for that kind of discussion arise.

The second event was a day-long mini-conference sponsored by the Presbytery of Long Island that featured Rev. Brian McLaren, a nationally recognized thinker and author on the future of Christianity in our country.  This man grew up as a fundamentalist but has now changed his mind about a lot of theological things.  Early in his remarks he challenged us by saying that many Christians now are trying to “save” their churches, but we need to consider Christ’s words when he said that someone who wants to save his or her life must lose it.  What might that mean for us in terms of the life of our church?   He told an inspiring story about a church in England that began to work with kids who were using the church parking lot for skateboard activities.  Rather than chasing the youngsters away, the church people found a way to organize the skating activity and even got the young people to think about God and their own lives.

Church members who attended the McLaren conference with me were:  Arlene Griemsmann, Maria Studer, Joan Tischner, Carol Teta, Camille Hartman, Sharon Slade and Janice Kincaid.

++++++

November is stewardship month, the time of year we ask all members to let the Session know what you will give in the coming year of 2019.  Over the past three years, I have been thankful for the faithfulness of the membership in giving.  Your pledged giving goes toward two important things:

1) Maintenance of our buildings, which not only are our places of worship but that host many community activities.  Everything from AA to boy scouts to basketball leagues to dance and yoga classes are benefiting from the space we provide at modest rents.  All these groups would find it difficult to find other places to meet if we were not here.

2) Support of our worship and Christian Education programs.  As a Presbyterian Church, we value the leadership of trained clergy and the volunteer service of our Sunday School teachers and Gathering organizers.

In thinking about financial needs in the coming year, I would advise you that there are no plans to close either of our two properties.  By December I expect the Session will make a firm commitment to maintain both our pre-schools through June, 2020.  Our financial performance during 2019 will be an important indicator of whether we should support both buildings beyond June, 2020.

 

-Pastor Lou

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor’s Post for October 2018

From the Pastor

Where We Worship

Remember!  Starting this Sunday, October 7, we will be worshiping every Sunday at 10 a.m. in the sanctuary at our Massapequa campus until the end of the year.  We will be able to watch as our amazing gingko tree located in front of the church becomes a golden torch of autumn splendor!

++++

Meditations to Enhance Your Christian Life

You don’t want to miss the Gathering, starting Sunday, October 14th. with a book study led by Janice Kincaid.  The book is Heart and Soul by Douglas Hood, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Del Ray Beach, Florida.

++++

Our Journey to Being United Presbyterian Church   

I am grateful to all those of you who were able to attend our joint congregational meeting on Sunday, September 30.  It appears now that we will shortly have our paperwork in hand to send to the New York State authorities who must approve our plan to become one new congregation, United Presbyterian Church.  Barring unforeseen difficulties, we should receive the green light from the state within a few months.  Maria Studer has been managing the application process, and she still needs help entering our data from the inventory of the belongings of both congregations.  Volunteers are welcome!  If this can be done in the next couple of weeks, the full application can be submitted this month.

+++++

Church Revitalization Workshop

This past Saturday, September 29, I attended a Church Revitalization seminar offered by our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Deer Park.  I plan to share some ideas and insights from that day with the elders and any other members who are interested.   For example, testimonials from church members about how God is at work in their lives are inspiring and motivating for other members and friends.  It would be great to hear from some of you as part of our service in coming weeks and months.

+++++

A Day with Brian McLaren

Thanks to Presbytery, we have a wonderful opportunity to be in conversation with Brian McLaren on Saturday, October 13 9:30 to 3:30 in Bethpage.  The cost is minimal, $10 in advance or $20 at the door.  McLaren has written compellingly about the future of the Christian faith in this secular age.  His reflections will be very helpful to us as we plan our church of the future right here on Long Island.  You can call 631 486 4350 to let Presbytery know you are coming.