The Pastor’s Ponderings – The Rev. Dr. James C. Butler
As I write this message, we Ohioans are in our fourth week of “lock down” due to the Covid-19 virus. I am happy to report (as far as I know…) that no one in the LPC congregation has come down with the virus. What many of us are struggling with is anxiety and situational depression. I understand counselors are overwhelmed with people seeking their help. My sense is that the most stressed are parents, school-age children and youth. Many of our families bless me with photos and text messages with creative and fun activities they are doing together, including pajama party and super hero outfit virtual worship on Sundays. What is very troubling is the financial suffering of small businesses and the unemployed. Unfortunately, I am aware of a handful of LPC members who have been furloughed or lost their jobs. What inspires me is their faith that “all will be well” in due time. They are enfolded in what Paul called “the peace of God that surpasses human understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
Several have asked me for pointers on how faith and spirituality can help us cope and what I am doing to cope. In terms of spiritual help, the major thing that keeps me from going bonkers is gratitude and working at keeping a positive perspective. I am reminded a dozen times a day it seems of a line from one of my mother’s favorite songs: “There’s a dark and troubled side of life, but there’s a bright and sunny side too. Tho’ you meet with darkness and strife, the sunny side you may also view. It will help us everyday, it will brighten all the way, so keep on the sunny side of life…” We can and must identify the many places of blessing that clearly overwhelm the negative for most of us. Another thing we can do is practice kindness and patience — both of which are considered spiritual gifts. I heard someone say they made a point to thank grocery store cashiers for working. So, I tried it one night at Giant Eagle; it brought a smile and tears to the person. Now that’s low-hanging spiritual fruit! Maintaining hope is also crucial. Hope is a deep trust that unpleasant circumstances will eventually change and that with God’s power and presence in our lives “all things can work together for good” (Romans 8:28). When I start to get grumpy or frustrated or sad, something (Someone?) reminds me that others have endured much more difficult circumstances for much longer periods of time.
So, it helps to maintain a bigger perspective in terms of human history, which amps up my hope that life in abundance has and will continue. I miss corporate worship terribly. My neighbor says there is like a hole in his soul right now. I feel the same way. Our weekly Sunday virtual worship videos help along with other videos I have found online. So, please go to LPC’s website and click on the “Virtual Worship” tab to find our growing archive of worship videos.
All of us owe a debt of gratitude to several people giving their time and skills to develop LPC’s online ministry presence. Tedd Roos, and now Sean Kennedy, have overseen the production of our 30-minute worship videos. I must say how impressed I am with their technical and creative skills and how proud I have been of the product! Thanks also to Ruth Draper and musical soloists who have creatively continued LPC’s ministry of music! And thanks to our members who have been online liturgists and virtual participants. Planning and preparation for continued online ministry is in process.
And a big thanks to our faithful pledgers and givers. The Finance Ministry is faithfully attending to the church’s financial resources and monitoring income and expenses. We are blessed!
With God’s help let’s stay on the sunny side. “Until we meet again.”
Pentecost Offering Helps Youth Begin Life with a Strong Start
Each year on Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church. The Holy Spirit remains with us still, connecting us with the church of the past, continuing to inspire the church of today, and pointing us to the church of the future. Each year, this celebration is marked by receiving the Pentecost Offering, which nurtures the faith of those who are the church to come — children, youth and young adults.
Psalm 71 testifies that a foundation of faith established during childhood helps ensure lifelong faith and service. The patterns and lessons established during these formative years continue to bear fruit throughout a person’s life. By giving to the Pentecost Offering, our congregation participates in helping our children, youth and young adults grow up to proclaim with the Psalmist, “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.”
Since the Pentecost Offering started in 1998, Presbyterians have raised more than $15 million for ministries that benefit younger members of God’s family. A gift to the Pentecost Offering helps the church encourage, develop, and support its young people, and also address the needs of at-risk children. Forty percent of the Pentecost Offering can be retained by individual congregations wanting to make an impact in the lives of young people within their own community. The remaining 60% is used to support children-at-risk, youth and young adults through ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
The Pentecost Offering will be received throughout the month of May. Please include “Pentecost” on the memo line of your check when you mail it to the church office.
The Art of Sacred Image and Personal Worship
May 10, 17 & 24
Faith Formation is excited to offer a three-part digital lecture surveying the use of art in personal worship. When discussing art and faith, most people might conjure the image of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling or the many beautiful stained-glass windows and altarpieces in worship spaces around the world. This series will look at art, within three distinct time periods, that was used for worshiping and connecting to God while at home. The series will be led by Aliyah Kennedy, the Director of Faith Formation and Youth Programming. While many of our members may associate her with the children and youth of our church, her degree is in Art History and she has spent many years working within Cleveland’s art community. On May 10, 17 and 24, a documentary-style video lecture will be offered on the church website and YouTube pages. Questions may be sent to Aliyah and will be answered in follow-up videos. This offering will begin the week following “Jesus Left, Now What” led by LPC Parish Associate Dr. Steve Gorman via Zoom on Sundays at 11:20 a.m. We hope to offer faith formation on a variety of platforms so that our members can deepen their knowledge in whatever way meets their needs.
Music During Virtual Worship by Dr. Ruth Draper
During this time of virtual worship, I have been honing my video editing chops to bring you recordings of music from the LPC sanctuary and my home piano. In addition to hearing these pieces during the virtual service, you can find them on my Sacred Notes Music Blog, which talks a little about the history or musical characteristics of each hymn or Classical piece (visit ruthdrapermusic.com). You can sort the old posts by category, e.g. see all the piano music, or all the hymn arrangements, and catch up on any music you may have missed. A plus to creating virtual sacred music is that it can be shared with people far beyond the sanctuary, and I have heard from members of former churches I have served, as well as former members of LPC who have moved away, how they have enjoyed this ministry.
Another fun thing about creating virtual music for our services is that people can get a close-up look at the keyboard, including what I do with my feet at the organ; I can also use any instrument I want, such as LPC’s lovely chapel organ, or even “clone” myself to do a piano/organ duet with myself thanks to video editing software. While I look forward to getting to make music with people in person again, I have also enjoyed the creative challenge of coming up with “virtual ensemble” pieces with singers and instrumentalists from their homes, and I hope that seeing and hearing some of our LPC musicians during this time will help you feel connected to LPC.
Digital Faith Formation for Youth and Children
In this time of uncertainty, the Faith Formation Ministry is helping parents give some sense of routine and worship to the children and youth of LPC. We began the shutdown by sending parents curriculum from our Journeys classes and inviting them to the Young Families Facebook group for tips on setting up an at-home worship space and Bible story videos each week. During Holy Week, instead of having our traditional egg-hunt on Palm Sunday, we gave out goodie bags on Good Friday. Families with children ages 3-11 received a color-your-own bag with books, candy, coloring books, toys and a set of eggs to make Resurrection eggs. With the help of our wonderful office staff, children will also be receiving activity pages in the mail each week. If your family has not been included in emails or mailings, please contact Aliyah Kennedy.
The youth have been gathering via Zoom on Sundays at 5 p.m. We are learning new ways to play games, talk about our faith and just have time to socialize. The youth and several of our younger children also participated in video messages for Holy Saturday and some of our worship services. Thank you to all the children and families for your participation. It is wonderful to see all of your joyful faces. The youth continue to communicate via their Instagram account. Please send a message to Aliyah Kennedy to receive access to the youth meetings.
Why Is Per Capita Important?
According to the Office of the General Assembly, per capita is a fundamental way in which all of the more than 9,000 congregations and mid councils of the PC(USA) connect, participate and share in the work of the wider church. Per capita is how Presbyterians “mutually and equitably share the costs of coming together to discern the Spirit’s leading for the future.”
The expenses of operating our Presbyterian denomination will cost every congregation in our Presbytery $32.41 per member. In 2020, the per capita amount is distributed as follows:
- Presbytery $20.21
- Synod $3.25
- General Assembly $8.95
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.