Sunday, February 27, 2011

Glenshaw Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Glenshaw Presbyterian Church, 300 Glenn Avenue, Glenshaw, PA 15116, 412.486.8400,, Rev. Dr. Michael Hoyt, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were impressed with the signage we found outside and the entry we chose had rest rooms immediately inside. I thought everything was well marked with superior directional signage.

We worshiped at an early informal service, and were disappointed that the pastor was on retreat.

A woman who welcomed us took the time to explain some of the service. We were welcomed by a number of people including a Marine who was sitting behind us. (My guess is that they didn’t need two Marines, but we were well behaved.)

The person on the piano leading music and the service has a passion for worship.

I enjoyed the large wooden cross on the wall.

The weekly Communion was offered aloud and followed by anointing by the pastor (if desired) and lighting of votive candles (also if desired). Communion was by intinction, but this was the first time I’ve had the bread pulled off and handed to me. This is something some people have trouble doing.

The sermon was on women of the Bible and focused on Abigail. I was struck by the statement that the time frame of Abigail’s husband’s shearing of sheep would have been harvest time, a celebration and giving of gifts.

I have always felt Abigail was one of those special women who could act on her husband’s behalf or cause him to act and believe what he was doing was his idea.

We were pleasantly surprised to encounter the parents of a friend worshiping there. We look forward to returning when the pastor is there. There was a lot of literature to peruse, but I was disappointed in the mission numbers and involvement. I think they are burdened by rather large endowment funds.

Jan’s thoughts:

I did some Presbytery work with the pastor of this church, and was looking forward to saying hello this morning. However we’ll have to come back, as he was on Study Leave today.

There are a number of special things about this church. First, it’s much larger than I anticipated, and well equipped to accommodate persons with handicaps. The signage was impressive. The early (informal) service is in the parlor, which was comfortable and beautifully decorated.

We were warmly welcomed by several people, especially a member of the Hospitality Committee who explained what to expect during Communion and the flow and process of it. She was extremely helpful and inviting, and all churches should have someone like her to greet visitors and provide direction with enthusiasm.

The Sacrament of Communion is celebrated by intinction weekly at this early service. The last Sunday of the month includes an opportunity for anointing with oil and then light a candle afterward. The servers made Communion personal by calling me by name and saying “The Body of Christ, broken for you,” and “The Blood of Christ, shed for you.” It was a much-appreciated reminder that although I currently hold no membership in a local church, I am still part of The Church.

The bulletin is five sheets of 8 ½ x 11 paper, folded in half and stapled in the center. It’s packed full of information and incredibly well done. The use of just a bit of color adds so much.

There seem to be educational opportunities for every age group.

A piano is the only instrument that was part of this service, and the musical leadership was excellent. Also, the acoustics were perfect.

The pulpit was supplied today by The Rev. Carolyn J. Jones. The sermon, entitled, “Dear Abby,” was based on selected verses from 1 Samuel 25 and Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16. Today was the day to celebrate “Beautiful Women Doing Beautiful Things,” and Abigail certainly falls into that category. I have always admired Abigail for her initiative and resourcefulness in behalf of a husband by whom she was undervalued and treated poorly, to say the least. She still displayed loyalty to him and to their household, which is another reason for my admiration of her: she did not allow him to drag her down to his level. She is one of the many strong women of the Bible for whose example I am grateful.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

East Union Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at East Union Presbyterian Church, 292 East Union Road, Cheswick, PA 15024, 724.265.1381,, Rev. James C. Ramsey, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

When we travel country roads to where God wants us to worship, I think I expect a small country church. Today I was surprised when we came to the multiple buildings of East Union spaced over a multi-acre site.

We were early and found our way to the worship area, but would have appreciated some signage. This was a contemporary service held in the fellowship hall/gym. We easily found restrooms there which were large, bright, and clean.

There were three people near the entrance that I thought might be there to welcome visitors, but we were observed and welcomed by a few women. One of them passed my card to the pastor, and I was impressed that she would act as his eyes and ears.

Because of the setting and the large speakers being set up, we chose seats that were off to one side away from the anticipated audio blast. I thought it was a smart move, but the speakers were never turned up so there was a lot we couldn’t hear. I noticed when the pastor spoke I could only hear him when he faced our way.

I noticed there seemed to be more “gray hairs” than young people at this contemporary service. It was hard to tell if we were to sing with the praise team as I couldn’t tell if the congregation was singing. They sounded remarkable on “Wings of a Dove.”

Because of my poor “choice” of seating for audio, I used some of the sermon time to pray for the church and pastor. It is fulfilling to lift the pastor in prayer while he is preaching. What came to me during the sermon was, I believe, from the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when they chose the plain chalice as being Christ’s, the old knight on guard offers, “You have chosen wisely.”

I believe we have only one choice: we can choose NOT to follow Christ. If we choose wisely there, then all other choices are best left to Jesus Who chose us.

Jan’s thoughts:

We pulled into the parking lot and found a parking spot near what looked like the main entrance. However there were no signs of life inside, so we looked around outside and noticed people entering another building, the Community Center, so we checked it out.

As it turns out, this campus is very large and the contemporary service is held in the fellowship hall/gym in the Community Center. The foyer of this building made a striking first impression with sky blue walls and a Biblical quote about love repeated all around toward the tops of the walls. It stirred a warm, welcoming ambiance.

The people were friendly, although some manning a table when we walked in did not greet us, but others did before, during, and after worship.

The acoustics were confusing. Knowing how sensitive our ears are and how loud most contemporary worship services seem to us, we sat in a space that looked to be out of the direct “line of fire” of the huge speakers. As it turned out, there were three people leading the singing…they sounded marvelous together, especially on “Wings of a Dove,” but the volume was nowhere near the point of being an issue for us. Also, I could just barely hear the liturgist, and at times I had trouble even hearing the sermon. It was more likely my ears, but still confusing.

The words to songs were projected onto the wall in front. Unfortunately we were sitting toward the one side and could not see the words due to the size. It would be helpful if the words were 2-3 times the size they were today.

The bulletin is well done and arranged cleverly for two services. When we first entered the building near the Sanctuary, we picked up a bulletin from the stack in the Narthex. This bulletin contained the Order of Worship for the later service and an insert with announcements, etc. After we located the contemporary service we were given a bulletin which turned out to be almost identical to the insert from the later service bulletin. Generally speaking, most contemporary service attendees are accustomed to worshiping without a printed Order of Worship, but it can still be confusing for visitors.

The sermon was based on John 15:12-17 and Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and was called “Choosing Life.” The pastor pointed out that “living is not enough – we are called to be lively.” And if we are to be lively, we must “keep God in mind when making choices” in our lives. Ultimately, “choosing life means choosing love.”

It was that “lively” thing that caught my attention. I’m hoping for a dose of lively with the coming of Spring.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Natrona Heights Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Natrona Heights Presbyterian Church, 1428 Broadview Blvd., Natrona Heights, PA 15065, 724.224.7338,, Rev. R. Cameron Malcolm IV, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

This morning I was remembering how many different churches I went to with my family while I was growing up. Gas was cheap, so I don’t think that was why my dad kept changing. Perhaps the travel time, but most were within a block or two of our house. My mother wondered if maybe one church had more pretty girls. But I noticed today when we got home from church that the trip was over 80 miles. There were pretty girls and cute children, and I find now that I have grandchildren I enjoy the younger ones the most.

The church was decorated for Christmas (until Lent) and historical flags on the side walls for Scout Day made for a very colorful Sanctuary. There was minimal signage, but we were early and had time to explore a bit. There was interesting woodwork and a large cross on the wall.

We were offered a bulletin that I thought might contain an Order of Worship, but turned out to be just calendar and news. I couldn’t find anything about mission supported by the church other than an effort for Habitat for Humanity.

We came for the early service, which was their contemporary worship. Usually contemporary worship has a lot of passion, but such was not the case here. I wondered if some of the Praise Band was missing. I don’t know if the congregation affects the band or vice versa.

I appreciated that the silent confession time was long enough for a sinner like me. The children’s sermon seemed to get away: that was a lot of information for young children.

The sermon time was a history lesson of George Washington (maybe appropriate at this time of year). The message was woven back to a correlation of George’s peace at battle won to Christ’s peace at Resurrection.

I spent some of my time there in prayer for the church and pastor, my favorite part of our visit.

Jan’s thoughts:

This is a big, old building, very well kept. We were surprised to see the outdoor Christmas tree was still decorated, and upon entering noticed the small Christmas trees and other decorations. We were told that this church recognizes Epiphany as a season, not just a day.

The stained glass was attractive, each window bearing lightly shaded diamond shapes with a candle on each window sill.

There was another stained glass window that was on display under glass. It was from an old church that was being demolished and was purchased as a gift for this church.

The pastor greeted us when we entered, as did the two women who were acting as greeters. The only others who spoke to us did so during the Passing of the Peace.

This church has some of the best signage I’ve seen anywhere.

The bulletin was more of an announcement sheet. There was contemporary music in an otherwise traditional service, with words projected on the front walls but without benefit of an Order of Worship. During the singing I sensed no passion from either the Praise Band or the congregation.

The sermon, or “address” according to the pastor, was entitled “Vindication.” He began with an overview of numerous battles of the Revolutionary War, finally reaching Washington’s first victory against the British. He imagined Washington lying under the stars that night, relaxed, quietly rejoicing in this “resurrection moment.” He said he thinks that is how Christ must have felt between the time His body was placed in the tomb and the time the two Marys arrived there. He was alone under the stars, all the striving, the chaos, the struggle, was over and His work was accomplished.

For some reason this all made me think of my late son. I believe that he, in his final moments, experienced that resurrection moment and the peace of vindication by God.

I’ve experienced moments of peace, though likely not like Christ’s, but times when I had the sense that God had everything under control and all was right with the world, even in all its seeming wrongness. Those moments are few and far between in this life, and I still look forward to that “resurrection moment” when I am vindicated by God. I imagine that might be the definition of sanctification. Utter peace. Definitely something to look forward to, I think.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Deer Creek United Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Deer Creek United Presbyterian Church, 33 Bairdford Road, Gibsonia, PA 15044, 724.443.1355, Rev. Terry Stoops, Pulpit Supply.

Bob’s thoughts:

We received a warm welcome today and for the most part found necessary signage, which was a good start to the day. We got to hear some of the current history of the church but were also allowed to speak, which does not always happen.

I was pleased that there was a large wooden cross centered between two pretty stained glass windows and was surprised that I noted the lack of a pew pad. I guess we have had comfy seats for a while; probably wouldn’t have noticed if it wasn’t cold.

The children’s message was longer than the children’s attention span. I wondered if the organ/piano was loud because there were only 30 or so worshipers. Does it compensate for lack of volume in voice? I noticed if I looked up from the hymnal I had trouble finding my place, being unable to hear what was being sung. I have been told God loves when we sing, even those like me who can’t. The four-person choir did a great job and I could hear some of them over the music.

I sensed humility in the sermon. I thought the message was put together and delivered well and truly felt God using the pastor to deliver a personal message to us. The idea of closing the gate behind us to disappointment, past guilt, and injustices in our lives is good advice for all.

I read another sermon from this pastor which I appreciated and enjoyed. I was grateful for the opportunity to pray for this pastor and church.

Jan’s thoughts:

I was somewhat confused upon arriving here, as the only vehicles were in the back of the building, but I was very grateful for a sandwich board sign indicating the correct door to use to enter the Sanctuary.

This is a small church that lost their pastor a year or so ago due to illness. Since then they have been alternating between two pulpit supply pastors: Rev. Terry Stoops and Rev. Dick Moreledge. Today Rev. Stoops supplied the pulpit.

I noticed only a few directional signs inside the building.

We were warmly welcomed by folks who took time to chat and tell us about their church.

The Sanctuary is pretty but felt sparse. The stained glass windows on the sides contained much darker colors than the two on the rear wall of the Chancel, which were lighter in shade but similarly intricate in design. Above each stained glass window was a panel heralding one of the Beatitudes.

The bulletin contained no inserts and was printed in large, easy-to-read type.

A surprising number of children (I would guess about eight) came forward for the Moment with Our Children, which seemed longer than usual.

The sermon, entitled “Shut the Gate,” was based on Philippians 3:12-14. He told about being raised by his grandparents, and how he could still today hear his grandmother shouting after him every time he would run outside and through the fence, “Shut the gate!” This Scripture made him think of three “gates” in our lives that should be closed behind us: first is the gate of disappointment, second is the gate of resentment, and the third is the gate of past guilt. Hanging on to disappointment, resentment, and past guilt is never a good thing, and I could not agree more.