Tag Archive | pastor’s post

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.

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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’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