Monday, October 31, 2011

Providence Presbyterian Church

Yesterday we worshiped at Providence Presbyterian Church, 9019 Little River Turnpike, Fairfax, VA 22031, 703.978.3934,, Rev. Dr. Michael P. Burns, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

I am happy when we can visit Providence. We don’t get to the area often, but it is good to visit a church that has such balance between internal and external mission.

I was looking forward to hearing the lead pastor but a granddaughter who is teething needed to walk with Grandpa. She and I got to experience the excellent choral rendition at the end of the traditional service in the main sanctuary. After hearing my granddaughter squeal, some of the choir was sure she would sing soprano.

Jan’s thoughts:

We spent the weekend attending a lovely wedding in Baltimore then visiting our family in northern Virginia.

This church is quite large, modern, and lovingly cared for. It has very good signage inside and out. The people are friendly although we are virtual strangers (until our daughter introduces us to her friends).

Traditional worship services are held at 9 and 11 and a contemporary service at 11:15.

A very hospitable touch that was added since our last visit was rocking chairs at the back of the room for those holding very little ones. They were certainly well-used while our family was there!

We have only attended the contemporary service, but the music continues to be uplifting and impressive.

The sermon was called “Walking with Grace” and was based on Matthew 23:1-12. As it turns out, Grace was the pastor’s grandmother. He remembered her with great affection because she loved him unconditionally simply because he was her grandson.

During the sermon one of my daughters passed me a note she wrote on the bulletin thanking me for loving her children unconditionally. I took that as a high compliment. Love always matters.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Concord Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Concord Presbyterian Church, 2832 Conway-Wallrose Road, Baden, PA 15005, 724.869.9135,, Rev. Jean E. Smith, Interim Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We have some friends at Concord, so the warm welcome was not a surprise.

The large screen in front seems to be used a lot more than I remembered. It is impressive when it is raised and the large suspended brass cross is revealed.

The choir did a great job with the anthem, “So Much God.” A good message.

I believe the bulletin should list it as a Prayer FOR Illumination.

The sermon was the second part of a 2-part message on prayer. I thought the pastor did a capable job of explaining some of the conditions of answered prayer and I appreciated her pointing out that it is a matter of the stewardship of God’s blessings. To me, the main point was how blessed we are when we share how God has answered prayer in our lives.

During part of the sermon I was in prayer for the pastor and church and had a strong sense that there is some resistance to something to which Christ is calling them.

Jan’s thoughts:

This church has meant much to us over the last 3 ½ years, so we were greeted warmly by many friends. Today’s visit was full of joy.

I appreciated the choir’s enthusiastic rendition of a clever song called “So Much God.” (“He was so much man that He slept in a boat, He was so much God that the wind ceased when He spoke; He was so much man that He wept when Lazarus died, He was so much God Lazarus came forth when He cried; He was so much man that He thirsted at the well, He was so much God that He saved her soul from hell; He was so much man that He died upon a tree, He was so much God that He rose in victory.)

The Scripture, John 14:1-14, was read responsively, and the sermon was entitled “Conditions for Answered Prayer (Part 2).” Numbers 1 and 2 were included in last week’s “Part 1,” but all the conditions are:

  1. An honest relationship with God (Have we confessed our sins, made His principles the basis of our life, and do we WANT to know God’s will?)
  2. A forgiving attitude (Or do we hold grudges?)
  3. A willingness to share the blessing that results from God’s answer to our prayer (Is our asking motivated by a desire to share or to hoard the blessings?)
  4. Believe God will answer the prayer (Or do we view it like playing the lottery and figure if we win we got lucky?)
  5. Pray in Jesus’ name (i.e., based on His ‘nod of approval,’ not because we are worthy, but because Jesus is worthy.)

The point is, “Why should God be willing to answer our prayers if we are unwilling to share the blessings that result from those answers?”

This is an excellent question, and I’ve begun asking God just how He might want me to share the blessings that have resulted from His answers to my prayers. I can’t wait to hear His answer to that prayer!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Steffin Hill Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Steffin Hill Presbyterian Church, 2000 Darlington Road, Beaver Falls, PA 15010, 724.846.6711,, Rev. Dr. Judy Angleberger, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were called back to Steffin Hill for a third visit, and this time we were able to worship with their pastor.

The size of the church and rounded configuration of the pews gives a warm, welcoming feel. The laughter and talk of the children before the service helped to make me feel at home and we were warmly welcomed by some people. One of the things I liked about this church is the large cross over stained glass on the rear Chancel wall.

The sermon wove around Christ’s “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s…” The message related that the coin bore the likeness of the Roman leader and we as followers of Christ are coins for Jesus in His image.

I knew the church supported world missions: from a prior visit we learned that they helped Dr. Sue Makin’s efforts in Malawi. I was pleased to learn of their efforts to collect cold weather clothing to donate to Beaver County Head Start.

I sensed a healthy prayer ministry here and was pleased to lift this pastor and church in prayer.

Jan’s thoughts:

We visited this church twice before (in January and May 2010) but both times the pastor was away. However, today she was there so we were finally able to meet her.

This church is still very friendly…some people simply said a quick greeting as they walked past and some stopped to introduce themselves, while others greeted us during the Passing of the Peace.

There seems to be much varied mission work flowing from this congregation.

Something I don’t recall noticing at either of our last visits is the lack of legroom in the pew. It made for uncomfortable seating. Perhaps it was just on this side, as we sat on the other side at our previous visits.

The sermon was entitled “Show Me the Money!” and was centered on Exodus 33:12-23 and Matthew 22:15-22. The message began with talk of taxes and how all authorities are in place because they were placed there by God and we must live under those authorities until God decides to change them.

Then she pointed out that we (believers) “are the coins of the Kingdom.” The coins used in Jesus’ time were Roman coins, stamped with the image of Caesar and bearing his title. We are stamped with God’s image and inscribed with His words – “My beloved.” I loved this stunning word-picture.

I was glad God directed us back here today.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Saint Andrews United Presbyterian Church

Today we worshiped at Saint Andrews United Presbyterian Church, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Butler, PA 16001, 724.287.4777,, Rev. Merry Hope Meloy, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

This was an interesting visit to a Presbyterian church with the old-style stone and massive timbers, and what was interesting was there was life inside.

The arched beams are impressive, as is the stained glass. What was special to me was the wood work on the Chancel wall framed by the symmetry of the organ pipes and with a large central cross. After a hard week, the pew pads were appreciated.

We were warmly welcomed by a number of people. Although this seems to be an internal church, I saw reference to some local food ministries and was especially pleased to notice a reference in the newsletter to mission in Malawi.

The sermon was about the response to the invitation to the king’s wedding feast, and thankfully extended to the one who was put out for not wearing wedding clothes. It struck me then and later in prayer that if God is calling this church to minister to the neighborhood, I hope they invite those in who don’t have wedding clothes.

For me the time for silent confession was way too short. I thought the hymn “Come and Dine” was a perfect choice and may be a good hymn for Communion.

I was glad we had a few moments with the Pastor after the service.

Jan’s thoughts:

Our drive this morning was a joy as the changing colors of the leaves showcased God’s artistic handiwork.

The building exhibits lots of gorgeous stained glass. The Sanctuary was nicely decorated, the pews comfortable, and the sound system was well-moderated.

Signage appeared adequate in parts of the building, but I noticed none pointing toward restrooms.

People were very friendly: some took the initiative to introduce themselves, others waited for us to make our way to them during the Exchange of Greetings, and still others simply smiled broadly and spoke briefly before or after the service.

The bulletin was nicely done and user-friendly, which I always appreciate. I thought the usual footnote to indicate when the congregation is to stand was graciously worded. It reads “*The people will rise in body or spirit.”

The choir sounded enthusiastic and harmonious. The Message to Young Christians was on the long side but very well done, and the children appeared to follow all the way through.

The sermon was centered on Philippians 4:1-9 and Matthew 22:1-14 (Jesus’ parable of the wedding feast) and was entitled “RSVP.” The Pastor spoke of the importance of responding to an invitation (specifically God’ invitation to join His Heavenly wedding banquet for His Son), and then pointed out that responding is not enough, that even showing up is not enough…we need to wear our wedding clothes to this very special celebration. In other words, we need to be clothed in Christ Himself.

I appreciated the sermon but even more so the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

First Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights

Today we worshiped at The First United Presbyterian Church of Crafton Heights, 50 Stratmore Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15205, 412.921.6153,, Rev. David Carver, Pastor.

Bob’s thoughts:

We were blessed to worship again at Crafton Heights. It was special to celebrate World Communion on the 20th anniversary of the Malawi Partnership. We were warmly welcomed back and made to feel at home.

Even if our twin grandchildren had not been there, I had plenty of babies to watch.

CHUP has effected a steady progression of updating projects, and it was good to see their progress. It was also a joy to hear Dave’s sermon and have the opportunity to catch up a bit after worship.

Jan’s thoughts:

And when we left, I truly felt as if we had worshiped.

We had gotten word that CHUP would have a Malawian visitor on World Communion Sunday, and there would be a celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the Partnership between Pittsburgh Presbytery and the Synod of Blantyre. “Zikomo” (thank you) was all I had the opportunity to say to him, but it was wonderful to again sing “Amazing Grace” in Chichewa and to hear that beautiful Malawian accent.

Our family has a long-standing relationship with CHUP, and it was a treat to visit with some friends we seldom see. It was a joy to meet some of the babies in the congregation and to be able to introduce our grandtwins to them.

This church is alive in the Spirit, and the recent renovation seems to have brought out a new enthusiasm. The premises look beautiful and are set up to be useful.

The sermon was based on Luke 4:14-21 and entitled “I Wish My Eyes Were Bigger.” Dave explained that this was his first comment upon landing at the airport in Malawi for the first time. He went on to tell of one particular journey that involved much hiking up a mountain for considerably longer than he anticipated. When he arrived at the church to which he was being escorted he learned it had been three years since a pastor had been present, and consequently there were many baptisms, ordinations, installations, and, of course, Communion. It was a full day of worship and the joy of being among and serving God’s people. The story brought back many strong memories of Malawi for me, along with some tears of joy for those memories.

I am pleased to recommend Dave Carver’s blog, where you can read this or a host of his other sermons: In my humble opinion, they’re more than worth it.