Welcome Back To School

It’s hard to believe that we’re only days away from “Back to School”! As we all know either from our own experiences or our children, grandchildren, etc., back to school can be a time of mixed-emotions. It can be a time of excitement, new possibilities, new challenges, and opportunities to grow and learn. But it can also be stressful, for students and parents, as transitions and new challenges arise.

The rhythm of the church year is very much like the school year. We do as little ‘work’ in the summer as possible, so that the leaders can rest and return re-charged for a new year. However, just like teachers and administration, by the time church is ‘back in session’ and everyone returns, albeit more slowly than school, a lot of preparation has gone on for our new ‘program year.’ Sarah and I had a retreat in early August and dreamed up some new ways to do some of our special services, as well as to make some changes in worship including introducing some new hymns! The Worship and Christian Ed committees also had a terrific meeting (poolside) to share fellowship, as well as craft new ways to make worship and Sunday School more inviting and engaging, using the same stories/texts
in worship as in Sunday School.

Story is an important part of our faith and our life in community. Story is how the Old Testament Scriptures were handed down in what is known as the ‘oral tradition.’ You may remember the story of the burning bush, or when Moses parts the Red Sea… but you may have difficulty remembering the details of the story and/or why it matters to us today. Moses is one of the most well-known characters of the bible and we’ll be looking at his activity, but it is God’s activity that we’ll really be focusing on.

So…we’re all going ‘back to school’ by revisiting the wonderfully rich stories in Exodus to start off our program year, both in worship and Sunday School. You may not have gotten new Sunday School or church shoes for yourself (or even your kids) but I really encourage you to prepare yourself to be engaged, excited, stretched and inspired by our Fall plans.

There’s a very clever and inspiring commercial running on TV currently. As the scene opens there’s a young boy about 9 or 10, who nervously sits down at the lunch table by himself. Almost immediately, he knocks his reusable water bottle on the floor. Because it’s empty it makes a lot of noise and all of the other children take note. Instead of the rest of the children laughing and pointing at him (like they did back in the 70’s commercials), another student picks up on the sound of the water bottle and starts drumming with pencils on their plate. Another student starts a third rhythm by banging plastic cups on the table. Eventually the whole lunch room is engaged in ‘making music’ and dancing together making a joyful noise, that started with a mistake by the newbie. The commercial ends with them all standing together and saying to the newcomer, “welcome to our school”.

As our young families grow and seek to bring and keep their kids in worship and Sunday School, they will invariably drop things and make noise. As our older adults return, they too will drop things or talk louder than they think is audible to the pews in front and behind them. Newcomers will come and ‘kick’ the tires, to see if our church is the place where they can come and get connected and be accepted. When you hear, or see, and even talk to these people, may you not only be gracious, but warm and welcoming and invite their presence and even their noises as they try to fit in.

Remember, even Moses started out as a basket-case!

Welcoming all to come back to ‘school,’ in Christ,
Jen

Musicians, Artists, and Art Lovers Wanted

If you happen to play a musical instrument or would like to share any other type of creative arts with the congregation during a Sunday morning service, please contact Sarah (Organist/Choir Director 570-947-6330, babbleon247@yahoo.com), with your availability
or to make rehearsal arrangements.

Ever wonder how to share your ‘treasures’ in a musical way without singing or playing an instrument at First Church-Boonton?? ISO –
interested person(s) who would like to share their ‘treasures’ by sponsoring new anthems for fall 2017 ($50 per anthem). Please contact Sarah Berta if interested.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

The fall season for the music ministry at First Presbyterian will soon begin! Chancel Choir rehearsals will be resuming this month and all are welcome, veterans and newcomers, to join in making joyful music together. Special thanks to those vocalists and instrumentalists
who shared their musical gifts and talents this summer during morning worship. Your musical contribution truly enhanced the worship experience.

Fall 2017 Rehearsal Schedule:

  • Chancel Choir ~ RESUMES Sunday, September 17th (11:30am-1pm in choir room)
  • Weekly 9:00am Sunday morning rehearsals are in the church sanctuary
  • Hand Bell Choir ~RESUMES October 2017
    …stay ‘tuned’ for rehearsal dates. ♥

A Prayer for Rest

Dear Father,
This world seems to move faster and faster
And I’m trying to keep up.
But God, in the whirlwind,
Instead I get caught up.
Like an unbeatable force it pulls me in
But I know eventually I cannot win.
I must learn to rest in your perfect peace
And though good, let all endeavors cease
Oh that my feet would mimic your pace.
So your joy would be set on my face.
Help me, Jesus, to slow down when you would.
Help me, Lord, to rest as I should.
Thank you for loving me just as I am;
Thank you that rest is part of your plan.
Amen.

The Deacons would especially like to mention . . .

Terry & Lloyd Charlton!

Many of you may not realize, but every month for the past four years Terry and Lloyd have organized the Deacons and others within our church family to provide a communion service at the NJ Firemen’s Home in Boonton. It is the only licensed health care facility in the State of NJ dedicated exclusively to all firefighters of the NJ Fire Service.

Terry and Lloyd have lined people up each month to give a sermon, be a worship leader, and to serve of the Holy Sacraments. Many times, with the exception of serving the sacraments, they’ve stepped into these other roles!

It’s amazing how they’ve made this so easy for others to participate, by preparing folders for presenters, as well as for those attending the service. The hymns were changed and customized each month; music was recorded and played, sometimes with guest piano
players/singers from our church.

Terry and Lloyd have been instrumental in keeping this fabulous mission alive, one that is obviously near and dear to their hearts. They
have quietly been living out God’s word.

It is very heartwarming to see the peace and love they have brought to so many.

As they retire from this particular mission, we thank you very much for your many years of service.

Water All Around the World UPDATE!!

A small but energetic, group of children participated in our Vacation Bible School June 26-30. Our theme, Water All Around the World, was well received by parents, children, adult and teen volunteers as well as by all of you in the congregation. Children “traveled” to a different country each day to discover how many children suffer from disease because of lack of access to clean, drinkable water, something we take for granted each time we turn on the faucet. And they discovered that Living Waters of the World is providing simple, sustainable and affordable water filtration systems.

We tried a different format this year in order to complement the other churches who also offer VBS. We made a shift from morning to afternoon making it possible for most children to eat lunch and play together before the program started. Each day a different Bible story enhanced our theme which was then enriched through recreation, crafts, science projects and snacks, all made possible by an imaginative, enthusiastic group of volunteers.

One could sense God’s spirit at work throughout the week and we are indeed grateful to all who made it possible. ♥

Deacon’s Doins

The Deacons have had a very busy summer with organizing the delivery of, and preparing/delivering of meals to families who have had members recuperating from surgeries and/or other events. A huge thank you to Kim Riter, Leslie Smith, and Robin Gershaw for organizing and setting up the deliveries. The Deacons also wish to thank all who have volunteered and participated in providing and delivering these meals in a time when some relief and assistance was needed and greatly appreciated. These meals were a small way of easing another’s burdens.

Galatians 6:2: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ

The Deacons also continued to provide a monthly worship service to the members of the NJ State Firemen’s Home on the first Sunday of the month. Worship service, including a sermon and communion, are provided to the men of the home, as well as the care givers who work there. If interested in participating in this program, please feel free to reach out to one of the Deacons.

And as always, thank you to all who continue to donate and support all of our missions. It is with your help and assistance that the above services continue to happen and grow. We appreciate your donations and continued support. Many blessings. ♥

Mission says (many Thanks)

The Mission Co-Op had pledged a matching gift for funds raised at VBS for Living Waters for the World. Not only did nine kids learn that there are places in the world that do not have clean water and how lucky we are that we do, they also contributed $132 in pennies,
nickels, dimes and quarters to help those who don’t! The congregation contributed a total of $731.25 during the month of June during and after a service devoted to the VBS focus on clean water.

The total of $995.25 was sent to the PCUSA Synod of Living Waters in Tennessee. The funds will be used to create water filtration systems in areas of the world to provide clean water where children are sick and dying just from drinking the water! These areas include Appalachia, right here in the USA, as well as Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil, Laos, Cuba, Peru, Nicaragua, and Thailand. ♥

The Ripple Effect

June was a wonderfully busy month in worship — especially celebrating our new members on Pentecost, honoring our scholarship recipients, and graduates, and lifting up this year’s VBS theme: Living Waters for the world.

Pastor Lorrie preached a super sermon on June 12th to lift up that theme. (see below) As we head into summer which will be filled with clean water of every type: lakes, streams, oceans, water parks, water balloons and easily accessible drinking water. May we all take to heart what Lorrie preached and carry our ‘water-gratitude’ wherever we travel, recreate and rest.  ♥ Rev. Jen

Picture this:

Somewhere in Cuba, it was still dark, the very early hours of the morning, when the young woman arrived at what had become known as The Fountain. She was thin and bedraggled, her eyes swollen from so much crying and lack of sleep. Her little boy, only 2, suffering terrible dysentery had finally been hospitalized and there seemed little possibility that he would survive. A nurse had told her that her only hope was to find clean water for him. A few weeks earlier, a water purification system had been installed in the community and she heard stories about that water being safe, but she had to get there and had to find clean bottles to put the water in.

Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a preventable water-related disease. 780 million people worldwide do not have access to clean water and this scarcity has caused more refugees than all the wars in history. Some predict that in this century, wars will more likely be fought over water than over oil.

In many ways, I don’t think that we can feel the sense of the importance of running water. We don’t know what a luxury it is. We have it when we turn the knob on our faucets. If we’re thirsty, we turn the knob, water comes rushing out, or we can take cold water out of the refrigerator. Many areas of our world today don’t have such luxuries. Finding fresh water can be a matter of life and death — not only for people, but for all living things.

A few weeks ago Sherm and I were hiking with friends at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge where we traversed a boardwalk over the pond. It was fun to see the shining shells of painted turtles as they swam just beneath the water’s surface. My friend was sketching the wild iris and yellow water lilies while recalling early Biology class, a thimble full of water from such a bog, placing it under the microscope and being absolutely dumb-founded to discover the amount of life it held. It was truly living water.

In scripture, running water is a powerful symbol for life. The Isaiah passage which was written to bring hope to a refugee people who had been forced to leave their homeland, is full of God’s promises to provide rivers and fountains and springs in the midst of wilderness and drought and hopelessness, God’s loving, caring, giving Spirit bringing not abandonment, but new life.

When we look at the world through the sunglasses of our culture we get stuck in the pounding percussion of these 3 words: I Need More!!! But when we let Jesus‘ story become our story we open our minds, our dreams, our hearts until we hear these 3 words: More Than Enough!!! And we become certain that there is no place or people beyond the reach of grace.

So let’s consider what we have received from God; this gift of the Spirit, it is not meant to stay within us, but is meant to flow out of us. Listen again to Jesus’words: “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” Oh, are we not then to look for opportunities to become Jesus’ hands and feet, understanding a little better the plight of our sisters and brothers everywhere who regularly find themselves at the end of the line and the back of the bus? Aligning ourselves with those who put pipes, pumps, and filters in places near and far, we can become partners who give and receive the blessings of our common humanity, not as possession or commodity, but as gifts freely offered.

Living water is neither stale nor boring but fresh and flowing. It’s an image of power. Isn’t the same true for Spirit-filled believers and congregations? See the signs of the Spirit at work in a congregation, this congregation, dreaming dreams of new ministries, having visions of new life and mission, and now finding the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to attend to the practicalities of making them real. That’s what Pentecost is all about. Does this celebration of Pentecost have a ripple effect? You betcha!! We, the followers of Jesus, can now carry on Jesus’witness and ministry in the world because our lives have been empowered by the Spirit. Believers, remember to let your own living water brim and spill over from your heart, and know that you are a channel of life in this world.

Amen ♥ Rev. Lorrie Skinner

A Time of Change and Growth

Dear Saints,

Happy Easter!

I hope and pray that whether you were with us, or traveling, that you had a joy-filled Easter day and Lent as well. As I look back on this Lent, it has been filled with new leadership, new events, new talents and experiences. I truly hope that you had at least one meaningful experience throughout Lent, Holy Week and Easter. The attendance at our Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services all increased, and that’s due to many people making these services meaningful.

Easter attendance was about 80 less than the largest Easter service we’ve had in the last ten years but it is also in decline, as are weekly attendance numbers. If reading this makes you sad, mad or just uneasy, you’re not alone, but I’m not telling you anything new. Church attendance, in every Protestant denomination as well as the non-denominations, is also shrinking. There was even chatter among the African American churches this year of sitting out Easter service because it’s ‘just a fashion show and hat competition’ and the ‘real worship happens on regular Sunday mornings’.

I personally didn’t get a new Easter outfit (although I always plan to) but many of you looked great in bright ties and spring outfits and high heels (even the communion servers). Well Done!

I know at least in our church, even the most faithful get pulled away on Sunday mornings by major family events, sports, concerts, work, travel, and illness or just sheer exhaustion. The average attendee now comes once a month, not once a week. As a pastor I find this frustrating and distressing and I know many of you share this sentiment.

BUT, there is a major difference between shrinking weekly attendance and shrinking participation. We have the former, like every church on the planet, but we do not have the latter. Many among our members (including our leaders) are doing mission/ministry behind the scenes during the week even though they may be away on Sunday morning. Honestly it took me a while to see this and get used to it. This is the marker of not only a healthy church, but a community that is adapting to change, not shutting down because of it.

Pure ‘adaptive change’, is much harder to see and do, than ‘technical change’. Technical change, as described by change expert Ron Heifetz, is when the problem is clear and the change is affected by experts. Adaptive change requires new learning, where responsibility for the change lies with the followers, not the primary leader. I believe with the changing church environment, what we need to do is both technical and adaptive change. Heifetz describes that space as where the solution requires new learning and both the leader[s] and the followers are responsible for the change.

A great example of how a technical and adaptive change took place throughout Lent was our Lenten devotional. It was launched through members of session with my leadership and written by staff and members — including two of our youth. That’s the technical part.

Here’s the (exciting) adaptive part. At least three couples used the devotional as a way to start their day together before heading off to work. One Deacon gave a devotional to a non-churched family member. One Deacon took a pile of the devotionals to the Firemen’s Home. And one member had the courage to read one of the devotionals over the phone to an employee who was having a meltdown at work.

This is only one recent example of how we can affect change to sustain our mission and ministry. There are other examples as well, but we need to do this in all areas of our mission and ministry, not just a few. That’s why we need you all at the church-wide retreat April 29th. This will be an event of fun, spiritual growth and an opportunity for you to share your ideas, vision and perception of what we need to do to sustain and grow our community of faith.

If you’re not around, please find a Deacon or Elder and share your ideas about how we can do this ‘Jesus thing’ even better.

We’re not all going to be willing and able to spread God’s message at the same time. But if even HALF of us gather and seek the Holy Spirit’s leading then we can go into Pentecost with tongues aflame and hearts on fire!

Seeking the Holy Spirit with you,
Jen