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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Pastor’s Post – June 2018

From-the-Pastor-2

Pastor’s Post

The lectionary reading for June 3 includes a passage from Paul’s second letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth. In the 4th chapter, verse 7, Paul writes that we carry the treasure of the Gospel in “clay jars,” or, in the more colorful language of older translations, in “earthen vessels.” Paul is referring to himself and his fellow preachers in these terms to express the frailty of human nature, and how little we deserve to be so closely associated with the glorious message of Christ’s love and mercy.

It has occurred to me that we have another type of “earthen vessel” to deal with, and that is the earthly organizational structure of the church. As spiritually restorative as our worship and fellowship may be, it must be carried on in real time in real property and in the form of a non-profit organization with all the red tape and legal rigmarole that is implied in that status. In coming months, we will encounter a lot of rigmarole as we move toward full union of the two congregations. I ask for your patience and your participation as we proceed. The next milestone for our congregation(s) will be a meeting following worship on Sunday, June 24. We will vote to approve by-laws for the new congregation, and each of the two congregations, meeting together but voting separately, will vote on motions to bring us together that our lawyers have drafted using language that will meet the requirements of the government agencies that will be involved in approving the bringing together of the congregations.
After the votes of June 24, we will take our proposal to become United Presbyterian Church to Presbytery, going through the Presbytery Trustees.
Please try to be present for the June 24 meeting. It will be held immediately following worship on Sunday, June 24 at Levittown. It is important not only to have a quorum of members of both churches present, but we should show to Presbytery and government agencies that our process has benefited from the active involvement of as many members as possible.

 

Pastor Lou

Pastor Post for May

Pastor’s Post

At its April meeting, our joint session decided on the following worship plan for the remainder of 2018.

1. We will continue to alternate on the present schedule between
Massapequa and Levittown through Confirmation Sunday,
June 10.

2. Beginning Sunday, June 17 and continuing through September, we
will worship in Miles Hall at Levittown. For those of you who may
be unfamiliar with the Levittown building, Miles Hall is what we
sometimes call “the Social Hall” where we have coffee after
worship. It is an air conditioned space that will work well for the
hot summer months.

3. Beginning with Sunday, October 7, we will worship at 10 a.m.
Sunday in our Massapequa sanctuary and will be there every
Sunday through December.

4. Decisions about our worship location beyond this year will be made in the fall.

Personally, I have thought about the idea of holding an additional worship service, maybe twice a month, on Sunday afternoons in the Levittown sanctuary during the cold months. It could be held around 4:30 in the afternoon, or possibly even a little earlier, so that worshipers could get home before dark. In such a setting we could try different things—longer periods of prayer, alternative music, poetry, dialogue sermons, audiovisual presentations, guest preachers/speakers etc. We would have communion at the afternoon service on the same Sundays it was being celebrated at 10 a.m. Once again, this is just an idea of mine, it has not been discussed or voted on by the session. I would be interested in hearing from anyone who thinks they might want to be involved in such a service, either as a supplement to Sunday morning or as a substitute on those Sundays it took place.

-Pastor Lou

Pastor’s Post for April

Pastor’s Post: Our Connectional Church, Part 1

As I have often said, there are a great many advantages to being part of a “connectional” church such as the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. Sadly, we often don’t think about this dimension of our church experience except when we read headlines about controversial decisions made by our General Assembly, which meets every other summer. If we can put that thought aside for a moment, I’d like to share some of the real positives we gain from our relationship to the PCUSA nationally and regionally. This is a big topic, and I will spread my comments over the next several newsletters.

During our recent stewardship drive, we shared information about the “per capita” donation (currently about $37 for each member) that we are obligated to send to fund the work of the church regionally and nationally. We learned that most of this money is utilized by the Presbytery of Long Island to support the life and work of congregations in our area. Presbytery is the body that maintains the standards for education, skills and conduct for our professional clergy. It also oversees a variety of educational and training resources for church members in things like how to be an elder, how to serve as a deacon, how to manage finances, and so forth. Presbytery has a variety of ways it can help local churches when they encounter challenges and difficulties. It also organizes support for many different forms of local mission and manages relations with other denominations and faith groups. The Presbytery board of trustees exercises stewardship of Presbytery’s funds and interacts with local congregations in matters of property and financial management.

Presbytery is composed of all active PCUSA clergy on Long Island and lay representatives of all congregations. The Presbytery meets five or six times a year to conduct business. The Massapequa session appoints a person as “commissioner” or representative for each meeting of presbytery. Clerk Joan Tischner has been a frequent representative. Levittown session elects a representative each year, and Maria Studer is the current commissioner with Marilyn Rodahan serving as alternate. Presbytery meetings are held in different churches, so sooner or later it meets near us. The next meeting of Presbytery will take place on Tuesday, April 17 at Bellmore Presbyterian Church, beginning at 12:30 p.m. and will last several hours. If you would like to visit Presbytery and witness it at work, please feel free to do so. If you let me know your plans, I will arrange to introduce you, so the commissioners are aware of your presence and interest. I should add that not all Presbytery meetings are held on week days. It meets, frequently on a Saturday, to allow for greater participation from lay Presbyterians.

Beyond our local area, we are connected with the Synod of the Northeast, which keeps offices in upstate New York and covers New England and the greater New York area. Then, of course, we are part of the General Assembly which includes representation from all parts of the United States. Next month, I will give you a report on the activities of Synod, and then, as we move toward the meeting of General Assembly in St. Louis in June, I will brief you on the activities of the national church and what important issues will be brought up at GA this year.

 

-Pastor Lou

Pastor’s Post for February 2018

From the Pastor:

Sermons in Lent
Easter is early this year, which means that Ash Wednesday is just around the corner (February 14, 7 p.m. Massapequa). We are planning a confirmation class for this year, which will begin to meet during Lent. I am planning a series of Lenten sermons around the Apostles’ Creed, and I am asking the confirmands to attend church services during Lent, to hear and think about these sermons. At the same time, I want these sermons to be an opportunity for all church members, not just the confirmands, to return to the roots of their faith, to be reminded of the core beliefs that give us our identity as followers of Christ. In each case, we will also talk about how the Presbyterian Church looks at the elements of the Creed, and how our point of view is the same as or different from that of other denominations. This is a good time to re-examine the faith that brings us together, as we are in the process of re-organizing our life together to fashion one congregation out of two, so that Presbyterian-style Christianity can continue to witness in this area.

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Congregational Merger Process

If you have not already done so, please fill out and return the worship location survey, which is printed on pink paper. You can mail it in or put it in the basket in the narthex, or hand it to me. You can also provide an e-mail response.

On Sunday, February18 following the service at Levittown there will be an open discussion session on the state of repair of our two church campuses. A number of people have asked for more information on this subject, and those of us most knowledgeable about the buildings are expected to be there to answer questions.