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Pastor’s Post – February 2015

Cornell Bulletin

It is a privilege for a pastor to help a congregation figure out how to proclaim the gospel authentically and effectively in a culturally diverse society that needs more than ever, to hear the Word proclaimed and to see the Word lived out. It is an honor and a challenge to do this amidst changing times that is creating anxiety over the future of a denomination in an age that has been called not just post-denominational but post-Christian, and a difficult, even catastrophic, economic climate that is affecting our own congregations and many of our fellow Presbyterians.

 An interim Pastor has the particular responsibility to help a congregation live through the anxieties and stresses that naturally occur during the interim period. The sense of anxiety is heightened as the PC (USA) moves through shifting sands into a new time into a time that some are calling a new reformation in the history of the denomination.

 Change is all around us, in the church and the world.  The Presbyterian Church (USA) has a long way to go in keeping up with the rapid pace of societal change in pursuit of diversity, representation, and inclusiveness. At best, we are struggling to keep our members in the denomination with diminishing resources.  This is especially true for churches in Presbyterian Churches in Nassau County. This sounds a lot like the First Presbyterian church of Levittown.

 The good news is so much change is bound to produce transformation.  The PC (USA), is in the process of shedding the corporate bureaucracy and mindset that was established in the 1950s – and that was effective in the 1950s but doesn’t work so well 60 some odd years later. We as are church are in the process of rapid change and must see ourselves as a new church development. There has to be a new way of thinking out-of-the box approach to ministry and church operations during as we transform into a new type of church community.

What does it mean to think out of the box? When I think of a box, I think of containment or a casket, which leads me to think of death.  If we choose to think out of the box, we are choosing life over death. Christ was the ultimate out of the box thinker; he got up out of that box (the grave) and was raised to new life. He set for us the perfect example Christians never die; they are transformed from death to new life.  With this mindset we are encouraged to get up and out of our boxes of complacency and rise to the challenged before us, and yes, they are many.

                                                                                               

It would be prudent to ask the question: “what are the challenges and how can we help to make transformative and effective change – happen?”

Obviously it begins with the pastor providing non-anxious facilitation and presence while the church is undergoing transformation. The congregation then has to begin to do the work associated with transforming by remembering who they are as reformed people. The Protestant Reformation was about being re-formed. It is no wonder that complacency does not work in our framework. Being a pro- test- tant (protestant) was about protesting the status quo. It is in our very DNA to think out of the box.  When was it ever safe or the conditions ripe to be a Reformed Protestant? Let’s look back at our heritage and the first reformers that paved the way for our present day church.

 Martin Luther certainly didn’t know where he was going to end up when he posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. John Calvin didn’t know where he was going to end up when he was unceremoniously booted out of Geneva. Calvin’s security was based not on knowing what was next on his agenda, but on an abiding sense of God’s providence. In other words it was their faith in God that encouraged them to think out of the box and to leave an inheritance of faith for future generations. Faith says that even if we don’t know exactly what’s next on the agenda, even if we don’t know exactly where we are going to end up – we are going to be alright.

 Once establish where we have come from we can begin to ask the questions to help us assess were we are as a congregation. I ask that we take a serious looking at our congregational and organizational needs and our mission.  The Session and the steering committee will be will be working with the Committee on Ministry to examine these questions further.

When we have asked those questioned and grappled with the answers then we can prepare to move forward.  While we are doing the work and asking the questions we have to remain calm and sure, even if we don’t quite know today where the church will finally end up.  We have to rely on our faith in God who will provide the strength, wisdom and the courage needed to face our many challenges and to help us to answer the lingering question; what legacy will the First Presbyterian Church of Levittown leave our children and community?

I am grateful for your support this past year but I need more help.  I encourage you as the New Year unfolds to think of new ideas and new ways to support the church. It is my prayer that every member of our the congregation will support the church with their time, talent, and treasure and that more of you will take major roles in leading our church into our particular reformation – to lead us where God is calling us, to find innovative way of making our church work. May God’s grace and love provide the foundation for our success.

January 2015 – Pastor’s Post

Cornell Bulletin

God With Us!

In the first week of the calendar year the church celebrates Epiphany.  The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, it means “to show, make known, or reveal.”  For Christians, Epiphany is to serve as reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of humankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.

The dictionary defines epiphany as a sudden and profound understanding of something.  Oprah Winfrey has an article that is featured in her magazine entitled   “ What I Know for Sure,” in these articles she expounds on what she calls “aha moments”  and shares  a moment of epiphany about her various  life experiences.   The one thing I know for sure is that we need an epiphany of the awareness of God’s presence to encourage our hearts and to help us see Christ as Emmanuel (God with us) in our daily lives.  God wants us to have a sudden and profound awareness that He is Emmanuel, God with us and that we are never alone.  This awareness of God takes a special work of the Holy Spirit because it is hard to remember and easy to forget that God is with us when we face trials or even the mundane rituals of life.  good works.

As I begin the New Year, my prayer is that I will have not just one but several epiphanies of God’s presence in my life.  I challenge you to do the same.   When we recognize that God is with us our worries and fears will have to take a back seat.  We can let God take the wheel and let peace reign in our hearts.

The scriptures say that Christ is “Emmanuel God With Us.”  We are reminded of this during the joyous holiday season. But God promises to be with all year, not just at Christmas time.  Now that Christmas is over and the carols are no longer being sung, and the beautiful displays taken down, can you still sing the words “joy to the world and peace on earth good will to all?” When you have an epiphany of God’s presence every day, you will experience an inner peace that gives you joy that lasts all year long despite change and circumstances.

We have many changes ahead for us this year; we will be sharing ministry and worship with the Massapequa Community Presbyterian and most importantly preparing for the coming of a new pastor. We don’t know what any of this will look like or what the future holds for us but the one thing I know for sure is that God is with us and that we can trust that He will lead us in the right paths.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Terri

Interim Pastor

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Pastor’s Post for May 2014


Pastor Terri

“It is because one antelope will blow the dust from the other’s eye that the two antelopes walk together”- African Proverb

This is one of my favorite African proverbs. It is describing the role of community in the life of believers. When we come together as a church community we in essence blow the dust from each other’s eyes by learning to live and love together. We are in this process of becoming the beloved community together.  It is in our questioning, listening and loving that we are challenged and we are ultimately transformed.

I am literally writing this letter with one eye open and one eye shut. As a result of trying to remove a contact lens too quickly, I irritated my eye. It feels like dust is in my eye. I am wearing a patch while the eye heals. The preacher in me is always listening for sermons so when I thought about my eye situation the African proverb quoted above came to mind. If you listen closely you can hear God speaking in even the mundane things of life.   In my recent practice of gratitude, I have become very thankful to be a part of this community here at the First Presbyterian Church of Levittown and how you have helped me to blow dust from my eyes.   As Mother’s Day approaches I also give thanks for the gift of my mother.  I can remember as a child having my mother blow something from my eyes. I am sure many of you can relate to the relief you felt when your mother did that same thing for you.  A mother’s love blows dust from our eyes and refreshes our hearts.  So how do adults blow dust from each other’s eyes?  Surprisingly it comes from using our ears and not our eyes. Continue reading