photo showing part of a bible.

Each week one of our pastors or staff members writes a column observing what is going on in our congregation, the Church and the world, and offering reflections on the Christian life and faith. Through this series of columns, we hope to connect your and our story to the enduring story of Christ; to offer pastoral reflections on our ongoing congregational life and mission; to report on news of the Presbyterian Church and Church universal; and to invite further reflection and deeper discipleship. We welcome your comments and suggestions. In other words, our words here are an invitation to continue the conversation.

All Creatures Great and Small

Some years ago, while pondering the summertime rhythms when folks are going and coming, the pastors decided to create a preaching theme for the season. The faces in the pulpit and pews change from week to week, but a series of sermons on a particular topic would provide a sense of continuity. One year, we polled the congregation and asked what theological themes you would like for the preacher to address. Two summers were spent preaching the Old and New Testament stories we teach our younger children. To our surprise there were texts to which a grownup member would say, “I’ve never heard that Bible story before,” and those summers took on the feeling of Vacation Bible Camp for adults!

Streaming Good News

Some years back, in the early days of the pandemic, I wrote an open letter apology as a pastor’s column to Tammy Faye Bakker. If you’re bored, you can read it here. In the 1970s and '80s, she and her husband, Jim, had built a media religious empire through televangelism. They had broadcast networks, merchandise, and eventually a Christian theme park. Of course, it all came crashing down following a very public scandal in 1987. I had assumed that as a mainline Christian, I would never need any of the tools they possessed to carry out ministry to an entirely virtual audience. But I was wrong.

Pentecost Sunday

There is an evaluative tool called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, which seeks to measure the impact of stressors in one’s life that might lead to resulting personal vulnerability. In using the tool, you can choose from a list of emotionally challenging events that you have encountered in the previous year. The list includes things like the death of a close friend, a change in living situation, and uncertainty about the future, among others. The ratings suggest that if you come up with a score over 300, you will be highly susceptible to stress-related illness. 1

Advocating for Change

This past Tuesday, alongside BMPC members, fellow Presbyterians, interfaith leaders, community members, and folks from all around Pennsylvania, I traveled to Harrisburg to participate in a CeaseFire PA event, advocating at the state house for the passage of common-sense gun legislation.

Confirmation Expo 2024

Each year, our Confirmation students go through a year of Sunday morning study, learning about who Jesus is, what it means to be a Christian, the purpose of the Christian Bible, church history, and more. They met monthly with a Confirmation Mentor, a congregation member who committed to be in spiritual friendship with the student, discussing questions about what we learn each Sunday. Confirmands also went on a Confirmation Retreat at Johnsonburg Camp in October this year. They also participated in a Casserole Blitz, where they experienced Christian service together with their mentors. 

Earth Day Should Be Everyday

This past Monday, I watched the evening news and the fact that April 22 was Earth Day came to the fore in the last thirty seconds of the broadcast, almost an afterthought. The Supreme Court was taking up a state law cracking down on the homeless, the trial of the former President began in Manhattan, there was some big basketball news as I remember it, and major university campuses were in an uproar of protests, the likes of which the nation hasn’t seen since the Viet Nam War. Earth Day? There wasn’t much room amid the national and international coverage for Earth Day 2024.

Brahms’ “Requiem”

Twenty-four years ago, I was in the midst of post-recording production with the recording engineer who recorded the Sanctuary Choir’s Christmas CD, “Welcome Yule.” Producing a CD is an immense amount of work. Each piece is recorded 3-5 times. One CD can easily take four long evenings to record. The production process takes even longer. About halfway through the editing, our producer, George Blood, asked me, “Jeff, what do you think the five greatest choral works are?” I quickly responded with, “J.S. Bach’s “Mass in B-minor,” Mozart’s “Requiem,” Mendelssohn’s “Elijah,” Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis,” and Brahms’ “Requiem.” Over my long career, I have had the privilege of conducting all these works, in some cases, several times. Of all these works, Brahms’ “Requiem” holds the most special place in my heart. I am thrilled to be able to conduct this masterpiece on Sunday, April 28, at 4:00 p.m. with our sublime Sanctuary Choir.