On My Nightstand
I just finished 1944: FDR and the Year that Changed History, an excellent history by Jay Wink. It includes a dramatic account of America’s response to Nazi aggression and, in particular, the concentration camps. It’s a timely read as today’s news is filled with the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe.
I’m nearly finished with a book I mentioned last weekend, Rachel Held Evan’s Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. The book chronicles Evan’s quitting church while in her twenties, helping to plant and then close a new church before she turned thirty, and finally settling into an Episcopalian congregation at the age of thirty-three. You likely won’t agree with everything she says, but she’ll help you to understand her generation’s quest for authenticity in today’s churches.
I am in the early chapters of Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Genius. Weiner, a delightful curmudgeon, zips around the world in the search for the genesis of genius and creativity. He travels through places like Athens, Edinburgh, and Silicon Valley. This is a fun read as you explore with Weiner the possible reasons for genius seeming to cluster in particular times and places.
It sounds like I have an obsession with geography if I add a final book with the title Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything About the World. By Tim Marshall, a former British correspondent, this book helps me understand world events in light of geographical realities.
Looking to Grow in Your Faith?
The first is “Understanding and Interpreting the Bible,” taught by Laura Cockrell. I’m always challenged in my search to understand, interpret, and properly apply scripture. Laura’s class will help you in your own quest.
The second is Pastor Jeremy and Michele Kelly’s class, “Snapshots: Glimpses into the Lives and Writings of Classical Christian Writers.” This class provides a great opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of Christians over the history of the church.
All adult classes begin at 9am this Sunday. For a full listing of all six adult courses available, check out our website at www.pearcechurch.org.
Linked with Love Updates
There are several updates with regard to Pearce’s partnership with the school in Nzige, Rwanda.
First, applications are now being received for any educators interested in participating in a short-term mission team to Rwanda this coming summer. Lydia Monroe is heading up this group that will leave in late July for two weeks. The team will provide teacher training for the staff at the Nzige school. The approximate cost of the trip is $2,900. You can obtain application and informational forms by contacting Lydia Monroe at email@example.com.
Secondly, we have nine child sponsorship packets available in the Pearce office. During 2015, our congregation “adopted” 101 children for sponsorship in Rwanda. I’d love to see these remaining children sponsored in the coming weeks. If you would like a packet, call Kim Brittin at 549-9488.
Speaking of sponsored children, I received several photos of children with gifts they received last month. Ephaste, the Rwandan director of International Child Care Ministries, noticed while visiting the homes of children from the school in Nzige that many of them did not own mattresses to sleep on. Mattresses were purchased and I’ve included one of the photos of a young girl with her new gifts.
Thirdly, in just over a month from now, Lydia Monroe and two others from Pearce will head to Rwanda on an exploratory trip in preparation for the team that will be traveling this summer. The group will be staying in this home in the village of Nzige that is being rented for their use. Be praying for Lydia, Carol Stevenson, and Kristen Coon as they prepare to travel in February.
In the Triple Digits!
This past weekend, we reached triple digits in our effort to raise $160,000 to replace the roof on Parmerter Chapel. Thanks to your faithful giving throughout 2015, we raised a total of $100,084.
Recently John Harriff, a hardworking member of our facility crew, gave me a newspaper clipping that he came across in his mother’s papers. The article on Roberts Wesleyan College that appeared in the Rochester Times-Union on April 3, 1952, included a photo of the construction of Parmerter Chapel.
It’s interesting to note that that cost of constructing the entire Parmerter Chapel totaled $200,000 in 1952!
The Soundtracks of Our Lives
Last weekend, I began a new series of messages based on songs found in various Old Testament passages. Each of the songs examined in this six-week series addresses a situation in which strong emotions were felt.
This weekend, we’ll take a look at a song that is found in 1 Samuel 18:7: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Join us as we consider this song sung by women from the villages of Israel and the ways in which their “jingle” stirred strong feelings of jealousy in King Saul.
Happy New Year!
On behalf of the entire Pearce staff, I want to wish you a very “Happy New Year!” I look forward to working and worshiping with you in 2016! May God richly bless you as you serve Him and His Kingdom!
Christmas Is Almost Here!
Christmas is almost here! It is only hours away!
I hope you are making your way through your “to do” list and are nearly finished with your preparations for tomorrow. I hope you’ll include one more item on your “to do” list, perhaps the most important one of all. Add “worship at a Christmas Eve service” and put it in large print at the top of your list.
This evening, three worship services will be held at Pearce. The first, at 5pm, provides nursery care for children up through four years of age. Another service follows at 7pm. Both of these services are in Pearce’s Sanctuary. At 11pm, a service will be held in Parmerter Chapel and will feature Communion. All three services, of course, will conclude with the traditional candle-lighting ceremony.
At each of these services, we’ll receive a special offering for Pearce’s “Compassion Fund.” This fund helps us meet a wide variety of needs for people in our congregation and in our community throughout the year. This year, we have distributed more than $8,000 to help people with expenses during difficult times. I hope you’re considering making a special gift so that Pearce can continue to be a caring congregation.
One Last Angelic Message
We have one more angelic message to consider in our Advent/Christmas sermon series “Words Worth Hearing!” In the days immediately following Christmas, we’ll take a look at when an angel instructed Joseph and Mary to take their child and flee to refuge in Egypt. You may want to read this account in Matthew 2:13-23 as you prepare for worshiping with us!
Worship services will be at 5pm on Saturday (December 26) and 10:30am on Sunday (December 27).
Finding Financial Peace
Making resolutions about your finances for the coming year? If so, you may want to enroll in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University (FPU) being held on Wednesday evenings at Pearce, beginning on January 6. This seminar can help you reach your financial goals by showing you how to eliminate debt, save for the future, and be a more generous person. The cost is $93 per family, but is well worth the money. Register on our website at http://www.pearcechurch.org/dave-ramseys-financial-peace-university-2/.
I’ll be leading a four-week Discovery Seminar on Wednesdays, beginning on January 6. This seminar will help you become more familiar with Pearce Church. We’ll explore our history, our beliefs, and the ways we are seeking to bring God’s restoration to the lives of those we know and to our very planet. I’ve asked Bill Smout and Dr. Doug Cullum to assist me in leading this seminar. Register by contacting Kim Brittin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congregation, Did You Know?
What a wonderful celebration took place here last Sunday morning. Under the direction of Pastor Tim, a host of people of all ages participated, from young children in the choir to Dr. Livermore’s portrayal of Grandpa Waite! Thanks to the many people who made our worship so rich and full, from actors to dancers and stage/tech crews, to narrators and musicians.
A couple of things you may appreciate knowing about the “Be Born in Us Today” service. One thing is that many of the songs were original compositions by Dr. Dan Barta. (He also provided “the voice” for the Jeremiah passage!) Another thing is that the baby Jesus was a real baby. I was surprised to discover that fact Monday morning. During the service I thought to myself, “What a realistic looking doll!” Later, I found out that the child was Ben, the three-and-a-half month child of our bookkeeper and her husband, Jess and Robby Alcorn.
The Countdown Is Accelerating!
Are you feeling what I am sensing today? I am a bit on the frantic side as I realize Christmas is only a week away and I have so much yet to accomplish. Such feelings are typical for this time of year, but I feel it is a bit heightened this year.
Christmas is approaching with such suddenness. I blame some of that on the weather. After all, the landscape hasn’t looked very Christmas-like! Perhaps it is that Mary and I are dealing with her chemotherapy this week and our focus is on more immediate concerns. (By the way, Mary is doing great! Thanks for your prayers on her behalf!)
Yet Christmas is approaching whether or not I feel ready for it. So, my challenge in these next several days is to make myself stop and allow God’s presence to flood my heart and mind. I don’t want to miss the significance of Jesus’s coming.
I find several things help me in this regard.
First, worship is crucial. It is as I sit in a worship service that I often feel my heart drawn to the things of God. Worship forces me to take my eyes off myself and look at my Lord. I look forward to this weekend’s services and, especially, I anticipate gathering with others on Christmas Eve.
I also find Pearce’s Service of Hope to be one of the most treasured hours of my Christmas observance. There is something very precious about that service as I take time for lament. Allowing my grief to surface somehow frees me to better celebrate Jesus’s coming. (The Service of Hope will be held this coming Sunday at 6:30pm.)
Secondly, I find beautiful sacred music helps me regain perspective. Playing Handel’s Messiah is a must for me at this time of year. (Especially after hearing Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You for the umpteenth time on the radio!)
Thirdly, I simply need to be still. This year, I imagine I’ll come home from the final Christmas Eve service at Pearce to find my chair by the window and just sit in quiet stillness. There is something about looking out a window at 1am on Christmas morning that allows the contemplation that is so often avoided. It is in those moments, as most of my neighborhood sleeps, that I sense a deep gratitude for the salvation I have been gifted through Jesus Christ’s life and ministry.
I encourage you to find your own ways of allowing the meaning of Christmas to sink into your heart and mind.
Thanks for Your Generosity
As we are getting ready to finish the year, I want to express my thanks to the many that financially support our church. At this point in the year, we remain a bit behind in our Operations Budget. To date, we are about $30,000 behind budget in Operations and about $7,000 behind in our Building Fund. If you are able to help us close these gaps, I encourage you to do so. Thanks for your faithful stewardship!
The Power of Story
I was recently listening to a TED talk by Susan Conley, a teacher from Portland. (TED, Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks, 18 minutes or less.) In this TED, she spoke about the power of story. “Lives can be changed by stories,” Conley asserted.
I agree with Conley. I think stories are indeed powerful and that lives can be transformed through the telling of stories. After all, isn’t that what we believe as Christians? We are convinced that the gospel story can bring about a wonderful conversion.
I want our children to hear great stories, especially at this time of year. Which is why for the past 35 years as a pastor, I’ve hosted an annual “Christmas Story Hour.” (You can see I’ve collected a sizeable collection of Christmas stories!)
This year, I’ll be hosting another evening of stories on Wednesday, December 16, at 6:30pm in Parmerter Chapel. I invite all children, whatever their age, to join me. Kids are welcome to come in their pajamas, bring a blanket to spread on the floor, and a pillow or stuffed animal to make a cozy spot on the chapel’s floor.
Following the story time, we’ll gather in the Family Life Center for refreshments and, as a special treat, each child will receive a toy courtesy of the Pearce Toymakers.
The Gift of Teaching
I had the opportunity on Tuesday to sit down with Kristin Coon, Lydia Monroe, and Carol Stevenson to discuss their upcoming visit to Rwanda. These three educators will head out in nine weeks to spend time in Nzige, assessing ways we can encourage and assist the teaching staff of the preschool.
During this brief trip, the three will be in Rwanda for only five days; a second team will go next August to provide teacher training for the preschool staff. Kristin, Lydia, and Carol, will use their experience as teachers to assess what is presently being done at the school and develop an initial plan for how next summer’s team can best be of help.
Carol has experienced many short-term mission trips over the years, but this is Kristin’s first such opportunity. “You think you are going to give to others,” Carol noted, “but you discover that you receive ten-fold.”
The team leaves on Thursday, February 13.
Reindeer Hoof Prints
Up on the House Top was made popular by Gene Autry in 1953. The lyrics, which I am sure you recall, speak of a visitor landing on the roof of a home on Christmas Eve.
Here at Pearce, we are hoping no visitor arrives at Parmerter Chapel in such a manner. The roof is in rough enough shape without the hooves of reindeer pausing on the brittle shingles!
You are well aware that throughout this year we have been financially preparing to replace the aging Parmerter roof, hoping to have a new roof installed next summer. This much-needed roof will cost an estimated $160,000.
So far, we have received a total of $86,174.50 and, as a result, are slightly past the halfway mark. As you plan your end-of-year giving, would you consider making a donation to this project?
The Joy of Serving Others
I thought you might like to hear about a few things that have been going on around Pearce the past couple of weeks.
Pat Wright wrote a note of thanks for all the help with the “Clothes for Kids” ministry. Eighty-five kids will receive warm winter clothes this year due to the generosity of people at Pearce.
Carol Wilson worked with a group of Pearce teens to make thirty Christmas cards for delivery to those who may be homebound or find it challenging to get out to services at church. Some of the teens also make birdhouses that were auctioned off a few weeks ago to help raise support for Pearce missionaries, Al & Stacy Anderson.
Pastor Jeremy recently gathered with members from various Pearce support groups to make more than 120 Christmas ornaments for distribution at the upcoming Service of Hope on December 20.
I often marvel at the many ways Christ’s love is expressed by this congregation. Thanks for being part of a family that cares in ways great and small.
The Messages Keep on Coming
This weekend, I’ll examine the wonderful and joyous message of the angels as found in Luke’s second chapter: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” I hope to see you at Pearce at one of services this weekend.
I should also note that this is our final weekend of the existing Sunday morning worship schedule. Beginning on December 20, we’ll have a single worship service beginning at 10:30am.
I realize this change in schedule may be challenging for you. I ask that you join with me in asking the Lord to help us as we move through this time of transition and adjustment. Pray that a spirit of unity will permeate our congregation as we discover new ways to worship together.
There will be no Christian education classes on December 20, 27, or January 3. When classes resume on Sunday, January 10, they will meet beginning at 9am.