One of the many ways life has been changed for church leaders by the coronavirus is that we have not been able to gather together for Continuing Education events and classes and conferences – Study Leave opportunities – for many months. Oh, there have been many chances offered for online presentations and discussions, but that is just not the same as getting together with our fellow Christians, especially when it comes to the worship parts of the events.
Last month, however, Laurie and I were finally able to attend a Study Leave event. The Montreat Conference Center in the mountains of western North Carolina, near Asheville, worked out safe ways to bring people together – including requiring masks for all indoor activities, following the rules of the county in which it is located – and began offering conferences late this summer. We attended one called a “Wee Kirk Conference.”
“Wee Kirk” is Scottish for “small church,” and is really a bit of a misnomer now, as the conferences are geared primarily for churches of 200 members or less – which is now the normal size for most Presbyterian churches. The event featured daily worship together (from which Laurie and I pulled our chairs back about eight feet behind the rest of the group), opportunities for prayer and fellowship, meals, and some free time in a beautiful outdoor setting.
There were also five class sessions, and the subject this year was: How has doing evangelism and mission, especially to other countries, changed for “normal-sized churches” in the past twenty years or so? One of our resources, for example, was a book called “Glocal: Following Jesus in the 21st Century.”
“Glocal” is a combination of the words “local” and “global,” and refers to the reality that, in our time like never before, what happens globally impacts us locally, and what we do locally can get noticed around the world. If a U.S.-based organization trying to send evangelists to other countries has internet conversations among its members about how they might “sneak” into certain countries, or disguise their evangelism motives, those conversations easily get leaked around the world, with our 21st century technology.
If Christians describe all Muslims in negative terms, based on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, pretty soon Muslims will have negative opinions of all Christians. If American missionaries continue to act like our culture is superior to all others and we are bringing our blessings to you poor ignorant heathens, in the style of 19th and early 20th century mission, we are quite likely to hear “no thank you.” Doing mission and evangelism work is different now, from previous centuries.
If you would like to hear more about this topic, or other aspects of the conference, please let me know. And thank you, once again, to those who cover things here while we are away, to give us the chance to go – finally! – to these kinds of events again.
“. . . FALL BACK:” Be sure to turn your clocks back this Saturday evening, November 6, so you won’t arrive at the wrong time for worship November 7. Or don’t turn them back, and be here in plenty of time to visit before the service!
“Gratitude is the key to miracles.” –Anonymous
SANCTUARY CHOIR NEWS
The choir has indeed returned to our worship services as planned. Inconsistency seems to rule the world these days, and choir attendance is no exception. Our rehearsal numbers have ranged from 3 to 7 – so we are definitely able to “socially distance” ourselves even in the choir loft. Hopefully our numbers will increase to a range of 7 – 10.
Our annual Advent service is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. on December 5, here in our sanctuary. However, it remains to be seen if a Community Choir will be involved. We are having a rehearsal at 7 p.m. on November 2 to gauge the level of interest and willingness to participate, given that COVID is still a concern. Stay tuned for further details.
“O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” (Psalm 95:1)
THANKS TO OUR VOLUNTEERS
During October, members of our church volunteered at the Paris Compassionate Clothing Closet. THANK YOU to Liz (who coordinated the effort), Tom, Joanna, Deb, Rodger, and Larry.
1 Amy Church
6 Joanna Hebermehl
7 Drew Bradshaw
9 Vicky (Jewell) Wilson
12 David Boland
13 Michae Jewell
16 Wilma Johnson
25 Marty Jipp
27 Jani Howrey
29 Steve Blair
30 Phil Scott
11 Jerry & Mabel Benson
29 Kirby & Chris Clawson
Happy Birthday to US!
On November 6 this congregation celebrates 197 years of its founding. This banner often hanging in our sanctuary notes its 1824 founding, the 1900 date of the dedication of our current building, and our 175th celebration in 2000. Our thanks to Jane Bittner for the design and Alice Sprague for creating the banner!
COMMUNITY PRAYER SERVICE
A letter to our church, from the Paris Ministerial Fellowship planning team for the service:
To all the churches of Paris, IL:
This is a call to prayer. Our annual Community Prayer Service will be November 6 at 8 A.M at the First Baptist Church. Our world is in need of our prayers praising God who is the only one that can heal our land. Please announce this service to your congregation and encourage them to join Christians in Paris in prayer.
In Christian Service and Prayer,
The Paris Ministerial Fellowship
And a little more information, from an article they provided for the Prairie Press:
“The traditional annual prayer breakfast in Paris is changing this year because of the continuing presence of coronavirus in the community.
“Organizers have eliminated the breakfast portion of the meeting but are holding a community prayer service at 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6, at the First Baptist Church, 201 S. Central St. There is no cost to attend.
“According to a spokesperson, there is a need to pray in many ways because the community continues to feel the impact of the coronavirus with economic change and personal and family loss.
“Community ministers and church members will lead specific and focused prayers for our community and beyond, including prayers for our nation, our churches, our businesses, our healing, our spiritual health and the specific need for COVID-19 healing and recovery.
“The service includes prayers of praise and gratitude to God. In addition, the service includes the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, and of course, music. The traditional closing is unison singing of “God Bless America.”
“According to the event leaders, this is an important opportunity for the Christian community in Paris and Edgar County to meet the goals of the event:
To bring Christians in the community together
To pray for our community and country, &
To remind us of what is important and to challenge us to rededicate ourselves to it.”
THE CHRISTIAN CALENDAR
November 21 is “Christ the King” Sunday, and reminds us that Jesus is Lord over all things: “Christ reigns supreme. Christ rules in peace. As Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, Christ is the center of the universe, the ruler of all history, the judge of all people. Christ triumphs over death and, in the end, over all the forces of evil.” (The Liturgical Year, PCUSA). You might think of hymns like “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” “Rejoice, The Lord is King,” and “Majesty.”
November 28 is the first day in the Season of Advent, which will be described in the December newsletter.
COMMUNITY THANKSGIVING SERVICE?
The Paris Ministerial Fellowship has been discussing the possibility of resuming the annual Community Thanksgiving Service, which could not be held last year due to COVID. The service MIGHT take place on Sunday, November 21, at New Beginnings Church, 526 Clay St. (near the Edgar cemetery). We will let you know for sure later this month.
ADVENT and CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIES
Our December newsletter usually features several articles about the church’s Advent and Christmas activities. At this point we are not sure which ones of these can take place, or on what schedule, but will keep you informed through a December issue and other church communication channels.
“Dear Friend in Christ,
We pray, rejoice and give thanks for you, and the ministry of your congregation. We write to say thank you for your gifts to Presbyterian Mission in the past year.
Your gifts to Presbyterian Mission are a blessing for all of God’s own family. When combined with the gifts of Presbyterians throughout the U.S., your support brings God’s love and Christ’s presence to places that have suffered and continue to suffer in times of loss, disaster, pain, pandemic and lost hope. Your gift demonstrates your commitment to discipleship and makes a difference as Christ’s presence becomes real through your act of generosity. We cannot thank you enough.
In Matthew 25, we read the question, “Lord, when did we see you…?” In other words, when did we recognize or acknowledge what was right in front of us – a world in need? As the Body of Christ, we are called to respond, and you have done your part. Thank you for your congregation’s prayers and generous support as together we reach out to make a difference.
With thanks and joy, Rev. Rosemary C. Mitchell”
From Rodger: Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg PA is where Laurie and I worship when we are visiting family in Central PA on a Sunday. It is the church where my mother is a member, where my father served as an Interim Pastor, and where both sang in the choir. Here is a “welcome statement” they wrote recently, and put in their bulletins and newsletters. Do you think it would also describe us?
“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you for
the glory of God!” (Romans 15:7)
Who is welcome at Pine Street Presbyterian Church?
If you are young or old or middle-aged…
If you are homeless or rent or own…
If you have a lot of faith, little faith,
or no faith at all…
If you are male or female or trans…
If you are a Republican, a Democrat,
or care little for politics…
If you are gay or straight…
If you are married, single, or partnered…
If you are Asian, Hispanic, Black, or White…
If you are poor or rich, hungry, or well-fed…
If you have addictions, phobias, depression,
or mental illness…
If you are strong or weak…
If you wear blue jeans or business casual…
If you hunger to know more about God and life…
If you seek more purpose in your daily living…
If you long for a better and more just world…
You are welcomed and affirmed here!
Come with your gifts and strengths,
thoughts, doubts, and questions,
passions and fears.
Come with the experiences and
traditions that formed you.
Come to seek and to listen to God.
Hear God call you to love your neighbor
With all your heart, mind, and soul!
Christ welcomes all, and so do we!
FROM CHURCH WORLD SERVICE
Disasters often strike without warning, but thanks to your generous contribution, Church World Service will be better prepared to provide emergency assistance when and where it is needed.
Your support and your foresight mean that we can quickly and effectively get supplies into the hands of the people who need them after a crisis. These supplies include:
- CWS Blankets
- CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets
- CWS Hygiene Kits
- CWS School Kits
- Emergency Food Packages
Your gift also helps to:
- Provide long-term recovery assistance
- Assist communities to rebuild and to
mitigate future disasters.
Rebuilding from a disaster is tough, but we have repeatedly witnessed the resilience and strength of the women, men and children who rise in the wake of an emergency. I am so moved by your generosity as you join us in standing with them and providing hope. Thank you.
May God bless you for your support, Rick Santos, Church World Service”
OUR MISSION STATEMENT:
“We are a welcoming congregation of dedicated believers who glorify and serve God through meaningful worship, caring for the needs of our congregation, reaching out as good stewards to others in need both locally and worldwide, and promoting Christian Education and spiritual development for all ages. We seek God’s purpose and guidance in our lives through the Holy Spirit and in service to Christ Jesus.”
FROM JONATHAN & EMILY SEITZ,
the Mission Co-Workers we support in Taiwan:
Our oldest son, Sam, is a teenager now, 13 years old, and starting eighth grade. In my seminary years and after seminary, I did part-time youth ministry for five years, but having a youth of my own (as well as my two tweens) has changed my outlook. I’m suddenly aware of how dated my youth experience is—now 20 years ago. I’m learning new slang from my kids. In the last year, Sam has grown taller than his mother, staked out his own bedroom in our Taipei apartment, and found a group of friends. My dad jokes are not as funny, and he is showing a newfound embarrassment in his parents.
Our time with the kids this past summer during a more severe lockdown was a bit claustrophobic, but also a chance to have a pure quantity of parent-child togetherness that we may not have again for a while.
Many of our seminary students do youth work for their field education. Youth ministry is different in Taiwan from in the U.S. Confirmation (and the Lord’s Supper) are typically not celebrated until age 18. There are no youth elders or youth Sundays. There is less of a mission trip tradition. Whereas U.S. churches often compete with sports competitions and extracurriculars, in Taiwan, the pressure of upcoming entrance exams (especially for high school and college) often pulls youth away from the church. The church here is also struggling to hold onto its youth and to reach out into the community. Taiwan is also watching a demographic shift as we become a “superaged” nation and have lower marriage and birth rates.
This semester I am co-teaching a class on youth ministry with a graduate of our seminary, Yu-Hui Chang. In this class, I often see students in a new light. The last time Dr. Chang and I taught the class our students included a former Boy Scout leader, several moms to teens, gamers, athletes, and many earnest seminarians looking for some handles or approaches on how to work with youth. Some students were taking the class because they love youth ministry and others because they felt really out of their element and wanted to gather ideas for connecting with youth in the church. The call to youth ministry is a dual calling in the church; while some especially gifted individuals are specifically called to work with youth, youth ministry is also a calling of the whole church.
Having a teenager lets me see faith again with new eyes. I have the normal parental mix of love, fear, worry, frustration, and hope. Youth change our relationship to the world and the future. I hope for a healthy church, healthy relationships, and a healthy world. I am struck by the truism that every generation remakes the faith. Today’s world church is mostly a younger church, and Christians are worshipping God in more languages and places than they ever have. Here in Taiwan, I hope that we can continue to call youth to know and worship God.
Prayer: Holy God, we pray for the youth of the church, for the parents, teachers, friends, family, coaches, youth leaders, and others who guide them. Give us mutual understanding, compassion, and love. We pray for the witness of the saints across the ages of the church and the ways you call us to translate and retranslate the faith. Amen.
Jonathan and Emily”
(The full versions of both of the most recent Seitz letters are on the bulletin board.)