Newsletter Highlights

The Season of Lent Begins!

Ash Wednesday – February 14

Many Christian traditions and denominations observe Lent, including LPC and most Presbyterians. Lent begins on the Wednesday that falls six weeks before Easter weekend. It is commonly known as “ash” Wednesday because of the ancient, biblical tradition of imposing ashes on the forehead as a sign of remorse and repentance for wrongdoing. One of LPC’s traditions is joining neighboring Presbyterian congregations for an evening worship service. This year, Bethany Presbyterian Church will host a 7 p.m. service led by clergy and elders from Bethany, Lakewood and Grace Churches. The service will include hymns, readings, a brief sermon, Holy Communion and the imposition of ashes on the hand or forehead if desired. Bethany is located on the corner of West 65th Street and West Clinton Avenue. Parking is available in two lots in addition to plenty of street parking.

Tuesday Evening Lenten Gatherings begin February 20 at 7pm

LPC Pastor Jim Butler will present a four-part series on the intersection of partisan politics and evangelical theology using the research of Calvin College history professor, Dr. Kristin Kobes Du Mez. In 2021, Dr. Du Mez published a New York Times best-selling book entitled, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, in which she carefully traces the actions of politicians and evangelical leaders to meld politics and evangelical religion into one powerful movement that began with Billy Sunday’s “muscular Christianity” and the iconic actor, John Wayne.

The series will include a thorough discussion of evangelical and “fundamental” theology popularized by Billy Graham, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. The rise of militant faith and a Christian America, by ignoring Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” and his other basic teachings, will also be discussed.

This year, rather than a meal, refreshments will be offered in the Atrium beginning at 6:30 p.m. The series will continue February 27, March 5 and March 12.

A Message from the Pastor

by Dr. James Butler

At LPC we are gearing up for an active February. Many of us are writing our year-end reports, and Sara Gresh is masterminding the production of the Annual Report to be distributed on Sunday, January 28 before the Annual Congregational Meeting the following Sunday, February 4.

Lent comes really early this year. In fact, the earliest it can begin according to the lunar cycle. I hope you will consider joining me for an Ash Wednesday Service on February 14. Bethany Presbyterian Church is hosting this year.

The following Tuesday will be the first of four 7 p.m. Tuesday Evening Lenten Gatherings. They are meant to deepen Christian faith and support our journey to Holy Week and Easter. Because 2024 is an election year, in fact an election that many of us feel could be the most momentous in American history, I plan to dive into the arena of religion and politics in American culture. Specifically, the slow rise of the religious right and its continued support of controversial politicians whose lives are at times incongruous with the teachings of Jesus. We will try something new this year. Rather than a meal at 6 p.m., we are going to have refreshments and homemade desserts available at 6:30 p.m. in the Atrium.

Stations of the Cross/Stations of the Street

Please join the North Presbyterian Church community on Friday, March 1 at 7:00 p.m. for a traditional, yet current and powerful* reflection on Jesus’ journey from being condemned to death by Pilate to his crucifixion on the cross of Calvary.

The stations use art created by a group of homeless people to express Jesus’ sufferings and death within the context of people of the street and other marginalized people and written reflections of Jesus’ sufferings “Then” and “Now.”  We will reflect on the Stations of the Street as we look forward to Easter and Christ’s resurrection.

*The first station is powerful and personal as it contains court authorization for the execution of the friend of many in the North Community. A group working on his behalf succeeded in having the sentence commuted to life in prison. He is currently awaiting a parole hearing.

Light refreshments will follow the service at North Presbyterian Church, 4515 Superior Avenue.

Plan to Attend the Annual Congregational Lunch & Meeting on Sunday, February 4

Every Presbyterian congregation is required by the denomination’s constitution to meet at least once every year to elect officers, approve installed pastor(s) terms of call, and receive year-end reports of their mission and ministry. Following worship on Sunday, February 4, we will meet to do what the PCUSA requires. Annual reports from staff members, clerk, session, committees, and other groups will be distributed after worship on Sunday, January 28.

We will begin with a Potluck Luncheon in Lawther Hall hosted by the Fellowship Ministry, which will provide ham, rolls and beverages. Please bring a side dish or dessert to share with the crowd! Refrigerators and warming ovens will be ready if your dish requires it.

The Annual Meeting will begin about 11:45 a.m. There are three main issues to address: 1) the pastor’s terms of call will be presented for approval; 2) the year-end financial report will be presented along with the 2024 operating budget; 3) the 2023 Nominating Committee will present for approval the slate for the Session Class of 2027 and three people to represent the congregation on the 2024 Nominating Committee (the Session also chooses two of their members to serve on the five-member committee).

It is important for members to participate in this annual event. First, it is an uplifting experience to fellowship around tables and celebrate the good things accomplished by God’s help and grace. Second, it is a reflection of our Reformed theological conviction that a church’s ministry is led by clergy and laity and that a congregation has the right to choose its own leaders. So, please plan to be at your church on February 4.

The above photo is taken in the Duruflé apartment. People from left to right are: Chase Olson, Angela Kraft Cross, Frédéric Blanc, Arthur Tkachenko and Alex Trytko.

The Music Corner with Dr. Kaori Hongo

This month’s Music Corner is written by Chase Olson, LPC’s Music Ministry Intern.

Over the course of my time in France, I was very fortunate to have been able to study repertoire and improvisation with many notable French organists and teachers, such as Louis Robilliard, Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin, Jean-Baptiste Robin, Frédéric Blanc, Aude Heurtematte, Christophe Mantoux and Olivier Penin. While studying with these teachers, I was able to play on famous organs in famous spaces, such as Sainte-Clotilde and Saint Sulpice. Sometimes the spaces can teach as much as the teachers can! I got a little taste of home on the last couple days of the trip when it snowed in Paris; it was wonderful to be back in France, but I am looking forward to the start of my next semester!

Negro Spiritual Royalties to Benefit “Linking Legacies” at TMS

The Music Settlement’s (TMS) event “Linking Legacies,” a concert curated and performed by Cleveland artists, will honor several classical compositions by African American composers with deep ties to Northeast Ohio. TMS will host the event on Friday, February 9 at 7:00 p.m. at its historic University Circle campus (11125 Magnolia Drive, Cleveland 44106). The concert is free of charge, but reservations are advised at:

This concert is made possible through the support of Lakewood Presbyterian Church’s Mission, Outreach and Justice Ministry.

February Adult Faith Formation Series

Learning to Love Oneself and Our Neighbors Through the Power of Community

“Terrible weather we’re having here; it’s really too cold.” “I hope you have a nice week!” “What a lovely dress.” These are often pleasantries we exchange as we sip coffee or hurry to our cars each week. But even if heartfelt, are these the types of generalities that help to build a vital congregation? As our congregation has changed over the years, new members have come and melded into our church landscape. It has been too long since we have taken time to reconnect after Covid and get to know each other. In order to have a thriving community and church family, we need to check in with those around us, so that we can bond and better meet each other’s spiritual needs. Likewise, as Christians, we often find ourselves focused on the needs of the world around us. Fatigued from sickness, politics, war and poverty, we can find that we neglect our own mental health or other personal needs. 

Aliyah Kennedy will lead a two-week session focused on the importance of community and selfcare. She will lead a segment devoted to the importance of checking in with ourselves and our personal needs, so that we can find ways to be refreshed and continue our work. Touching on John Ortberg’s book Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, we will also have a thought-provoking discussion about our fundamental need for engagement with others, with ourselves, and with God. Rather than hiding our anxieties, shortcomings and exhaustion, Ortberg uses our quirks and abnormalities as a tie that binds us together rather than divides us. Connecting with each other helps us encounter God’s love in tangible ways to discover the transforming power of being loved, accepted and valued just the way we are. If you tend to leave after worship or have never stayed for coffee hour or adult faith formation, challenge yourself to come February 11 and 18 at 11:20 a.m. in the chapel and connect more deeply with yourself, with God and with others.

Mission Malawi Update 

Commissioned Pastor Karen Byrne will return on February 25 to give an update on the Malawi Prison Mission that our church has recently supported. During her last update, we learned of the devastation of farmland due to cyclone Freddy and impending famine. With your help, seeds, fertilizer and other assistance was provided to create prison farms. Rev. Chimesya wrote in gratitude, “You have done great things for my life and the prison ministry.” By June, Zomba Central Prison was able to cultivate a maize and vegetable garden. One of the officers told him that apart from feeding the inmates with delicious vegetables like tomatoes and onions, they had extended this blessing to the mental hospital and central hospital kitchens. 

Rev. Chimesya also addressed the ninth international Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (CURE) conference held in Nairobi. Ninety-five delegates from 28 countries and 12 African nations came together to further their agenda of human rights and prison reform efforts in the United States and the African continent as well as other countries throughout the world.

By December, Malawi’s local currency had been devalued by 44% and prices for basic needs rose above 50%. Karen Byrne will give an update on the current conditions and needs. She is also preparing for Rev. Chimesya to visit Ohio this August. Please join us on February 25 at 11:20 a.m. in the chapel as we continue to support this important ministry and hear of the great work that God continues to do in our world.

Little Free Library and Pantry

One of LPC’s unique community ministries is this outdoor cabinet made possible from memorial gifts by the family and friends of the late Jan Unger. It holds free books and non-perishable food items and is located on the Marlowe Avenue sidewalk near the back patio area. The brass inscription reads: “In loving memory of Janice Olivia Unger: An educator who loved teaching children to read.” Books and food items for the Little Library and Pantry can be left in the front vestibule of the Atrium.

Urgent Need for Little Free Pantry Items

The Youth Group has been actively providing small pantry items for our new Little Free Pantry, but it is not nearly enough to keep our small shelf filled. We are seeking canned food items that have a pull-tab top, individual serving meals, packets of tuna, pasta, breakfast bars, fruit in plastic packaging, stuffing, and other pantry items that will not freeze or expand in the cold weather. Collection containers are available at both front and rear entries. If you are willing to help us fill the pantry mid-week, or one week per month, please reach out to Aliyah Kennedy so that we can create a schedule and keep the pantry stocked during this harsh time of year. Thank you in advance for helping our youth make a difference in Lakewood.

Black History Month Events in the Presbytery

Looking for opportunities to celebrate Black History Month? Two congregations in the Presbytery have scheduled activities.

Forest Hill Presbyterian Church (3031 Monticello Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-2660) has the following events open to the public:

  • February 4 – Family Fun Movie Night – 4:00-6:00 pm – The Little Mermaid (PG)
  • February 11 – Fruits of the Spirit Reveal – 12:30-2:00 pm  (Interactive skit, reveal and discussion featuring FHC members.
  • February 18 – Soul Food Potluck – 3:30-7:00 pm – meats provided. Bring your favorite side dish or dessert to the potluck & share the love as Black culture is celebrated
  • February 25 – A Time for Joy:  Annual African-American music celebration – 6:30-9:00 pm – featuring Alexander Wright, Sterling Cozza, Griffin Fink and Gabriel P. Jones. Bake sale before and after the concert.

John Knox Presbyterian Church (25200 Lorain Road, North Olmsted, 440-777-3744) is hosting Saturday Matinees (1:30 – 4:00 pm) with time for discussion following each film as part of their Black History Month offerings. The films were chosen with great care and each represents a significant and historic facet of life as a person of color in America.  Snacks and beverages will be available.

  • February 10 – “Harriet” (PG-13)
  • February 17 – “Loving” (PG-13)
  • February 24 – “Just Mercy” (PG-13)

Hand in Hand Program

The 2024 season of Hand in Hand will begin in April giving everyone a winter break to stay safe.

Have You Considered “Paying Your Portion”?

Are you aware that there is a price on your Presbyterian “head?” It’s true! The expenses of operating our Presbyterian denomination (Presbytery, Synod and the General Assembly) will cost every congregation in our Presbytery $38.00 per “head” (each member). Out of the $38.00, $24.95 goes to the Presbytery, $9.80 to General Assembly and $3.25 to the Synod.

Per capita is a fundamental way in which the nearly 9,000 congregations and governing bodies of the PCUSA are connected and allows its members to participate in the work of the wider church. It is the responsible way of sharing costs that equitably belong to the whole Presbyterian community. Please consider paying your per capita apportionment on top of your pledge amount. Simply note “per capita” on the memo line of your check or pew envelope. Thank you for considering this request.