Preparing for Christmas
I’m looking forward to returning to Pearce’s pulpit this coming weekend. I have missed gathering for worship with our church family the past three weekends. Again, I am grateful for those who have so ably served in my absence: Dr. Cullum, Dr. Dwyer, and Dr. Grimm. My deepest thanks to them! (I also have a new appreciation for the podcasts on the Pearce website!)
This weekend, we’ll begin preparing for Christmas by considering ways in which we can observe the holiday with a clear Christian approach. How can we not become stressed and worn out by the flurry of activity which has become the norm for an American Christmas?
This new sermon series is entitled “This Christmas Will Be Different!” I’ll be looking at the Luke 10:38-42 account of Jesus’s visit to the home of Mary and Martha. We’ll consider ways we can have a simpler approach to this Christmas.
A Spirituality of the Ragged Edges
Dr. J. Richard Middleton, Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary, will present a seminar entitled “A Spirituality of the Ragged Edges: The Lament Psalms as a Resource for Faith in Times of Trouble” on Wednesday evening, December 10, at 6:30pm in room 134 of Pearce’s educational wing. Dr. Middleton combines a scholar’s mind with a pastor’s heart. His teaching will provide an encouragement for all who may be challenged by our culture’s superficial “happiness” as the Christmas season approaches.
Singing the Sacred Music of Christmas
I love Christmas music and my itunes playlist is filled with hundreds of Christmas songs. I usually begin playing Christmas music in September and savor the songs for the final quarter of the calendar year.
I’ve asked Dr. Robert Shewan to provide an opportunity for those of us who love to sing sacred Christmas music to gather in Pearce’s Sanctuary on Wednesday, December 17, at 6:30pm. Dr. Shewan will lead this impromptu choir in singing a wonderful selection of songs, including such classics as “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
You don’t have to be an accomplished singer to join. After all, I will be there! This is for those who simply can’t get enough of sacred Christmas music.
Extending a Caring Touch
I love when God’s people demonstrate His love in practical ways. This time of the year always provides many opportunities for each of us to extend caring touches to those around us.
Already you have responded to two significant ministries in the past few weeks. A total of 530 shoeboxes filled with gifts are now being shipped around the world as part of Operation Christmas Child. I hope you are bathing your box in prayer, asking God to use that simple expression of love as a way of drawing a child close to Him.
This past weekend, you provided a total of 905 Thanksgiving boxes to people in Monroe County, all of which were delivered by Monday afternoon. (More than 600 boxes were delivered on Saturday alone!) Sherri Taber who, along with her husband Terry, directs this ministry said to me, “It has gone so smoothly! God has provided in such amazing ways!” Jim Heeks commented on how wonderful it was to see other churches come alongside of Pearce to help with this ministry.
Monday morning, we received a phone call from one of the recipients of a Thanksgiving box. He wanted to express his appreciation and said to Joan, Pearce’s receptionist, “No one has ever done anything for me like this before!”
There remain two key ways you can extend a caring touch this Christmas. One way is by participating in “Clothes for Kids,” a ministry to provide warm winter clothing for children in Rochester. Just stop by the table in the lobby next weekend to pick up a name of a child, complete with information that will help you make your purchase. The second way is by participating in the Advent Conspiracy, simplifying your purchase of Christmas gifts to free resources to provide fresh drinking water for those who lack this most basic need. We’ll receive a special offering during the worship services on the weekend of December 20 and 21 for Clear Blue Global Water Project.
Things Are Looking Up!
When I returned to work this past Monday, Pastor Mike told me that I reminded him of Carl in the movie “Up!” I asked Jay Stephenson, one of our gifted support staff, to make the comparison. I don’t think I really look like Carl, do you? Maybe if I added the tennis balls to my cane?
Pearce Sunday Sermons
November 23, 2014
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am deeply aware of God’s goodness to me. These weeks of convalescence have reminded me that I am blessed, blessed by a sense of God’s presence and by the attention of caring family and friends. I am even grateful for my physical therapist when he “encourages” me to bend that knee a little further!
It has seemed quite odd for me to be away from Pearce this long, but I am confident that the excellent staff at Pearce is taking good care of things.
I have been watching the “Turkey Tracker” on the Pearce website. As of this morning, we have exceeded our goal of gathering 800 turkeys! I am amazed by everyone’s generosity. Thanks for helping us meet this ambitious goal and extend a caring touch to families throughout Monroe County. Can we do even more? Due to a high need in our community this year, we have the opportunity to help more families. For these last few days of receiving donations, we would like to collect another 50 turkeys—blessing a total of 900 families with a good Thanksgiving meal and the love of God’s people.
I continue to hope that I can be back the weekend following Thanksgiving. Until then, I thank you for your partnership in the Gospel and for your many prayers on my behalf.
I am praying for Dr. Nelson Grimm as he prepares to enter Pearce’s pulpit this weekend and look forward to participating with all of you via podcast!
See you soon!
The Authentic Life
November 16, 2014
I arrived home a week ago and have been recuperating nicely, due to the attentive care and support of my wife and the encouragement and prayers of countless friends from Pearce. My deepest thanks to you for your many expressions of concern, from beautiful cards to wonderful tasty treats. (Note the photo from yesterday’s visit by the Pearce pastoral team, delivering me a coffee from Common Grounds.)
I am working on my physical therapy assignments and, little by little, gaining some mobility. Next Monday, I will go to my follow-up appointment and have my artfully arranged staples removed.
Although I am a bit concerned about what is happening at Pearce in my absence. For example, I heard rumors that a rather large turkey interrupted worship services this past Sunday. When I questioned our administrator, Honna Lusk, about this impropriety she looked a bit embarrassed. Note the photo documenting this rumor! (Although, she did get our turkey collection off to a strong start! Check out our turkey tracker at pearcechurch.org for the latest update!)
I did check in with our faithful head receptionist, Nancy Drew, to determine if everything is okay, because she has the pulse on our church’s day-to-day operations. She assured me that all is well.
I hope that is true for you this week. Thanks, again, for your partnership in the Gospel. May the Lord richly bless you during this month of giving thanks! We have much for which to be grateful.
The Authentic Life
November 9, 2014
Rita Dean has been overseeing our nursery for several years now. I am thankful for her friendship and the love and concern she has for the children she oversees. She also helps me run our Wednesday morning Kids’ Gym ministry. Rita is married to Ardell Dean, one of our part-time handymen. The Deans love the Lord and the church where God has called them to serve.
One of the many blessings at Pearce is the RWC community and the young women we are able to hire to work in our nurseries on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. They create a safe environment and allow our little ones to see the same faces in the nursery each week. Rita holds regular training with these workers. One of the young women is our nursery safety coordinator while Rita attends the worship service.
These young women are with us for about nine months out of the year; for the other three months, we depend on volunteers to staff our nursery. Volunteer time is coming very soon, with Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner! Please pick up a volunteer card (pictured above), they are located at the atrium Welcome Kiosk or Rita has a supply on-hand. Fill it out to let us know what Sundays you are able to serve as a volunteer in the nursery. When complete, you can hand it directly to Rita or me. If you have not gone through our safety screening process, we will do that so you are able to serve. The process consist of an interview, filling out a screening form, and running your name through a database called “Protect My Ministry.”
Our 5pm Christmas Eve Service is particularly high in families and visitors with young children. It would be great to have that volunteer nursery team in place by the beginning of December. Our children are a blessing, and to serve in the nursery is a blessing to you and their families. Thank you in advance for considering and praying about this ministry opportunity.
Wednesday night ministry update!
Collide 56 and Camp Wednesday are going great! I am thankful for the kids that are coming and the leaders that faithfully work with them. Pictured above are Kim and Elissa, two leaders for our K-4th grade kids at Camp Wednesday. In the picture above, they are working on a fun craft that we will be doing later this year. Krys Merriam is in the other picture; she is preparing fun Christmas ornament crafts. Krys works directly with our 5th and 6th graders on Wednesday nights, but is also helping me with Christmas ornament crafts for the Camp Wednesday group. As time is slipping by fast, we will begin these ornaments very soon. We will also have a special time with Sheryl Hunt and her daughter, Grace. They have a fun, hands-on Christmas ornament to make with the kids.
If you have any ideas of fun “camp crafts” that you think our kids would like, please let me know. Maybe you can be our next special guest at Camp Wednesday!
The Holidays are upon us!
I am very excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas. I love celebrating with family and friends, reflecting on what we are thankful for. I am thankful for Pearce Church, the ministries I get to oversee, my family, my friends, and my dog Coco (pictured right). I am a very blessed person. Maybe for the month of November, you and your family can work together on a thankfulness journal. Every day, write down something you have to be thankful for.
I want to remind you of what is coming for our kids and their friends over the next two months. They are as follows:
- Sundays, November 2-December 14: Sunday School, 9–10:15am
- Wednesdays, November 5-December 10: Collide 56 & Camp Wednesday, 6:30-8pm
- Sunday, December 7: Children’s Christmas Musical, 6pm. Kids of Pearce will present GT and the Halo Express, followed by a cookie reception the Family Life Center.
- Wednesday, December 17: Family Story Hour, 6:30 -8pm. Pastor Wally will be reading two Christmas stories to the kids in Parmeter Chapel, followed by a reception and the Pearce toy makers in the Family Life Center.
- Sunday, December 21: Combined Worship, 10am. Kids will receive special Christmas kids’ bag that morning.
Highlighting an impacting event this past October!
The women of Pearce had a Fall Ladies’ Brunch on October 25. Many women attended, filling Parameter Chapel! I would like to thank the many volunteers who helped to make this event a success: those who set the tables; tech helpers; maintenance crew; kitchen crew; our graphics team; those who led us in beautiful music; the prayer team who prayed with women at the end; and our guest speaker, Mary Fleming. Mary shared her story, which was a testimony to God our Father’s faithfulness in her life. It was precious and life impacting. God is good and He can be trusted, even in the face of suffering and trials! Blessings to all of you as we move through this month of November, celebrating all we have to be thankful for together.
Every boy deserves a Father
On October 4, Pearce Church once again hosted the Iron Sharpens Iron Conference for men. This year, we also hosted a table for Fathers in the Field. If you are not familiar with this ministry, it is designed to help connect a Christian man with a boy in the church or community whose father is absent for one reason or another. Pearce currently sponsors two “Field Buddies” and we have more waiting to be matched up with a “Mentor Father.” FitF provides a monthly lesson that helps boys work through the anger and hurt of life without a father. When they complete each lesson, they receive a gift which will help them in their outdoor pursuits, (rain gear, boots, compass, pocket knife, etc.) and will help to ease the cost for a single mom. In addition to doing a lesson each month, the Field Buddy and Mentor Father also get together to learn a skill such as camping, fishing, hunting, bird watching, or cycling that the young man has an interest in. If you are a single mom who would like to get her son involved, or a man that has the time to invest in the life of a young boy, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 594-9488.
Bold and Cold
As I mentioned last month, we moved Project Out in the Cold from December to October. The thinking was that perhaps we would avoid the snow – which we did, however we got the rain. Our kids didn’t let the wet weather get them down. We had nearly 30 students come to hear from the Open Door Mission, RAIN (Rochester Area Interfaith Network) and Grace House. They also enjoyed great food, provided by Buzz and Linda Mantegna. The night was a huge success as our students managed to raise over $1,300 for these shelters and were able to get a first-hand glimpse of what being homeless is like.
Chili Commons & Pearce Teens
Throughout the past year, Pearce Teens have been active in finding ways to serve the community at Chili Commons. From a week-long VBS program this summer, to a family Kickball Night in September, to a Halloween Party on October 29, our teens have found creative ways to love and serve our neighbors to the south. It has been a joy to watch our students build relationships with kids in our community who may be a little different. The joy on the faces of these young kids as they received Halloween candy, as they got to play games, and as they were loved for no other reason than being God’s children was priceless. A secondary benefit has been that some of our Chili Commons friends have been coming on Wednesday nights for our teen program. While this is awesome, it was not our goal. We are simply trying to provide our students with an avenue to love outside their comfort zone and to be a presence in our community for Christ. Keep praying for Chili Commons as Thanksgiving Baskets are delivered this month and as we hold our living nativity in December.
The Authentic Life
November 2, 2014
What a Joint!
As you already know, I’m heading to Newark-Wayne Community Hospital next Monday for knee surgery. Due to a skiing accident in the 1980s, I lost my right ACL and meniscus. The years of “bone on bone” have taken their toll, so I’m finally going to do something to remedy the situation. On Monday, I’ll undergo arthroplasty surgery. (Now you know more than you wanted to know, right?)
Why Newark-Wayne? Good question! A friend of mine, Dr. David Cywinski, is part of the Finger Lakes Bone & Joint Center in Geneva. (I had the privilege of officiating at his wedding in 2001.) His partner, Dr. Dan Alexander, will be doing the surgery and, frankly, I am comforted by the thought that Dr. Cywinski will be “hovering” and insuring the quality of my care.
I am taking a couple of weeks of “sick leave” and a week of vacation to provide time for rehab and recovery. (So this will be my last Dangling for a few weeks!) I appreciate all the support I have already experienced and look forward to trading “war stories” with the many at Pearce who have already undergone this procedure.
Advent is only four weeks away! To help you and your family prepare for Christmas, I’ve selected two Advent devotional books as “Pearce Reads” for this season of the year.
The first book is by Ann Voskamp, an author familiar to the many of you who read her book One Thousand Gifts. This month, Ann published a new book entitled Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas. The book, based on the concept of a Jesse Tree, provides devotions to help children of all ages understand the Advent theme for the day and participate in activities to help apply the theme. It is a beautifully illustrated book and may be an especially helpful resource for those of you with children in your home.
The second book is one I recommended two years ago. TitledWatch for the Light, it is a wonderful collection of daily readings from a wide range of Christian authors, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Madeleine L’Engle. As Publishers Weekly noted in their review of the book, “These are not frivolous, feel-good Advent readings; they are deep, sometimes jarring reflections….”
Each of these books is available on the book rack in Pearce’s lobby, for a $15 donation.
Advent in the Home
I grew up in a church where I seldom, if ever, heard of the term “Advent.” We simply spoke of Thanksgiving and Christmas, with little recognition of the weeks between those two “family” events. At this time in my journey, I am appreciative of the rich church tradition of Advent and the ways in which those weeks preceding Christmas offer opportunities for spiritual formation in the home.
I’ve asked Elizabeth Cullum, a member at Community of the Savior, a Free Methodist congregation on the east side of Rochester, to come and help parents utilize the Advent season to help their children come to a deeper understanding of Jesus’ coming to earth. She will be presenting a workshop at Pearce on Wednesday, November 19, at 6:30pm in the Friendship Center.
I encourage parents and grandparents to take this opportunity to discover new ways of helping your children better learn God’s Story and the ways it impacts their own stories.
SWAG Is in Hot Water
Project #5 in this year’s SWAG is a new hot water heater for Pearce’s kitchen. The old one, now in its fourteenth year, needs to be replaced. Our volunteers have resorted to carrying pots of hot water from the stove to the dishwasher when they run out of hot water while cleaning up after a meal. We’d like to reduce the wear and tear on our volunteers and ensure a steady supply of hot water.
To date, we have received $4,174 towards this $12,000 project. Thanks for helping us keep our food and hospitality ministry in hot water!
The Turkey Challenge
November brings with it thoughts of turkeys and, for those of us at Pearce, the realization that it is time to collect food for our annual Thanksgiving Basket ministry. We are planning to pack more than 800 boxes of food for deserving families in the Rochester area.
In the past, our task has been made lighter by the generous provision of frozen turkeys from Foodlink. Last year, Foodlink provided 600 turkeys for our Thanksgiving Basket ministry.
Here’s the rub! This year, Foodlink has notified us that they will not be able to provide any turkeys. Zero! Nada! Zip!
So, do you get where this is going and why I titled this article “The Turkey Challenge?” We are in need of 800 turkeys!
Beginning the weekend of November 8 & 9, Jim Heeks will have his “Turkey Hotel” in the Family Life Center. This “hotel” (a portable freezer positioned along the wall of our gym) will be available as the drop off point for your turkey donations.
This is a big challenge, my friends. We will all need to pitch in to make this happen!
A Stellar Line-Up
In anticipation of my absence from Pearce’s pulpit, beginning the weekend of November 8 & 9, I’ve lined up what I think is a “stellar roster” of gifted preachers of God’s Word.
Dr. Doug Cullum, Dean of Northeastern Seminary, will continue our series “The Authentic Life” with a look at James 4:13-5:12 on November 8 & 9.
Dr. Tim Dwyer, Professor of Christian Scriptures at RWC, will finish our study of the book of James with a consideration of James 5:13-20 on November 15 & 16.
The weekend before Thanksgiving (November 22 & 23), Dr. Nelson Grimm, Assistant Professor of Applied Theology at NES, will provide the message.
I am deeply appreciative of the ministry of these three men and their graciousness in helping to fill Pearce’s pulpit in my absence. I hope you will give them your undivided attention!