photo showing part of a bible.

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.

Returning to Jerusalem

One of the great joys of being a children’s pastor is the opportunity to experience our sacred stories through the eyes of our children. Each class holds different parts of the story as sacred; different pieces are catalysts for deep theological questions. On Sunday, after the palm fronds are put away and we are regrouped in our classrooms, we will remember the story of Holy Week. From Jesus riding into the city, to the temple with overturned tables. We will talk about betrayal and denial. We will remember feet washing and bread breaking. We will remember that Jesus was crucified and buried. That he rose again. 

The Power of Prayer

This Lenten season we have been lingering inside the Lord’s Prayer, reflecting each week in worship and in our Lenten Devotional on a different verse of the prayer. We have asked questions about names and kingdoms, bread and forgiveness, temptation and power. This is the gift of the Lord’s Prayer, that it contains within it so many of the essentials of a life of faith and the human experience.

Saint Patrick’s Prayer

Americans love a parade so it’s easy to understand why, no matter what your heritage, on March 17 everyone can be a little bit Irish. If you have kept up with Philadelphia’s various St. Patrick’s celebrations, from parades to pub crawls, the day is actually more than a week of merriment. I think it’s fascinating that we celebrate the fifth-century cleric who took Christianity to Ireland by drinking copious quantities of beer!

Returning Friend

Thirty-eight years ago during a short visit to Paris, I stopped into a music store in the 18th arrondissement to visit my friend Guillaume Deslandres, a clerk at the store. Guillaume couldn’t wait to tell me the news that Notre Dame Cathedral had just completed auditions for a new organist. Twenty-three-year-old Olivier Latry had been appointed one of four “titulaire” organists, an unprecedented event in the history of the centuries-old cathedral.

Living, Planning, Dying Well: Getting Your Affairs in Order

Few of us take the time to do the praying, thinking, talking, and acting needed to prepare for the future. Planning for difficult times is particularly hard because it requires anticipating negative possibilities, trying to imagine uncertain, hard-to-face situations, and facing the inevitable end times of our lives. On top of this is the sheer magnitude of all the things you need to gather and do. Planning for the end of life can feel overwhelming, confusing, and even frightening. Yet, few acts are more loving and thoughtful than taking the time to plan ahead.

Starting Lent 

The smell permeates your hair, your coat, the clothes you are wearing. Like a campfire, but not quite as familiar, the smell of burnt palm fronds has an incredible ability to linger. The first time I burnt palm fronds I was in college, and another student and I were assigned to make ashes for Ash Wednesday. Neither of us had any idea what we were supposed to do. The chaplain we worked for explained, “It’s easy: Take the palm fronds we saved from last Palm Sunday, burn them, and then grind them up.” Easily said, but accomplishing the task was a little more challenging.

Awash in the Holy

It’s laundry. That’s what grabs me in this image; the wash hanging out to dry on a clothesline. Dated 1927, the picture was in a collection of photographs celebrating the completion of our present Sanctuary. The camera faces the west transept that now features the Holy Spirit window. Today, part of the parking lot and the lawn in the foreground was the side yard of Converse House when it served as our manse. More than likely this was the personal laundry of the family of the Rev. Andrew Mutch, our pastor from 1912-1936.