Welcome

Pastors’ Column

Each week one of our pastors or staff members writes a column observing what is going on in our congregation, the Church and the world, and offering reflections on the Christian life and faith. Through this series of columns, we hope to connect your and our story to the enduring story of Christ; to offer pastoral reflections on our ongoing congregational life and mission; to report on news of the Presbyterian Church and Church universal; and to invite further reflection and deeper discipleship. We welcome your comments and suggestions. In other words, our words here are an invitation to continue the conversation.

Excellent Dreams

Last Saturday, the Outreach Council gathered for a session of dreaming and discernment. Our first task was to ask one another, if you had unlimited finances and people power, what would you hear God calling this church to do? That started us off on a morning of insights, ideas, and dreams.

Praying Through Pain

By now, you have heard about the recent tragedy involving the Shipley School student who was a victim of suicide. As a person, I grieve the loss of a bright young man. As a pastor, my sympathy goes out to the family and the Shipley School. As part of a church community, anytime our neighbors experience loss, I am often moved to respond.

Sons of Cain and Abel Today

This coming Sunday, March 1, at 2 p.m. in the Chapel, we will have the opportunity to encounter two men whose families came from opposite sides of WW II – Henrik Eger’s father was a Nazi propaganda officer. Bob Spitz’s mother was an Austrian Jew who rescued her husband from Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps.

Lenten Series: Sown in Tears

Asked about these past painful chapters in human history, Thich Nhat Hanh said recently, “Suffering and happiness are both organic, like flowers and garbage. If the flower can be on its way to becoming garbage, the garbage can be on its way to becoming a flower…During the 20th century, we have created a lot of garbage... Now it is very important for us to learn how to transform the garbage we have created into flowers.”

Walking in Faith

What a joy it was last week to be welcomed to and led in worship by the youth. I loved watching as they walked into the 8:00 service to take their places with confidence and grace.

Youth Sunday

Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

More Than Just One Day

Other projects and programs to honor Martin Luther King are now memories, but we will be honoring that great preacher and leader and prophet at our own MLK Day of service this coming Saturday. Because it does not fall on the long weekend, our Saturday morning of service is not one choice among the many; it stands on its own, extending the celebration and prolonging the annual moment of memory.

Come and See Evangelism

Jesus invites us to follow him by saying simply, “Come and see.”

The scripture readings appointed by the Common Lectionary for this time of the year do not let us hold onto baby Jesus any longer. Last Sunday, Rachel preached about a grown-up Jesus being baptized by John, and this coming Sunday and the next both focus our attention on the call of the disciples, first from John’s gospel and then from Mark’s. At the very beginning of his ministry Jesus invites others to join him in engaging the power of God to transform the human community, to shift our priorities, to help usher in the Kingdom of God, and to invite others to join our journey of faith as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Supporting the Sandwich Generation

We are living in a new era. As our parents live longer, and our children need us well into their 20’s, those of us who are in the sandwich generation are managing family transitions for extended periods of time. These transitions are inevitably challenging, but if we can navigate this time consciously and thoughtfully, this period can be full of grace. As we lessen our reactivity to the stresses, we can increase our capacity to respond with compassion.

Thinking About Sunday

Once a month, we welcome children into the family of God through the sacrament of Baptism. We have the privilege of coming alongside parents and promising to help some of the youngest in our congregation grow in faith and in love.  

Who are We at BMPC?

I've been membership director at BMPC for more than 20 years, so if anyone is going to describe who we are as a congregation, it might as well be me.

All Saints Sunday – A Community Coming Together

One of the greatest privileges of being a church musician is that of providing music for memorial services. During my tenure at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church I have provided music for more than 1,500 memorial services.

Stewardship Dedication

In September, a day or two before Don and Jody Smith moved to California to be closer to family, Don came to the church for a farewell hug and handed me a letter which said in part...

Prevenient Courage and Making Ourselves Useful

“Theologians talk about a prevenient grace that precedes grace itself and allows us to accept it. I think there must also be a prevenient courage that allows us to be brave—that is, to acknowledge that there is more beauty than our eyes can bear, that precious things have been put into our hands and to do nothing to honor them is to do great harm. And therefore, this courage allows us, as the old men said, to make ourselves useful. It allows us to be generous, which is another way of saying exactly the same thing.”  ―Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

Departing

This week marks the end of our pastoral relationship. As you know, I have heard and accepted a call to serve as interim pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, VA. Sunday we celebrate our shared time, say our goodbyes, and Ruthie and I will depart for Virginia. I begin my new call on Tuesday. I will preach my first sermon next Sunday, October 19. I conduct my first memorial service next Saturday, October 18.

World Communion and Celebrating Rachel’s Installation

A great day of celebration is in store for us on Sunday. When Rachel Pedersen, our new Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry, began to coordinate her installation service, the staff decided together it should take place on a Worship Together Sunday, when children (4th and 5th graders) and youth stay through the whole worship service so they could be part of the celebration. 

Food is to be Shared

A friend of mine tells the story of her toddler twins, who were told to share their toys with one another. For a while what they understood from this was not quite what the parents intended. When one wanted the other’s toy, he would grab it and pull, insisting loudly, “We share!” Sharing is perhaps not as easy to teach as we wish it were.

Third Grade Bibles

I remember receiving my third grade Bible. I remember the red leather cover, the bold gold letters on the cover, and my name beautifully written in Mrs. Scherer’s careful calligraphy. I think about that Bible and the adventures we had together. 

Financial Peace University

During his career, my father was an economics professor. Over meals and long walks, I can recall many financial conversations throughout the years. You could say I learned economics from the classroom of life as my father’s son. But knowing something in theory doesn’t always mean you know it in practice. 

Rally Day Begins with Worship Together!

This Sunday will be a day of great celebration as we kick off a new program year and enjoy our annual Rally Day picnic on the front lawn following the 10:00 a.m. service.

Following, With Feeling

This is a pretty dog-friendly congregation, so most of you already know what I’m about to say: If you ever need some unconditional love, get a dog.  

Unpacking

Right now most of my possessions are carefully divided between boxes. There are well labeled boxes that I can unpack with ease. There are the occasional mystery boxes titled “miscellaneous” or more ominously “treasures;” I only open those when I am feeling particularly brave.

God's Redeeming Love

We are now at the mid-point of our Lenten journey. I hope that all of you, in ways appropriate to your needs, have been taking advantage of BMPC’s resources for this special season of the year. My daily routine has included reading the offering for that day in the “Lenten Devotional,” our collection of meditations on Scripture from various members of the congregation. The breadth and depth of these reflections have added a valuable spiritual component to each day.

God is Good...All the Time!

"God is good…all the time! And all the time…God is good!" This is a refrain that you'll hear quite a bit if you spend any time at Camp Kirkwood.

Mission Mulling

Summer slowdown around the office gives us all time to process the previous year and I find myself mulling over mission. 

Strength Through Christ

This week I'm reporting live from the Urban Plunge, which is our middle school mission trip! We've traveled to Washington D.C. and have served with a various organizations throughout the city.

A Higher Purpose

This past Saturday, BMPC singers, family members, and friends returned from a whirlwind 12-day study and music tour to former East Germany, land of Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoffer, J.S. Bach, Georg Frederick Händel, Franz Liszt, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, to name just a few. 

Growth Happens

Dori Dana Hudson says in the Mediocre Gardener, “Planting is its own special joy, quite separate from the harvest. I feel I would plant even if there were no harvest. Planting is a chance to touch the earth and see it respond. It is a chance to be part of God’s great creation.”

Anything is Possible if You Belize

Why go on a mission trip? This is a great question and one that I ask every year as I begin to pack my bag in preparation for another mission trip. I seem to always come to the same reason why. Because Jesus said, “Go!” Jesus’ words from scripture invite us to leave the comfort of what we know and venture into the unknown, “to make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  

Hospitality and Welcome

Christian hospitality is the theme for this coming Sunday’s scripture and sermon. Among the many invitations of the early church to extend hospitality, I love the translation of 3 John 1:5 from a contemporary paraphrase of the New Testament called The Message:  “Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.”  

Presbyterian Church General Assembly

This week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly is in session in Detroit. The “GA” is the biennial gathering of Presbyterians from all over the country. This week, the GA will debate matters of theological importance, articulate the Church’s witness at home and internationally, and attend to the more mundane issues of budgets and organizational issues.

"The Progressive Worship Work - How Long a Way Is It?"

Here’s the thing about the Progressive Worship Walk—it’s a long way, but it’s not a long way.

On the Winds of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost is the celebration of the birthday of the church when the gift of God’s Spirit filled the diverse community of believers with a sense of oneness.

Doing Real Good

As I walked into Target the other day, a young man asked me for gas money.  His car was down the road, he said, and no one else would listen to him. I gave him a few dollars, he thanked me profusely, and the whole exchange felt wrong. As I walked away, I questioned the young man’s motives—does he really need gas? Am I really his last resort?...and my own—Am I giving because he is in need, or am I giving so that I can be left alone to shop?  

Trusting God Through Pain

Why do bad things happen to good people? This was a question we talked about a lot during Confirmation this past year. Beyond theology, this is a question that every person has asked at some point in their lives. 

2014 Confirmation

It's hard to remember this past September, but it was then that our 8th grade class began Confirmation. Over the past year, these youth have continued on their faith journeys. 

Smart as Sheep

I have always heard that sheep are stupid. The biblical references that come up in the lectionary on “Good Shepherd Sunday,” comparing the people of God to sheep, ought, I thought, to humble us. We are foolish and clueless like sheep, in need of the guidance of a shepherd who has our best interests at heart.

A Word About Children and Family Ministry...

Please plan to join us as we celebrate the ministry of Jacqui Van Vliet at a reception in her honor on Sunday, May 4, after the 10:00 a.m. worship service. Jacqui’s three years as Supply Pastor have been a blessing to this church and community, as she has prepared us for the call of an installed pastor. We wish her all the best in her next pastoral call. 

How Do We Swim in this Much Wider River of Song?

This week’s pastor’s column comes to us from Dr. Emily Brink, one of the world’s leading experts on congregational song. She will be with the BMPC community this coming weekend, when she leads a class at 8:45 a.m. in Congregational Hall and assists in the leading of the 10:00 a.m. HymnFest. Brink served as editor for four hymnals: Psalter Hymnal (Grand Rapids, 1987), a liturgical resource for the Christian Reformed Church; Holding in Trust: Hymns of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada (1992, co-edited with George Black and Nancy Faus); Songs for Life (1994), a children’s hymnal; Sing! A New Creation (2001), a contemporary and global hymnal supplement; and was co-editor with John D. Witvliet of The Worship Sourcebook (2004), a contemporary resource with a classical model. 

Holy Opportunities

One of the joys of my ministry is the opportunity to empower our youth to lead. This was the model that Jesus employed with his disciples. And during this Holy Week, it's fitting that the youth of the congregation are enabled to lead one of our most sacred worship services at noon on Good Friday.

For the Love of Holy Week

In the last couple of days, a caring church member overheard me saying that I love Holy Week, to which the response was something like, “Really?!? I would think you would find it exhausting.” 

The Lord is Come

The stories of the first Christmas are about the present as well as the past, and that is why we offer the congregation so many worship services this week, so that in various ways and with different tones our church family can celebrate the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem and the coming of Jesus in our hearts today.

A Signpost and Summons

“The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” -Isaiah 2:1

Isaiah didn’t hear the word. He saw it in powerful images. A word image, just as it did for Isaiah, can conjure up a new world of story for us to see.  For instance...

I Disciple

With Martin Luther King’s birthday just passed and a Congregation-wide Day of Service just ahead, I was already thinking about what our faith calls us to do, even before I heard Agnes’s sermon about how even the news can call us to discipleship.

Church as Community

The scripture readings appointed for the month of February, before we begin our Lenten journey in March, focus our attention on the church, the community of God’s people. The gospel readings in Matthew are from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about what it means to be a citizen of God’s kingdom, and the Epistle readings from 1 Corinthians give us a glimpse of the early church finding its way as a diverse congregation amid a culture hostile to the gospel of Christ.

Choosing Life

In my newly-discovered exercise class, as we were struggling to do one more pushup after what felt like a hundred and counting, and just as I was about to let myself collapse onto the mat, our instructor sang out, “Oh yes, you can!” I believed her. She would know, I figured. So I did the next pushup and kept going, with her words in my head like a mantra, “Oh yes, you can!”

Remembrance and Hope

Of all the richness of our Advent lessons, one of my favorite is what we call the Annunciation, the passage from the first chapter of Luke in which the angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her that in God’s plan for humankind, she is to give birth to a son she will name Jesus, who will be called “the Son of the Most High.” Perplexed, amazed, afraid, Mary asks this messenger of God how all this can be, “since I am a virgin.”

God Saw That It Was Good

At the first week of the Genesis series this past Wednesday, we took note of the refrain in Gen 1—as God creates the sky, the stars, the fishes in the sea, from time to time we hear: “God saw that it was good.” What, someone asked, does the text mean by “good”? 

He Came Down

This Sunday, March 23, at 10 a.m., the walls of our church will resonate with the sounds of singing, country fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar, and double bass. Those of you who are familiar with this combination of musicians will immediately recognize it as a Bluegrass ensemble. What is unusual is that the folk music style known as Bluegrass is paired with sacred texts.

Looking Backward, Living Forward during the Season of Lent

In many ways the season of Lent turns back the clock to help us understand who Jesus was in his life and ministry, especially as he made his way toward the crucifixion. When people of faith remember what God has done in the past, we are given courage for the present and hope for the future. It’s important to remember in order to move forward in faith.

Staff Day of Service

The church staff enjoyed a day of service today, including the pastors, music, program, facilities and support staff. We went together on a bus this morning to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Philadelphia to do some sorting of furniture, organizing and painting.

Souper Bowl of Caring

Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat. This prayer by a youth pastor inspired a youth-led movement to help hungry and hurting people around the world.

A Grateful Heart

I have an especially grateful heart as we look ahead to Thanksgiving this year. Sarah and I continue to be overjoyed as we expect our first child in March. I’m also grateful for the Thanksgiving Pancake Breakfast that we are able to enjoy with such a wonderful congregation.

A Season of Possibilities

Earlier this week, getting dressed for work with the Today show on in the background, I heard someone crooning "Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright." My kneejerk reaction was, “No! Not yet! We have a few more weeks to go!”

Reclaiming Evangelism

For the past month, we have been engaged in an Adult Education forum after worship on the topic of Reclaiming Evangelism. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of response a class like this would have, since so many of us tend to shy away from doing any kind of evangelism in our own lives - and have story after story of being made uncomfortable both by strangers and friends who seem bent on trying to save our souls.

The Wonder of It All

What I love most about summer is the wonder of it all. Clear nights, bright stars and visible planets. The comforting rhythm of waves breaking upon the sand and receding only to do it again. Fish rising from the deep, shining and silver and reflecting the sun. Footprints in the sand. Fireflies. Mountain vistas. Ferns unfolding on the wooded floor. Tomatoes ripening in the backyard. Birds singing to summon the dawn.

Getting Away with God

Jesus said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” -Mark 6:31

One of the great things about summer is that at some point it usually affords us a time to get away from the usual rhythm of life. Assuming we didn’t have travel complications or family drama, we often return feeling refreshed and renewed from having spent time away. We may find that we have more energy in our work and a more hopeful view of life after a time of rest and retreat.

A Future Not Our Own

In exactly one month, we will be celebrating Rally Day and the start of Sunday School—Bryn Mawr Presbyterian’s program year will be off and running. As I look around my office, I see large sheets of paper covered in details about fall planning. There are lists of potential and confirmed Sunday school teachers, calendar dates and planning timelines. There’s even a sheet with goals for each of our age groups. Over the summer, they have been filled with Post-it notes and penciled ideas. One sheet even had to be replaced because it simply couldn’t hold all the information!

Paperless Sunday

Over the past year, I have spent much of my time working with the Councils and Committees of the church to understand not just what they do as groups and leaders in the church, but also what they aspire to do on behalf of this congregation.

For example, when one looks at the work of groups like our Outreach Committee or Worldwide Ministries Committee, it is easy to figure out what they do. These groups are responsible for creating and maintaining partnerships with local, regional and international mission and relief organizations primarily through the use of the generous benevolent funding in our annual budget and foundation.

God’s Presence and Providential Love Sustains Us

Psalm 90 proclaims with great certainty of faith the constancy of God from the beginning of time to life everlasting:

                       Lord, you have been our dwelling place
                              in all generations.
                        Before the mountains were brought forth
                              or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
                              from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 

Taking a Lead

If you watched any of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, you likely saw a few swimming or track and field races. Races were won as Olympic and world records were set. At some point, an athlete can decide to take the lead in a race. Knowing when to take a lead is the goal of any race.

In our spiritual lives, God invites each of us to take a lead. Taking a lead doesn’t mean having all the answers, or always knowing the right direction to go. Taking a lead means setting an example that others can follow. Taking a lead means finding the courage to be out in front, ahead of the crowd. At times it may feel uncomfortable and you may feel unworthy, but ultimately, when you take a step of faith, God gives us the courage we need.

Getting Ready for Rally Day

When I was growing up I loved getting ready for the beginning of the school year. There was always a bit of nervous wondering about which teacher I’d get or if close friends would end up in the same class. My memories of those concerns are now far overmatched by the excitement I recall in getting ready by shopping for a couple of outfits and picking out a pair of new shoes. But the greatest thrill was getting new school supplies: a box of crayons perfectly pointed and arranged in a rainbow of color, notebooks with pristine paper, an array of binders and a whole set of new books. As I got older the ruler gave way to the pencil compass, and long after I grew beyond being the child getting ready to become the parent who paid for the supplies, our children began to need calculators of such sophistication that I couldn’t tell you what they were meant to compute. As a child, as a parent, and as a pastor now conversing with BMPC families beginning a new school year, I cannot round the corner of Labor Day without remembering with fondness how I love getting ready for a fresh start.

Studying Scripture in Community

I still use the study Bible that I bought my first semester of seminary. It was the first Bible that I actually bought myself. Every other Bible I ever owned was either given to me by my church or one that I took down from my parents’ bookshelves at home.

One look at my study Bible and you will know that it has seen a lot of miles. The binding is taped up to keep it from tearing any more than it already has. The thin onion skin pages are dirty from being turned and flipped through. The pages are a little dirtier at those books I was required to translate in seminary. The pages are a little cleaner and fresher at the books and passages that I have neglected or that don’t appear in our regular cycle of lectionary scripture readings.

Third Grade Bibles

I was convinced that my Third Grade Bible was especially holy.  On the day of the presentation, two wonderful women wrote our names and a special verse in beautiful calligraphy. At the bottom of the bookplate, the ministers had dutifully signed in illegible scribbles noting the day when the Bibles were presented.  The cover was burgundy and the page edges were gilded. I remember a sense of pride that I was being entrusted with such a beautiful book.

World Communion Sunday

Last week I hosted a lunch for area Presbyterians to meet Dr. Reeta Rao from Dehrundan, India. While BMPC’s mission support in India goes to Emmanuel Hospital, Dr. Rao is supported by the Pottstown and Ardmore Presbyterian Churches, and our gathering gave folks in this area of the presbytery an opportunity to learn about the good educational and medical work she is doing among the poor.

Theologian-in-Residence

Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church has a wonderful tradition of inviting scholars from around our country to spend time with us to share their research and apply it to our life and work as a congregation. The Theologian-in-Residence program was created in appreciation for the ministry of David and Ruth Watermulder here at BMPC for 24 years.

Doing Good Together

After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus offers this new commandment for his followers: “This is my commandment: You shall love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).

Publish modules to the "offcanvas" position.