August Newsletter Article

PCUSA's New Curriculum Graphic
"Follow Me: Biblical Practices for Faithful Living" Colorful image on a black background.

Of all the tasks I do as pastor, the one I probably struggle through the most is my monthly newsletter article/letter to the congregation. I am often just not sure what to write about and how to write about it concisely. I also usually wonder whether most of the congregation reads it, and I suspect that’s a rather demotivating factor.

Perhaps as I try to get back into writing regularly on this website, I should start to think of my newsletter article the same way I have always considered my blog: It’s an opportunity to share my ideas, open my heart, record personal history, and extend an invitation to discipleship. I do hope my congregation reads it, but the exercise of writing it is one of faithfulness and if even just one person who needs the words reads it carefully and finds something inspiring or something that affirms their calling, that’s a good reason to write it.

Here is an excerpt from our August Newsletter article. I will spend the rest of the months in 2021 using my newsletter space to reflect on the practices we will be sharing and learning about in my new Sunday School class (starting August 1). This month’s practice is “Follow Jesus.”

As Jesus was calling disciples at the beginning of his ministry in Galilee and Judea (and parts in between), he said to his would-be disciples, “Follow me!” (Mark 1:16-20) He called fishermen and tax collectors and faithful women to journey with him as he shared his message: “The Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15) These disciples would literally follow Jesus, hearing his teaching, witnessing his miracles, and being sent out to do the same. 

For them, there were no altar calls–they answered Christ’s call every day with their bodies and resources. It wasn’t about a personal relationship with Jesus–it was about their relationship in community with Jesus, with one another, and with the strangers they were meeting each day. It wasn’t about Jesus living in their hearts–it was about Christ living in flesh in their world. It wasn’t about getting into heaven–it was about abundant life that starts right now and a Kingdom that God is building on earth.

For modern day disciples, what does it mean to follow Jesus? We cannot put on our sandals and pack a lunch and walk alongside Jesus as his first followers did. But we very much are called to follow him, continuing his mission in our church, community, and world. To guide us, we have scripture and the Holy Spirit. Scripture will invite us to read about what Christ did in body and what the Body of Christ did in the years following his resurrection. The Holy Spirit will be active inside and around us, giving us gifts that make us able to follow and minister and providing God’s light and guidance as we seek to be faithful.

A New Ministry

At the beginning of this academic year, I became an Adjunct Chaplain at Methodist University.

Find me on the MU website here.

What does this mean? Here’s my September Newsletter article about it:

Dear Peace Family,

This past month at Peace, in partnership with the Office of Religious Life at Methodist University, we have started a new ministry created for college students on Wednesday nights called MU @ Peace. We have had several people working hard to create a welcoming space for them to gather in our Christian Education hallway–if you haven’t seen it, please stop and visit. The room looks great!

Part of our partnership includes me becoming an Adjunct Chaplain at MU, an opportunity I am very excited about.

The Adjunct part of my title recognizes that I’m not the university chaplain, but rather I am serving in a way that assists the chaplain–Rev. Kelli Taylor.

The Chaplain part of my title recognizes that I’m acting professionally as a pastor at an organization that’s not a church. 

Basically, I will serve Methodist University in the following ways:

  • I will have office hours on campus on Tuesdays from 2-4 p.m. for any students who need a friend, some prayer, or help preparing to lead their Bible Studies.
  • I will lead worship at University Chapel one time each semester.
  • I will support Rev. Kelli Taylor in her work as University Chaplain.

Thank you for being a church that supports me as I seek to engage our community and represent Peace Presbyterian Church outside of our building! Please pray for me, for the MU @ Peace Team, and for students and faculty on the MU campus–and all college campuses.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Becky

June Newsletter and a New Sermon Series

Dear Peace Church Family,

If you were to pull out a piece of paper or open a blank note in your phone and begin writing all of the names of people you have met in scripture, you might be able to produce quite a list. I imagine you would include Jesus, of course, maybe some of the disciples, and perhaps some of our Old Testament heroes of the faith like Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah. You might remember some of the women who came to the tomb to find it empty (you can’t go wrong with “Mary” in that case). You might think of some of the people listed in Jesus’ lineage like Ruth, Jesse, or Solomon.

But what about Puah and Shiphrah? Jonah or Mephibosheth? Philemon or Eutychus?

In the summer months of June, July, and August, we will step away from the prescribed Lectionary and dive into the bold and untold stories of our faith. We will explore the stories from scripture that we often overlook, miss altogether, or take for granted. These are “ordinary” people of faith who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Their stories will help us understand our own stories better, as we too seek to be people of faith, boldly witnessing to God’s goodness and offering our lives to God as he continues to write a beautiful story of his redemption, salvation, and glory.

We will journey with these men and women, from the Old Testament and the New Testament, and we will be reminded of the role we all may play in God’s redemptive story, and be encouraged in knowing that no action or offering is too small when it is God who is calling and blessing us.

I hope to see you each Sunday this summer as we explore the scriptures together.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Becky

Notes: The artwork and visual materials for this sermon series are licensed by A Sanctified Art, LLC in Black Mountain, NC.

All sermons that I preach in this series will be available in video format here on my website, barring any technical difficulties.

The Schedule of Passages:

June 16: Lydia (Acts 16)

June 23: Puah and Shiphrah (Exodus 1)

June 30: Faces of Our Faith Interactive Worship Experience

July 7: Jonah (Jonah 1-4)

July 14: Deborah (Judges 4-5)

July 21: Zacchaeus (Luke 19)

August 4: Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 4, 9)

August 11: Eutychus (Acts 20)

August 18: Philemon (Philemon)

December 2018 Newsletter Article

Dear Peace Church Family,

When did you see your first Christmas decoration this year?

When did you hear your first Christmas carol?

For many of us, it happened in a store or shop. Jason and I were buying shower curtains and towels for our new home at the beginning of July when he suddenly stopped looking through the stock of a particular design to ask, “Is this a Christmas song?” His ears were not deceiving him! It was, indeed, a Christmas carol. In the world of retail, there’s motivation to push us into the Christmas season as early as possible. Simply put, more holiday shopping days equates to more sales.

Many people can point to examples of how we’ve lost the meaning of Christmas and the whole holiday season in the hustle and bustle of the season. Very often, the holiday race to complete our to-do lists, to fill up our calendars, to take the perfect family photos, and to buy the best gifts leaves us feeling disillusioned, cranky, and uninspired as we maneuver through the accompanying traffic, crowds, and credit card debt.

If Jesus came to bring us freedom, why does the season where we celebrate his birth seem so oppressive and overwhelming?

In the church, we have an answer for this hustle-bustle-chaos. That answer is Advent.

Advent is a time of waiting, of contemplating, and of prayer and Advent is an invitation to worship, study, and fellowship with other disciples. This year Advent is 23 days long, and it is an opportunity to find our identity in the slow-paced journey toward the stable. At Peace in this season, on Sunday mornings in our Advent sermons we will journey with the prophets who spoke of their yearning for a Messiah hundreds of years before he would be born; on Thursday mornings at Bible Study we will journey with Mary, an ordinary young woman who found herself in extraordinary circumstances; in each opportunity for worship and prayer, we will journey with each other as we contemplate the source of our hope and joy in the midst of this busy season.

The real beauty of Advent is that it means God has not gifted us with presents, but with his very real presence in Jesus, the one called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” That gives us hope and freedom in a month that threatens to steal our joy and peace.

This newsletter is full of invitations and opportunities for you to engage in the Advent practices of worship, study, prayer, and yes–even celebration! Read it carefully and be sure to hold space on your calendar this season for these practices and opportunities.

May the light of Christ meet you in your Advent journey,

Pastor Becky

 

Newsletter Article, October 2018

Dear Peace Church Family,

On Monday nights, about 15 of our members have been gathering to examine passages from Luke’s gospel that particularly speak to Jesus’ call and mission for his disciples. At the beginning of October, we will be in Luke 10:25-37, examining and mining the parable of the Good Samaritan for instruction from Jesus about what it means to be a neighbor and who we should consider our neighbors. In the parable, if you remember, a man, beaten and robbed, is dying on the roadside, and both a Priest and a Levite (Jewish religious leaders) passed by, but carefully avoided the man and continued on their way. It was a Samaritan who stopped and invested his own time and resources in helping the man to safety and healing.

The Priest and the Levite, no doubt, had reasons for passing the man by–reasons that had to do with their roles as religious leaders and their adherence to purity laws. It wasn’t that they completely lacked compassion in general, perhaps, but that they were more concerned about keeping the law and remaining pure than they were about a fellow human’s life. By sharp contrast, the Samaritan not only stopped to check on the man along the roadside, but he willingly scrapped his own plans for the day, carried the man to safety, and paid for his care.

At the end of his parable, Jesus asks, “Which of these three was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (v. 36) The lawyer questioning Jesus had to answer this way: “The one who showed mercy.”

In the past week or two, we have had a lot of folks who acted like neighbors, as people reached out to folks affected by the storm. Some of these neighbors came from out of state before Florence made landfall and stood at the ready to respond as soon as they were needed and could get to work. Some were folks who volunteered at shelters and offered spare rooms to folks who had to evacuate. Some made phone calls and visits to check on people in their neighborhoods. Some passed out bottles of water. All were neighbors who gave of their own time and resources for the sake of someone else.

This month is a good month to pay attention to the folks around you–those affected by the flooding and the storm and those who have always been there, in need. Who can you act as a neighbor toward? Who is need of your time and your resources? How can you show mercy?

Grace and Peace, Pastor Becky

P.S. We have room for you at Bible Study on Monday nights! Join us from 6-7:15 in the fellowship hall.

September Newsletter Article

Dear Peace Church Family,

The September newsletter is a certain sign that summer is coming to an end. Praise God for what was hopefully a season of rest, family reunions, vacation or staycation, or the warmth of sunshine.  

As we turn the page on our calendars, it’s a good time to consider our own quest to be disciples of Jesus and lifelong learners of scripture. Just as Jesus called the first disciples to follow him, drawing them away from fishing boats and tax tables and their daily routines, Christ also calls you and I to follow him, intending to impact and restructure our own daily routines.

Disciples are students first. Jesus, our rabbi, has called us to study his words and learn from teachings. Yes, we fulfill our call to be disciples by gathering to worship as a faith community on Sunday morning, hearing the Word of God read and proclaimed. But to grow deeply as students of Jesus, we will also need to engage in study of God’s word, reading it regularly, mining it for wisdom, and learning it well enough that we can engage in conversation about it. You can do this alone, of course, but scripture reminds us that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17) and learning alongside other disciples is a great way to learn and grow.

Starting Monday, September 10, at 6pm, we will spend six weeks studying passages from Luke’s Gospel. The first night, we’ll look at Luke 5, and Jesus’ call to his disciples to follow him and fish for people. In the weeks that follow, we’ll journey with Jesus, asking questions like “who is my neighbor?” “How do we welcome new followers of Jesus?” and “what does it mean to be great in God’s Kingdom?”

These Bible Study sessions will take place in the church Fellowship Hall and will last about an hour and fifteen minutes. If you want to be a lifelong learner of scripture and student of Jesus, you’re invited! If you have a friend or neighbor who might be interested in Bible Study, invite him or her to join us!

I hope you’ll plan to join us on Mondays in September (and October), as we continue our pursuit to learn and grow as disciples of Christ.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Becky

 

August Newsletter Article (and a New Sermon Series)

Dear Peace Family,

August has arrived. At Peace Presbyterian Church, August is a symbol of our heritage as a church, the month we celebrate our Homecoming. This month, we are looking back at more than seven decades of rich history as a body…and looking ahead at our future as we enter a new season of seeking God’s guidance as we consider how our resources might impact our neighborhood or community for the Kingdom of God.

This month, we will turn to scripture’s songbook and explore the diverse prayer offerings of the book of Psalms. Each Sunday, we will examine a different Psalm and consider how these ancient words meet us in our modern world. We will interact with these pieces of music and prayer, and learn what it meant for the Psalmists, and for us, to pray prayers of praise, confession, lament, and intercession.

August 5: A Hymn of Praise (Psalm 136)
On Homecoming Sunday, there’s so much to celebrate and many reasons for joy.As we thank God for the history and fellowship represented in our church body, we’ll turn to Psalm 136, a hymn about God’s enduring, steadfast love. We’ll look closely at the One worthy of our praise, how we offer these praises, and why praising God is an important prayer discipline.

August 12: A Prayer of Confession (Psalm 51)
Each Sunday, toward the beginning of our service, we pray a prayer of confession, an important part of liturgy for people who live lives that often lack any resemblance to God’s holiness. King David also came to a place in his life when he was called to confession and met God with honest words about sin and guilt, and his words give us a model for our own prayers. On this Sunday, we’ll examine this prayer and look at the words we use to confess our own sins to God.

August 19: An Honest Lament (Psalm 55)
We don’t always feel like praising God. Sometimes, it seems like God has forgotten us and left us on our own to deal with grief, sorrow, betrayal, and the violence raging around us. In those moments, we need words of lament, and we may take comfort in knowing that our scripture does not exclude the honest, raw prayers of people crying out from dark places. On this Sunday, we’ll make space for sorrow and sadness, and look at how we approach God in these seasons.

August 26: A Prayer for God’s Action (Psalm 141)
Often when we think of prayer, we are thinking about intercessory prayer, the prayers that request God’s healing, direction, and action in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. This Psalm guides us in praying for ourselves and others, and teaches us about a God who hears us and calls us to righteous living, by his grace. We’ll think about how it is we pray, and how we form our intercessory prayers as a congregation and as individuals.

I look forward to an opportunity in preaching from Psalms and considering the many ways we have to pray and seek God. May God continue to inspire us through the depth and width of scripture!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Becky

July 2018 Newsletter Article

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and Peace in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! As I write this piece for our July Newsletter, my husband, Jason, and I are in the midst of packing up our home and saying “don’t forget to visit us!” to our family and friends in Henderson, KY. We are excited to be with the congregation of Peace Presbyterian Church on July 1!

As I have reflected on my ordination and upcoming installation at Peace, I have prayerfully set a pastoral mission statement.

As the pastor of Peace Presbyterian Church, my mission is to make the written word and the Living Word of God known and call disciples to labor for the coming Kingdom of God.

I come to you with a degree in Biblical Studies, a seminary education, and lots of years studying scripture and teaching it to people of all ages. As I seek to make the written word of God known, I do so as someone who has been impacted by my study of the scriptures and has great joy in opening those scriptures with the church. Isaiah 40:8 reminds us that “the grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the word of our Lord stands forever.” A lot of the things we invest our time in are not things that endure, but the reading and study of scripture will lead us in the way of eternity.

Additionally, scripture provides a unique witness to the life, death, and resurrection of the Living Word of God. John’s Gospel begins with these words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” illuminating Jesus as this Word of God. I seek to make the Living Word of God known, because through Jesus Christ, we can know a holy God, and know God’s great love and calling for each of us as disciples,

As your pastor, I will partner with Jesus to call disciples and lead you in calling disciples to labor for the coming Kingdom of God. “Follow me,” Jesus told some men fishing on the Sea of Galilee, “Don’t be afraid–from now on, you’ll catch people” (Matthew 4:8; Luke 5:10)! As we allow the written word of God and the Living Word of God to change our lives, we cannot help but share the good news and pray for God’s Kingdom to come!

In the coming weeks, I hope we will have opportunities to sit together and share stories of what God has done and is doing, as we find our way to journey together as church and pastor in the mission God calls us to.

With Gratitude,  

Pastor Becky