Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thanksgiving is the life we a called to live as followers of Jesus.

A praise song that speaks deep into my heart is Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman:

Blessed be your name

In the land that is plentiful

Where the streams of abundance flow

Blessed be your name

Blessed be your name

When I'm found in the desert place

Though I walk through the wilderness

Blessed be your name

Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise

When the darkness closes in,
Lord, still I will say...
Blessed be the name of the Lord

I love this song. It reminds me that the test of my faith is found in the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart. What comes out of me is evidence of what is inside me. Am I filled with thankfulness to God or bitterness and resentments? Every year Thanksgiving reminds me that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart are to be a thankful response for the wonderful love that God has poured out to everyone of us in His Son, our Lord.

This song causes me to ponder two basic questions:
Can I appreciate and love God when life is hard?
Can I appreciate and love God when everything is going right?

You wouldn’t think praising God in times of abundance would be a challenge, but it can be. It is so easy to forget whom the goodness comes from and attribute it to circumstance or ourselves. In times of abundance we can quickly forget to thank the Lord from whom all blessings flow. When life is hard and things don’t go according to our plans we can slip into bitterness and lose faith and trust in the Lord. Faith is the assurance of the sure and certain hope we have in the goodness and love of God whether we have much or little; whether life is easy or hard.

The longest section of the Heidelberg Catechism is titled simply, Thankfulness. And teaches us that God has saved us at great expense so that “in our whole life we may show the ourselves grateful to God for his goodness”. For Christians, Thanksgiving is not just a day in November. Thanksgiving is the life we a called to live as followers of Jesus.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Solitude and Silence from Life Together

Solitude and Silence

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when he called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called. “The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death by himself, alone. . . . I will not be with you then, nor you with me” (Luther).

But the reverse is also true: Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called, the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone, even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you. “If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me” (Luther).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you.

There is a praise song I loved to sing a few years ago that you might remember: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you.
That song lyric is taken from a prayer that the Apostle Paul prays for the Church in Ephesus. Paul prays: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
We don’t think of our hearts having eyes. In fact this is the only place in scripture where this phrase is used. Paul is talking about our spiritual eyes. Jesus often said, He who has ears let him hear. Of course, everyone Jesus was speaking to had ears – but were they really hearing the message? Jesus’ people are to be people with vision. Vision is seeing clearing what God is doing now in the midst of us. Seeing what God is doing does not come naturally. Our natural vision is focused on ourselves, others, circumstances, and things. Vision from God, seeing with the eyes of our heart, is focused on things from above. The eyes of our hearts see things that are unseen by natural eyes.
I pray that God would open the eyes of our hearts to see what God is doing in the midst of us at New Hope. Paul prayed that the eyes of the Ephesians’ hearts would be opened as to have a clear vision of the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. I pray that the eyes of our New Hope hearts would be opened to the same things. We have been blessed with gifts and riches and power in the Spirit- abundantly supplied by our God and Father. The eyes of my heart were opened to this at our church picnic. I saw caring, hospitality, love and community. I saw a rich welcoming spirit and a warm embracing faith. I saw youth who cared about including others and providing well-planned fun activities. But most of all I saw the presence of a God who has richly blessed us with more than enough to go around. We have much to share with others.
All to often we focus on what we don’t have and miss what we do have. When this happens we miss out on being a part of the very thing God is doing and blessing. We also fall into the trap of scarcity and survival living, when God would have us live bold, trusting lives. God would call us to take risks for furthering His Kingdom, knowing that he is a good God and will supply all our need. May God open the eyes of hearts that we might have a clear vision of the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jesus is alive and well at New Hope Community Church

It has been a wonderful first month at New Hope! I am finding New Hope to be a lively, joyful group of faithful Christians. A lot of good things are going on here! We need to share the good news that Jesus is alive and well and dwelling among us at New Hope Community Church.
Before my first official Sunday at NHCC, I visited a worship service. Driving up to the property, I wondered if I was either too early or way too late. From Peralta Blvd. it appeared that no one was here and nothing much was going on. I was so surprised when I pulled into the driveway and saw a parking lot full of cars, people gathered by the entrance to the ministry center, and smiling greeters passing out bulletins. I thought, “Wow, this must be the best kept secret in Fremont!” And I wondered, “How can we let our neighbors know we are here worshipping God on Sundays? This should not be kept a secret.” During worship a few simple ideas came to mind. As I share them, God might bring some more ideas to you.
I decided that could to park out on the street in front of the church on Sundays. This way folks driving by will see that something is happening here. I am hoping that other church members might join me in this. We still need some cars in our parking lot, but it would be good if a few of us could park out front. Another way to let folks know we are here is to have a few A-frame signs out front on Sundays, maybe with a few helium balloons attached to create some interest. I am looking into having some signs made. Before I do that, I also am looking for someone who would be interested in putting the signs out each Sunday before worship and putting them back afterwards. Let me know if you feel called to help.
These simple things will help get the word out, but the best and most effective way to get the word out has not changed since Jesus walked the ancient roads of Galilee. The best and most effective way to get the word out has always been by word of mouth. We have no problem telling friends if we get a good deal at a local store or find a good restaurant or a good car mechanic. Businesses rise and fail on the words shared from the mouths of their customers. It is no different with churches. The words we share have great power to build up and to tear down. Telling our friends, neighbors and people that Jesus is alive and well and dwells among us as we gather in His name at New Hope Community Church is good news and needs to be shared. Who might you share this good word with today?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Settling in at New Hope

I am still getting settled in at New Hope. My office is still filled with boxes to be unpacked and my home is filled with boxes waiting to be packed and moved. Getting in, getting unpacked, getting settled takes time and planning. I’m sure that in a few months, I’ll feel like I’ve always been here – but right now everything is new and unfamiliar and at the same time very right and good.
Getting to know and connect with new people also takes time and intentionality. It is one thing to simply get someone’s name down and another thing all together to come to know each other as fellow members of God’s family. It can seem strange and awkward at first but then before you know it you feel like you’ve known each other for years.
I hope to be getting to know all the members and friends of New Hope over the next few months. I want to learn more about you than just your names and faces. I want to hear how you came to know Jesus and how and why you connected with our church. I want to hear your hopes, joys and concerns for New Hope as we learn to follow the Lord together. I want to discover the gifts and callings God has on your lives and find ways for us all to grow together in the things of God.
I want to meet with everyone who considers New Hope to be their church family. Some of you might like to meet in my office, others over coffee, and maybe some over dinner. There are sign up sheets out on the information table after worship where you can indicate, which type of meeting suits you and some general times that might work. After folks sign up, I’ll be in contact to set up a time to meet. I’m hoping this will be a great way to start the process of getting know each other better. I’m sure there will be some awkward moments and it will take me some time to get everyone’s name and face connected, but I’m also sure that it will all be good. I’m looking forward to getting to know you all better and serving Jesus with you at New Hope Community Church!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pictures from First Sunday at New Hope

Here are some pictures from my first Sunday at New Hope Community Church. If you'd like to see more click on the link to the right called "New Hope Pictures"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting Ready for New Hope

I’m sitting at my dining room table surrounded by boxes of the books, dishes and odds and ends that I have been packing. It is amazing how much stuff you can accumulate over the years! “To keep or not to keep?” That is the question that I am facing right now.

I am also pondering in curious wonder about the new joys and challenges that are waiting to be discovered at New Hope Community Church. I am looking forward to getting to know the New Hope church family and learning about our local mission field in the Fremont area. It will be a joy to visit with you and your families, learning your faith stories, ministry gifts and callings, and visions for New Hope.

Thank you to Rev. Jim Schoon for all the love and leadership through the years. I can already see that Jesus has been doing a good thing through the people who worship together at New Hope, and I am so glad to be invited to become part of it! I pray that God will lead us together as we follow Jesus in the months and years to come.

My first Sunday with at New Hope will be August 9. I’ll be getting settled in the office the week before that. If all goes well, I plan to see some of you at Spirit West Coast! You are all in my prayers, please pray for me as I keeping sorting and packing…

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Leaving Westminster...

I have two projects to attend to as I sit at my desk this morning. The first is to write a good-bye letter to Westminster and secondly, a hello letter to New Hope Community Church. Ecclesiastes 3:1 comes to mind: There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. I think it is no stretch to add to the well-known list that follows that there is also a time to say, “hello” and a time to say, “good-bye”.

It has been 11 years that I have lived, worshipped, prayed, laughed, cried, rejoiced and struggled with the saints at WPC. There have been so many changes in the past 11 years that in many ways I still feel like I just arrived. I have had some of the best and some of the hardest years of my life here in San Jose. You have been very kind and supportive of me and my family. I will fondly remember camping, back packing, neighborhood kindness evangelism, coffee houses, youth mission trips, youth worship bands, Lenten Friday dinners and more. I will especially hold dear in my heart those of you who warmly welcomed me into your homes and lives as we sought to serve Jesus as a community.

Seasons end and new seasons begin. That is the way of life and the way of a God who makes all things new. Seasons do not need to be compared or be in competition, they just need to be what they are: times when God has moved in proper ways for that season. So God is doing a new thing in my life as I move to New Hope Community Church and God is doing a new thing in the life of Westminster as the interim pastor arrives. I am happy to announce that this Sunday during worship the session will be announcing the new interim pastor. He is a good man with solid experience and a love for God and God’s church. I pray that you will welcome the interim pastor and his wife as you welcomed my family so long ago and open your hearts with expectation as you enter the interim season.

As I close, I need to mention a few logistics about the next few weeks:
My last Sunday preaching is July 12, but I will be pastor until July 31. The interim pastor will begin August 1. As many of you know Rev. Nancy Schell, is required to step down as Parrish Associate when the Senior Pastor leaves. Nancy’s last Sunday in worship will be July 19, but she will function as Parrish Associate, visiting the sick and meeting with the deacons, until July 31.

Again thank you all! Stay close to Jesus as His faithful disciples! I look forward to hearing great things about Westminster as you enter this new season under heaven.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Jamming with Melia

I had a fun time last night playing harmonica with Melia and the Robinson Family Blues band at Don Quixote’s in Felton, CA

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good way to start the day

A friend sent me the following prayer. I think it is a great way to start the day:
This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important, because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something that I have traded for it. I want it to be a gain, not a loss; good, not evil; success not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Some funny cartoons

A friend sent me these and I just had to share a few:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The New Puppy Wardrobe

A friend was inspired by the Toddler Diet I posted awhile back and came up with this great idea!

Pastor Steve’s blog article inspired me – So I want to tell you about the New Chic Way to Dress: The Puppy Wardrobe – Also Known As the Grunge Look

Now that we have a puppy I am changing the way I dress. For night wear I have a pair of pajamas with a rip in the knee where Wimsey decided to grab and hold on. But they go well with the slippers covered in mud and foxtails from chasing him around the backyard in the middle of the night.

For work I have nylons with runs that start at the ankle, because I am his favorite chew toy, pants with mud below the knee, where he ran and jumped up on me, sweaters with dog slobber all over the sleeves, and chew marks on my shoes. Everything goes really well with the scratch marks on my hands and arms (chew toy Mommy again) and the red eyes, from getting up in the middle of the night and at 5 AM every morning trips outside. Totally hip look. Really.

Let me know if you’d like to have “the look” also. I could arrange a puppy visit!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Westminster Annual Report

Most folks have heard by now that I am soon to leave Westminster to take a call at a new congregation in the SF Bay area. I am happy and sad at the same time. I have truly enjoyed the privilege of pastoring at Westminster and pray God's best for this part of the body of Christ as they move forward in God's plan for them.

For some reason it is the custom at WPC for annual reports to come at the end of the first quarter of the new calendar year - I have always found it hard to think back over the last year when we get so far into the new year - Anyway - I wrote an annual report a few weeks ago and I think it would be good to post it here as a way of thanking God for last year and moving forward with joy and thankfulness into a new year that is full of many unknowns for all of us...

Isaiah 35:10
Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and with singing unto Zion and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

2008 and into 2009 has been a rough time for many of us. Unrest over denominational issues, disappointment with the church, loved ones dying, lost jobs, friends moving away, savings and retirement funds lost, family troubles and illness are just a few of the hard things members of our church have faced this past year. We may have moved into a new calendar year, but for those who are still experiencing loss nothing is new. The dates on the calendar may have changed but for many the season remains the same.
The Scriptures take pain and loss very seriously, but the Scriptures also take joy very seriously. I remember starting a sermon series on joy at the start of 2008. I shared about joy being a gift from God and a spiritual discipline to be entered into and exercised. When I preached that series, I didn’t realize how much those words would be needed in the months to come.

Jesus teaches about the joy of the Lord that can be found and experienced even in the most painful times. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us: Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. C.S. Lewis wrote that joy is not so much the attainment of a hope or desire, but the anticipation of the fulfillment of that hope or desire. True joy can only be found when and if the object of hope is also true. Jesus is our true Joy. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. We can endure the hard parts of our lives for Jesus, the joy set before us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, is key to finding joy in the midst of hardship. Joy is a gift to be received from God but also a way of life to be learned. In 2008, many of us learned Joy the hard way. Thanks be to God that though He seems at times to be far away, he is always closer than we could ever imagine.

There were also many bright spots in 2008 that we should not overlook. Our small group ministry had 7 study groups and 5 fellowship groups going in 2008. Thanks to Debbie Piper for leading a training workshop for small group leaders. Thanks to the Maxwell’s, many of us met in dinner groups to help build community. Thanks to the Jerosko’s for the painting of the sanctuary, the remolding of the bathrooms and painting the new meeting rooms in the Ed. Building. Thanks to Steve Ringer for all the progress on the playground. Thanks to Betty Slater for getting us involved in the community 4th of July parade where our VBS float took a prize. Thanks to Mary Fatula for keeping us actively supporting the food bank and thanks to Jim Rose for keeping us involved in the Crop Walk. The Rolston’s and Paul Dawdy have been very helpful connecting our youth group with the youth from Immanuel and Santa Clara Presbyterian Churches as we explore a shared youth ministry. Thanks to the Mission’s Committee for making my Africa trip to visit our missionaries possible. Thanks to Peter Barrett and Celeste Pellet for the Stations of the Cross art and dramas for Lent 2008. Thanks to everyone who did their part and pulled together to serve Jesus as a community of faith in 2008.

Looking in to the rest of 2009, I want to uplift the efforts of Steve Jenks, Joe Fatula and Rick Marovich. They have formed an outreach team and have planned a schedule of special events for 2009. The first three movie nights were very well done. Thanks to everyone who helped. The team plans the events, but it is up to the rest of us to get behind the team and encourage attendance and participation. I am looking forward to more creative community building activities from our outreach team in 2009.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Jedi's Birthday

We had an early birthday party for Micah and Jedi. Here a few pictures of the grandkids.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lily and Grandpa at the Sacramento Zoo

Update on the Ordination Standards Vote:

According to a Presbyterian News Service press release our denomination decided for the fourth time in 12 years to require that ordained church leaders are to be faithful in marriage and chaste if single.
Terry Schlossberg of the Presbyterian Coalition, a group that supported defeat of the change made this comment:
Since the 1970s the PC (USA) has heard, considered, and responded to appeals to change her standard of sexual morality. Those who wish to change the biblically rooted standard have continually pressed the matter and required repeated votes that have had the same outcome each time. It is well past time to acknowledge that the Church today, as throughout her history, knows her mind on this matter, and that it is the mind of Christ. It is time to call for forbearance from those who constantly disturb the peace and unity of the church. It is time to live into our decision about sexual morality. Now it is time to live out the decision pastorally, leading people out of our society's sexual confusion into repentance and newness of life.

Sad to say the PCUSA is fragmented and disjointed in our understandings of many of the core beliefs that have long held us together. The debate about sexual behavior is not the cause but rather a symptom of a much deeper divide. We are sorely divided on common understanding of Scripture, who Jesus is and what He calls His church to do and be. I appreciate Terry Schlossberg’s words and encouragement. It is time to move forward from endless debates. After over 30 years of lobbying for gay ordination it is time to stop disturbing the peace and unity of the church. Please pray for the PCUSA and ask God to reform us once again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Miracle Toddler Diet! Guaranteed Results!!!

People are always on the lookout for a new diet. The trouble with most diets is that you don't get enough to eat (the starvation diet), you don't get enough variation (the liquid diet) or you go broke (the all-meat diet). Consequently, people tend to cheat on their diets, or quit after 3 days.

Well, now there's the new Toddler Miracle Diet. Over the years you may have noticed that most two-year-olds are trim. Now the formula to their success is available to all in this new diet. You may want to consult your doctor before embarking on this diet, otherwise, you may be seeing him afterwards. Good Luck !!!


Breakfast: One scrambled egg, one piece of toast with grape jelly.
Eat 2 bites of egg, using your fingers; dump the rest on the floor.
Take 1 bite of toast, then smear the jelly over your face and clothes.
Lunch: Four crayons (any color), a handful of potato chips, and a glass of milk (3 sips only, then spill the rest).
Dinner: A dry stick, two pennies and a nickel, 4 sips of flat Sprite.
Bedtime snack: Throw a piece of toast on the kitchen floor.


Breakfast: Pick up stale toast from kitchen floor and eat it. Drink half bottle of vanilla extract or one vial of vegetable dye.
Lunch: Half tube of "Pulsating Pink" lipstick and a handful of Purina Dog Chow (any flavor). One ice cube, if desired.
Afternoon snack: Lick an all-day sucker until sticky, take outside, drop in dirt. Retrieve and continue slurping until it is clean again. Then bring inside and drop on rug.
Dinner: A rock or an uncooked bean, which should be thrust up your left nostril. Pour Grape Kool-Aid over mashed potatoes; eat with spoon.


Breakfast: Two pancakes with plenty of syrup, eat one with fingers, rub in hair. Glass of milk; drink half, stuff other pancake in glass.
After breakfast, pick up yesterdays sucker from rug, lick off fuzz, put it on the cushion of best chair.
Lunch: Three matches, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Spit several bites onto the floor.
Pour glass of milk on table and slurp up.
Dinner: Dish of ice cream, handful of potato chips, some red punch. Try to laugh some punch through your nose, if possible.

Breakfast: A quarter tube of toothpaste (any flavor), bit of soap, an olive. Pour a glass of milk over bowl of cornflakes, add half a cup of sugar. Once cereal is soggy, drink milk and feed cereal to dog.
Lunch: Eat bread crumbs off kitchen floor and dining room carpet. Find that sucker and finish eating it.
Dinner: A glass of spaghetti and chocolate milk. Leave meatball on plate. Stick of mascara for dessert.

Repeat Every Four Days!
However, Sorry-to-say, in order to lose the entire 75# in 2 weeks, you’ll need a support system and only BEING a “toddler” will guarantee these results!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I've been waiting for a good poem

I've been waiting for a good poem. I heard this on the Writer's Alamanac podcast this morning:

Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, 'We are All Writing God's Poem'

by Barbara Crooker

Today, the sky's the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, "The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it's stranger than we can think." I think
I've driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark's bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren't we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: "There is no end of things
in the heart," but it seems like things
are always ending—vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit—
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.

"Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, 'We are All Writing God's Poem'" by Barbara Crooker, from Line Dance. © Word Press, 2008. Reprinted

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Easter Faith

Easter is a time of newness and life! Jesus rose victorious over sin and the grave! The great rally cry of the church is “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” Notice the cry is Christ is risen, not was raised. The spell checker on my computer has never approved of or liked the sentence Christ is risen. When we speak of our risen Lord and Savior, we are speaking of something that doesn’t fit easily into the language and thought of our normal natural world. We are proclaiming a message that is bigger and grander than our systems and constructs. In Jesus Christ, the word became flesh, the outside came in, God moved into our neighborhood and the world was never the same again. Jesus was raised from the dead on that first Easter and he also is risen now and forever more. Our verbiage is inadequate when it comes to speaking about the one who is and was and who is to come all at the same time. I’m thinking that the message cannot be fully expressed or contained in words alone. God has never stopped being in the business of making words become flesh and blood reality. That Christ is risen is a message that is lived. The words, Christ is risen, become flesh and blood reality as we live in a community of faith in the world today, in the now. It is a message that language alone is incapable of fully expressing. It is a message that needs to be seen and experienced as well as heard.
Easter Sunday is a wonderful Sunday to invite someone to visit Westminster. The pancake breakfast, special music in worship, the egg hunt after worship all work together as a celebration of Jesus and who he is in our lives. People are more open to going to worship during holiday times and we can take advantage of that openness. I encourage everyone to invite someone to our Easter worship celebration. The number one reason someone visits a church is because someone they know and trust invites them. People find Jesus when they are found by others who cared enough to seek and search and invite. Someone once invited you to worship with them, now is a good time to pay that favor forward and invite someone to come to worship with you. I hope to see you and your friends in worship on Easter Sunday.

Monday, January 05, 2009


It is so easy to fall back into the familiar when we try to change. We have all found this to be true. You know the drill, New Year arrives and you embark on turning over that new leaf and attempting an exercise plan or new budget or new diet. You might start out strong but before long you drift back to the same old habits. If it is hard enough for an individual to keep from falling back into the familiar, imagine how hard it is for a whole family or a church to change. Even when the new ways are more effective and healthier, we tend to favor the known and familiar. Maintaining change is hard.

I have been a Presbyterian for over 50 years and a Presbyterian minister for 23 years. So, I can say that I have come by my Presbyterian ways and habits honestly. I believe that there a many good things about our PCUSA systems and structures, but I also think that some of the things we’ve inherited are no longer serving us as well as they did 30 years ago, or 500 years ago. Sometimes I feel like we are still revering an 8-track system in an ipod world. I’m not into change for change’s sake, but I do think we need to experiment and risk and try to find better ways to live and grow together as a church living in the contemporary world.

Last year the congregation voted to amend our bylaws to allow for a smaller session, as way to free elders to be a governing and visioning body. As the elders are no longer chairing the majority of committees, we now allow for others who are gifted and called to lead in new and innovative ways without having to also be elders. Believe me, it has been hard not to fall back into the familiar. Especially for me as I have been a part of the old system for so long. As we end our first year and start another, I want to thank our session for the willingness to try new things and to pull us back on track when we have fallen back on old habits or gotten side tracked along the way. We are blessed with good leaders, from very diverse backgrounds, who all bring different thoughts and gifts to the mix. I am amazed at the many times they reach consensus and also impressed on how they have been willing to risk and move forward when they’ve had a difference of opinion and had to vote.

Two experiences have encouraged me in the quest to find new and better structures for Church life. The first is that I attended a conference last year that was about a new, innovative leadership structure that would work well with Presbyterian churches. Imagine my surprise and affirmation to find that it was almost exactly like what we are trying at WPC! Others are have the same problems and finding similar possibilities! The second experience was a visit to Westminster from a General Assembly committee that is looking at ways to help churches be more successful. I had a great meeting with the GA committee and they were very impressed with our plan and hope to have some follow up meetings to learn from our experience.

As we move forward into 2009, the session will be having a retreat to evaluate our progress, appoint new committee chairs and ministry leaders and seek God for his leading and direction for church. Please pray for our church leaders and encourage them as they seek to explore new and better ways to help people find their gifting and calling in the Lord.