Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Hill United Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at The Hill United Presbyterian Church, 501 Second Street, Butler, PA 16001, 724.287.5427,, Rev. Clark T. Sawyer, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We have gotten used to the smaller country churches in Beaver-Butler Presbytery, so I was not expecting a larger Sanctuary. We were warmly greeted coming in but had to ask where the restrooms were as there is no signage.

The pastor greeted us cordially before the service and on our way out.

Some notable things about the Sanctuary: the wooden cross on the rear Chancel wall matched the woodwork and was both integral and independent. This was the only time I have ever felt the effect of a ceiling fan in a high-ceiling church. Seemed like a superior ventilation system or air conditioning when the fans were turned off later. We were seated for a while before the beautiful one of us called my attention to the beautiful stained glass window.

Probably the most exceptional part of the service for me was a really outstanding anthem, and the best part was the smiles of the choir while worshiping God in music. The solos were great and it was an excellent rendition of the song. The smile of one young woman in front was so profound I almost missed some of the others.

The sermon, “The Claim and Promise of Jesus,” centered on Jesus is where Heaven touches Earth. Through our faith we take part in the crucifixion of Christ and share in the priesthood. God predestined a place of us in His Kingdom and Christ, our friend in God, brings us to fulfill that purpose.

Jan’s thoughts:

It was like pulling teeth this morning to decide where to go, but with a decision made I printed directions and we hopped into the truck. Since we’re unfamiliar with Butler, we took the GPS also, and didn’t notice till we were on the road that the directions displayed by the GPS were different from the ones I printed! However, the GPS only simplified the route, so those were the directions we used.

Before we entered the building we were greeted warmly by a woman at the door. Once inside we came to realize that there are numerous doors into the building and Sanctuary, and they had them all covered, enabling everyone entering to be greeted. No small feat!

The bulletin is extremely well done with lots of inserts but the Order of Worship on one outer sheet so the miscellaneous sheets could be contained inside the folded outer sheet. It worked perfectly.

Some folks were quite friendly and welcoming, some were content to walk past us saying nothing – this is typical for a church with two services.

One thing we’ve recently come to realize is the difference it makes when the pastor greets visitors and even, if possible, takes time to talk. Realizing that pastors do not always have time for conversation with visitors – especially on Sunday mornings – we’ve experimented by simply making an attempt to stick around and be available to chat in case the pastor was not otherwise occupied. In my humble opinion, a visitors’ sense of feeling welcomed at a church is proportionate to the number of people who take the time to greet them. In other words, the more members who greet a visitor, the more welcome that visitor feels. If the pastor takes time to greet visitors, with or without chat-time, the visitor will likely feel even more sincerely welcome. We do not force the meet-and-greet issue in our visits because we are not seeking a church to join. I’m making these observations so that others who do not visit churches regularly might gain an understanding of what visitors may be thinking and feeling.

One of the inserts listed the many ushers and greeters who serve the church and they received recognition during the service.

There were two points during the service that called for silent prayer. Unfortunately, the length of the silence given for this was about five seconds. Maybe it’s just me, but it takes me that long to focus my heart; I always feel interrupted when I’m still praying and they jump in so quickly.

The anthem, entitled “Fill-a Me Up,” was splendid and presented with smiling faces by a wonderfully harmonious choir. The music had an African sound to it that brought back fond memories of my visits to Malawi.

The sermon was based on Psalm 23 and John 10:22-30 and was entitled “The Claim and Promise of Jesus.” He began by recounting a story from “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” by Bill Bryson. The story revolved around Bryson’s encounter with a baseball great who treated him kindly. Bryson then wrote that the player seemed to him to be “the nicest person (he) ever met. It was like being friends with God.” The point, of course, being that Jesus is indeed the nicest person any of us will ever meet, and knowing Him is not only LIKE being friends with God, it IS being friends with Him. It was an encouraging sermonic reminder of God’s protection and provision.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Christ Still Makes House Calls

Bob's thoughts -

I am always amazed how sometimes my most spiritual moments come when I think I am missing something not being in church. We need to be prepared for how He will use us at all times. It was a good day even beyond the grandchildren.

Jan's thoughts -

Our grandchildren (4 ½, 2 ½, and 8 months) came for a visit this weekend, and brought their parents along. It was a wonderful weekend, but we’ve learned that grandparenting is a contact sport and can tire one out more quickly than parenting. (I’m sure age has nothing to do with it, right?) Consequently we stayed home and listened to various sermons on the computer, relaxing, thanking God for His blessings in our lives, and getting rested for the week ahead.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mt. Nebo Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Mt. Nebo Presbyterian Church, 1236 Prospect Road, Prospect, PA 16052, 724.865.2063, Rev. Robert Allison, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

After a little confusion we found the church we had planned to visit today, as well as another to visit in the future.

I am usually disappointed when there is a visiting preacher, but today was an exception. We heard a very good message delivered well. It is always impressive when a visiting pastor can adapt: there was only one young person present so with the comment that “we’re all God’s children,” he allowed him to stay in his seat and gave the children’s message to everyone present.

Before we sang “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty,” he talked about what it will be like in Heaven to say that repeatedly. I have waited for a long time to hear someone raise that question and I thought he answered it well.

The theme of the sermon was “consider Abraham.” As Abraham we should not be afraid to ask God and put our faith in God and not in our feeble works. The passion comes again when we are overwhelmed anew with Who God is.

Maybe it was a bad day, but I have never seen such sour expressions on a choir praising God.

The church has great backlit cross, and the offering was taken in response to the Word. It could use some signage.

Again I thought the preacher handled some minor miscues on the prayer, etc. very well. A great use of Scripture throughout the sermon.

Jan’s thoughts:

This is a lovely, well kept, very rural church; also very friendly – warm and welcoming.

This is one of only a few churches I’ve seen with absolutely no stained glass that I could see. The Sanctuary was attractive, with a large backlit cross with gold-colored drapes hanging on either side of the cross. The pews were comfortably padded in a similar gold color.

The bulletin provided plenty of information, and my only issue would be type size – I thought it would have been helpful if the liturgy was easier to read. (This comment sounds familiar as I have often been wishing for larger print lately.)

Interestingly, the Ten Commandments were part of this morning’s liturgy. I don’t know if that’s a weekly exercise, but it’s certainly an excellent idea.

The pastor is presumably on vacation as it was announced that he and his wife had a baby last night.

The preacher this morning was Rev. John McElwain, who serves with the Coalition for Christian Outreach as a trainer for the 183 staff members. He was associate pastor at Sampson’s Mills from 1976-1988 and pastor of Harmony Presbyterian Church in Harrisville from 1988-2006.

The sermon, entitled “Honest Faith for Life,” is part one, with part two slated for next week. It was based on Genesis 15:1-21 and Galatians 3:1-9, and revolved around being honest with God and humbly asking Him our sincere questions. He asked the question, “If we truly want to have faith like Abraham, how can we not ask our questions and deal openly and honestly with God and then BELIEVE HIM, as Abraham did?”

The “believing Him” is the part I seem to stumble over. Apparently God thought I needed another reminder today so He sent us to this church to hear one. The effect is to make me want to become more familiar with His promises so I know what He has said that I should be believing.

Concord Presbyterian Church

On Easter Sunday we worshiped at Concord Presbyterian Church, 2832 Conway Wallrose Road, Baden, PA 15005, 724.869.9135,, Rev. J. Harper Brady, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

When we say we chose to worship somewhere, I believe it is a lot less of our choosing but truly our being guided by the Holy Spirit. Today He led us to Concord for a Spirit-filled Easter worship.

The chancel was decorated with only white lilies with pots wrapped in white paper. The Gospel reading was from Matthew, but it brought to mind, I believe, from John’s account “that when it was still dark” they went to the tomb, that when we are in our darkest time we can still come to Christ.

The Prayer of Confession was read in the closest to complete unity that I have ever heard. It gave the impression of a greater unity than I sensed was there.

The sermon was on the importance of the resurrection over all else: If Christ is raised, nothing else matters. If Christ is not raised, nothing matters. But for us it has a special meaning: Jesus lives so our son lives. I believe with all my heart and soul, I know Jesus lives.

The Elders served Communion silently, but they did serve the pastor, an act missing in many churches.

The service closed with a wonderful rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus.