Tag Archive | pastor’s post

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’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.

 

January 2018 – Pastor’s Post

Pastor’s Post:

As I look back on the past two and a half years, I am pleased with what we have been able to accomplish together. I was speaking with one long-term member this past week, and she reminded me that we have in many ways already become one congregation. We are accustomed to worshipping together, we share in our social events, and our sessions and deacons’ boards and many committees are now meeting jointly. This has been possible because the experience of getting to know each other has been largely a positive one. Of course, we notice our differences, the small variations in worship tradition, the differences in building use and so forth, but these variations do not divide us. We share in the joy of our faith and in our commitment to maintain a witness to the Gospel of Christ in the Presbyterian tradition in this part of Long Island.

We expect that, with the guidance of our Merger Commission and the approval of Presbytery, we will complete a legal and financial merger of the congregations this year. I am hoping that this process will proceed smoothly and will not preoccupy us. However, we hope to have “all hands on deck” for the decisions that lie ahead about our worship arrangements. We have been alternating worship locations each week for over two years. This has always been regarded as a temporary arrangement because being reliably present in one place is important for newcomers and visitors. We can’t grow if people have trouble finding us!

I understand that the decision about where to worship is complicated and sensitive. For that reason, we want everyone to be a part of the decision-making process. Later this month, you will receive a survey that I hope you will respond to quickly and thoughtfully. Basically, you will be asked your opinion about where we should worship at 10 a.m. on Sundays, the reasons that lie behind your preference, and your thoughts about the future of the building that you do not choose. For example, should there be worship at other times of the week or month in the other building? Should we continue to use it for other purposes? Should we sell it? We also want to hear any ideas you have about long-range solutions, such as selling both buildings and finding or building a new place to center our church.

Your opinions will be incorporated into our decision-making process. The final choices about worship location and building uses will be made by the sessions meeting jointly or as a merged, new session for the new United Presbyterian Church. Any property sale will need the approval of Presbytery.

I am praying that we do not become so involved in these matters of property that we lose sight of our basic mission to declare the Good News to all and to provide worship services that inspire us and give us the opportunity to praise God and to invoke God’s blessing on us and our community. I know that change can be painful and disruptive, but let us keep in mind the example of Abraham and Sarah who were summoned by God to leave their settled life and to go out into the unknown, and Elijah who found shelter where he could in the wilderness and was fed by ravens, and our Lord himself who, during his ministry, had no place he could call his own.
Thanks be to God who in His mercy has given us the gift of His presence in our midst and the equally valuable gift of our fellowship with each other. May the Lord be a pillar of fire by night and of cloud by day going before us into the future.
-Pastor Lou

Pastor’s Post for December

Pastor’s Post:

Here we are, once again at the beginning of the liturgical year. I suppose it was the rhythm of the agricultural world in the northern hemisphere, the world that most of our ancestors inhabited until the last one or two centuries, that dictated that the drama of salvation would be played out in our worship during the winter months. For it is between now and Easter in the spring, that the lectionary takes us through the scriptures of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. In the old days, people had more time during the winter for the special holidays and feasts associated with the readings, while the earth slept and there was no sowing, growing and reaping.

It has become something of a tradition for pastors to sermonize against the materialism of modern Christmas. We all must admit that things have certainly gotten way out of hand in terms of the “getting and spending” that characterizes our Decembers. Our domestic economy is more or less built around the business that this special holiday generates. Long ago, Christmas became “secularized” so that millions of people who don’t worship or respect Christ celebrate it for all kinds of reasons. The beloved story, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens was, in fact, a powerful statement of how Christmas can be viewed as a moment in which the innate charitable impulse that lies within most humans is brought to the fore and celebrated, all with no reference to Christ himself, or even God.

Maybe a way we can salvage the original meaning of Christmas this year is to start Advent with a reflection on the other man who is featured in this Scriptural story, that being John the Baptist. Now, we know far less about John than we do about Jesus, but what we are told suggests that he was about as anti-materialist as you can get.

He was the son of a priest, and early in his life he took to an ascetic existence, residing for extended periods in the wilderness, learning to live like an ancient “hunter-gatherer,” a way of life that had more or less disappeared long before the time of Christ. So far as we can tell, his ministry was similar to that of a Baptist country preacher in the U.S. a century or so ago. He preached fire and brimstone, he called people to repent, and he baptized. The Bible does not attribute miracles to John—he wasn’t a healer so much as a disturber. You could say that he prepared the way for Christ by disturbing the complacency of the people, opening them to the possibility of a new way of understanding their relationship to God and to each other. That new relationship would be based on forgiveness and love, and we continue to celebrate it with the generosity of Christmas.

Maybe our time needs a new generation of disturbers, so that we might better appreciate the love in which God holds us in spite of our sinfulness. Old complacencies need to be challenged before the amazing news of God’s grace can be fully appreciated. “We should think of Advent as a time to disturb as well as to celebrate.”

 

Pastor Lou

Pastor’s Post – November

Pastor’s Post: Joining hands and hearts

The two-congregation meeting held after worship on October 22 was an important milestone in our campaign to bring our two churches together. Members of both Massapequa and Levittown voted decisively to move toward merger “should the way be clear.” That last phrase is a favorite Presbyterian way of saying, “There are going to be bumps in the road, but we know where we are trying to go and we will do everything possible to get there.”

Our vote gave us a mandate to proceed, and I believe the group decision was based on two things: first, our growing recognition that pooling our resources of people and things will lead to a more efficient and effective operation and second, our expanding web of personal relationships that cross congregational lines. More and more of our committees, planning groups, and social events are including people from both churches, and so we are getting to know each other and to make friends. As we become friends we overcome our fears of the unknown and recognize the good intentions of our new partners.

There is a lot of work to be done. Bringing together two churches, each with fifty years of independent existence behind them, is a challenging task, even when both congregations want it to happen. But even as we wade into a swamp of details, it is important that we continue to explore the big questions of our purpose and mission. I am glad that we are showing renewed interest in our spiritual life and in our mission to the community. The Gathering, now meeting every Sunday starting about fifteen minutes after worship, is discussing Christian spirituality and experimenting with meditation and other personal practices designed to deepen our relationship to ourselves, each other, and God. This activity will, I believe, enrich our congregational worship and improve the quality of our relationships.

At the same time, it is encouraging that the Mission Committee is exploring ways we may be able to support special needs families. This is an area of ministry that can benefit from more attention and practice, and it is
gratifying that we are involved in it. An interesting connection exists
the Gathering is currently using as a spiritual resource a book
by the Rev Henry Nouwen who spent the last part of his life living in a Christian community of individuals with special needs and their caregivers. We are united in seeking to better understand our mandate to love God and the world.

In faith,

Pastor Lou

 

Pastor’s Post – September 2017

From the Pastor:

I hope that each and every one of you had the opportunity to rest and recreate a bit during the summer months. I am writing this on Labor Day afternoon—a bright and beautiful end-of-summer experience. One can already feel fall creeping in around the edges of the sunshine, but then, the crisp, cool days we can expect during that season are a treasure to anticipate.
Something else to anticipate is the exciting progress we will be attempting this year toward a full and complete merger of our two congregations into one. There won’t be many dull moments! Although I know that we all have our fears and concerns about the process, we should also know that there will be a lot of inspirational conversation and creativity. For example, we shall soon be choosing a name for our new fellowship. I hope that all of you will be involved in this process.
We also will be selecting a new mission statement. Our “Plumbline Committee,” ably co-chaired by Marilyn Rodahan and Wendy Moran, convened again in August, and they are bringing to us a proposed Mission Statement. Here it is:
As an open and welcoming Community of Christian Faith, we accept and honor that responsibility as we partner with all faiths in bringing hope and love to our world. Using Christ as our example, we are committed to reaching out to one another, showing God’s love through service to our community, and seeking new and relevant ways to involve ourselves in meeting the needs of others. Through continual prayer, worship and study of scripture, we are an ever transforming church.
In addition, the committee is offering us a “branding statement” that could easily fit on letterhead, brochures and web sites:
Our Transforming Church:
Join us and develop a personal relationship with Christ through study, worship, and service.
Please read these statements over carefully and thoughtfully. Is this the way you think our church should represent itself to the world? Is anything missing? We will have an opportunity to vote on both statements in congregational meetings in coming months. Your thoughts about them at this moment are welcome.

Pastor’s Post – June 2017

What Will be Happening in Church This Summer

Summer is a time to relax, slow down a bit, and maybe try a thing or two new and different.  I know that many of you will be away vacationing part of the time.  When you travel, look for opportunities to worship with other congregations.  You may pick up ideas that will enrich our spiritual life here.

The Love We Share sermon series

During June, I will be delivering a special series of sermons on the subject:  “The Love We Share.”  (It turns out that I unconsciously borrowed this title from a song in a Disney animated movie about mermaids!)  We will explore together how God’s love for us informs our love for each other, including sexual love, and how the church’s understanding of gender and sexual orientation and marriage has changed and continues to change.  I understand that this remains an area of controversy in churches, and it is not my intention to sow discord, but it is important that we reflect together on certain issues as we strive to shape the mission of our new church.  At least one of the sermons will include an opportunity for dialogue with the congregation, and if there is a felt need for more conversation and study, we certainly can arrange that as well.

Pentecost:  Celebration of the Spirit

Sunday, June 4, the Day of Pentecost, we will be blessed by a special musical contribution by Justin Ramlall who plays the trombone.   Come on time so you won’t miss his prelude.

Honoring our children and young people

Sunday, June 11 during worship we will honor our Sunday School teachers and students and celebrate the achievements of our young people who are completing another school term, graduating or otherwise distinguishing themselves.

Guest Preacher

Sunday, July 9 I will be in St. Louis, attending the bi-annual meeting of PCUSA people known as the “Big Tent.”  The Rev. Mark Tammen, General Presbyter for Long Island, will be preaching at Massapequa.  It has been awhile since Mark has been with us, so please take advantage of this opportunity to hear Mark’s presentation and to greet him.

Worship and Recreation in the Great Outdoors

Last summer the Gathering wrapped up its year by going outside.  We shared a time of reflection and prayer at a nearby organic farm on a warm Sunday afternoon in late June.  This year, the sessions are inviting all members and friends to a special outdoor worship service and picnic on Sunday, July 16.  We will gather at 10 a.m. in Wantagh Park.  The lunch is potluck.  Our reservation allows us to stay as long as we wish through the afternoon, so there will be plenty of time to enjoy God’s creation and have fun together.

Special Music

Our music and choir director, Wayne Dietrich, will be away the first three Sundays of July.  Stella LaMassa and others will be arranging special musical contributions for worship that you won’t want to miss.

Lay Preachers in August

I will be away after Sunday August 6 until Labor Day weekend.  For three Sundays you will be blessed by messages from members of our churches who have volunteered to preach in my absence.  I am sorry I will miss these occasions, and if you are in town, you will really enjoy being in church on those Sabbaths.