Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmas Resources

Charities with Giving Catalogs

Sources of Fair Trade gifts

Handcrafting Justice
25-30 21st Avenue, Astoria, NY
(718) 204-0909

Online Advent Calendars

Shopping Free Christmas

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Elder Stan Bishop

A few weeks ago I met a teacher colleague of Stan's in the hospital. "Nobody," he said, "Has an ill thing to say about him." Just today I met a former student of Stan's, now a small businessman in the Village of Malverne. "He was one of the best teachers I ever had. He was hard and strict, but fair and made learning fun." In retirement, Stan taught an intensive survey of the Bible course at Community Presbyterian. One of his students in that course returned from a Mediterranean cruise psyched to tell Stan all about the places they studied. As his pastor I always considered Stan a true colleague in ministry, and a leader a guide to the congregation on how to live the life of faith.

Here are the details of the various services and ways we are remembering Stan's presence among him and celebrating his resurrection healing:

Malverne Memorial Service:
Saturday, November 21 @ 2:30 pm. Time for visiting to follow.

Stan Bishop Memorial Fund
Community Presbyterian has established a special memorial fund to honor Stan's ministry in our midst. The fund will be split between the Long Island Council of Churches Food Pantry & a special project at the church.

Doylestown PA Committal Service
Stan is being buried in his family's plot in the Mennonite Cemetery in Doylestown, PA. The service will be at 2:00 pm.

Pick up I-78 west to US 202. Follow 202 Southwest through NJ, cross the Delaware River and continue into Doylestown. Take Business 202 (State Street) into Doylestown. Turn right onto Main Street, and then left onto Broad Street. Follow to cemetery (approx. where Broad Street intersects 611)

View Larger Map

Saturday, October 24, 2009

WMC 09 - Final Reflections

For the last three days I've been participating in the PC(USA)'s Mission Celebration 2009, learning about all that our church and our partners are doing in international mission. Scroll through the blog for all my reports on plenary sessions, worship and workshops. If you have thoughts or comments, please leave them.

A few final reflections:
  • The PC(USA) has become like an elderly parent. Our mission activity in the late 19th and early 20th century birthed strong Christian communities all over the world. As we struggle, we now need these communities to breath the Holy Spirit and vitality back into us.
  • Some years ago a colleague in education ministry told me that the PC(USA) began going downhill when we stopped building hospitals, starting schools and birthing worshiping communities. Among our partner churches overseas, education and health care remain the bedrock of their mission and are often the starting point for evangelism. Why aren't we doing this at home?
  • The PC(USA)'s mission around the world is vibrant and healthy and our partner churches are strong.
  • In a globalizing world, our congregations ever more need to learn to cross cultures and engage in conversation with our neighbors.
  • Theological divides do not justify negation of the great commission or great commandment.
  • Here in the states, we need to resist the urge to create multiple congregations based on language and culture and strive to create communities that can bridge culture and gather everyone around Jesus Christ.
  • We must relearn how to pray, testify and share our faith with each other and our neighbors.

WMC 09 - Closing Worship

Rev. Dr. Mary Mikail, president of the Near East School of Theology, preached at the closing worship. Her points:
  • What mission does our church have for the world of today? A world of violence and injustice?
  • The world is in a spiritual crisis. It is never in more need of hope and healing.
  • Our mission is a gift from God.
  • That gift enables us to catch the Spirit of Christ to challenge the evils in society.
  • To catch the Spirit of Christ is to bring hope and healing.
  • We do mission through humble, compassionate service.
All worship leadership came through a music team headed by Corey Nelson who brought music from all over the world. Worship ended with communion and commissioning of all into their mission service.

WMC 09 - Saturday Afternoon Plenary - Africa

The Congo is one of the Presbyterian Church's oldest missions and the various Presbyterian Churches in the Congo have millions of members. Political instability, however, has hurt the PC(USA)'s long term mission personnel in the region. It needs to be rebuilt.

The Presbyterian Church in Congo is extensively engaged in economic development work, especially women's empowerment, micro loans, education, feeding programs, agriculture, literacy, HIV Aids, etc.

The main story is that much of the ministry is by women, for women and funded by women. Presbyterian Women in Congo are running multiple programs for women, many of which are supported by the Presbyterian Women in the USA.

In much of Africa, the PC(USA) has embraced the following principles of Development. I think these are from the Dallas Statement.

  • Local ownership
  • Partnership
  • Transformation
  • Sustainability

WMC 09 - Saturday Morning Workshop - Crossing Cultures

Crossing Cultures: Welcoming the Stranger in our Midst

This workshop was presented by Marti Smith, an ethnographer with Caleb Resources, a non-denominational frontier mission organization. She discussed using the same methods they use to develop strategies for bringing the gospel to unreached groups for local mission across culture.

Her formula: listen, listen, listen.

Before ministering to a culture, get to know they. Listen to their stories with an open mind. Why are they in the US? What are they worrying about? What are their hopes and dreams? Where can they help us? Where can we help them? How can we build and maintain relationships.

Her process:
  1. Make observations about the "other"
  2. Find those within that culture "helpers" who are willing to engage you and interpret their culture to you.
  3. Start a conversation
  4. Build rapport/trust. Commit to long term, mutual relationships.
  5. Ask questions about what you observe.
  6. Take notes. (Marti says this helps formalize the process, moves you from nosy to learner, and often takes the conversation deeper.)
  7. Review your learnings with your partner.
  8. Make an action plan for further relationship and ministry.
Question: How often do we even take time to get to know those of our same culture on a deep level.

WMC 09 - Dallas Statement

In the background of this entire conference has been something called the Dallas Statement. Two years ago, almost all the PC(USA) related mission organizations came together and agreed on this statement. Everyone thinks its both revolutionary, spirit filled and incredibly important.

To read the statement go to:

WMC 09 - Saturday Morning Plenary - Asia

The Saturday morning plenary focused on Asia and the Pacific with specific focus on the Presbyterian Church's education mission in Pakistan.

A disclaimer: when I worked at the General Assembly in the late 1990's and early 00's I was tangentially involved in the PC(USA)'s effort to regain control of Forman Christian College in Lahore. This ministry is dear to my heart.

Background: In the 1800's, missionaries from the Presbyterian Church established a network of primary and secondary schools as well as colleges in what is now Pakistan. These schools flourished, with Forman Christian College becoming known as the "Harvard" of the Sub-Continent. In 1972, the government of Pakistan "nationalized" all the schools, disenfranchising the church and ruining the institutions. After years of prayer, petition, legal action and more, the government began returning the schools to the Presbyterian Church (USA) - who holds title to the property - in the late 1990's. Forman Christian College was returned in 2003. The schools are run by the Presbyterian Education Board, an extension of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. Forman Christian College is an independent institution with close ties to the PC(USA).

Presbyterian Education Board - Ms. Veeda Javaid
There are 252 Presbyterian Churches in Pakistan. Presbyterian primary and secondary schools educate 4,000 students - 60% Muslim; 40% Christian. PEB operates 10 schools and are waiting to receive a few more back from the government. MOst of the schools were returned to the church in deplorable condition. They are raising money internally and externally to rebuild the schools.

A story: One day a prominent Shiite leader came to visit the head of the Presbyterian Board of Education. He wanted to enroll his daughter in a PEB school, and wanted a full scholarship despite his wealth. The board reluctantly agreed. Some time later the leader returned to visit Ms. Veeda Javaid, the PEB director. He relayed the following story:

One night he and several other Shiite leaders were at his house planning an attack on the Suni. The meeting was quite enthuiastic and his ten year old daughter overheard what was going on. She came into the room, looked him in the eye and told him that her teacher would not approve. Her teacher said that everyone was brother and sister and they should care for each other.

At this point Ms. Javaid was very nervous and afraid that the leader would threaten her and the school. To the opposite, the leader reported that he called off the attack and was there to enroll another of his daughters - and this time he would pay tuition. Currently all three of the leader's daughters attend the school.

PEB is largely self sufficient but looks to its American partners for short term teacher training and capital help restoring its campuses.

Forman Christian College - Dr. Peter Armacost
Since receiving the school back from the government in 2003, FC College's board of directors is rebuilding the school as a first rate liberal arts college. Their first class graduated in 2009 and has above average employment/graduate school admissions.

FC College has several goals:
  • Offer a model of interfaith harmony
  • Educate leaders for Pakistan
  • Support the Christian community. Since many Christians are less educated and poorer, FC College has affirmative action and special student development programs for Christians. They maintain active Christian worship, Bible study and leadership development.
A young Muslim woman began quietly attending chapel at FC College. After some time, she converted to Christianity. She then discerned a call to ministry and wants to return to her village as a pastor.

WMC 09 - Saturday Morning Worship

Saturday's morning worship focused on proclamation of the Word, specifically testimonies. After testimonies by a pastor from a partner church now serving in the US and a testimony by a mission co-worker, we were invited to share with our neighbors an experience we had with God's word.

How often do we incorporate testimony in our lives together? Do we know how other members of our faith community have experienced Jesus Christ in their lives? What would happen if we were comfortable testifying how God works within us?

Friday, October 23, 2009

WMC 09 - Friday Plenary 3 - Europe

At this point in the day I'd had my fill of information and speeches. I left.

WMC 09 - Friday Afternoon Workshop - Moving Members into Mission

Offered by Rob Weingartner, Executive Director of the Outreach Foundation

I attended this workshop hoping to bring back some tangible "how to's" for our congregations that are hesitant about mission involvement. Instead Rev. Weingartner suggested that their are no "how to's" and that the only way to move members into mission is to become a "missional congregation." If you've read any of the thousands of books on the Missional Church, especially stuff by Alan Roxburgh, Leslie Newbingdon or Daryl Guder, you've experienced his presentation. I'm not going to summarize it here.

He concluded with the following five principles:
  1. Congregations must redefine their purpose to be God's agent in the world and be willing to radically risk everything for the gospel.
  2. Congregations must redefine mission participation to include every follower of Jesus. Our baptismal vows are our commission into mission.
  3. Congregations must redefine the mission field to include "Jerusalem" - or the area outside of their doors and in their community. The majority of young people growing up in the United States today will have no experience in a faith community.
  4. Reclaim wholeness of the gospel. Practice what we preach and preach about what we practice.
  5. Renew and reestablish relationships with the global church. God is using the global church to renew the church in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Places to start:
  • Pray for a PC(USA) Missionary. Give him/her $100/year.
  • Encourage members who like to travel to visit PC(USA) missionaries and or partner churches at work in the areas through which they journey.
  • Sponsor mission visits to our congregations.
  • Send the session on a mission trip.
  • Remember that being the church is not about taking care of ourselves.

WMC 09 - Friday Plenary 2 - Middle East

The birthplace of Christianity and the place from which the first missionaries were sent out, is now a hard place for the church to prosper. The various Christian congregations in the Middle East are beset by many difficulties including: descrimination, persecution, occupation, internal conflict, economic hardship and emigration. But the witness of those mission personnel who shared was strong and joyful, focused on ministries of reconciliation.

Dr. Mary Mihail - Presbyterian Church in Lebanon & Near East School of Theology
The Near East School of Theology, founded by Presbyterians in the 1800's, has added a Christian/Muslim forum for discussion and to build relationships.

Nuhad Tomeh - Liaison to Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, PC(USA)'s primary partner in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria & the Gulf States
Many in the Middle East (Muslim & Christian alike) wonder whether God is still there or whether God has given up on his people. The church continues to proclaim the power of resurrection & God's continued presence and hope. Refuge ministry is a major connector of Christians. Ministry in this area is risky and at least one missionary has been martyred in recent years.

Rev. Guy whose name I can neither pronounce nor spell from the Presbyterian Church in Iran
Yes there is a Presbyterian Church in Iran. Our speaker offered a powerful testimony of growing up Muslim in Europe, being converted by God through a PC(USA) Missionary and then being ordained to ministry in the Iranian Presbyterian Church. He wanted to counteract the American image of Iran with news of how God is working there through Muslims.
  • A new translation of the New Testament was recently produced by a leading Muslim scholar and published by the Iranian government. It is a Persian translation of the French translation of the New Jerusalem Bible.
  • A local Muslim government official having a dream in which the Virgin told him to help the community's Presbyterian Church and the subsequent municipal funding of essential building repairs.
  • Muslim students helping the main Presbyterian church in Tehran organize its extensive theological library, a gift from generations of missionaries.
  • Persian translations, by Muslims, of great Christian thinkers such as Augustine, Calvin, Thomas a Kempis, etc.
Doug Hicks, PC(USA) Missionary in Jordan
Echoed much of what had been previously said.

WMC 09 - Friday Morning Workshop - Prayer

I attended the workshop because of its seemingly preposterous title: Prayer - Bringing the World To Christ. I always thought evangelism, preaching, teaching, good works, etc. bring the World to Christ.

Workshop leader Linda Ruby, a Interim Ministry specialist from Pittsburgh, suggests otherwise. She believes that our congregations have forgotten how to pray and that without prayer congregations stagnate, loose vision and decline. With prayer they prosper.

Prayer connects us to God through Jesus Christ and unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our world. Through our prayers the new world, the Kingdom of God, proceeds from the Spirit. We are in a battle and we need to learn to "fight war on our knees."

Prayer is the source of evangelism, mission and service. We pray the future into being and then, through prayer, we are given the power to make our portion of that future a reality.

Linda had set the room up as a prayer room, with stations for guided prayer around the room (see slide show at end of post, when I have a chance to upload the pictures.) She also had other suggestions:
  • Pastors model different types of prayer through the pastoral prayer
  • Pastors preach on prayer (and practice it themselves)
  • Prayer vigils
  • Prayer walks (walk through the community praying for your neighbors)
  • Prayer teams in the church to pray for specific needs
  • Praying elders - elders pray for the members
  • A group of women in Taiwan who combat addictions by holding 24 hour vigils by the bedsides of addicts. In 90% of cases, after 24 hours of prayer the addiction is gone.
  • A group of women in Michigan who camped out in prayer in front of crack houses. They closed them down.
  • A pair of friends who walked a dangerous mall each day praying. Crime in the mall visibly decreased and the police publicly thanked the friends.
  • Linda's own healing which she credits to a 24-7 vigil by the congregation she was serving at that time.
  • A session that spent the first hour and a half of their two hour meetings praying and the accomplished all their business in the last half hour.
I was surprised to find this workshop at a World Mission conference, but it hit the mark. We ask, "what can we do?" And sincere and deep prayer is more than enough.

WMC 09 - Friday Plenary 1 - The Americas

The Plenary focused on mission work in the Americas, especially central America and the Caribbean, which has a long and honorable Presbyterian mission presence.

From the opening remarks:
  • “The Americas” are the most Christian region in the world.
  • Presbyterians have been throughout the region since the 19th century.
  • Challenges include huge gap between rich & poor, and huge amounts of migration and displacement both within countries and across borders.
  • Positives include very strong churches with their own missionaries, theologians, seminaries, parishes, etc & easy access for missionaries and mission groups.
  • Latin American congregations have become sending congregations as well as receiving, doing their own church planting locally and internationally.
  • Within Latin America & Caribbean the church gives voice to the entire population, enabling them to testify to God’s love and organize against injustice.

From Presbyterian Border Ministry – Mark Adams
  • Presbyterian border ministries are uniting congregations on both sides of the US/Mexico border, living out the unity of Christ in the midst of division.
  • Has helped reduce border deaths by providing water and other support to migrants.
  • Is promoting sustainable economic development in Mexico to help reduce the need to migrate.
  • Have a powerful ministry of prayer and presence at the border.

From National Presbyterian Church of Mexico & Pittsburgh Theological Seminary – Pablo Feliciano & Don Dawson
  • -Bring seminary students form Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and National Presbyterian Church of Mexico together in Chiapas to minister together.

From Colombia Accompaniment Program (Presbyterian Church of Colombia & Presbyterian Peace Fellowship – Diego Higuita & Sarah Henken
  • Colombia is one of the most violent countries in the Americas and has a huge problem with displaced people.
  • One story: Pedro was a small, landowning farmer who had his farm taken from him, forcing him to move into the city. He became a fruit vendor, pushing cart full of fruit around the city every day. On Sundays he comes to church. One week he interrupts the service to give his testimony: “Even thought they have taken everything away from me, they haven’t been able to pull Christ from my heart.”
  • In response to the violence, the Presbyterian Church of Colombia asked Presbyterian Peace Fellowship to send volunteer, nonviolent observers. Now a team of trained volunteers rotate in and out of the country, maintaining a vigil of presence.

Haiti Fund
  • A ministry of a Presbytery in North Carolina.
  • Supports two full time missionaries and a ministry of rural economic development and reforestation.
  • Ministry covers 15 square miles of rural mountains, and has planted over 250,000 trees, including many fruit trees.

WMC 09 - Friday Worship

Each worship service of the conference is focused around one of the phases of worship. Last night’s service was focused on gathering. This morning’s worship was focused on confession. The theme: Babel. Humanity has scattered. We have become divided by language, culture, injustice, inequality, borders and walls, both psychological and actual. In prayer and song we were led to confess the Babel that scatters us and celebrate our forgiveness and unity in Christ.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

World Mission Celebration - Day 1

This is the first in a series of blogs from the PC(USA) World Mission Challenge being held October 22-24 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Tonight's activities involved dinner and opening worship & remarks. But for me the most memorable part of the day occurred a little earlier. Seeking a little peace and a little space, I made a pilgrimage to the Ohio River, walking about a mile downhill to where the sidewalk ended in a patch of weeds and a rusty iron railing overlooking the river. As traffic wizzed by around me, I began to pray for a good friend who is fighting the battle of his life. I prayed perhaps harder than I've ever prayed before, and as I left that place fo the trek up the hill, I knew that he would be okay - what shape okay ultimately takes, I do not know, but I knew he would be okay.

As for the conference, someone said that they expected 500 people and about 800 registered. Everyone was playing three degrees of Presbyterian separation.

In his opening remarks, Hunter Ferrell, the head of PC(USA) World Wide Mission, commented on the following:
  • Everyone who gathered had been touched, healed and redeemed by God to be a part of God's mission in this world.
  • More Presbyterians are deeply engaged in world wide mission now than at any time before. This opens ourselves (and our congregations) up for transformation.
  • The global church consists of many branches of a life giving vine in Jesus Christ. We desperately need each other. The relationship is mutual.
  • Our global partners have challenged the PC(USA) to go deeper in three primary ways: (1) To go deeper into the root causes of poverty and injustice; (2) Go deeper in the way that we proclaim (or hesitate to proclaim) the good news of Jesus Christ. Partners are surprised at how secular we seem to be, and are challenging American Christians to learn to speak of the things of the Spirit; (3) Go deeper to bring cooperation among the 64 different mission agencies and the many congregations of the PC(USA) engaged in mission work.
  • Finally, Hunter announced a new website: to help network between groups and congregations working in various areas of the world.
Tomorrow the workshops begin. I'll be reporting on two workshops: Prayer: Bringing the World to Christ; and MOving Members into Mission. I'll also be attending plenary reports on the PC(USA)'s mission work in the Americas, Middle East and Europe.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fall Fair This Saturday

CPC's fall fair will be this Saturday (October 17) from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at the church (12 Nottingham Road, Malverne, NY). A dinner will follow at 6:00 pm.

  • Country Crafts by Mary Hallam
  • Raffle of quilt by the Malverne Quilters
  • Fresh baked goods by Pastor Fritz & Friends
  • Vegetables & Pumpkins from Long Island Farms
  • Raffle baskets of goods from local merchants
  • Raffle of crochet "patch afghan" by CPC members
  • Heifer project mission outreach
  • Labyrinth Walk
  • Lunch cafe

Pork Roast Dinner @ 6:00
$12-adults, $8-kids
The kitchen ladies famous Roast Pork & Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Apple Sauce
Pound cake w/ ice cream


Many thanks to local merchants for the gift certificates and raffle baskets, the Malverne Quilters, and the Cork and Board for the pork & mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Crop Walk 2009 Report

Many thanks to everyone who showed up for the Crop Walk. Despite a big band competition we still had a bunch of walkers and raised a bunch of money. (I'll edit this post once I talk with Don.) Check out the slide show below!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Learning about Love

I made a new friend over the weekend, a PC(USA) Missionary working in northern Africa who for her security will remain nameless. She works in an overwhelmingly Muslim country where, while she can freely worship (her family has been Christian for generations), she cannot freely talk about Jesus Christ outside of the confines of her church.

I learned from my friend that Arabic has many more words for love than English and one of those words, used almost exclusively by Christians, means "Christ like love." A doctor, my friend began to train young, disaffected youth to care for the elderly. The best care, she believes, is Christ-like care, and she began teaching her students to love as Christ loved. She and her staff made it a point to embody compassion, forgiveness, empathy, hope, life, love. They developed a curriculum, using the Bible, Koran and other Arabic writings to teach Christ love.

Not only did the care improve, the lives of the students improved dramatically. They reconciled their marriages. They developed life goals and self esteem. They cared better for their children. They became trustworthy, dependable, committed.

In turn the lives of their clients changed. NOt only were they receiving quality care, but they were receiving Christ love.

We tend to think that the gospel must be spoken to be shared, be articulated to have an affect. We also tend to believe that for the gospel to change a life, a person must articulate their belief in basic creeds or doctrines.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that we can prophesy, do miracles, preach, teach and more, but the greatest and most powerful gift we have is love. My new friend's story underscored this reality. By systematically unleashing on the world hundreds of young men and women, Christian and Muslim, filled with Christ love, she may have done more for the cause of our Savior than the millennia of sermons preached in the churches of her home town.

Sunday's Sermon - Welcome to the Kingdom

On Sunday, Pastor Fritz launched a new sermon series: God's Dream for our Lives, God's Dream for our World focusing on the Kingdom of God as illustrated in Jesus' parables.

About the Kingdom of God, Pastor Fritz says this:
For the last two years I have been studying the concept of the Kingdom of God as it is used by Jesus. In the process I have become convinced that if we really want to understand the heart of our faith, if we really want to have a faith that shapes us and shapes our world, we must understand Jesus teaching on the kingdom of God. And one way to do that is to study Jesus’ parables.
Read the Sermon

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall Fair 2009

CPC's fall fair is coming up fast on October 17th. Fair organizer Jean Bishop has a bunch of stuff planned to help us get ready. Here's what is coming up.

Crafts Workshops – spend an evening working on crafts to see at the fair. The dates are:
Wednesday – September 30 from 7:30 to 9:00
Thursday – October 8 from 7:30 to 9:00

Apple Picking – We are going to pick apples to sell at the fair. Make it a family outing on Saturday, October 10 – meet at the church at 8:30 am. We will be back by noon.

Baking with Pastor Fritz – on Friday, October 16. Learn how to bake bread, scones, and apple turnovers. If you have a favorite recipe, bring it, and we’ll make that too! Meet at the church at 9:00 am.

Set up for the Fair – Saturday, October 17 at 8:00 am. We will set up as much as we can outside – vegetables, pumpkins, plants, apples, plus craft tables.

Sell vegetables, baked goods, and craft items.

Set up for the Fair Dinner – Saturday at 4:00 pm – set tables

Cook for the dinner – see Janet Neugebauer or Willa Ramsey

Serve the dinner – see June Englese

Clean up for the dinner - see Janet Neugebauer or Willa Ramsey

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2009 Crop Walk, October 4th

Mark your calendar for 1PM Sunday October 4th. This is the date of the 2009 Western Nassau CROPWALK being held again in Baldwin Park. I've lost track, but I believe this is the 18th or 19th year we'll be taking part.

This is our Community Responding to Overcome Poverty. Hungry people in developing countries typically walk as much as six miles a day to get food, water, and fuel, and to take their goods to market. We walk to be in solidarity with their struggle for existence. We walk because they walk. 25% of the money we raise will go to support the Freeport food center run by the Long Island Council of Churches with the rest helping to fight hunger and poverty around the world including the United States.

Lorne Birch will be available Sunday to sign up walkers with their pledges and to give out sponsor sheets. The sheets are a way to get folks at work, at school, and in your family to support your effort on October 4th.

If you are unable to walk, think about a pledge sponsoring the group from church who will be walking. Hope the weather is great and see you on the 4th.
Don Neugebauer

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sunday's Sermon - Homosexuality and the Church

Last Sunday we closed out our all request summer sermon series with a request to look at Romans 1, a complex passage that, among other things, condemns homosexuality as sinful. I've been struggling with this topic for years and attempted to condense some of my thinking (and my struggle) into the sermon. We will revisit this topic in a couple of weeks as we embark on another year of Pastor's Coffee House, which will begin with a study of Paul's letter to the Romans.

Read the sermon
Read other sermons in the All Request Summer Sermon Series

The many brief discussions I had on the way out the door suggest that we all live in this tension between discipline and grace. Is being a Christian primarily living a strict, disciplined life, following the rules and expecting others to do the same? Or is being a Christian primarily being gracious and inclusive toward others regardless of background and behavior? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sunday's Sermon - The Prodigal Son

All summer we've been working down a list of congregational sermon requests. Last week's request was to revisit the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Read the sermon
Read past sermons from this summer
View the schedule

Thursday, August 20, 2009

PC(USA) and Health Care

As the debate around health care gets less and less civil it may be time to step back a bit and think about how our commitments as followers of Jesus Christ informs our thinking regarding this current health care reform debate. To help inform our thinking, I've posted a few links to what our church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), has said about health care. I've also included the full text of a resolution passed by the 2008 General Assembly of the PC(USA).

As Presbyterians we believe that the discernment of God's will comes through discussion and that there is plenty of room for debate. The following are only offered as guidance, not as a doctrinal dictation. Leave your thoughts in the comments. (Please stick to substantive reflections and refrain from name calling, etc. I will delete any comments not in the spirit of Christian dialogue and respect.)
Expanded text of the 2008 General Assembly resolution from the August 2009 letter by Gradye Parsons.

Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God, healed all kinds of sickness (Mt. 4:23, par) as a sign of God’s rule. Isaiah speaks God’s word to say “No more shall there be… an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime” (Isa. 65:20a). We, as Reformed Christians, bear witness to Jesus Christ in word, but also in deed. As followers of our Great Physician Jesus, we have a moral imperative to work to assure that everyone has full access to health care.

Our nation is in a crisis in health care, which presents an unprecedented opportunity for our nation to provide health care affordable for all. In this country there is a baby born every fifty-one seconds to a family with no health insurance. In this, the wealthiest nation in the world, our infant mortality rate is second highest in the industrialized world. Forty-seven million Americans are uninsured (50 percent employed; 25 percent children; 20 percent out of labor force as students, disabled, et al.; 5 percent unemployed). The U.S. spends nearly twice as much per capita than any other country on health care, but we rank poorly in the thirty-seven categories of health status measured by the World Health Organization. The rise in childhood obesity, asthma, diabetes, and other chronic diseases indicates that the overall health status of people of this country is declining.

We are warned by the prophets not to heal the wounds of God’s people lightly; yet in 2006 the aggregate profits of the health insurance companies in the United States were $68 billion. During that same year more than 15,000 families were forced into bankruptcy because of medical expenses. Our business employers operate at a competitive disadvantage internationally because health care costs are assumed by the governments of other industrialized nations. The General Assemblies of the PC(USA) and its predecessors since 1971 have called for reform of health delivery systems in the United States to make them accessible to the entire population. Our federal government already operates efficiently and with low overhead the health delivery programs of Medicare and Medicaid; and yet at the same time insurance companies spend nearly one-third of every premium dollar on marketing and other administrative costs and in fact, several such companies spend less than 60 percent of premium dollars they receive on health care services.

The American College of Physicians, the nation’s second largest physician group, has endorsed a single-payer healthcare system. Only a single-payer system of national health care coverage (privately provided; publicly financed; not socialized medicine) can save what is estimated to be $350 billion wasted annually on medical bureaucracy and redirect those funds to expanded coverage.

Sunday's Sermon - A Gospel Who's Who

All summer we've been working down a list of congregational sermon requests. Last week's request was for a quick review of who the scribes, pharisees, Sadducees and other opponents of Jesus were.

Read the sermon
Read past sermons from this summer
View the schedule

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunday's Sermon - Celebrating the End

All summer we've been working down a list of congregational sermon requests. Last week's request was one of those things that all preachers should talk about but never do - how to approach the end of life as faithfully as we seek to live our lives.

Last week's request: Celebrating the End: funerals, cremation, body burial & other end of life concerns

Read the sermon
Read past sermons from this summer
View the schedule

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sunday's Sermon - Creation, Evolution & Scripture

All summer we've been working down a list of congregational sermon requests.

Last week's request: Creation, Evolution & Scripture

Read the sermon
Read past sermons from this summer
View the schedule

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sunday's Sermon - Apostles' Creed II

For our second installment of the All Request Summer Sermon Series we discussed the theology of the Apostles' Creed using another historic document, the Heidelberg Catechism, as a guide.

Read the sermon
Read the Heidelberg Catechism
Download the Presbyterian Study Catechism (which also discusses the Apostles' Creed extensively.)

Thoughts on Swap Day

The idea for Swap Day originated during discussions last year by the Stewardship Team regarding our materialistic tendencies. Our goal was redistribution - taking things that we no longer needed and making them available to others who needed them. It sounded simple, but after spending six hours mingling with people on the front lawn of the church, I realized it was anything but. Some observations:

  • We have a lot of stuff. Many people mentioned that if they had known about the swap sooner they would have cleaned out their attic, basement, etc. to contribute. Some seemed eager for a guilt free way of getting rid of their stuff.

  • Stuff is addictive. Some people had trouble distinguishing between need and want, and when faced with the prospect of being able to acquire more for no money, they went crazy.

  • People were surprised by free. Many people could not believe that we would simply give stuff away. It didn't fit into their world view. Some, when they did comprehend it, liked the vision of a world that we provided. They left hoping for more - not more free stuff - but more of a world governed by mutuality, sharing and relationships as opposed to commerce. See earlier blog posting: Why we gave stuff away for free.

  • People struggled with free. More than one guest, as they were leaving, made sure that I knew that they had both brought a bag of stuff and made a donation. Other guests struggled when we refused to accept payments or suggest a donation level. One woman I talked with never managed to wrap her head around the reality that we were not holding a fundraiser.

  • Our enterprise was profoundly spiritual. Our God is a god who gives freely who calls us to give with no expectation of return. The grace of God shown through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is off the market. We cannot buy it. If it was for sale, we could not afford it. We can only accept it. Our god of commerce attaches a price to everything and bases an individual's value on whether or not they can afford the price. Many of our guests needed to donate, either stuff or money, because it showed they had worth - that they were neither charity cases nor thieves. If it is hard to accept a free toaster oven, children's toy or picture frame, how much hard it is to truly accept the free gift of love, self worth and hope available through Jesus Christ. And, if we go to such effort to prove that we are neither charity cases nor thieves when people are freely giving stuff away, what does it say about our attitude toward those who rely on charity for survival?

Thanks again to everyone who helped and to everyone who came! A special thanks to the women of the Thrift Shop for their logistical assistance and their support.

And by the way: At the end of the day we counted just over $200 in the donation cans. Our food pantry volunteers mentioned that the Food Pantry's freezer broke. The $200 will help pay for repairs.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why give stuff away

Community Presbyterian's decision to hold a swap day as opposed to a yard sale came out of discussions about our relationship with material possessions. Here are our two motivating factors:

1. A rich man came to Jesus and asked him: “What must I do to have a rich, full and amazing life?” And Jesus said to him: “Go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor.” We live in a community where some people build additions onto their houses or rent garages to store all their stuff and where others lack the bare necessities for comfort. We spend millions of dollars and destroy the environment getting rid of stuff we’ve deemed useless and then spend millions of dollars more and further destroy the environment to acquire new stuff. So we give away stuff to achieve some of the balance our God desires for our lives, our communities and our natural world.

2. Our lives are encumbered. “Cumber” is an ancient word for all the things that weigh us down and drag us out. We can be encumbered by stuff, encumbered by financial debt, encumbered by worries or fears, encumbered by hurtful relationships, etc. Jesus Christ promises a life without cumber where, instead of weighing ourselves down, we trust in God to provide what we need, year by year, month by month, week by week, day by day, hour by hour. Most of us are not at a place of faith where we can fully let ourselves, our lives, our possessions go and trust totally on God, but this swap is one small step towards realizing God’s promise.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sunday's Sermon - Apostles' Creed I

To help everyone follow along in the All Request Summer Sermon Series, I'm going to try to post all the sermons online using a new document sharing site set up by Google. Not sure how this will work, but we'll give it a try.

View last Sunday's Sermon - Apostles' Creed I

Friday, July 3, 2009


I hope you are all cleaning your closets, basements, attics, and garages! I am surprised at the stuff I found and didn't even know I was missing. I guess I don't really need it, so I am in the process of disencumbering. However, there are people who might need my cumber, so I am taking it to CPC for the Swap.

Let's work together to rid ourselves of our cumber and help those in need.
See you next Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

All Request Summer Sermon Series

Many thanks to everyone who contributed topics for the summer sermon series. Here's the schedule. The schedule is very loose and rather arbitrary, so if you requested a topic and you're not going to be here when its scheduled, let Pastor Fritz know.

Click to read a previously delivered sermon.

July 5..........Apostle’s Creed I: History and background
July 12 ........Apostle’s Creed II: Theological Meaning
July 19 ........Discernment & Vocation: Figuring out God’s plan for your life
July 26 ........Pursuing a dream: Scriptures of Hope and Perseverance
August 2 .......Evolution, Creation & Scripture
August 9 .......Celebrating The End: Thoughts and Theology around funerals, burials, cremations, etc.
August 16 ......Bible Study: A Gospel Who’s Who – Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and others
August 23/30....Bible Study: The Prodigal Son
September 6.....Hymn Sing
September 13 ...Homosexuality, Marriage & The Church

Youth Group Kayak Trip

A few weeks ago CPC youth went kayaking. Here are some picts.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thank you to everyone who helped out with the 2009 Food Drive and who brought food. We collected enough food that when we were done lugging it into the Sanctuary, I was tired. Check out the slide show below to see for yourself.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Food Drive 2009

Bring a bag (or box) of non-perishable food to Community Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 13 between 10-3.

This is the fifth year CPC has held its annual food drive. What started as a way to help the Long Island Council of Churches fill the shelves before donations dropped off in the summer has become a campaign to help increasing numbers of our neighbors who are hungry.

This from a recent Long Island Council of Churches newsletter:
It should come as no surprise that the number of clients we are feeding this year has increased over 50% from the same time last year. We’re feeding 54% more households, including 39% more children, 60% more adults, and an astounding 94% more seniors than we did a year ago. We greatly appreciate the growing awareness among our supporters that more and more of our neighbors are hungry.

The most dramatic increase is the number of seniors who now need our help, followed by the increasing number of single moms with infants who can’t afford to buy baby food, infant formula and diapers. These changing demographics highlight the expanding number of our most vulnerable citizens who have fallen into poverty and need our assistance to make ends meet. What we find especially heartbreaking is that a significant number of seniors now come to us for help had been donors for many years. Many live on fixed income, and there is no way they can keep up with the rising prices of basic needs like food, housing, and medical prescriptions. Medicare insurance has more than doubled in the past six years while their income has barely risen at all, with annual social security cost-of-living increases averaging 2%-4% at most.
All food collected during the food drive will be donated to the Long Island Council of Churches Food Pantry in Freeport. So raid your pantry or go shopping and join Community Presbyterian in stocking the food pantry before summer comes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A moving story from our sister church to the Southwest

At a gathering of South Asian Presbyterians at the Valley Stream church last week, the Rev. Emanuel Nasir told of his first call, serving as supply pastor for a small church in Ohio. For a Women’s Sunday worship in 1975, an elderly woman in a wheel chair described to the congregation how their church had first become interested in Pakistan (and probably why they were willing to welcome an immigrant Pakistani as their pastor).

Years and years before, the church had responded to a plea, channeled through the denominational office, from a missionary in Pakistan. He had welcomed a young man and his wife whose Hindu family had disowned them when they became Christian. He wanted to provide work for them in a bookstore at his mission, but lacked the financial resources to provide a salary. The small church in Ohio sent money for many years to provide that salary.

Even before the elderly woman finished her story, Emanuel stood up, saying to the congregation, “That young man was my great grandfather. And now here I stand, as your pastor.” As Dr. Nasir reminded the group of South Asian immigrant pastors and church members, the gospel of Jesus Christ went out to Pakistan from the Presbyterian Church here in the States. Now it is coming back full circle, as these faithful Presbyterians, themselves the product of Presbyterian mission and witness, become a blessing to their American brothers and sisters.

Shared by Ellen Marquart, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Long Island

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Alternative Gifts for Mother's Day

Are you like Pastor Fritz and always buy your Mother's Day gifts a little late? Here are some ideas for how you can support programs that help women while also honoring Mom.

Buy a handmade gift from women artisans
Heartbeats Catalog
A wonderful catalog run by Sisters of the Humility of Mary featuring cards and crafts all by women.
A Greater Gift
Fair trade crafts from around the world, including many from women's cooperatives.

Support organizations that help women
Various projects and programs of Presbyterian Women
Includes general support of Presbyterian Women and special mission projects around the world.
Church World Service
Select a project that would be meaningful to your mother and get a special card sent to her.
Women for Women International
A program supported by CPC's women that helps women in war zones, including Iraq & Afghanistan.

Got another idea? Leave a comment.

Confirmation Class Hero's

On April 28th the CPC Confirmation class participated in the Hero's Run in East Rockaway to help raise money for soldiers wounded in Iraq & Afghanistan. We don't have any pictures of them leaving Rob Hallam in the dust, but here's a picture from when they got back to the church.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good Friday 2009

This year's Good Friday service centered around a series of meditative drawings done by the CPC Confirmation Class - Terry Gagstetter, Erik Riker & Michael Yang. Their drawings are playing in the slide show below. Click on the slide show to get a closer look.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Preserving the Faithful - Lent Series IV

During Lent this year, Pastor Fritz is preaching a sermon series entitled 'God's Bailout Plan.' Below are excerpts from the fourth sermon in the series, which discussed the restoration of Israel after the exile.

Read a vision of the Prophet Jeremiah regarding the Jewish exile community.
Read John of Patmos' great vision regarding Christ's reconciliation of those in suffering.

This Sunday we turn to the second journey – the Exile.

In destroying the temple and carrying off its treasures, the Babylonians probably thought they had not only defeated the Israelites but their God as well. The Biblical writers confess that God not only is alive and well, but that God was using the Babylonians to punish the Israelites for their disloyalty. The Israelites had not worshiped the Lord their God with all their heart, soul and strength. They had not loved their neighbors as their selves. They had ignored the poor, abused the widow, neglected the orphan and been unwelcoming to the foreigner. So God uses Babylon to teach Israel a lesson. At the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar, God delivers a dramatic, world changing wake up call.

In Babylon the Jewish elite found they had to either refocus on God and the Torah law or loose their identity. They had to learn to worship God, to keep their customs, their beliefs, their faith, when it was neither easy nor convenient to do so.

Seventy years after the fall of Jerusalem, the Assyrians, led by Cyrus the Great, conquered Babylon. While God used Nebuchadnezzar to conquer, God uses Cyrus to restore. Cyrus allows the Jewish people, to return to Jerusalem and provides them with money to rebuild the city and the temple.

The Israelites got themselves into their mess, but God still got them out. We get ourselves in lots of messes, but God remains ready with a bail out plan. John of Patmos, who wrote Revelation, offers a vision of the end of the world. Disaster has followed disaster as all the sins committed, all the mistakes made, come back to haunt the world. But when the smoke clears, the bodies are not littering the battlefield. Instead the multitude of the faithful, people from every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages, are before the throne of God in joyous worship. God has nurtured rather than destroyed, sheltering, feeding and filling the multitude with the water of life while he wipes away the tears from their eyes.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sprung from the Trap - Lent Series III

During Lent this year, Pastor Fritz is preaching a sermon series entitled "God's Bail out Plan." Below are excerpts from the third sermon in the series, which draws lessons from the Israelites' enslavement in Egypt and God's rescue.

Read about how the Israelites became enslaved
Read about God's decision to rescue them

In Egypt the Israelites became victims of a paranoid, xenophobic ruler who needed slaves to complete his numerous building projects. By working them to death, the king – possibly Ramses II – would prevent them from siding with Egypt’s enemies during times of conflict.

When I think of this world, I often think of a giant pinball machine with billions of tiny balls representing all of us humans. Ideally the balls should dance in intricately beautiful choreographed patterns. But inevitably somebody misses a step or drops out of line. Chaos ensues.

Sins big and little pervade our lives and pervade our world. We live among corrupt and broken systems operated by corrupt and broken people. We, our neighbors, our world suffer as a result. The Apostle Paul talks about the entire world, all of creation, groaning under the weight of sins large and small, innocent and diabolical. It is this sin that causes a cashier at Target or an engineer on the Long Island Rail Road to loose her job because a person who wanted a little more house than they could afford was seduced by a broker seeking a larger commission from a mortgage company seeking bigger profits, who was invested in by a bank trying to get in on the action which in turn was insured by AIG. Pinballs out of step, out of line. Broken choreography bringing pain, suffering and hurt into our lives and into our world.

Over and over again Scripture affirms that God hears our groaning, the groaning of the world and responds. God responds to the Israelites by sending Moses. God responds to our groaning by sending Jesus Christ. God responds to the groaning of the world through his church, whom he has charged to continue Jesus’ legacy of love, justice and healing in a broken world.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Ways of Being Church

Just got back from spending three days in Louisville, KY at a conference focused on New Ways of Being Church. Featured speakers were: Diana Butler Bass, Marcus Borg and Brian McLaren. Earlier posts contain some soundbites from their presentations.

All the speakers seem to agree upon two points which have major repercussions for faith communities. Personally, I find both exciting. But others find them quite disturbing and even frightening. If Butler Bass, Borg & McLaren are correct, it means that to be effective (or even survive) congregations have to do church a whole new way.

Point 1:
Our "Christian culture" has shifted to a "secular" or "pluralistic" culture, meaning that many people attend church out of an intentional desire to follow Christ rather than because church attendance is expected.

Conventional Christians want church to be an unchallenging environment that mirrors the conventions of the surrounding culture. Conventional Christians have no desire to change themselves or society.

Intentional Christians want to be lead closer to God and in doing so to be challenged to lead genuinely Christ like lives. Intentional Christians yearn for personal change and societal change.

Intentional Christians find conventional churches to be shallow, unspiritual and even hypocritical. Conventional Christians find intentional churches threatening to their entire belief systems.

Point 2:
Spiritual focus needs to shift from the suffering and death of Jesus for an individual's sins to Jesus' declaration of the coming of the Kingdom of God.

All the speakers agreed on this, and this is their most controversal claim. For the last 1500 years, Christianity's focus has primarily been other worldly: We follow Christ to avoid hell and get into heaven. The primary goal of the church is to get more people into heaven and help everyone avoid hell. Believing in the right things became more important than doing the right things.

The speakers called for a new reformation based on practice not belief, focused on following Jesus in this world as opposed to following him to the next world. They envisioned a Christian community steeped in prayer and worship, committed to social justice and peace, defined by hospitality and who take as their foundational commandment to love God and love neighbor.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brian McLaren

This is the third installment in my series of notes from the recent conference I attended at Louisville Seminary on New Ways of Being Church. These are from the lecture and discussion given by Brian McLaren, and really consists mostly of sound bites that jumped out at me. This is the longest entry, in part because I consider Rev. McLaren one of the most innovative and far sighted thinkers in the church today. For a fuller idea of what he thinks, read his books, especially Everything Must Change and A Generous Orthodoxy .

Humanity is in the midst of a change as big as any in history. A whole new society is emerging, that we do not yet know what is. Reacting to this change is about more than changing music or adding programs.

The big shift:
  • Conquest & control -> conservation
  • Mechanics & sound bites -> holistic systems
  • Secular science -> spiritual science
  • Objective -> intersubjective
  • Organizational -> alliances & networks
  • Individual -> communal & traditional
  • Denominational -> post denominational
  • Consumer -> sustainer
The new vision of what church is comes from those new to the faith and the young.

Pivot points
How do we relate to Jesus?
  • Taking what Jesus says seriously
  • Jesus as more than forgiver of sin
  • Focus on Kingdom of God
  • Jesus not a religion maker but a kingdom proclaimer
How do we relate to the world
  • Move from: the gospel being an institutionally controlled message which provides an enhancement of the soul (self) so that it can get to heaven
  • To: In following the gospel, the church serves as God’s agent in recruiting people to engage in the healing of the world.

An old interpretation of how the Gospel helps us relate to the world:

A new interpretation of how the Gospel helps us relate to the world:

How do churches relate to each other?
  • We celebrate a range of ministry and mission by a range of congregations with different styles and different gifts.

Three new ways of being church:
  1. A movement that seeks to join God in the healing of the world
  2. A disciple forming community that seeks to practice the way of Jesus. Product of the church is “Christ like people”
  3. A liturgical/mystical network that practices receptivity to the Holy Spirit

Marcus Borg

This is the second set of notes from the recent conference I attended at Louisville Seminary on New Ways of Being Church. These are from the lecture and discussion given by Marcus Borg, and really consists mostly of sound bites that jumped out at me. You will note that this is a very short entry. Frankly, I was not very impressed with Dr. Borg's thinking. For a fuller idea of what he thinks you can read any one of his kajillion books, although almost all discuss his pursuit of an "authentic uncorrupted gospel" and not his ideas on new ways of being church - of which he apparently has very few. The below ideas were mostly borrowed from others, but seemed to have some use and possibly some merit.

The church is moving from communities of convention, where participants attend because that is what society expects of them, to communities of intention, where participants yearn for something and seek to accomplish something.

Intentional Christian Communities:
  • Engage in theological education to allow participants to articulate the gospel
  • Engage in a new way of living distinct from the surrounding culture
  • Educate about prayer and worship (Worship is a subversive practice that declares that God and only God is Lord of our lives.)
  • Encourage active participation in God’s intense love (passion) for humanity.

Diana Butler Bass

This is the beginning of my notes from the recent conference I attended at Louisville Seminary on New Ways of Being Church. These are from the lecture and discussion given by Diana Butler Bass, and really consists mostly of sound bites that jumped out at me. For a fuller idea of what she thinks, read her books, especially Christianity for the Rest of Us.

Church needs to shift from defining what we’re not to defining what we are.
A new definition of church for the 21st century:
Christian communities who practice a generative, birthing faith that seeks primarily to create new opportunities for the transformation and healing of individuals and society.

Diana’s study of successful congregations revealed that by intentionally engaging Christian practice congregations:
  1. Grow in spiritual vitality
  2. Grow in numbers if demographics warrant, experiencing evangelistic success because those living the gospel cannot keep silent
  3. Are vital congregations that challenge their participants to deeper spiritual life and practice
  4. Are profound
  5. Motivate participants to action
  6. Give participants meaning to life
  7. Practice hospitality to each other, children and strangers
Rick Warren: “We are in the midst of a new reformation – a reformation about deeds, not creeds.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Ways of Being Church

I'm Louisville, KY for a few days attending the annual Festival of Theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Its not much of a festival - no jugglers, cotton candy, cool bands, dance troupes or any of the things that make a festival, well, festive. It is a time of hearing lectures by and having discussion with three of the most innovative minds working in the church today:

Diana Butler Bass - a church historian who calls for a refocus on basic spiritual practices (hospitality, sabbath keeping, tithing, simplicity, etc) in congregational life.
Marcus Borg - a New Testament scholar who feels an intense analysis of scripture can separate a radical "true gospel" from a later "socially accomodating" gospel and by focusing on this more radical gospel, the church can find renewed purpose and identity.
Brian McLaren - a pastor who feels that congregations should focus not on what they believe but instead on how they live out the life of Jesus as the community of Christ in this world.

As I have time over today and tomorrow I'll be summarizing their ideas and the discussion that follows.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Translating Babel - Lent Series II

During Lent this year, Pastor Fritz is preaching a sermon series entitled God's Bailout Plan. Below are excerpts from the second sermon in the series.

Read the story of the Tower of Babel

View what the Tower of Babel might have looked like
Check out the archeology from the British Museum

We still build great towers as a testimony to human ingenuity, power, wealth and might. Al Qaeda targeted the World Trade Center on multiple occasions because the twin towers were, in many ways, a temple to the capitalist west and the wealth of the United States. When they fell, we felt emasculated. And the politicians rushed to promise that we would rebuild, bigger, better, higher, more secure. We would demonstrate our power and the supremacy of our economic belief system.
As bad as 9-11 was, imagine how bad it would have been if we had lost perspective on who our God really is. What if we had given superiority to the human made systems and philosophies, governments and multi-national corporations represented by those towers? Many years ago, our ancient ancestors made that mistake. They saw earthly power and confused it with divine power. They saw earthly wealth and confused it with divine blessing. They too built a tower to move the human into the realm of the divine. Luckily, in Abraham, God had a bail out plan.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Paradise's Promise - Lent Series I

During Lent this year, Pastor Fritz is preaching a sermon series entitled God's Bailout Plan. Below are excerpts from the first sermon in the series.

God had reached out from heaven in love and crafted the earth, filling it with beauty and goodness. Everything about the world gave life. Nothing gave death. Everything about the world gave joy. Nothing gave pain. God’s love infused everything. There was no hate. The second of two creation stories calls this world the Garden of Eden. Dante called it Paradise. When we glimpse this world in the course of our very ordinary, non paradise filled lives, we call it God sightings.

Our sin blocks our participation in paradise as effectively as a painted window blocks the sun. As God expelled Adam and Eve from Eden, our sin expels us from intimate relationship with the divine.

Their fall is a metaphor of our personal falls. Instead of bearing the fruit God desires of us, from the first moment from the womb we are like the pear tree, wanting to grow quickly and bask in the sun. God built these yearnings, doubts and desires into us. Not so that we can experience suffering, but so that we can freely and wholly commit ourselves to him.

Most people spend most of their lives in the litter and bombed out factories along the tracks. That’s not what God wants – it has never been what God wants – and time and time again God seeks to rescue his people from the mess of a world filled with sin.

Blanket Delivery

Last fall during Mission Sunday we made a whole bunch of no-sew fleece blankets. Our goal to present them to women in the battered women's shelter proved easier said than done, but finally we were able to deliver the blankets to the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where they'll be used in the Coalitions Safe Home for Abused Families. Thanks to Gloria Braun and Nancy Stalb for arranging the delivery.

Pancake Supper 2009

On Shrove Tuesday, as New Orleans went wild for Marti Gras, we had a much more sedate pancake supper at CPC followed by our annual burning of the palms. Many thanks to everyone who helped with the dinner and everyone who came to eat. A special thanks to Malverne Prime Meat for their donation of the sausage and a super special thanks to the Malverne Fire Department who stopped by to make sure we didn't burn down the church while we were burning the palms.

In addition to being a good dinner, the evening raised $550, which will be split between the Interfaith Nutrition Network and the CPC Youth Fund.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Pancake Supper


FEBRUARY 24 @ 6:00

An all you can eat pancake and sausage dinner followed by a micro bonfire of last year's palm leaves.

EVERYONE 6-12 - $3.50


Ash Wednesday Service
Wednesday, February 25
7:30 pm

Pastor Fritz's Lenten Challenge

In less than a week we'll be eating pancakes, burning the palms, donning ashes and beginning a time of spiritual preparation for Easter. It is traditional to give something (like chocolate) up. I prefer to add. Here are some thoughts:

Add a daily devotional or prayer time to your day. Read an entire book of the Bible (or two if they're short). If you have small children, use a children's Bible and read it with them. Here are some good starting places:
  • Luke or John
  • Acts
  • Romans (for lawyers only)
  • 1-3 John
  • Genesis
  • Jonah
Practice hospitality by inviting neighbors, friends or even complete strangers over for a cup of coffee, a dessert or even a meal. Explore the difference between hospitality - a cup of coffee and listening ear over a messy table - and entertaining - a sparkling clean house, the best china and the perfect centerpiece.

Covenant with a friend or your pastor to keep the daily office, a cycle of prayers and readings used by many to begin and end each day connected to God.

Keep a journal of God Sightings, taking time each day to note how God is working in your life and in the world.

Select an area of your life to tithe: (Tithing is the "churchy" word for giving 10% of anything to God.) Here are some ideas:
  • Go whole hog and for six weeks give 10% of all your income to charities of your choice.
  • Every time you go grocery shopping, buy an extra 10% for the local food pantry.
  • Volunteer 10% of your non-work time
  • Spend 10% of your non-work time with someone you love but has been neglected.
  • Reduce your carbon emissions or energy usage by 10%.
Give up a major addiction - coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, afternoon cookies - and give the money you save to a cause you really, really care about.

Becomming Missional

After church on Sunday, Rev. Ellen Marquardt, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Long Island made a presentation about becoming a congregation more focused on doing the work of God in and with the local community and less focused on congregational structures, organizations and buildings. She called this outward focused type of congregation "missional," because every participant in the congregation's life and worship sees her or him self as a missionary in every aspect of their lives. Church structures then exist to energize and empower their congregations to be missionaries.

This is a radically new/old way of "being church" rooted much more in the ministry of the 1st Century church than in the ministry of the congregations many of us grew up in. To underscore this, Ellen led those present in a study of Luke 10, the story of Jesus appointing 70 of his disciples to go out into the neighboring towns and villages to cure the sick and bring a Spirit of peace.

Click below to view Ellen's Power Point from the workshop

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Go Girl! - 2

Beatrix's efforts continue
“I am very proud to inform you that Long Island so far has raised about $13,332 and 4,389 cans of food," she says

Five Important Ministry Questions

Long Island Executive Presbyter Ellen Marquardt is speaking on changing churches and changing cultures at CPC this Sunday. (Presentation at 11:00, Lunch following.) Recently in her weekly email to the Presbytery she wrote the following:

In preparing for a presentation about being a “missional” church, I came across 5 questions that missional church writer Reggie McNeal says the church should ask its members:

1. What do you enjoy doing?
2. Where do you see God most at work in your life right now?
3. What would you like to see God do in your life over the next 6-12 months? How can we help?
4. How would you like to serve other people? How can we help?
5. How can we pray for you?

How might your church, our presbytery, be different in 5 years if we asked each other those questions, and answered them faithfully and prayerfully?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

You Go Girl!

A few months ago, Beatrix Weil set out on a mission - to get as many of the 700 schools on Long Island to participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring. Not only did she get 50 schools to participate in this nation wide collection for hunger centered on the Super Bowl, but she ended up inviting the entire Tri-State to join CPC in mission. And oh, by the way, CPC collected over $300 for the LICC Food Pantry as our Souper Bowl drive.

Check out the links:

Article in the Lynbrook/East Rockaway Herald about Beatrix
Interview with Beatrix on WCBS 800am (Click on the Souper Bowl logo on the bottom of the page)
National Souper Bowl collection total