Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Caroling 2008

Here are some pictures from the Christmas Caroling last Saturday night. Thanks to everyone who came out and sang and everyone who let us sing to them. Special thanks to those who organized the wonderful dinner beforehand and the hot chocolate lounge afterward.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

They Did It!

For the past two years CPC's Sunday School has been saving up to donate $1,500 to purchase a Joy to the World animal collection for Heifer International. They've collected cans, done good deeds, solicited donations at church fairs, sold various items after church, participated in the Gardener's Market and more. Just last week CPC's Mission Treasurer counted all the money and cut the check. Two sheep, four goats, a heifer cow, and two lamas are on their way to helping impoverished rural families. Our youngest Sunday School class also added some pigs. Thanks to everyone who contributed in ways large and small. A special thanks to Lorne Birch for continuing our focus on this important mission.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Family Advent Kick-off

CPC got a surprise donation of a rather worn outdoor nativity set so after a great dinner we set to work with paint, brushes and artistic sensibility. Take a look at the pictures and look for the figures to grace the church lawn in a few days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How'd you spend $85,000?

In my sermon Sunday, I suggested that if everyone in the congregation committed just 5% of their income to the ministry and work of Jesus Christ through Community Presbyterian Church, we would have a surplus of $85,000. I then challenged you to brainstorm on how you might spend it. Here is what you came up with in worship. Have any more ideas? Add a comment by clicking on the comments link below.

Suggestions on how to spend $85,000

Finance handicapped access (4 people)
Build a youth and/or community center (3 people)
Improve energy efficiency (2 people)
Find the bell
Provide hot lunches
Sponsor a speaker series
Buy more handbells
Start a nursery school
Support Meals on Wheels
Parish nurse
Expand giving to Presbytery & LICC
Downstairs piano
New kitchen
Seat cushions
Support Menaul School

In preparing my sermon, I came up with a whole list of possibilities. Play the movie below to view what I came up with.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Harvest Market and Dinner

A rare and exceptional thing

Last Sunday, Community Presbyterian paused toward the end of the service to remember long time member Bill Vath. There are many times when as a church we do not live up to our calling to live out the kingdom of God with each other and to illustrate Christ's kingdom to the world. Last Sunday the forgiveness, compassion and blessings of Christ's kingdom were fully visible.

The web is too public a place to go into why this was the case, and those who know, know. But as Pastor I am incredibly proud of Community Presbyterian for the love, caregiving and reconciliation that was shown. We lived out what we preach, and that, even in the church, is a rare and exceptional thing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

75th Anniversary Party

It was a wonderful evening at the Pompeii on Sunday, a big family reunion spent connecting with old friends, remembering memories of the church, enjoying good music and eating good food. Many thanks to the Anniversary Team for all their hard work putting this together. Thanks to all the local merchants who contributed to our raffle. Thanks to everyone who came. Thanks to Elina for taking on the role of photographer. A slide show of some of her pictures is below.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Crop Walk 2008

We hit the pathways of Baldwin Park on Saturday for the annual South Nassau CROP Walk to benefit Church World Service and the Long Island Council of Churches Food Pantry in Freeport. Thanks to everyone who walked. Here are some pictures.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Reflections from Mission Sunday - II

In planning Mission Sunday, I spent a lot of time talking with senior citizens in our community. Initially we planned to send teams only to the houses of senior citizens in our congregation; but they either wanted to be at church to make blankets or "had everything under control." So I secured an invitation to drop in on the Malverne Seniors Club, which meets at Village Hall every Thursday. A few observations:

  • Anyone interested in developing a snow shoveling business would find plenty of work. Snow removal is the number one task that seniors expressed a desire for help with around their house. Many lamented the passing of a time when groups of teens would come around after snow storms and offer to shovel.
  • Many of the seniors were skeptical about our offer of free help on a specific day. What they really wanted was someone they could call with small household related needs whom they knew to be honest and affordable.
  • Help filling out forms and paperwork around property tax discounts, medicare, and other paper-heavy transactions was as needed as assistance with household chores.
  • As our society becomes more cash based and increasingly individualistic, many people struggle with receiving free assistance from strangers. The Mission Sunday projects were designed to be neighborly, not charity. We were not seeking those who could not help themselves, who could not pay or who had no other options. We were merely seeking to provide a friendly smile, some youthful energy and a little help around the house. Yet I sensed that to many, to accept help would be to accept charity, and that went against their grain. I wonder if we would have gotten a different response if we called the day a fundraiser and charged.

Reflections from Mission Sunday

Last Sunday, October 5th, was Mission Sunday. When I was a kid, Mission Sunday usually involved having a guest speaker who was a missionary and taking a special offering. Thanks to our Hands On Mission Team, we decided to put our faith into action by exchanging sitting in the sanctuary listening to Pastor Fritz for going out and practicing our faith through mission projects in the community.

I went with a group of people to take church to one of our members who has found it increasingly difficult to come to church. What a joy it was to see him singing along to This is the Day, and joining us in prayer. Elina came with us and gave voice to a piano which, while a fixture in his living room, had not been played since his wife died. We then played several games of bingo, with the only prize being the pleasure of bring joy, prayers and company to one person's life.

A second team went and helped a neighbor with odd jobs around her house. The crew washed windows and removed an air conditioner for winter and helped us all remember a time when neighborliness was not confused with charity.

A third group stayed at the church and turned large swaths of Polartek into blankets. When finished we will take the blankets to a battered womens' shelter or somewhere else where they are needed.

As we reconvened over pizza afterwards, spirits were high. It was good to be outside of the building, working among our neighbors and sharing our faith through our hands, our footsteps and our smiles. Unfortunately, nobody took any pictures - so you'll just have to imagine.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Suburban Spirituality

Our special guest, Marie Zupka Ludder, offered some reflections Sunday morning on how to stay focused on God in the midst of the business of life. Here is a snap-shot:

1. Heed the calls to prayer of daily life. When you hear the fire siren or the ambulance wail, take a moment to pray for those in danger and those responding. When you hear the train whistle, pray for those on their way to work or home.

2. Thank God for our food. We pray "Give us this day our daily bread" and need to respond with "Thank you Lord for this food," whether its a formal prayer during family dinner or a quick prayer in the drive through or as we munch a Snickers.

3. Set an extra place for Jesus. Remember when we are gathered at the table for meal time that Jesus is with us. Some families have found the practice of setting an extra place setting for Jesus to be a profound reminder of Christ's presence.

4. Journal. Keep a small note book during the day to write reflections of how God is working and worries and concerns to lift up in prayer.

5. Pray the news. As you scan the headlines, lift up the world and those in it in prayer.

6. Let waiting time be prayer time Instead of getting all anxious when we wait, turn it into a time of prayer. Marie advocates "guerilla prayer" - stealth prayers for those in your vicinity who are especially distressed - the mother in the shopping line, the fellow commuter on the train, the driver in the traffic jam about to explode in road rage.

7. Go out like the Wise Men, seeking Jesus. Put a star by the door you use most often to go in and out of your home to remind you of the Wise Men and their search for Jesus. Go about your day in the same spirit.

Marie is Associate for Congregational Resources at the Presbytery of Long Island.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to Give to Hurricane Relief

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is Mobilized!

If you want to help you
r neighbors (no matter where they live) recover from one of the four hurricanes/tropical storms that have hit so far this hurricane season, you can do it three ways:
  1. Put a check made out to Community Presbyterian Church, and with either "US Hurricane Relief" or "Caribbean Hurricane Relief" on the memo line. Gifts made this way will be credited to our church's mission giving.
  2. Go to to give online with a credit card. You can choose to give to US or Caribbean relief, or both. These gifts won't be credited to the church, but if it's more convenient for you, that's great.
  3. Assemble, or give money for, a Disaster kit - a 5 Gallon bucket containing everything from scrub brushes to work gloves to clothes line. The kits are distributed by Church World Service, our disaster relief partner through the National Council of Churches. For more info on kits go to If you make a kit, you can drop it off at the church - just make a small cash donation to help with shipping.
Don't forget that Haiti, especially, has little of the infrastructure and aid systems available in the US--they need as much help as they can get after being hit by multiple storms in a matter of days.

I know it doesn't always feel like it, but most of us experience more plenty than need. God has given us that plenty so that we can help those in need. These are our neighbors. Let's care for them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Black Monday

As I got off the train today in Manhattan the mood was grim. Bear Sterns seemed manageable. Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac seemed like a Washington problem that Washington solved. But somehow Lehman Brothers was different. It seemed closer to home, another domino that fell, with AIG waiting in the wings.

While the news cameras showed Lehman Brothers staff cleaning out their offices, my friends were calculating which of their friends would be affected and my organization, The Bowery Mission, were calculating how many of our donors were now broke. It seemed a bad day for the financial sector and a bad day for fundraisers.

And it was a good day to remember that we worship the God who created heaven and earth and not the bronze bull that is firmly anchored on Wall Street. We're taught and acculturated to measure our worth and our security by the size of our pay check, the diversity of our portfolio, the assets invested in our houses and how our cars stack up against our neighbors. Now our lust for that worth, our desire to leverage everything in an attempt to find wealth where there is none, has created a house of cards which is causing much pain and fear as it falls.

"In life and in death we belong to God," begins the PC(USA)'s Brief Statement of Faith. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," scripture tells us, "and everything else will be granted to you." These are not mere words. Times like these remind us that these are the fundamental truths of life.

Be sure to pray for those whose jobs are gone, whose houses are slipping away, for whom security has been replaced by fear and uncertainty.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Eat Local, Share Local

Earlier this year our Stewardship Team came up with a simple idea with profound implications. Once backyard gardens started producing we would put a table up in back of the church. Any gardener with extra produce could leave it on the table. Anyone who needed produce could help themselves. Because we live in a consumer culture, we did put a basket out for money. But we didn't put prices on things and the money would go to church mission projects (the Food Pantry and Heifer) instead of to the gardeners.

As I've watch the table pile with produce before services and empty at the end of services, it occurs to me that there are other areas of our lives in which we have abundance and others may have scarcity. I know of a church member who tends the lawns of his neighbors. He has an abundance of time and likes doing lawn work. They are unable to do lawn work. I know of parents with an abundance of love who end up welcoming all the children in the neighborhood into their house. I know of neighbor of mine with an extra bedroom, who lent it to a friend of a friend who needed a place to stay. I know of a man with an abundance of money who gives most of each pay check away.

Jesus tells of a man who had a harvest so big he could never sell it all, so he enlarged his barns and gloried in his abundance. Jesus calls this man a fool. When our lives overflow with abundance, we can bless others and gain blessing ourselves when we share that abundance with others.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pine Brook Clean-up

Many thanks to the approximately 40 people who showed up this morning to help clean Pine Brook here in Malverne. We filled more garbage bags than we could count, removed about a quarter of a car from the woods and pulled about four shopping carts, a gas grill, an old type writer, a swing set and a desk chair from the brook. We found a deer path and fresh deer scat, learned to identify poison ivy and educated the youth of Malverne about almost every conceivable brand of beer.

Those with long memories reminded us of a time when locals fished for mackerel and went swimming in the brook's many lakes and pools. We all experienced the peace that comes from standing in the shade of dense woods as the world passes us by. "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it," we are reminded by the Psalmist. Today we got a glimpse of that grandeur and accepted our God given responsibility to be stewards of all God has given us, including natural space. The result, a few acres left a little better than when we found them.

Scroll down for pictures.

Special thanks to:
Malverne United Free School District
Mayor Patti McDonald and the Village of Malverne
Toni Sussman
Paul Jessup and the Malverne DPW
Malverne Police Reserve
Long Island American Water
Boy Scout Troop 24
Girl Scout Troop 1209
CPC Malverne Stewardship Team

Ocean Avenue Before

Pine Brook Before

Scout Troop 24

A Morning's Work

Ocean Avenue After

The Welcoming Crew

Don dumps his boots

Bowery Mission Trip - August 21

A huge thank you to everyone who went on the trip to serve lunch at The Bowery Mission. Some of us helped organize the pantry. Others made a huge salad. Michael showed his skill at cutting cake. Marianela was a pro at the frier. Lunch was a superb tuna salad on a bun with french fries, salad, cake and purple drink. The line stretched out the door but there was enough food for all.

Before lunch we went to the chapel service - done by some guy from Tennessee who either wants to be a rock musician or an evangelist, never quite figured out which. Mostly, though, he went way long - nothing like a room full of people who haven't eaten in a while and the preacher goes long.

Check out the pictures below!

Pantry organizing

Making Salad

Fry Cook

Serving Lunch

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pine Brook Clean-up

Saturday, August 23
8:00 - noon
Pine Brook between Whalen Field & Malverne High

Come when you can, stay as long as you can.

Wear long pants, long sleeve shirts, gloves, sturdy shoes.

In partnership with the Village of Malverne and Mayor Patti McDonald. Special thanks to Long Island Water, Malverne DPW, Malverne Police and Auxiliary Police.

Get a map to see where to go!

Why is a church sponsoring a clean-up?

Because “The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it/the world, and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1

We have been entrusted with the care of the Earth on behalf of God the Creator. Our labors will prevent trash from running into Long Island’s bays and the Atlantic Ocean.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Songs of Praise - Spirituals

All summer in worship we're focusing on church music. We're also singing our hearts out. Last Sunday we, a predominantly while congregation, tried to navigate our way through the spirituals. We didn't come close to singing them like they were sung by our sisters and brothers who suffered through slavery, but we found meaning any way.

Our hymn of the day was There is a Balm in Gilead. We also sang Amen, Amen; I've Got Peace Like a River; Every Time I Feel the Spirit and My Lord, What a Morning.

Mostly, however, Pastor Fritz discussed the role of the spiritual in helping African-Americans develop a theology of hope and perseverance in the face of suffering. In doing so, he quoted liberally from an interview between Crista Tippett, host of Speaking of Faith and actor, singer and missionary Joe Carter. LIsten or read the interview for yourself.

YouTube: Every Time I Feel the Spirit - a thousand variations, one song.

Songs of Praise - Dr. Watts & John Newton

All summer in worship we're focusing on church music. We're also singing our hearts out. On August 3 we focused on the greatest English language hymn writer - Isaac Watts and the greatest English language hymn - Amazing Grace. (Written not by Isaac Watts, but by John Newton.)

We mostly sang the classics by Watts: Joy to the World, I Sing the MIghty Power of God, I Love the Lord who Heard my Cry and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

But we focused on Amazing Grace.

What struck me most as I studied this hymn was how the last verse:
"When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun"

moves the hymn from earth to heaven. This verse is why we sing Amazing Grace at funerals. But John Newton didn't write the last verse. His verses are very much bound here on earth. Try singing Amazing Grace without the last verse. It's a different song. Just as beautiful. Just as meaningful. But different.

Amazing Grace sculpture by Gail Collins
Amazing Grace collage by Amy Rehnae
Amazing Grace the movie

Pray global, pray local

There weren't many of us at church on Sunday and I was debating whether to say anything about the conflict between Georgia and Russia during the prayer time when an elderly member of the congregation raised her hand and requested prayer for her aid, whose family lived in Georgia and whose 18 year-old son was at risk for being called up in the draft. Another person just had a close relative return from Baghdad. Yet another had a husband serving in Afghanistan.

In my sermon I played an excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s sermon Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool. I played the end - where King quotes from the spiritual There Is a Balm In Gilead to make his point about the need to rely on God to make through difficult times. Earlier in the sermon, however, King speaks about how dependent and connected we are with others around the world. "You can't leave home in the morning," King says, "without being dependent on the rest of the world."

It seems easier to pray for the troubles that are in our face rather than those half way across the world. It seems easier to pray for seemingly manageable things - such as successful surgeries performed by top rated doctors - than unmanagable things such as war and peace. But I was reminded on Sunday that what is far is also near. I was also reminded that what seems impossible is possible.

So we should pray for peace - whether in Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraq or anywhere else, knowing that not only are we praying for the world, but we're praying for our immediate neighbors as well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Songs of Praise - Medieval

All summer in worship we're focusing on church music. We're also singing our hearts out. Last Sunday we focused on music composed during the middle ages, especially the poetry and chant that came out of the monasteries and entered popular song. Here is what we sang:

We started the service with a recording of the vocal historians Anonymous 4 singing the music of Hildegarde von Bingen, a saint, mystic, writer, composer and one of the most powerful women in Medieval Europe.

Two great monks dominated our singing: Saint Frances of Assisi (1200) and Bernard de Clairvaux (1100). Saint Bernard (no relation to the dog) wrote epic devotional poems. O Sacred Head Now Wounded consists of the final section on a poem meditating on Christ's body. Jesus Thou Joy of Loving Hearts is excerpted from a 42 stanza poem on Christ's love. Saint Francis wrote his Canticle of the Sun (All Creatures of our God and King) in a fit of inspiration while eating dinner. His Prayer of Saint Frances (Lord Make Us Servants of your Peace - link is a video) is one of the most enduring prayers ever written.

Our hymn of the day was the ancient Irish poem Be Thou My Vision (Gailic: Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride), set to the equally ancient Irish tune SLOAN.

We rounded out our singing with Come Down, O Love Divine, written by the Italian monk Bianco da Siena and, because it was July 4th, we threw in My Country Tis of Thee.

John of Salsbury Quote:
“See that what you sing with your mouth you believe in your heart, and that what you believe in your heart your obey in our works”

Pastor Fritz Quote:
Our inheritance is that of Christ. Christ is in us and Christ lives through us. What more do we need?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Songs of Praise - Early Church

All summer in worship we're focusing on church music. We're also singing our hearts out. Last Sunday we focused on music composed during the first centuries of the church, and with Delaney serving as cantor we also tried our hand at singing acappella, much as they did in the first centuries. Here is what we sang:
  • Gloria Patri: We sing it every Sunday, but this week we paid particular attention, noting that it is derived from the first Christian hymn, the angels' song to the shepherds in Luke 2:14. We also sang the first few lines of John Weaver's Gloria in Excelsis, a musical setting of one of the church's oldest liturgies.
  • Father we Praise Thee: A morning hymn by Gregory the Great, Pope around 600 AD, inventor of Gregorian Chant and one of the most influential musicians of the Western church.
  • Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence: An ancient communion liturgy from Jerusalem and the Eastern Orthodox tradition. We usually sing it as an Advent carol.
  • Lord Jesus Think on Me: Another ancient liturgy attributed to Synesius of Cyrene, who was Bishop of Ptolemais around 400 AD.
  • Of the Father's Love Begotten: Written around 400 AD by the prominent Latin poet Aurelius Clemens Prudentius and set to a gorgeous plainsong melody.
Apostle Paul Quote:
“Be filled with the Spirit as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18-19)

Pastor Fritz Quote:
The angelic song [Glory be to the highest and on earth peace to those whom God favors] holds forth as the only appropriate response to the inbreaking of God into our lives.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

General Assembly round up

Okay. Fidelity and chastity has been dealt with. (See previous post.) What else did the General Assembly do that will have an effect on us at Community Presbyterian?

Over 1,000 pieces of business went before the GA. Some of it was routine. Some of it dealt with important matters, such as electing the moderator, publicly supporting a two state solution for Israel/Palestine or nailing down details regarding the use of restricted endowment funds by the denomination, that will have little bearing on our life together as a congregation.

In a few cases the assembly's inaction mattered more than their action. The Assembly voted down a fifth denominational offering in support of international mission (I think they should have replaced the Pentecost or Peacemaking offering with the mission offering; I think a mission offering would greatly benefited our congregations and our denomination.), they sent a major revision of the Book of Order back for continued discussion, and they overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to change the definition of marriage from "man & woman" to "two people."

If we choose to take it seriously, the one thing that could affect our congregation more than anything else is the denomination's new two-year evangelism emphasis called "Grow the Church Deep and Wide." This emphasis calls for all congregations to adopt a three-pronged approach to church growth - numerical growth, growth in Christian discipleship and growth in congregational diversity. It sounds wonderful, it may even sound like "that's what we've been doing all along" but to take it seriously would require us to redefine how we do church. To take it seriously would require us to:
  1. Move beyond Sunday morning Christianity, engaging as a congregation in individual and group Bible studies, mission projects and outreach efforts so that we grow as Christians, deepen our faith and have more opportunities to invite our neighbors.
  2. Actively evaluate our congregation's relationship with our neighborhood asking: who are our neighbors? how can we best communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them? how can we serve or minister to them? how can we welcome them into our community? And then make changes based on what we learn.
  3. Experience the demographic changes around us as opportunities for ministry rather than reasons for fear and be willing to make changes in how we worship and fellowship to better include those who speak different languages or have different cultural backgrounds.
  4. We would have to turn some of our congregational investment outward even though it feels like we don't even have enough resources to survive.
It is likely this call to growth and discipleship will be swallowed up in the debate over "fidelity and chastity." I think our congregation would be better served by ignoring the debate over "fidelity and chastity" and make "Grow the church deep and wide" our objective for the next two years.

More on Grow Deep and Wide
More on the General Assembly Meeting
Previous post on the "fidelity and chastity" debate
Previous post about the new moderator

The official summaries are not yet online. I'll post a link when they go up.

GA Proposal to delete "fidelity and chastity"

Note: The following represents my (Pastor Fritz's) personal views and not an official point of view of Community Presbyterian Church.

Last night the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to delete what had become known as the "fidelity and chastity" amendment in the church constitution and replace it with a requirement that clergy live in faithfulness to their ordination vows. (Read the official news article) The debate now moves to the Presbyteries who must ratify the change before it becomes official. This is the third time in the last ten years that the General Assembly has proposed deleting the "fidelity and chastity" amendment; the Presbyteries voted down the decision both previous times.

I find that the General Assembly's decision has left me with mixed thoughts and emotions. I was a seminary student serving an internship here in Long Island Presbytery when the amendment was first passed. At that time I felt that the amendment stated the obvious, was a useful line in the sand, would be impossible to enforce and that the debate over it on the floor of the Long Island Presbytery was one of the ugliest and most unChristian experiences I ever had.

Over the last ten years my thoughts on the matter have shifted and matured. I have studied the Bible intently and believe there is no way that scripture can be interpreted to deny the sinfulness of homosexual behavior. I have worked closely with many gay and lesbian ministers (yes, despite the ban there are plenty of gay and lesbian ministers), have come to value their gifts for ministry and believe the church is blessed by them. I have also come to believe that our focus on the sinfulness of homosexuality at the expense of issues such as economic injustice, peacemaking, human rights, evangelism and the sanctity of marriage and family - all of which scripture spends much more time considering - may itself be sinful.

I have also come to see the "fidelity and chastity" amendment as exposing our hypocrisy. Why is it that we ban practicing homosexuals from ordination yet don't even pause when divorced individuals seek ordination or clergy become divorced during their ministries, yet scripture is much more explicit about the sinfulness of divorce (and prohibits remarriage) than it is about homosexuality? Why is it that we never ask ministers or elders whether or not they tithe, or keep the sabbath?

My understanding is that younger generations have a much more ambivalent view of homosexuality than older generations, which means that ordination of homosexuals is probably inevitable. I also don't think that ordaining homosexuals will somehow kill the church. The homosexual clergy I have had the pleasure of ministering with have only built the church up - they have never torn it down; I also don't think the church of Jesus Christ is that easy to kill.

I do not, however, relish the debate that will come and the hurt and pain that will result no matter what the outcome. I also do not yet know how I will vote when this amendment reaches the floor of Presbytery. Should the revision pass, I will miss the line in the sand for Biblical truth and integrity. I will not, however, miss the hypocrisy that line has revealed.

These are just my thoughts - in no way Gospel truth. Have your own thoughts? Leave a comment.

For more on the General Assembly, check the next post.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Songs of Praise - Psalms

All summer we're talking about the history of church music during Sunday morning services. We're also singing our hearts out. Here is some of what we sang last Sunday:
  • The Doxology: the words date back to Thomas Kens 1695 hymn: Awake, My Soul and With the Sun. The tune, OLD HUNDREDTH was written by John Calvin's friend Louis Bourgeois to accompany a setting of Psalm 134 in the Geneva Psalter (1551)
  • This is the Day - a contemporary setting of Psalm 118 by Les Garrett
  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell - a metrical setting of Psalm 100 by William Kethe which was linked to Louis Bourgeois' tune for 134, thus giving that tune the name OLD HUNDREDTH
  • The King of Love My Shepherd Is - a metrical setting of Psalm 23 set to ST. COLUMBA, an old Irish tune. The tune is named for St. Columba, who brought Christianity to Ireland and was the first to report a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. Henry Williams Baker, who paraphrased the Psalm was reported to have quoted the third verse on his death bed.
  • Clap Your Hands - a contemporary setting of Psalm 41 by Handt Hanson and Paul Murakami

John Calvin Paraphrase
When we sing the Psalms, we sing the very words of God himself. Our words are God’s words, our breath God’s breath and through us God exalts his glory.

Pastor Fritz Sermon Quote
People may not have read the Bible, they may have never heard of Jesus Christ, but they knew God and they felt the call to worship, to sing to the Lord with cheerful voice, to come before him and rejoice.

PC(USA) Elects a New Moderator

Finally the PC(USA) has elected a blogger as the moderator - the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow. This guy spawns more web sites and blogs than kids (he has three kids.) More importantly to me is that as a new church development pastor he understands what it means to live as a "missional church" - the understanding that we are missionaries in our own communities, living out God's word in our daily lives and reaching those who have not experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ on their terms, not ours.

This excerpt from his acceptance speech underscores Bruce's missional philosophy:
If the church responds to these realities by stepping out in faith rather than clinging to survival, just imagine what our church could look like in this new day, this new world, this new time, this new opportunity to be Christ in the world.
  • To be a church family that thrives more on the nature of our relationships than the number of dollars or members we report;
  • To be a church family that is joined together by the covenantal bond of Christ rather than the contractual relationship of property or pension;
  • To be a church family that sees God’s best in one another before being so sure of our human worst.
  • To be a church family that cares more about being faithful than being right;
If we, the church, can embrace these ways of being and these ways of interacting, I have no doubt that we will be able to live into a future in which we are a vibrant and inspiring presence in the world.
We'll be hearing a lot more from Bruce over the next two years, but check him out on all these links:

Bruce's Moderator web site
Web Site of Mission Bay Community Church, the new church development Bruce pastors in San Francisco
Bruce's personal web site & blog
Bruce on YouTube
Bruce also has a face book page, for those of you who are members of that online community.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Food Drive a Great Success

Many thanks to everyone who came together to make our third annual Community Food Drive such a great success.  We knew that rising food prices were causing more people to rely on the Long Island Council of Churches Feeding Center to make it through each month.  We were afraid, however, that those same rising prices would limit our neighbors' generosity.  On Saturday morning, however, the food came pouring in from Malverne, Lynbrook, Valley Stream and elsewhere around southwest Nassau County.  

When each person selected some cans or boxes of pasta or baby food and put it out on their curb, they joined us in ministry and mission to our community.  Together we filled both a mini van and a pick-up truck to capacity with food.  Over the summer demand for food rises because kids no longer have access to free lunch.  Thanks to everyone who participated, the Feeding Center has a head start on the rush.  Thank you. 

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why We Care About Feeding Our Neighbors

The partnership between Community Presbyterian Church and the Long Island Council of Churches Food Pantry stretches back many years. Currently we collect a food offering on the third Sunday of each month, send teams of volunteers each Thursday and hold the annual Community Food Drive at the beginning of each summer. The early summer collection helps the food pantry meet increased summer demand at a time when donations drop off.

The imperative to feed the hungry and care for our neighbors who are poor runs throughout the Christian and Jewish scriptures. It is a basic ethic, a core value of Christianity. For me, that imperative is most clearly expressed in the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. The people are gathered, they are hungry, food is scarce and Jesus commands his disciples: "you give them something to eat." They were hungry, they had no food, they needed to be fed. There was no income check, no survey regarding who had eaten lunch or breakfast. Jesus just ordered the disciples to feed them. Their order is our order as well.

Hunger in our community is real. Just last week I received a call from a family in Lynbrook - the wife was disabled, the husband had just lost his job and they have four children. The Long Island Council of Churches has been seeing its client lists grow: elderly with high medical costs, those employed in low wage jobs, those squeezed by variable rate, sub prime mortgages, and lately those affected by high gas prices and increasing food costs. As a congregation most of us are blessed with food on our tables and enough income to buy extra groceries on occasion for our neighbors. We were honored to help the family in Lynbrook. We are honored to be one of the largest donors by congregation size to the food pantry.

So I hope you will join with us in following Jesus' mandate to "give them something to eat" by bringing some non-perishable food by the church (12 Nottingham Road, Malverne, NY) on Saturday, June 7 between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm. And if you are reading this from afar, buy extra groceries and drop them off at your local food pantry or soup kitchen. And while you are there, find out about volunteering.

Get a map showing the church location

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Parade

Many thanks to everyone who put on their new t-shirts and came out for the Malverne Memorial Day parade. Gail Wakefield personally thanked me that the church was marching. It was fun, but even Jasper was a bit tired by the end. Here are some pictures from Linda. For more of Linda's parade picts (mostly featuring James) go to her page on Snapfish.

The ladies ride in style

Kate checks out James' ride

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Banner Making!

We had a great morning on Saturday, May 10th at the Parish Resource Center working together to make a 75th Anniversary Banner to carry in the Memorial Day Parade.

Many thanks to Glory Polinsky and Mary Hallam for all the planning and Kate Polinsky, Dan Polisnky, Allyce Yang, Michael Yang, Laura Eisenlau, Karen Record, Don Neugebauer and Pastor Fritz for helping out. A huge thanks to Carla at the Parish Resource Center for all her assistance. Here are some pictures.

Cutting LettersCutting out Letters

Laying it outPiecing it together


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mayor Issues Citation for 75th Anniversary

At the May 7th Malverne Village Board Meeting, Mayor Patricia McDonald presented Community Presbyterian Church with a citation in honor of our ongoing ministry in the community. Dee Ramp, Pastor Fritz and Don Neugebauer (who got blocked in this photo by John Smart, who was taking his own photo) accepted the citation on behalf of the church. Many thanks to Tony Sussman for arranging the citation and to Mayor McDonald. The full text of the citation is below:

WHEREAS in 1914, George E. Cornwell donated land on Nottingham Road and together the Cornwell and Rasweiler families built the first religious institution in our community, this non-denominational house of worship was named The First Church of Malverne. On April 25, 1933, the congregations of The First Church of Malverne and The Stuart Avenue Presbyterian Church of Malverne merged and The Community Presbyterian Church of Malverne was established under the religious leadership of Reverend Andrew Van Antwerpen; and

WHEREAS for the past 75 years, The Community Presbyterian Church of Malverne, its leaders and members spearheaded numerous programs and activities to benefit the community. In the early 1930's, the congregation realized the need for a meeting place where commmunity wide events and activities could be held. The Community Hall next to the Church was built specifically so that all residents of our village could gather as a community for plays, dinners and other activities. Religious leaders from Community Presbyterian Church were among the first to participate in the Thanksgiving Eve Ecumenical Service; and the first environmental and recycling group in our village was established by members of the congregation; and

WHEREAS today, The Community Presbyterian Church of Malverne continues to extend beyond its parishioners with outreach programs, providing support and help to improve the quality of life to varied groups and organizations. In partnership with the Long Island Council of Churches Pantry, the Commmunity Presbyterian Church is active in food drives; Community Counseling with low cost or free counseling and opening their doors to numerous local organizations.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT KNOWN, that the Board of Trustees being cognizant of the significant role played by the religious institutions within our community, does hereby wish to publicly acknowledge and express its esteem for many years of achievement and its continued message of peace, and

BE IT FURTHER KNOWN, that I, Patricia Ann McDonald, Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Malverne and all the residents of our community hereby express our heartfelt congratulations on this the 75th Anniversary, Community Presbyterian Church of Malverne.

Signed: Patricia Norris McDonald, Mayor

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Now about that Tax Refund

Within the next few weeks many of us are going to get a special economic stimulus payment zapped into our bank accounts. As we focus on stewardship this year, some thoughts on what to do with this "bonus."

1. Tithe - We're called to give 10% off the top of all income to the work of God. That can be the church, a favorite charity, a mission project but at least 10% should go beyond you and your household to make a difference in the world.

2. Be a rebel - pay off debts - Every retailer out there is going to be clamboring for your refund. Many are offering special gift cards that give you money if you deposite your entire tax refund with them. Instead, use this money to get out of any financial holes you may be in. Make an extra house payment or car payment. Knock out some credit card debt.

3. Strengthen relationships - Difficult economic times can be trying on our marriages and our families. Use the stimulus payment to spend some extra time with a loved one, have a fun day with the entire family, or take a trip to visit with an old friend.

4. Give it all away - This economic downturn has hit many charities, especially ones funded largely by private donations, very hard at the same time that demand for services are increasing. As salaries and benefits are the largest expense of most charities, a generous donation of your stimulus payment could help somebody keep their job helping somebody else.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Anniversary Sunday - May 4th - 9:45 AM

A special worship service in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Community Presbyterian Church.
  • All hymns will be from the 1895 hymnal, which was used by Community Presbyterian into the 1930's. Old favorites will include "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus," "Onward Christian Soldiers," and "In the Garden."
  • Liturgy adapted from the 1940 prayer book as well as old bulletins from the archives of the Presbyterian Historical Society.
  • Tribute to our longest active members – Dee Ramp, Warren Rasweiler, Kay Foernsler, Elaine Burns.
  • Special anthem by the choir
  • Congregational Photo - so wear your "Sunday Best"
  • Special coffee hour

Thoughts on Rev. Jeremiah Wright

When soundbites of Jeremiah Wright's sermons first hit the national airwaves my first thought was that I was glad that nobody from Community Presbyterian was running for president. Enough soundbites from enough sermons could make any pastor seem to say anything.

I then realized that we in the white church were getting rare exposure to an aspect of our Christian tradition of which we are largely ignorant. We know no more about what goes on inside the churches of our African-American brothers and sisters than we know about what goes on in our local mosque. We also know little about what it is like to read the Bible from the bottom up, to see our struggles in the political struggles of the Exodus or in the persecution of both the Jewish and Christian communities by the Romans.

So while much of what Pastor Wright says is inflamatory to my ears, I have found that when I dig beneath the sound bites and read the entire transcripts of his sermons, I am forced to think, to see scripture from a different point of view and listen to voices far from my own. Underneath the soundbites is a sound, well thought out, theology - one different from my own and foreign to my way of thinking - but one that is a worthy of a respectful listen.

A good place to start is the transcript of Rev. Wright's recent National Press Club speech.
For more on Rev. Wright and his ministry, go to his church - Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Happy Anniversary CPC

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to celebrate CPC's 75th Anniversary on Friday afternoon. We ate cupcakes, sang "Happy Anniversary" and at Leonard's insistance took a picture. Here's the picture.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Post Your Joke Here

Why did the cannibal get sick after eating the missionary?
You can't keep a good man down!

The Origin of the Human Race

A little girl asked her mother: How did the human race appear? The mother answered: God made Adam and Eve and they had children and so was all mankind made.

Two days later she asks her father the same question. The father answered: Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race was developed.

The confused girl returns to her mother and says: Mom', how is it possible that you told me that the human race was created by God and Papa says they were developed from monkeys.
The mother answers: Well dear, it is very simple. I told you about the origin of my side of the family while your father told you about his side.

Got a joke? Click on comments and add it to the post!

Dr. Victor Rambo

This weekend Elisabeth and I are flying to Toledo, Ohio to celebrate Elisabeth's Grandfather, Dr. Victor Rambo's, induction into to Medical Missionary Hall of Fame.

From the flyleaf of Apostle of Sight: The story of Victor Rambo, surgeon to India's blind, by Dorothy Clark Wilson:

Dr. Rambo arrived in India in January, 1924, just months after completing his medical residency and marrying. When he came to India, Dr. Rambo found that millions lost their sight through infections brought on by lack of sanitation, by ignorance and by extreme poverty. He discovered that three-fourths of these blind are curable - and he set about tackling the Herculean task of restoring their sight with the vigor of a spiritual giant, the imagination of an impossible dreamer, and the courage of an incorrigible individualist.

Dr. Rambo inaugurated mobile eye clinics, mobile hospitals and he personally performed more than 40,000 cataract operations - in the process leaving a permanent imprint on the treatment of the blind in India.

The family knows a different side - the side that says saints are hard to live with - but we all stand amazed to witness what a person with a deep passion and commitment for Jesus Christ can achieve.

The Story of Dr. Rambo and a blind elephant: From the Christian History Institute

Mungeli Hospital: The home base for much of Dr. Rambo's work and still a mission hospital of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in partnership with the Church of North India.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Sunday

It may have been cold outside, but it was warm in our church. Thanks to everyone who made our Holy Week services so meaningful and our Easter service so joyful.
One of my friends and his family came for the first time and remarked that we all seemed so happy and friendly to all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Holy Week Schedule

Easter morning is far more meaningful if you go through Holy Week with Jesus and his disciples. Get the whole story through these CPC services:

Maundy Thursday -- 4:00 pm (communion & foot washing)
Good Friday -- 7:30 pm (a reading of the Passion)

Then celebrate Resurrection Day:

Sunrise Service -- 7:30 am on the Valley Stream Village Green (in partnership with V.S. Presbyterian Church)
Easter Morning Celebration -- 9:45 am (communion, special music, rejoicing, and more)

For the Children:

Easter Egg Hunt -- After worship (OK, eggs and rabbits hearken back to the pagan fertility holiday Easter superseded, but it's fun!); Kids, please restrict your hunting to the area assigned to your age group. Older kids, leave the easy eggs for the little ones.

Holy Week Challenge

Read Matthew chapters 21:12 - 26:16. Some of Jesus' most challenging and provocative teaching was done during the four days between his entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) and his arrest (Maundy Thursday). Take a read and post your thoughts by clicking on the comment link below.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pancakes & Ashes

We have a busy two days ahead of us!

Tonight: 6:00 p.m. in the Lower Church Hall, pig out on pancakes and sausages! Cost is $8 per person, less for kids (little kids are free). To be followed by the Burning of the Palms. If you saved your palms from last year's Palm Sunday, bring them to the fire to be turned into ashes for Ash Wednesday.

Tomorrow: 7:30 p.m.--Ash Wednesday service, marking the beginning of Lent, the 40 days of repentance and contemplation leading up to Easter.

Pat yourselves on the back

The score is final: We raised over $330 on Sunday through the Souper Bowl of Caring offering. Thanks to everyone who contributed, either directly or by wearing your team's name and upping the contribution that way (or both).

One could argue that God intervened in the football game that night to allow the Giants to win to reward all the fans in our congregation for their Souper Bowl support. Because we all know the Pats would have won without divine intervention.

But it's probably best not to make that argument. (Pitchers & catchers report for spring training next week: Go Sox!)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Souper Bowl of Caring

The “youth” of the Community Presbyterian Church of Malverne will be holding soup pots at the church doors on Souper Bowl Sunday, February 3, 2008. We will be joining people in churches across the country to collect money for those who are hungry and hurting. In 2007, over 14,500 groups participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring, generating over $8 million. All of the money we collect on Sunday here in Malverne is donated to the Long Island Council of Churches. We will report our collection total so national totals can be determined and announced. Since the Souper Bowl of Caring began in 1990, more than $41 million has gone to help people in need. Please support the youth of our church in this effort to “love our neighbors” by dropping your dollar in the soup pot on February 3 and bringing in canned food to be collected during the service.

Talk this up in our community, we can extend this beyond the church doors. Canisters to contribute to the cause are located in Malverne in the Malverne Deli and Antionio's on Hempstead Avenue.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Which one interests you?

At the congregational meeting this past Sunday, Pastor Fritz laid out three priorities for the year:
  1. Hands-on mission: more than writing checks, actually meeting and working with the people we're helping.
  2. Stewardship: helping the congregation focus on what it means for our financial lives to be a Christian in a consumerist society. How do we set priorities, care for ourselves, and care for our world? Not a fund-raising team.
  3. Party planning: This year is CPC's 75th anniversary. It's something to celebrate and to give us inspiration for the future.
Ideally, everyone in the congregation will join up with one of these teams. Pastor Fritz (PF) is going to be pushing each of us to have an active role in the life of the church this year. So, start thinking now about where and how God is calling you to act, before PF starts twisting your arm.

If you're not certain what these teams are all about, contact PF at church or by e-mail.

Don't Forget: Winter Seminar this Thursday! "Christ Meets Life: Marriage, Sex, and Dating" Pizza at 6:30, Seminar at 7:00.
RSVP to church or so we know how much pizza to order.

Friday, January 11, 2008

On the Ground in Kenya - cont.

I haven't heard from the Judd's recently - the person who forwards me their letters has been quite busy of late. But I did receive a note from Marta Bennett, a PC(USA) Mission Co-worker who is on the faculty of Nairobi International School of Theology. Here are excerpts from her note from January 10, 2008.

We had a living room full of people at our house watching the [election] returns over the that weekend, including Kikuyu, Luo and Kamba, the tribes of the top three presidential candidates. One of the Kikuyus in our gathering started commenting: "Where are the returns from my area? All around Mount Kenya, nothing is coming! What is happening?"

In the midst of questions about the election tally, the Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman announced that Kikaki had one. Then an hour later, Kibaki was being sworn in at a basically private affair at the State House. We were stunned and dismayed in our living room, Kikuyu, Luo and American alike.

This election - it was such an act of injustice, laced with irregularities and illegalities. We really hoped we would prove that Kenya had taken a major step towards democracy with this election. But instead we have been set back year and fanned the flames of ethnic hatred among neighbors who up till now had lived side by side peacefully.

On Sunday, December 30, I was reading Proverbs 29 before the final results were announced. As alarming questions were starting to surface, the scripture was such a direct word from the Lord:
"By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down... The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern ... If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace."

We are praying, fasting, crying out that somehow God would intervene. Yesterday (Jan. 6) many churches were praying. In the afternoon, many of the pastors and others met at All Saints Cathedral in town. It sounds like it was a remarkable time with representatives of each ethnic group standing and confessing the sins of their particular ethnic group, asking forgiveness and praying for God's intervention, truth, justice and mercy, and embracing with tears the representative of their "opposite" tribal group.

Complete text of Marta Bennett's letter
Marta Bennett's web page

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

It's your turn

Anyone who wants to help with the blog, contact Pastor Fritz or Elisabeth. It's easy! It's fun! It gives you a chance to talk about stuff you want to talk about. (Go on, confess: You get tired of Fritz doing all the talking, right?)

Plans & Expectations

The holidays seem like they were months ago, don't they? In reality, New Year's Day was only a week ago.

We come into a new year, a new anything, with plans and expectations--sometimes good, sometimes bad. We'll be more organized this time around. We'll keep that new leaf turned over for good, and maybe turn another one, too. We'll face certain trials and difficulties. Maybe we're filled with fear, whether for ourselves or for loved ones, or both.

I've found that expectations are hardly ever met. I don't need that explanatory speech I've been rehearsing in my head on my way to a meeting, or the leaf doesn't actually stay turned over for more than a week. (My grandmother had a positive spin on this quirk of life. She was a worryer because, she said, nothing she worried about ever happened.)

But I don't advocate worrying (as hard as it is not to do), and I don't put a lot of store in expectations and plans, because they're hardly ever met. I know that no matter what happens to our carefully laid plans, or what happens to us in the absence of plans, God will always be there to see us through. And God is an expert at planning--and changing plans on the fly when we screw things up.

So my plan for this year is to try to live out God's plan.
My expectation is that sometimes I'll succeed, and sometimes I'll screw up.
But I'm not worried, because God's plan can adjust to take me as I am.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

On the Ground in Kenya

Missionaries LeRoy and Joann Judd work with African Inland Mission in Nairobi, Kenya. LeRoy is a seminary professor and Joann runs programs for children. Below are excerpts from emails they have sent over the last few days chronicling the violence broken out due to the results from the recent election.

12/30/2007 - 11:00 pm
For several days we have been asked to stay mostly at home due to the election results and violence. This morning we did go out to our church and spent much of the service in prayer. .. Much of the city is dark except for the fires (arson) raging in some slums, including Kibera, near our church, where many of our students and friends live. Some have taken refuge in an Assembly of God church. Pray for protection for God's people and for calm to be restored.

One of our friends says his room has been filled several times with tear gas as the police try to control the crowds. All live broadcasting has been suspended. We expect there could be further trouble tomorrow as the candidate who lost is declaring a victory rally.

1/02/2008 - 10:00 am
We have been basically indoors for almost a week now with just brief trips out to a small mall a few blocks away during the lulls in the violence. One of our gate guards got a phone call from his wife who reported that their neighbor's houses had been burned, the two supermarkets and the hardware store, but that their house and the other on the street were still standing.

We never know what a day or night will hold. We are concerned that the quarrel over the election has taken increasingly tribal lines and there is a terrible backlash against Kibaki's (the candidate who "won" the election) people, the Kikuyu.

Last night it occurred to me that this violence is also spiritual warfare. Churches and mosques and Hindu temples are becoming places of refuge, as as the burning of one church with its occupants shows, Satan is at work here. A spirit of evil and violence is controlling people. We need to pray earnestly that our God will restrain and hold back this evil spirit and that His people will be protected.

1/02/2008 - 5:00 pm
Tomorrow is a critical day, because Raila (the candidate who "lost" the election) has called for a mass rally of a million people in Nairobi tomorrow. The government is saying the demonstration is not allowed, but the opposition is planning to go on with it anyway. This sounds ominous to us. As Kenyans hide in their homes and churches, we urge you to stand with them by gathering in groups for prayer.

1/03/2008 - 7:00 pm
Today the opposition party had called for mass action. their party headquarters are within easy walking distance of our apartment and Bishop Tutu was meeting with them. By noon we had reports that marchers were just a few blocks away and we were grateful for all of you standing with us in prayer. They actually passed on our street and came to our gate asking the guard "what kind of people are here?" Our guard is of the right tribe and political party, so they passed by.

Our night guard just arrived and says that last night he had moved his family. That very same night people burned the block of 13 rooms where they had been renting.

We were greatly saddened to watch on TV the burning of one of our sister churches.

Pray that the international community can bring pressure on the president to allow another tally of the votes and bring in mediation to quell the tensions. Thank you for standing with us.