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It’s back to school time, and for parents that means helping children sharpen their pencils and charge their laptops in preparation for the first day. For children it means adapting to new morning routines and getting back to a studying and test-taking rhythm. And for pastors, it’s that wonderful time of year to bless school backpacks. While blessing backpacks is popular in big and small churches, it is only the start to what congregations can — and should — be doing to engage more deeply with local schools. According to Dr. Irvin Scott, a faculty member of Harvard Graduate School of Education, backpack blessings have grown over the years because they provide a relatively hassle-free, easy-to-execute outreach to families. “It’s a good first step,” said Scott, with emphasis on “first.”
On Reformation Sunday, observed the last Sunday in October, Presbyterians are reminded of their Reformed heritage, hearing once again how in 1517 Martin Luther nailed to the cathedral door in Wittenberg, Germany, his Ninety-five Theses. Some pastors might use this Sunday, which is Oct. 30 this year, to reenact Luther’s bold move, while others might choose to open worship with Luther’s majestic “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Still others will weave in the Reformation mantra “reformed and always reforming” into the sermon, prayers or benediction. Last fall, though, the Rev. Carol Holbrook Prickett took the celebration of Reformation Sunday a step further. The pastor of Crescent Springs Presbyterian Church in Crescent Springs, Kentucky, created a service to educate today’s “reformers” of the legacy of following a God who is always creating something new.
Pastor Fursan Zumot did not want to see Tawfeek leave his church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.
The Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has announced the most extensive changes to the Assistance Program in a generation. The changes steer financial help to ministers where their need is greatest and loosen requirements to extend access across Benefits Plan membership. The changes take effect January 1, 2022.
Since the beginning of time, people have turned to song to express joy’s heights and grief’s lows. In Exodus 15, Moses’ sister, Miriam, sang after crossing the Red Sea. Her song of praise is considered to be one of the oldest pieces of biblical literature. Later, David composed songs of praise and lament that would fill the Psalms — a treasured hymnbook for thousands of years used by Jews and Christians alike. Centuries later, singing both in the home and in public worship became one of the defining marks of Reformation worship. According to the Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, associate for worship in the Office of Theology and Worship in Louisville, Reformers especially emphasized singing the Psalms because it was a way to sing God’s Word together. “If you think about a time before we had projection screens or copy machines, singing was a way for the whole people of God to participate,” he said.
As a seminary student I heard a constant refrain from our professors: Jesus came to preach and teach. It was the pretext underlying our whole seminary education as they trained us to preach and teach.
Congregations striving to maintain their outward incarnational focus, one of the seven marks of congregational vitality, can thrive for at least two reasons: they’re ministering to others while at the same time being ministered to.
Over the next eight months or so, the Presbyterian Mission Agency — with input from its many partners — will embark on a three-phase Vision Implementation Plan to, as the PMA’s president and executive director put it during a staff town hall meeting Thursday, discern “what the Holy Spirit is already doing and join God in doing it.”
This spring, Presbyterian churches, large and small, scrambled to get online using technology that they had either heard of, dabbled in or had been wanting to use in their own ministries.
By mid-March, COVID-19 began changing the way the world interacts, and the church was not immune to those changes. Amid social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, many churches either canceled worship or moved to a virtual form of worship. Pastors and sessions looked for creative ways to worship and to care for the most vulnerable church members in a quickly changing landscape. But what about financial stewardship during such a time as a pandemic – or any other event that would interrupt traditional modes of being the church?