Sunday, October 31, 2010

Centreville Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Centreville Presbyterian Church, 15450 Lee Highway, Centreville, VA 20120, 703.830.0098,, Rev. J. Robin (Rob) Bromhead, Senior Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were in the area so we revisited Centreville. I realized that we knew this church before they built this building, so our response was not as a first time visitor, and what I noticed today was the lack of directional signage. There is a portable signpost in the Narthex and signs could be added there for the restrooms and nursery.

The multi-purpose room they are using for worship has a massive-looking wood cross, which makes a great focal point. The keyboard was playing while the Associate Pastor was speaking and made her words hard to hear/understand.

A major positive change since we visited last was the Praise Team. Seemed to be thrice as many people with good female and youth participation. Two of the girls had a great duet during the Offertory.

The sermon was delivered well and the bulletin included an outline sheet. The core thought of “How do we achieve godliness?” was presented to make us delve deeper into developing godliness ourselves.

Jan’s thoughts:

We had a fantastic visit with our children and grandchildren in Virginia this weekend. J

Centreville is a terrific church. We’ve been there many times over the years and are always very warmly welcomed. There are always exciting things going on at this church.

We knew they had instituted a second contemporary service, giving them 8:30 and 9:45 contemporary services and an 11:15 traditional, and the Session has recently made the decision to forego the traditional service altogether and go back to two services, both contemporary. I’ve not seen this done before, so I’m interested to watch how they do it, albeit from a distance. From what I heard today, they have a plan to listen to the congregation and they are working to honor the past as well as look to the future. This church is so vital and active, reaching out in countless ways, locally, nationally, and internationally, it truly is one of the most exciting churches I know.

A pastor from Nepal spoke briefly about how Centreville’s support is helping spread the Good News in his country. They are doing impressive work, and I was moved to see photos of people being baptized there.

The music was stirring…the praise band has about quadrupled in size and they sounded just awesome.

The message was based on I Timothy 4:7-16, and is part of the “Doing Church God’s Way” series entitled “Lead by Example.” Rob is a terrific preacher, full of enthusiasm and passion. He spoke about godliness, it doesn’t just happen (1 Timothy 4:7, Ephesians 4:17, Hebrews 5:11-14, Colossians 2:6-7), its definition (“having the character and attitude of God”), and how God’s character is reflected through our speech, the way we love, the way we trust in Him, and how we show His purity (I Timothy 4:12). He pointed out that godliness is the only thing that lasts, it will cost you something, and it starts with a daily decision. The bottom line is that to be godly one must practice godliness. To live a godly life one must be godly in the small, everyday moments. One must practice, practice, practice, moment by moment, day by day.

Not easy, but more than worth the effort…just to hear God say those words we all long to hear from Him: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cranberry Community United Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Cranberry Community United Presbyterian Church, 2662 Rochester Road, Cranberry Township, PA 16066, 724.776.5310,, Rev. Dr. James M. Moran, Senior Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

I didn’t look at our blog before we re-visited CCUPC and didn’t remember even where it was, but when we pulled into the parking lot I remembered where we parked and the condition of the lot.

The signage is good and offers something extra: where the sign identified restrooms it also directed where others could be found. I couldn’t find a wastebasket near the Narthex however, and there was an echo from the Pulpit on the higher tones. We were welcomed by a number of folks and had a longer talk with an usher.

The Chancel has an atrium-look with lots of natural light; the Sanctuary is comfortable and pleasant. We sat near the rear, and the passion of the choir came through even at that distance. It’s great to hear a choir worshiping. I do wish there had been a moment for silent confession.

I was impressed with the prayers of the Assistant Pastor. She seemed very comfortable in prayer, something seldom seen.

The sermon was part 4 of a series; today’s addressed Paul’s direction to Timothy. Paul’s legacy to Timothy (and us) that he had fought the good fight and withheld nothing. Over lunch we discussed how people who live life that way are sometimes put on a pedestal and how we are sometimes hesitant to act lest we be so categorized. We came to realize the larger sin is not to act when called.

A story related in the sermon sounded like a country song: mountain climbing as though you have no tomorrow. The climber, at the point of giving up, heeded the call to rescue another climber and so in rescuing, he was rescued. The one-line wrap-up – What will the Master say? Thought the sermon was well developed and delivered.

The pastor told me of a co-op situation with other Presbyterian churches for the good of the catholic church. Pretty radical and exciting thinking for Presbyterians.

Jan’s thoughts:

This was our second visit to this church. Two years ago next month we attended the later service, and this time we attended the earlier worship. It was interesting to notice how my point of view has changed since our last visit, as well as what contributed to such a different experience this time.

This facility is still very well kept with excellent signage. We still did not use the name tags for visitors. This time we encountered a friend who belongs here, but she was part of the choir so we were unable to sit together. We also had the opportunity to catch up with the Assistant Pastor, who had attended Grove City College with one of our daughters.

There were several bulletin boards in the greeting area: one contained photos and pre-printed mailing labels for the college student/members – what a great idea; another was full of detailed financial statements; and there were several others with various types of information. The one that caught our eye bore military photos. As we were looking it over a gentleman approached us and initiated a conversation centered around the photos and the Marine Corps emblem on the back of Bob’s shirt. We learned that this man’s son is currently serving in the Navy, and of course, we talked about our son Dan, his time in the Navy and then the Marines, and how he currently came to be guarding the streets of Heaven. It was a warm conversation that helped us to feel very welcome.

Numerous other people also greeted us and invited us to stay for lunch and the Steeler game following the later service.

It was so ironic that the prayer during worship included a joy expressed in thanksgiving for God’s protection of a son who escaped injury during an auto accident on I-79.

It was a joy to sing some contemporary music as well as learn some hymns I did not know previously. The Offertory was a different rendition of “Come, Go with Me,” which was quite well done.

The sermon was based on 2 Timothy 4:6-8 and was the fourth and final part of a series entitled “Notes to a Young Pastor.” This entry is called “Your Personal Stamp,” and he raised questions regarding the legacy each person would hope to leave in their wake. “How will we be remembered? What will be our legacy? Will we be remembered as one who gave all they had or who took the easy way? Whose life will be better because we lived?” And most importantly, “When our ‘race’ is over, what will the Master say about our lives?”

These very questions have preyed on my mind for some time of late. As much as I wish I could sit down and list the answer to each issue, I’m slowly reaching the conclusion that that is impossible. I do not know enough. But I think his basic advice is good: live with passion. At the very least I think it’s one of the keys.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Presbyterian Church of Prospect

Today we worshiped at The Presbyterian Church of Prospect, 115 Church Street, Prospect, PA 16052, 724.865.2063,, Rev. Robert Allison, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We had a great idea to drive a little farther to church and enjoy the fall leaves; we might have missed the peak, but it was an enjoyable ride.

The church looks conventional from the outside but has some most unusual features. The pews are arranged in the center section at a 90° angle to the roof line and the floor slopes toward the chancel. The social area extends out from the Sanctuary which gives a very open feel even with the folding curtains. There is a pressed tin ceiling, a large brass cross, comfortable pews, and impressive stained glass. The architecture sort of grows on you; I was part way through the service when I felt like I was sitting side saddle. The piped music before the prelude sounded like country gospel.

We were welcomed by more than a few, offered coffee, and invited to stay for lunch.

The pastor was on vacation and the guest pastor was ill, so an elder stepped in. She delivered a message on perseverance in prayer from Luke 18:1-8.

The visitor packet contained a large selection of maps and local info and a folded insert on the church.

From the newsletter I learned they are moving towards being a missional church. This is a hard move from an internal focus, and I pray God carries them through. There is very minimal signage and some who wear too much perfume.

I pray we can return for a normal service.

Jan’s thoughts:

Today the pastor was on vacation and the pastor who had agreed to fill the pulpit was sick, so one of the elders led worship and preached.

The building and grounds are nicely kept and decorated. The only sign I saw was for restrooms, and it was unobtrusive (which is to say I missed it the first couple of times I looked for it). There was an obvious sign at the nearest highway exit which I did not miss.

The layout was unique – the fellowship hall was quite large and open with a kitchen in one corner, tables for people to sit together, and the walls contained bulletin boards and tables full in information. There was no wall separating fellowship hall and the Sanctuary, it was completely open. A large, beautiful stained glass window looked out from fellowship hall toward the parking lot.

The people were friendly, providing direction and conversation when we arrived and inviting us to stay after worship for food and fellowship.

The pews were interestingly arranged and comfortably padded. Strangely, the Sanctuary floor slopes toward the Chancel and the pew ends are shaped in such a way that how much of a slope to expect was unclear to my eye. The Sanctuary carpet and pew padding were light turquoise and the drape hanging on the rear wall of the Chancel was dark red, setting off the brass cross in front.

The organ and piano faced the same direction with one in front of the other, making it a simple procedure for the Organist to move between the two. The music was very traditional.

The bulletin was well done but had a lot of white space. I would have appreciated use of a larger font for things like the Confession of Sin which I had to read.

The “moment” for silent confession was just that – a moment. And during the Apostles’ Creed, I’m wondering whatever happened to “He descended into Hell…”?

The sermon was based on Luke 18:1-8 and was titled “Being Pushy.” Obviously the topic was the value of persistence in prayer.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

College Hill Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at College Hill Presbyterian Church, 3400 Fifth Avenue, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.843.7170, Rev. Dennis D. Burnett, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

With two Geneva alums among our children, I looked forward to visiting this church; consequently I was disappointed not to see a student presence. However we received a warm welcome from many people, including one gentleman who left his adult education class to greet us and invited us to join the class.

There has been an attempt at signage and I don’t doubt you could reach a restroom from any of the Sanctuary exits, but signage for restrooms, nursery, etc. would help.

There is a large cross over decorative wall treatment on the Chancel wall, interesting stained glass, and an unusual ceiling. The bulletin required a bit of shuffling, and I’m sure Jan will offer advice.

Some of the choir smiled while singing and most sang with their mouth open. It was nice to see some enthusiasm; it made their presence felt.

The church seems to be experiencing some turmoil, moving out of a season of doubt but not quite into secure faith. Like most churches, they have focused on numbers – attendance/members and money – and know they want to change. I believe God is calling this church in a new direction with a new life. With such a wealth of young students in the area, what might College Hill provide for them?

The sermon, “Praise and Proclaim,” was built that God’s people praise God no matter what happens. The early part referred to Luke 17:11-19 – Christ healing the 10 lepers – and it struck me as odd that this story was relayed by Luke the Physician. I recognize that in that time and culture it was the priest who decided a case of leprosy (or its healing), although nowadays we would assume the first person to be consulted would be a physician. Perhaps modern man with his worldly knowledge is not as smart as we like to think we are. God still heals miraculously every day.

The rest of the sermon came from Psalm 66. To me it was more like two separate sermons, but it was warm and close in the Sanctuary and I had been up since 2 a.m. and was having trouble focusing.

Jan’s thoughts:

It wasn’t till we were on our way that I realized we were headed very near Geneva College on Homecoming Weekend. However, since we arrived with more than an hour to spare (I’m math challenged but am usually much better than that with time…), we viewed this as an opportunity to tour the building more extensively and meet some people.

The signage was not bad, and some signs even stuck out from the wall so as to be visible down the hall. There are numerous exits from the Sanctuary, however, and no way for a visitor to guess which one leads where.

The folks were quite friendly, some greeting us before and during worship and even again afterward. We sat in the very back row, and during the Greeting Time many approached us, including several members of the choir. Very friendly indeed.

The main door leads immediately into the Sanctuary. All the colored glass windows are alike in colors and patterns, but non-traditional in design. An uneven ceiling, indirect lighting, and out of the ordinary pattern on the rear wall of the Chancel gave the Sanctuary an interesting feel.

The bulletin contained a “Welcome to Worship!” box that included a paragraph with directions for visitors about when to sit/stand, and nursery location. This is something that makes a visitor feel like they really are welcome at a church.

The bulletin was very well laid-out and looked great; however, it was awkward to use, so, as a former church secretary, I would humbly offer my 2 cents regarding user-friendly bulletin design. I suggest keeping the Order of Worship on the one folded outside page and including everything not worship-related (prayer lists, announcements, etc.) in the form of unfolded inserts. That way when the bulletin is folded for use during worship, the Order of Worship is visible and everything else can be inserted into the folded portion to be read later.

We were privileged to be present for the observance of Pastor Appreciation Month. It’s heartening when a congregation lets the pastor and his wife know how much their ministry means to them.

The choir had a much larger sound than I expected, given their number.

The sermon was centered on Jeremiah 29:1,4-7,10-14, Luke 17:11-19, and Psalm 66, and was called “Praise and Proclaim.” He began by referring to the 10 lepers who were healed as they obeyed Christ’s command to go and show themselves to the priest, with only one returning to Him to extend gratitude. We are to praise God and proclaim His activity in our lives, but we do a lot more lamenting than praising.

My guess is that if our faith moves God’s heart, it’s our gratitude that makes His heart smile.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Old Union Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Old Union Presbyterian Church, 200 Union Church Road, Mars, PA 16046, 724.538.8672,, Rev. Dr. Peter deVries, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

Expecting a more sedate country church, I was pleasantly surprised with a modern, vibrant worship center. We arrived right before the service was to start. One woman did come over to welcome us.

Although I noticed no signage, we did locate a social area and restrooms, which I must add were clean, bright, and well laid-out.

There is a large wooden cross on the rear wall of the Chancel, some attractive banners, and one excellent painting I noticed. The congregation stood as the Communion elements were carried in by the serving Elders. We sat in an offset from the main Sanctuary so I was unable to see the whole choir, but the face of worship was evident on one woman as she sang.

The sermon title of “By Hook or by Crook” got the attention of this old Marine who sometimes needed to acquire weapons that were not in our budget by any means possible.

The sermon caused me to reflect: it is amazing how easy it is to disagree or be offended when someone’s theology or style of worship is different than ours. I find myself in this very position. I have been uncomfortable in the large, loud churches and I guess I have been quick to judge them as leading people astray from God’s Word. That if they offer “feel good” worship it cannot be honoring Christ. But if Christ is preached and it is done with loud cymbals, Christ is still preached. We need to know in our heart that whatever the worship style in the other church, it is still worship of Jesus. I may never be comfortable in a mega-church, but I cannot judge the sincerity of their worship. These are people for whom Christ died also.

Communion was introduced using Paul’s words “I received from the Lord what I now share with you.” I was disappointed that the elements were shared silently.

We were greeted by only a few people but the student pastor remembered us from a visit to another church a year ago.

The church seems to have an active mission involvement and I was please to see Northside Common Ministries as one they support as it is still close to my heart.

I really appreciated their ministry to the military. There is a world deployment map on the rear wall with some biographical information. During prayer time the list of service people they hold in prayer was read aloud by the congregation and I was told how some have a member praying just for them.

Jan’s thoughts:

This is a clean, well-kept facility, nicely decorated with some unique touches such as some distinctive stained glass created by a member of the church and a large quilted wall hanging that was a gift from American Indians visited by members on a mission trip.

I thought the parking lot was a bit confusing. Also I was surprised that there was so little signage: the only signs I saw anywhere were on the front of the restrooms. The ladies room was quite spacious, lacking only a place to hang or lay my wrap while I used the facilities. It looked almost barren, and the entry space to the rest room could use some decoration also.

A few people only nodded hello and said nothing, but a few went out of their way to introduce themselves and welcome us. Shortly after we took our seats in the Sanctuary a woman came over and introduced herself and told us how glad she was we were there, all the while rubbing my shoulder, which I thought was rather sweet.

I was perplexed during the Lighting of the Candles when everyone sang some music but we were left scratching our heads because the music was not listed or identified in the Order of Worship.

The organ was well done during most of the service, but during the Prayers of the People it was playing very quietly but almost all I could hear was a deep bass reverberation that left me dizzy due to my ear condition. A nice touch during the Prayers was the reciting aloud of the names of the 26 members of this church who are actively serving in the military, along with a bulletin board indicating their locations on a map and including photos and notes, all clear indications that this church has not forgotten those who fight for freedom.

The offering was taken “African-style” which made me smile after an enjoyable dinner with two Malawian friends the evening before! The congregation was invited to come forward and place their offering in a basket toward the front of the Sanctuary while some lively music was played. It was different from most Presbyterian churches – in the United States, anyway!

The Sermon was entitled, “By Hook or by Crook” and was based on Isaiah 45:1-8 and Philippians 1:12-18a. It had to do with perspective – when Paul was in prison he was not sitting around complaining, feeling sorry for himself. Instead he saw it as an opportunity to espouse the Good News to a (literally) captive audience. Paul acted as a “force multiplier” – the important thing is that Christ is preached.

I also appreciated the point made by the pastor that God can and does use whom He wishes to use, regardless of whether that person acknowledges God or is the least bit inclined to work for God’s purposes. I’m so grateful for this, as it means that even when I make a mistake, He can still bring good from the situation. Remembering that is always so encouraging, and believing it makes it even more so!