Sunday, September 27, 2009

Glade Run United Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Glade Run United Presbyterian Church, 1091 Pittsburgh Road, Valencia, PA 16059, 724.898.3503,, Rev. Greg Wiest, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We visited Glade Run for their traditional service. The Sanctuary is very nicely tied together: a larger cross is framed with a rounded archway in wood paneling. Over all, the wood trim and ceiling treatment draw attention to the impressive stained glass. It has the feel of a country church.

There are matching banners in front: very colorful, but I’m not sure of the significance. I was disappointed that the offering was not taken in response to the Word.

I’ve never attempted to ring handbells, and maybe there is a concentration required that demands seriousness, but I had hoped for a smile when their exceptional worship was done.

The message was part of a series on Christianity and other religions. I am not sure what is gained by the comparisons but do believe it will help in our witness to other faiths. I am always amazed at how parts of a faith are made up at will, but am reminded of all the ‘extras’ the Jews added in and the host of things added by some denominations within the Christian church.

If we encourage other faiths to talk about their beliefs, we are able to explain our personal relationship with Christ. I agree our strong witness are our prayers for them and the witness of how we live our lives for Christ.

Something seemed to be missing in worship however. Worship. The elements were there, but there was no noticeable passion or joy. Other than the children and some young mothers, I only saw one smile during the service. There is something very Presbyterian in this. Maybe we are affected by the Reformed Presbyterian, that we feel we can’t be happy in worship.

The only reason I note this is for what came after the worship service. We were looking at a bulletin board of missionary activities during the coffee fellowship time, and I commented to Jan how I thought we stood out and was surprised that no one greeted us. As if on cue, people came by and introduced themselves and invited us to join them. That fellowship time was characterized by joy and laughter, a time of sharing and breaking bread together (well, cake, which I enjoyed in spite of my doctors’ directives).

I don’t know if you try to redirect some of that joy to worship or bring worship to the coffee hour. The worship time was marred by some folks sitting nearby who not only talked throughout the service but spent their time complaining.

The benediction reflected a personal belief about how we readily accept Christ as Savior but have trouble acknowledging Him as Lord.

I really enjoyed talking to the pastor and others. Also was impressed with the mission involvement. We hope to make it back for the contemporary service.

Jan’s thoughts:

This building was much larger than I expected; very well kept and tastefully decorated with much attention to detail. Plenty of parking space.

The signage was part of the décor, so it was unobtrusive. We asked the location of the restrooms when we entered and they turned out to be through the Sanctuary and down the hall a ways. It was a good thing we asked as we would never have encountered them just looking for them.

The pews were comfortably padded and set in a curved arrangement. The Chancel boasted lots of wood, including a huge Celtic cross against the rear wall. I never tire of seeing the beautiful stained glass, and the colors on these particular windows were unusual and quite stunning.

The bulletin was well-done, with the worship service information on the outside sheet and all the inserts foldable inside so as not to get in the way during worship. It worked well.

We attended the 8:45 a.m. traditional service but will likely return for the 11 a.m. contemporary service at some point.

Bob will probably write something about this, but I’ll say it too: I sensed almost no passion or joy from anyone during this service with the exception of the pastor. However the people were like another congregation after the service, which I’ll address in a moment.

The sermon was part of a series contrasting faith in Christ with other faiths, and today’s message was “Jesus and Hinduism.” He pointed out that yoga is one of the philosophical schools of Hinduism, a fact which seems to be lost on many of its numerous practitioners. He outlined some great steps to take should you be seeking to evangelize someone of the Hindu faith, and actually I thought they were great points to keep in mind in any evangelization effort aimed at someone of another faith or someone with no faith. They originated with Indian-born Christian apologist and author Ravi Zacharius. I wrote as fast as I could and I think I got them all:
1. Begin by creating a relationship. Show respect for their beliefs without compromising your faith.
2. Listen more than you talk (good advice in general).
3. Respond to their needs.
4. Emphasize the personal relationship with Christ (something lacking in every other faith).
5. Pray for them.
6. Don’t overwhelm them – take your time. Studies show that younger people especially are open to hearing the Good News.
7. Our call is to present the truth of Christ. People can only be loved into the Kingdom, not coerced or dragged.

Following worship we sought out the restrooms again and as we were looking at the bulletin board full of information and communications from missionaries, several people approached us and introduced themselves. They were extremely friendly, showing us where to find coffee and inviting us to try some of the many cakes, etc. We each spent some time with several members who took the time to share some of the church’s history as well as personal conversation. The obviously friendly teasing, chatting, and general fellowshipping going on seemed so different from the stoic (Presbyterian) worship. We may just visit again for the 11:00 contemporary service after all. We were very glad we stayed for the fellowship time.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bethany Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 740 Washington Avenue, Bridgeville, PA 15017, 412.221.5132,, Dr. David Antonson, Interim Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

Back to Bethany to hear Hetz Marsh preach. So much thought and planning went into the extensive remodel of Bethany that it is always a pleasure to visit. I was especially glad since the website start time was not updated and we were an hour early.

Can’t remember any service that had more extras added in. One that I enjoyed was a report on Vietnam ministry which included a story I hadn’t heard before, that to be a minister in Vietnam requires two things: a call from God to serve and that you have been imprisoned for your faith. Sort of weeds out the less committed candidate.

There was a presentation by the Evangelism Committee – some very nice door hangers were made up. I do hope they also plan to knock on the door.

I would have enjoyed the chili tasting after the service, but due to a prior engagement I couldn’t try to sneak in a taste of chili…besides it’s no longer on my diet.

Hetz delivered an impassioned message; it is always so much easier to believe when the speaker lets his/her passion show.

I was disappointed that the offering was taken before the Word was preached, but very pleased with the mission involvement evidenced by the bulletin board postings. There was also some good literature available, though some needs updated.

Jan’s thoughts:

It’s been a while since we visited Bethany, and since a friend was filling the pulpit today it seemed like a good time to return.

The facility has been very well kept, clean, with great signage. From the moment we walked in the door there were signs pointing the direction toward every possible destination. Right outside the Sanctuary is a welcoming area with café seating and a well-supplied coffee bar.

Only a few people spoke to us, but the ones who did were very friendly and helpful, giving us plenty of new member information.

The service was jam-packed with the usual substance of worship as well as the Logos staff commissioning, a Moment for Mission, and a report from a seminary student who had participated in a mission trip to Vietnam.

A couple of comments about the bulletin (can’t help it…I’m a former church secretary): It contains color, which is a marvelous thing, it’s well laid out, easy to read, and contains much more information than it’s possible to digest in that brief amount of time. However, it was cumbersome. Early on, after finding an empty spot to make a note to myself, it took some time to figure out what was what again. I'd suggest keeping the Order of Worship on the one folded page and including the rest in the form of unfolded inserts. That way when the bulletin is folded for use during worship it's possible to insert everything inside that's not worship-related and still follow the service. Just a thought, for what it's worth.

The message, entitled “If You Are Happy and You Know It…”, was given by Hetz Marsh. I had not heard him preach before, but found his style animated and engaging. As the title suggests, the topic was happiness, and for once a sermon on that subject did not wander into the issue of “happiness vs. joy,” instead focusing on happiness as blessedness based on the Beatitudes, and concluding with what, in the end, makes for a truly happy life is that it is a life committed to God’s ideals. As I seek to learn God’s intention for my life I’ll be pondering that idea as a starting place.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Concord Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Concord Presbyterian Church, 2832 Conway-Wallrose Road, Baden, PA 15005, 724.869.9135,, Rev. J. Harper Brady.

Bob’s thoughts:

We made a visit to Concord so that I could thank them for the cards and prayers and to witness that those prayers worked. I also asked for continued prayers for my wife as I am going to be around for a while.

Concord has some of the most caring and loving people of all the churches I have known, and it is always uplifting to be around them.

Jan’s thoughts:

The members of Concord were so very supportive before, during, and after Amber & Dan’s wedding then throughout Bob’s surgery and recovery with their prayers and cards, we wanted to be with them to express our gratitude and provide living proof of God’s answers to their prayers (and those of numerous others!). It was good to be in worship again with this warm and welcoming congregation. I think by now we’re considered friends of Concord, which is a fine.

Many folks greeted us and were glad to see Bob upright(!), and everyone is becoming accustomed to calling our daughter by her new last name.

I did want to comment on the music, specifically the Senior Choir Anthem which today was “In Christ Alone.” Today I was able to understand the words…so powerful, and very well done in spite of being short several voices (I understand). It brought me to tears.

Mostly it was just good to be among friends and family.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mt. Nebo Presbyterian Church

Today we attempted to worship at Mt. Nebo Presbyterian Church, 1828 Roosevelt Road, Sewickley, PA 15143, 412.741.6880,, Rev. Doug Dorsey.

Bob’s thoughts:

We tried to worship at Mt. Nebo but the service started before the start time posted on the website and even on the outdoor marquee. We were in time for the sermon. Some of the message was about ministry outside of the church that I think is lost on most.

I thought it interesting that much of the message was about being a welcoming congregation, but no one noticed us sitting outside the sanctuary. When I went up to put an offering in the plate (which was taken after the Word) the usher did offer me a bulletin. For how many people went by, it was odd to not be welcomed.

There is a great wood cross hanging above the entryway. We planned our arrival to allow plenty of time to look around; as it was we were able to look around a bit after the service. Bulletin boards displayed announcements referring to various missions. Some doors are identified only on the front of the door, so they could well benefit from signage. I noticed a lot of vehicles parked on the grass across from the church and wonder if this is the case in the winter.

Jan’s thoughts:

This has been enough of an issue in the past; I should have remembered to call the church and ask about the worship time, but I didn’t. Instead I trusted the website. Consequently, we arrived at 10:10, thinking we were 40 minutes early; instead we were 40 minutes late. How disappointing.

We arrived during the reading of the Scripture, and while we stood right inside the doors trying to decide if we should just go elsewhere, we could clearly hear the sermon in which he spoke of being a welcoming church, and a story about Gandhi once attending a service at a Christian church and being treated in a distinctly un-welcoming manner. Then going on to ask the congregation how first-time visitors at Mt. Nebo would be treated. All the while we first-time visitors sat in the narthex with people walking past or standing in the narthex themselves, and no one stopped to ask who we were or if they could help us. Seems like the pastor’s question was answered.

So we missed most of the service (including a baptism, unfortunately). The sermon, however, was worth hearing. In addition to the story about Gandhi and his visit to a Christian church, there was a story about Tony Campolo finding himself in a diner in Hawaii at 3:30 one morning. He encountered some prostitutes, one of whom told a friend with her that the next day was her birthday. The friend made unkind remarks about it, so after they left Tony made arrangements with the owner of the diner to have a birthday party for the woman (a regular) the next night.

Of course, the woman was stunned, and so was everyone else when she wanted to take her birthday cake nearby to show her mother. When she had gone, Tony led the many other guests – mostly prostitutes – in prayer for the woman, after which the owner declared he had no idea Tony was a preacher and what kind of preacher from what kind of church frequents a diner full of prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning anyway? In a flash of inspiration Tony replied “The kind of church that throws a birthday party for a prostitute, that’s what kind of church.” To which the owner replied “Where is that church – I want to join it.” People come to know Christ through coming to know His people. Good story and a great point that certainly spoke to us.