I was so pleasantly surprised yesterday by all the people who braved the ice and were at worship. I really thought we would only have a handful of people, but we had quite a few more at both services. I am grateful for our Confirmation class and their parents, who could have missed this Sunday because of the weather, but they all came, even the ones who live in the country. It’s great to be here, in a place and amongst a people who really want to continue to grow in faithfulness.
I was also surprised when I returned to my office after services. Valentines Day is not one that I think is celebrated a whole lot aside from the wonderful connection of couples, but there on my desk were two Valentines Day gifts! What a delightful surprise!
On the subject of Valentines Day, this year is the first one since 1956 that Ash Wednesday and Valentines Day coincide. So, how can we connect the day of romance and chocolates with the beginning of Lent, the season of repentance and self-denial? Come to our Ash Wednesday service at 7:00 to find out. It will be a short service, but meaningful, as we thrust ourselves with vigor into the wondrous season of Lent.
I am in the middle of a real busy few weeks! This week I was at a clergy gathering, then back at the parish, then today getting my car fixed. Next week, the only day I will be in the office is Tuesday! February used to be a slow month, but with this and Lent starting, it promises to be pretty busy. I wish I could think of some deep spiritual insight or lesson to go along with this, but I’m drawing a blank. If you see one, log on to the church’s Facebook and post one in the comments.

I have returned from Covenant Keepers (an annual gathering of clergy to provide refreshment, encouragement, and fellowship) relatively unscathed. I was able to meet with a covenant partner, and we counseled one another on issues we are facing. I talked with a lot of clergy friends I see only rarely, although not for as long as I wanted. I was thrust into the role of sound engineer, something I haven’t done in a long time, and occasionally almost seemed to know what I was doing. Bishop Beard spoke of hope, which is an important message for the time in which we are currently living.

Clergy are strange critters. Annual Conference and Covenant Keepers, as well as Conference and District meetings, are important times for us to reconnect, which is important because our clergy colleagues are the friends we keep beyond appointments.

Hearing in church after church how people live their whole lives within one town or area is a marvel. They have friendships they made as children and keep into old age. Some even marry those they’ve known since kindergarten. Clergy don’t have this luxury, moving from place to place as we do, so our lasting friendships tend to be those who share our profession.

Please don’t think that we don’t or can’t have friendships amongst our congregations. We certainly do, but time and distance soften many of those bonds, and the lack of regular renewal make them hard to maintain by both parties.

So, with old friendships renewed and the joy of returning to my new friends, I greet the challenges ahead, and look forward to a meaningful Lent and a joyous Easter with you.


December is the season for joy. We begin celebrating Christmas (the secular form) in earnest right after Thanksgiving. We put up decorations, colored lights, build beautiful scenes in our homes, and make all sorts of other preparations. Right after getting the family together for Thanksgiving we begin preparing to get together again. It’s stressful all this planning for joy.

Nevertheless, it is a time of joy. Things are pretty, and mostly people are more kind, generous, and helpful.

It seems strange, then, that in our church calendar the season of Advent starts out with stern words of warning. “Wait, therefore, and watch!” “The Kingdom comes like a thief in the night.” “Those who were not ready were left out.” “Don’t be that guy!” (OK, that last bit isn’t really in the scriptures, but it does convey the point). We start out with words of doom, destruction, and general chaos, all associated with the coming of the Lord.

Imagine if you will this Christmas card: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Have a Merry Christmas. Not too joyous, and a bit threatening.

Advent is the season of preparation. Continue to prepare for the decorations, the parties, the gifts, the lights, the meals. But remember at the same time to prepare for the coming of Jesus. Are you spiritually ready to greet him? You may respond, Maybe, but how will I know? Who can ever be ready? I think it’s simpler than you might think. Do you look forward to greeting him with joy or with foreboding?

If the former, you are more ready than you think. If the latter, you are still more ready than you think, for the unbelievers don’t care.

Be sure to include in your Advent preparations time for prayer, to slow down and pay attention to God, for continued acts of mercy, and deeper devotion to Jesus. And then prepare to greet the Lord with Joy!
Things are KICKING this week! Already we’ve had our beekeepers club here, and our Bible study. All week the Crafty Crafters are preparing for the bazaar that begins this Friday, and today we have cooks preparing for community meal, Uth spaghetti supper on Friday, and ham loaf and chicken for lunch on Saturday. Pre-schoolers were here today with a donation for the food pantry. Come on down for the bazaar Friday or Saturday, stay for the Woodworkers Guild tour, and get something good to eat in the mean time.
Thanks to everyone who is helping during this busy time. We keep on doing God’s work! And don’t forget our building dedication a week from Sunday, when Bishop Beard will be our guest at worship and the dedication afterwards.

In daily life the tragic and the uplifting often intermingle, weaving their way around our awareness, forcing themselves into our souls. Yesterday was such a day. At a visitation, I was honored to sit with several Amish colleagues, pastors like myself. Interestingly, the first question put to me was to ask what the difference between Methodists and Presbyterians is. As I gave a talk on just that subject last week, I was ready to answer. Our discussion then became wide-ranging, and was a wonderful time of sharing and learning from one another. In these times we come to realize we are more alike, and have more similar goals than we imagined. This flower of joy and grace bloomed in the soil of sorrow and loss. So it is in God’s economy. The deepest sorrow, when touched by God’s presence, begets blessing, even for the sorrowful.


We had a great day yesterday all day. We served over 350 at our Community Meal, and had lots of great help. It was pretty busy, but we got the job done!
A recent post on our Conference Facebook site talked about “events” that churches hold, and why we hold them. If we do it to get people involved in the church, we need to have a follow up connection. I shared about our weekly meal, and that our goal is simply to feed the hungry. And we are doing that, in spades!
We are looking forward to this Sunday’s service. It is our All Saints celebration, where we rejoice in the saints God has sent into our lives who guide us and uphold us on our faith journey. We will have only one service, at 9:00am, followed by our first Sunday brunch. Be sure to join us and stay for food and fellowship. Also, remember to set your clocks back to standard time.
     I always delight in Halloween. I get a kick out of the children, all dressed up in their costumes, running about and giggling with glee. The costumes can tell us something of their personalities, but not always. so this day after Halloween I am reliving the joy.
I am also remembering, on this All Saints’ Day, those who have been such a great influence on my life and my faith who have passed on, as we say, into the church triumphant. Their names may mean nothing to you, but you benefit from their witness every time you are with me. I remember my dad and his mother, Charles, John, Stafford, Paul, Jewel, Lenore. Saints in my life, who continue to witness to later generations they will never know until we, too, are “gathered unto our ancestors” in glory.
     I just recently learned that All Saints’ Day was the greatest celebration of the church in the Middle Ages, because it was a recognition of the ordinary saints, not just the “big names” in the saintly world. Ordinary folks had their day, and their descendants were glad to give thanks to God for them.
     Who are the saints in your life? Take this day to give thanks to God for them, whether triumphant or militant.