Sunday, August 29, 2010


Today, as Jan was not feeling well, we worshiped at home

Bob’s thoughts:

Health concerns kept us from visiting today, so we listened to some sermons by Dan Merry at Southminster.

One of them struck me as being related to “Back to the Future” – we all want to know what our future holds for us, and I admit to asking God, “What do You want me to do for the rest of my life?” and eventually, in the silence, I came to ask, “God, what do You want me to do right now?” I’ve gotten comfortable leaving my future where it has always been, in God’s capable hands.

Not trying to poke fun but another brought to mind “I’ll be back.” This was the original “I’ll be back” from Jesus Christ

Another from John reminded me of “Our God is an Awesome God.” By then I was soaking my hands to lessen the garden stains and couldn’t make any more notes.

Dan’s sermons are always uplifting and I get a lot from them but couldn’t help miss the rest of the service.

Jan’s thoughts:

I’m so grateful to be able to spend time hearing the Word preached even when I’m not well enough to be in church. Computers have been known to give us fits occasionally, but sometimes they can be a blessing.

Today we listened to several sermons delivered by Rev. Dan Merry, Senior Pastor at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Mt. Lebanon. I always enjoy Dan’s sermons and they usually speak to me at some level. This morning I learned/was reminded of the following truths:

1 – Hope wins. (I plan to write this one where I’ll see it daily!)

2 – God is greater than our temptations, our sins, and our scars.

3 – The women who followed Jesus and ministered to Him knew what it meant to be liberated.

4 – Freedom means: feeling good about every part of our lives; being an initiator, not a victim; and choosing the right master, and that surrender is good IF we are surrendering ourselves to the love and care of God.

5 – None of the Fruits of the Spirit are dependent on outside influences.

6 – Three tough (and vital) questions are: Who am I? Why am I here? And, where does my power come from?

While my body heals, my mind and spirit were nourished.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Frankfort Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Frankfort Presbyterian Church, 3326 State Route 18, Hookstown, PA 15050, 724.947.3240,, Rev. Allison Bauer, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

I don’t offer much input when Jan is trying to discern which church we should attend. It really does not matter to me, and God has redirected us enough that I know we will end up where He wants us anyhow. We knew the pastor had worked with some of our children at camp, and we had a few minutes to catch up before the congregation came in.

We were warmly welcomed and treated much like family by a few people. The church does not have much signage but is small enough not to need much. There is a restroom right off the Narthex (with a sign outside) and class room/social area in the basement (which we found by exploring).

The rear wall of the Chancel is somewhat startlingly plain white with a large wooden cross, which really amplified the effect of the cross for me. There are two classy banners on the side walls, and the double-hung rounded-top windows have a solid color pane on the sides and around the top.

When it was time for the children’s message, music was played till they all got up front. It seemed unusual that the pastor waited for the children but that small act verified their worth. They connected well with the mini-sermon which was tied to the adult message, and afterward were given a corresponding activity page and insight to what would follow in the sermon. It seemed to get their attention when they were told that Jeremiah was 12 years old when God called him.

I believe Christ has blessed a prayer ministry here. They have an impressive prayer list and commitment to pray. In addition to their regular prayer ministry, they have made individual commitments to pray regularly for one year for unchurched people in their lives.

The sermon was given as a story – a child talking to Jeremiah when he was old. The congregation seemed to really pay attention and get the message.

The ratio of female to male worshipers was about 3 to 1, which is about normal for an older church, but there was an interesting influx of children. I think God has some interesting plans for this church.

Jan’s thoughts:

The church’s website was informative and enthusiastic, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect from this modest, very rural, church – especially when we pulled into the parking lot only to find we seemed to be the first to arrive. It turned out to be quite a friendly place…friendly to us and to each other. The people were relaxed and genuine, and excited to talk about their church and their pastor.

Unbeknownst to anyone there, the pastor went to college with our daughter Jill, and worked at Camp Crestfield with three of Jill’s siblings – Dan, Amber, and Brandy – at various times. I haven’t seen her for at least 10 years, probably longer. Members told us excitedly that she is creative and ingenious, sometimes involving the congregation in the sermon and encouraging participation in imaginative ways. This was borne out in the sermon, to which I’ll speak later.

The Narthex area was completely rebuilt in 2007 after lightning struck the steeple. We saw an amazing photo of the burning steeple as well as some of the damage and subsequent rebuilding. I thought they used the opportunity well, installing a neat stairway to the balcony in the rear of the Sanctuary in addition to the new Narthex.

The Chancel was very open with only a large wooden cross on the wall and lots of “white space” on either side. It actually made for a striking setting for the cross. The windows are very tall with semicircular panes on top of the rectangles and the only stained glass outlining each window.

The bulletin is large-print and user-friendly. I couldn’t help but notice that there were many more hymnals than Bibles in the pew racks.

There were several unique points about the service itself: 1 – following the Prelude the service began with about one minute of silent prayer. I appreciated the opportunity to quietly center my mind in preparation for worship; 2 – the Children’s Time was very well done. We were told that the five children there this morning were about half the usual attendance; 3 – during the announcements everyone was encouraged to attend next Sunday when the service would be led by the children and would include the “Blessing of the Backpacks” in preparation for the start of the new school year. A great way to help the children know that they’re an important part of the church.

The untitled sermon was based on Jeremiah 1:1 and 4-10 during which she told the story of Jeremiah’s call as if Jeremiah, as an old man, was telling the story to a youth. Again an imaginative way to keep peoples’ attention and help them remember.

Today I re-learned not to judge a book by its cover…just because it’s a small country church doesn’t mean it’s not full of life and the Spirit. Praise God!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

North Sewickley Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at North Sewickley Presbyterian Church, 106 Chapel Drive, Ellwood City, PA 16117, 724.752.1272,, Rev. Don Aull, Temporary Shepherd.

Bob’s thoughts:

I couldn’t help but think about how we are welcomed when we visit a church. Sometimes it feels like everybody in the church says hello, and at times only a few. The number has no bearing on how genuine the welcome feels. Today I felt welcome, from the woman who waited while we parked and got out of the truck to those who welcomed us inside. People asked about us instead of telling us about them. We were shown the restrooms and introduced to others.

I thought the signage was good and was particularly impressed with the clean, well laid-out restroom.

The Sanctuary is an A-frame with impressive beams, a large cross on the Chancel wall and another on the Communion table.

The Children’s Sermon was aimed at the children and was just long enough.

The sermon was on the faith of Rahab from the 2nd chapter of Joshua. With the reality of the danger Rahab faced in stepping out in faith, we should be less surprised that she is included in Matthew’s recounting of the genealogy of Christ. Her actions were referred to as the “early battle of Jericho.”

Some other choice phrases: referring to the Interim Pastor as the “Temporary Shepherd” and during the benediction the mention of “those no one loves.”

I felt Christ’s presence in this place. There are some good things going on and I look forward to seeing what God does next here. It was an unexpected joy to encounter some friends from the Presbytery office.

Jan’s thoughts:

Upon our arrival, as we were pulling into the parking lot, I had noticed a couple just exiting their car. As I opened my door I heard a female voice say hello – they had waited there to greet us! This was the first time we were greeted before we even got out of the truck! These kind folks walked in with us, guiding us toward the appropriate door, and once inside introduced us by name and pointed us toward the rest rooms. The other folks we met were as friendly…at least one person knew Bob from his visits to the Presbytery office, but others just stopped to introduce themselves and make us feel welcome. One woman (a member acting in the capacity of an unofficial greeter) gave us each a printed card with all the church’s contact information, and everyone we met invited us back. We felt genuinely and warmly welcomed here.

The Narthex contained a bulletin board and a world map with pins and photos of mission activities worldwide.

I don’t usually comment on the rest rooms, but these deserve to be noted. The ladies room was attractively decorated, very clean, with the small touches women appreciate such as a couple of small decorated corner tables with a basket of hand lotions on one and a box of Kleenex on another. It was neither too homey nor too antiseptic.

The Sanctuary is pretty with an A-line design, decorative pillars, and great color coordination. Also good directional signage…although we did not make it downstairs, we knew how to get there!

Air circulation has become an issue for us since Bob’s surgery. With the high ceilings found in churches, ceiling fans are not generally all that effective, and some low-level air movement might be more advantageous.

I heard an organ and a piano, but could not see either instrument. We were too busy talking with people after worship to go forward for a close-up look at the Chancel, so I’m guessing what I heard was an electronic keyboard. The traditional music sounded very good, and although contemporary music tends to sound awkward with only a keyboard, it was okay.

Strangely enough (some will say I’ve finally lost it with this), but while looking at this church’s website on Saturday evening, I found they had a .pdf of the bulletin available to view. I took a look at it and was excited to go there because of the bulletin. It was well laid-out, easy to read, and user-friendly. I also found myself eagerly anticipating the sermon entitled, “Moving Toward the Promise #10 – Rahab Fought the Battle of Jericho.” The title alone gave clear indication of where the pastor would be heading, and I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say.

He described Rahab as a “Canaanite businesswoman” who made the “monumental announcement” that Jericho would be “under new management” by the time God’s plan for it was completed, and that, like Rahab, we should “live as though the Promised Land is already here” – living and acting in faith. He pointed out something new to me – that Rahab’s scarlet cord is reminiscent of the blood of the Passover. What a beautiful connection, and another reminder of what it means to act in faith.

This church is in the midst of a search for an installed pastor, and I will be joining them in prayer during this interim journey.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Crestview Community Church PCUSA

Today we worshiped at Crestview Community Church, PCUSA, 210 Kline Avenue, Callery, PA 16024, 724.538.8559, Rev. Tom Clyde, Interim Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

Usually when we visit a church that is lacking signage it proves to be an inward-focused church, so with the lack of signage I was surprised at the mission involvement. There is a large wooden cross high in the Sanctuary and an interesting round stained glass window on the Chancel wall. The pews on either side are angled toward the center, making the worship more focused.

There was some constant chatter behind us through the first half of the service that did stop for the Sermon.

The Sermon, I think, was about how we should strive against contamination. I am not sure what Bible is common here but we were told that the Devil doesn’t tempt us, which is contrary to any version of the Bible that I’ve read.

I was pleased to take Communion, although it was served silently. The Deacons served the Bread and the Elders the Cup. I also appreciated the comment that it should be referred to as the “First Supper.”

Found it very confusing as to what the normal time of worship might be: both the website and sign say 9:45, but today that meant 10 a.m.

Jan’s thoughts:

We arrived with more time to spare than we anticipated, as we understood this service was to begin at 9:45 but it turned out to be 10. Numerous members of the congregation also were confused about the start time. But it did give us some time to speak with the pastor and learn a little about the church.

The first thing I saw when we walked into the Sanctuary was a Malawian banner on the front wall. Apparently this church has formed a partnership with a church in Blantyre Synod but independent of the long-standing partnership between Pittsburgh Presbytery and the Synod of Blantyre. The sister church happens to be the home church of The Rev. Silas Ncozana, one of the co-founders of the Pittsburgh Presbytery/Blantyre Synod Partnership. There were numerous bulletin boards and photos and much information about this church. The world gets smaller every day.

This is a pretty little church with a roundabout route to the parking lot and lots of steps to climb back up once we parked. The people were genuinely friendly…many greeted us before, during, and after the service and seemed sincerely happy to see us.

The signage was prominent where necessary. The bulletin was user-friendly; it was helpful to have worship-related information on one different-colored insert.

There was a fair amount of stained glass, including a Star of David on the rear wall of the Chancel…an object not normally seen in a Christian church, but very nicely done with Scripture around the frame. Also a large wooden cross toward the front of the Chancel and attached to the ceiling.

The music was traditional, which is fine, but I was completely unfamiliar with five of the six hymns. Although I was willing to try, they were very difficult to sing and totally new to me so I just read and appreciated the words/poetry.

The Sermon was entitled “Godly Treasures for Godly People – Psalm 101: A Purifying Life-Style!” and was based on Psalm 101 wherein David expresses his desire for a pure life. I agreed with some of the pastor’s points, such as that God does not tempt us and that we humans use God’s good gifts in perverted ways. However I totally disagree with his statement that neither does the Devil tempt us and that humans are at fault for the evil in this world because it is an act of our will. Not only can I not find a single statement in Scripture to support this argument, I can find numerous ones that dispute it. Christ Himself experienced Satan’s temptation (Matthew 4). No doubt humankind bears a certain amount of responsibility for the evil in the world, but throughout Scripture we are taught that the Devil is responsible for bringing evil into the world initially and that he can and does tempt us.

We are constantly at war with unseen forces (Ephesians 6:12), but are helped (Isaiah 41:13, Hebrews 2:18), protected (Ps 32:7, John 17:15), and given victory (I John 4:4) by God Almighty.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Providence Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Providence Presbyterian Church, 9019 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax, VA 22031, 703.978.3934,, Rev. Mary E. Rodgers, Associate Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

I’m sure the church has changed little since our last visit six months ago for Emma’s older sister’s baptism, but it seemed so different to me. I had a sense of how the Christmas/Easter worshiper must feel when I remembered that at the time of our last visit there was a considerable snowfall and Christmas decorations were displayed. We were able to worship with some family members whom we hadn’t seen in a while. The space was cooled, which helped me greatly.

The sermon was about the conflict between Martha and Mary, and I appreciated the presentation. I also enjoyed the praise team’s worship music and was looking forward to taking Communion.

Earlier in the day I had my first bona fide nosebleed, and it chose this point in the service to return. As I tended to this situation, a few of the men who came into the men’s room offered to get me help; this thoughtful consideration of someone in need speaks volumes for this church.

On our way home at a rest stop on the Turnpike a man collapsed in the rest room and was resuscitated with a defibrillator. He was tended to by many till the rescue crew arrived.

The caring compassion of strangers shown to God’s children.

Jan’s thoughts:

This was our second visit to Providence for the baptism of another granddaughter – God’s blessings abound!

The Narthex is circular with a huge skylight that allows the daylight to fall gracefully into the greeting area. This is a beautiful facility, well appointed with welcoming touches such as rocking chairs placed in various corners so folks can sit briefly (which we did, as we were early), and a visitor’s table just inside with a selection of information about the church (there must have been a number of visitors at the early service, as the supply was depleted this day).

The bulletin is one of the largest I’ve seen, containing the Order of Worship for both services, music, welcome information, announcements, calendar, and prayer list. So many churches struggle when they have two (or more) services with not becoming two (or more) congregations, and this seems a superb way to remind attendees at both services that the church of which they are a part is larger than the congregation with which they worship.

Last week was Vacation Bible Camp week so there was LOTS of evidence of the week’s activities, including a terrific photo of the children and volunteers gracing the cover of the bulletin and the children’s’ participation during worship.

The music sounded professional, although I’m sure they’re not. I was glad we happened to be there for Communion Sunday and could celebrate both sacraments.

The Associate Pastor led worship and explained that the Prayer of Confession is included each week whether or not Communion is celebrated, because we all sin throughout every week and we need to confess whether or not we are preparing for Communion. I really appreciated the wisdom in that line of thought.

Sitting with a granddaughter during the service meant I was somewhat distracted, which perfectly played into the sermon topic. The message was based on Luke 10:38-42, the well-known Mary and Martha story, and how we are all worried and distracted about many things, just as Martha was. We need to remind ourselves that there is one thing that is necessary, and then choose it. I sometimes need a reminder of that.