Posted by andrew on July 25, 2016
Looking ahead to the month of August, one thing that stands out to all of us at Green Tree is the Chicken BBQ. This year it is on August 20 and preparations are already under way. The Chicken BBQ is a big event for our church. It’s a lot of work and a lot of fun and you won’t believe how much good it does and how far that good extends.
Let me go over some of the things we might have forgotten. Obviously, the BBQ lets us get together over the table with our friends and family. It also gets us out into the community to meet and talk to people who we normally don’t see in church on Sunday morning and that’s always a good thing. However, the BBQ does a whole lot more than that.
Yes, it is a fundraiser for our church but the funds that come from this event do not simply go into the administrative work of our church. In the past some of it has gone into the efforts of the Green team to specifically reach out into the community and build bridges with each other right here in our church. Some of it goes to our Witness Commission who then designates worthy charitable organizations like PACS who do so much good in the local community. Sometimes it is used to improve our church facility which is a beautiful place but like anything, it needs attention from time to time.
On one occasion it did go into the general budget but that is certainly not a bad thing. Remember beside our local ministries, our church budget supports our church’s global mission efforts and that includes disaster relief efforts worldwide, aid to our agencies working with immigrants in Europe and the Mideast and help to displaced peoples in Nigeria. I could go on and on about the good that is being done by the Chicken BBQ but I hope you get the idea.
When you sign up to work at the Chicken BBQ (which I hope you will do) you really are doing God’s work. there’s no doubt about it. So be one of God’s hands and help us spread the goodness that comes from barbecuing chickens. It’s really surprising how much good a chicken can do.
Posted by andrew on
Summer is vacation time and most of us take at least some of our vacation in the summer. It’s a great time – being away from home; away from work – just relaxing and having a good time. We can forget about schedules and work pressure. Hopefully nobody is calling us from the office to solve problems that only you can solve. We can pretty much forget about all the stuff that we deal with on a day-to-day basis and frankly forgetting about that stuff is a very good thing.
There is something we can’t allow ourselves to forget about though. It is our Father in Heaven. He travels very well. In fact, since He’s with us every day, He’s already part of our vacation and the best way to honor this presence is by being in worship on Sunday morning, no matter where you are.
My parents set a very good example for Glenn and me when we traveled. Sunday morning was a place and time for worship and no matter where we were, we found a church to worship in. From a Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida to a large Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, N.Y., we always found a place to be in God’s presence.
It has been no different since I’ve been an adult. Wherever we’ve been, we’ve been able to meet with our Maker on Sunday morning. Not only has our time in different churches been spiritually worthwhile, sometimes it’s been entertaining to the point of being downright funny. While visiting Glenn & Mary who were working one summer at Camp Susquehanna in the Endless Mountains of northeast Pennsylvania, we found a little Catholic Church that held no more than 25/30 people. While standing in the back for the service, our son Josh, probably six or seven at the time, managed to knock all the communion wafers (the host) on the floor. This caused a minor panic but all ended well as we scooped them all up before anybody noticed.
I have worshiped in a dining room on a cruise ship with one of the stewards leading the service. We have worshiped as a family in our hotel room at a remote lodge in Alaska when there was no church for miles.
On our regular family trips to Ocean City, N.J., I have worshipped at the Ocean City Tabernacle where I have been blessed to hear some of America’s great Christian leaders. Norman Vincent Peale, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Robert Schuller, Tony Campolo, Philip Yancey, Admiral Barry Black, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate just to name a few have been inspiring beyond words. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
My point is this, whether you’re in a tiny church in the mountains of Northeast Pennsylvania or a magnificent tabernacle that seats thousands in Ocean City, you will be blessed for being in God’s presence. Remember God travels really well. He is part of our vacation, too. Remember to take Him along with you. He will help remind us of His commandment, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy”.
Posted by andrew on June 24, 2016
Change! It’s something that most of us are not comfortable with. We are pretty much creatures of habit and routine, but change happens anyway. Now change has come to Green Tree.
Pastor Dave has retired and the guy writing this epistle is your new interim pastor. Well, maybe “new” is not a good word; I have been with you and a part of Green Tree for thirteen years. Now thirteen years is not a lifetime, but it’s a long enough time to get to know each other pretty well. My guess is that we do know each other pretty well. Some of you I know very, very well and those who are not in that category I hope to get to know better. You have known me as your associate pastor for eleven years and I think we’ve been a good team working together and supporting Pastor Dave for all those years.
All the above is why I believe this change will be smooth. I’m expecting it to be painless and seamless. There should be no surprises. Personally, I love the Lord and only wish to serve Him. My father was a great pastor and he is my role model, even though I have been blessed to work with other good Christian pastors here at Green Tree — from Del Keeney to Pastor Dave.
Green Tree is a wonderful community of believers. It has vital lay leadership. It is a strong church that has the capacity and potential to be infinitely stronger as we work together. That, my dear friends, is what we are to be about—doing the work of Jesus, Peacefully. Simply. Together.
Hopefully, our day to day life together will not change a lot. The office hours at the church will stay the same – Tues.-Fri. 9:00 a.m.-12 noon. You may call me on my cell, 484-644-1127, anytime. If I cannot answer, leave a message and I’ll get back ASAP. Don’t hesitate to call – after all, in our church family, we’re all brothers and sisters.
P.S. I hope you’re looking forward to working together as much as I am.
Posted by andrew on
When I leave the office for the day and say good-bye to Mary our secretary, she will often say, “So long.” I tease her and say, “Who says ‘so long’ any more. It sounds like something out of the “Sound of Music.” Being the good secretary that she is, she doesn’t back down and she comes back with a good comment of her own.
So I thought it would be fitting to call this my “So Long Pastor’s Epistle.” The month of May will be my last month with you before I retire. On Sunday May 15, we will celebrate my retirement and my time with you as pastor. My last Sunday and last official day as your pastor will be May 22.
Saying “good-bye” or “so long” has gotten more difficult since I announced my retirement in September. Since that time, I have experienced my last Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve Service, Love Feast, Easter, and Roast Beef Dinner with you. Each of these events, as we get closer to May 31, brings home the reality that I am indeed leaving. And this is not easy for Pat and me. It’s hard to say good-bye and it is a sad time. You have cared for us very well. Of all the churches I have served in my career as pastor, Green Tree has treated me extremely well with great respect and you have made intentional efforts to let me know that you genuinely care for my well-being. I do look forward to retirement but at the same time, I want to say that Green Tree will always have a special place in my heart.
Some of you have asked me what is next. We will be relocating to Manheim in Lancaster County. Our address is 75 Miller Drive, Manheim, PA 17545 (717-879-6039). Please come visit us. I plan to look for some part-time work that may involve teaching in higher education, administrative work, or some type of chaplaincy work. As Pat and I transition into this change of pace, we look forward to traveling and simply spending more time together.
Let me close by thanking all of you for allowing me the privilege and honor of serving as your pastor. I cherish the relationships that we have developed over the past ten years and the opportunity to serve Christ together.
With much love,
Posted by andrew on
In Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing about Grace, he shares the following quote: “Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family.”
In a sense Yancey is saying God’s love boils down to grace. It’s a love where there are no strings attached. God loves us fully and completely. We can’t do this or that to make God love us more and when we sin or do things God would not have us to, he won’t love us any less either. So we are all blessed to be surrounded by God’s love and grace. What a blessing! What a gift!
And if we are the recipients of God’s grace, then we would do well to extend grace to others. As my time as your pastor comes closer to an end, I am constantly reminded of the grace you have extended to me as your spiritual leader. I have made blunders and mistakes along the way and you have graciously surrounded me with your love. As I have extended pastoral care to many of you during the last ten years, you too have expressed interest in my well-being. As I have been involved in the milestones and ritual passages of life in your lives, you have supported me in mine as well. And when we have had to challenge one another, we have been able to do it with grace at the forefront.
I believe Yancey is right, it all boils down to grace. As you constantly experience God’s grace, I pray that you will continue to express grace and love to one another because that it what the Christian journey is all about. We are filled to overflowing with love and grace as we find ourselves at God’s table.
Posted by andrew on March 1, 2016
On Ash Wednesday, I was visiting a patient in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. As I made my way to the patient’s room, I encountered numerous people who had ashes on their forehead in the form of a cross. I passed by the hospital chapel and saw a chaplain anointing people as they waited in line.
Historically, events on the traditional church calendar such as Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent were not observed by the Anabaptist and the members of the Church of the Brethren. However, in recent years, many Brethren churches observe events like Advent and Lent and Pentecost in their own way. We may not observe them with the same ritual and regularity of the Catholic Church or the higher Protestant churches, but we choose to observe some of them with a Brethren twist.
As I walked through the hospital that day, it was refreshing to pass people in the hallway with the mark of ashes on their foreheads. It was a sign of faith for them and a sign of hope for me that faith is alive and well in the world in which we live.
Posted by andrew on January 26, 2016
I recall shoveling snow with a church member at the church in the Baltimore area where I served before coming to Green Tree. We were shoveling away when two teenagers came along and offered to help. At first we declined their invitation because we felt the two of us could handle the job and we didn’t want to feel obligated to pay them. Our thought was that we would save the church some money instead of paying them for something we could easily do. But the two teenagers did not go away and they insisted they didn’t want any money. They simply wanted to help. The boys worked hard. They did a very good job and they did it free of charge.
Free of charge. Not many things are free these days. As we move into the Season of Lent this month (Easter and Lent are early this year), we remember that Jesus paid a significant price as he went to the cross. Going to the cross was not free for Jesus. He sacrificed his life in doing so. But because of his sacrifice, grace and salvation are available to us free of charge. They are available simply for the asking.
Lent is a time to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and it is a time to contemplate the sacrifices that God is calling us to make as we follow in the footsteps of Christ. But the sacrifices that we make as disciples and followers of Christ do not bring about salvation and grace. Salvation and grace cost Jesus his life, yet they cost us nothing. As we make our way toward Easter, we become mindful of the fact that Jesus died for us so that his grace and God’s salvation would indeed be free of charge.
Posted by andrew on January 15, 2016
In October, Pat and I attended a concert by folksinger Tom Paxton. He was giving one of his last touring concerts before entering into a mode of semi-retirement (simply put, he won’t be touring as much as he has been). He was a bit nostalgic throughout the concert as he paid tribute to his many friends over the years and to his wife who died several years earlier. At the same time, he apologized for being nostalgic because he noted it’s easy to get stuck in the past when we need to move forward in good ways. But then he said, “I guess it’s okay to look back as long as we don’t stare.”
We are now making that familiar transition from one year to the next. 2015 is behind us and 2016 is before us. Every time we say “goodbye” to one year and “hello” to the next, we do so with varied reactions. For some, 2015 may have been a great year, while for others it may have been difficult. Whether or not it was a great year or a challenging one, it is important to look back on the lessons we learned and recall the more positives things that we experienced. However, Paxton’s words may be helpful here. It’s okay to look back on 2015 and to reminisce as long as we don’t stare.
During the coming year, many of us will face some changes. Like Paxton, I will enter into a new chapter of semi-retirement. Green Tree will enter the search process for a new pastor. And when we find ourselves facing significant change, it is tempting to look back and to remember the good old days. Again, that’s okay as long as we don’t stare.
Once again, we look forward to a new year coming. We look forward to the opportunities and the good fortune a new year may bring. We hope and pray that we will be able to deal with any challenges and adversity that may emerge in the year ahead. Regardless of what we may face in the coming year, we may want to look back and recall past memories. Doing so may give us comfort and joy-and that’s okay, as long as we don’t stare.
Posted by andrew on
If you have been paying attention to the financial statistics in the weekly bulletin and the Church Board highlights in the newsletter, you know that for some time now our offerings have fallen short of our expenses. If this does not turn around, then we will get to a point where supporting the ministry of the church will become more and more difficult.
On page 5 of this newsletter, the Financial Stewardship Committee has an article about Commitment Sunday and the importance of filling out the commitment cards which indicate what our pledge will be for next year. The whys, whens, and hows are explained very well in the article. The hope and prayer is that everyone will make an intentional effort to assess their financial situation and make a suitable pledge to the mission and ministry of the church.
As I mentioned in the sermon on October 11, we find it difficult to talk about our finances with others. What we do with our possessions and finances is private and personal. But God cares very much about what we do with our money and our resources. Sharing and giving are central concepts in scripture. Let us all take some time in the next week or so to think about, reflect upon, and pray about what God is calling us to share with the church.
Posted by andrew on
Many of you know by now of my intent to retire in May 2016. When I initially informed the congregation of this decision, I indicated that it has indeed been a difficult one. As a congregation, you have treated me well as your pastor and you have extended overwhelming support to Pat and me.
Even though it is important for me to make this transition in my life at this time, please know that Pat and I will cherish the relationships that we have with you and we hope we can maintain our connection with many of you in the future.
When one embarks upon an important life decision, much reflection and prayer must take place. Such reflection and prayer has allowed me to ponder the numerous things we have done together as a congregation. Over time, one thing blends into another but when I started to put them together in a list form, it was enlightening to me to see the number of things we were able to accomplish. I will not provide an exhaustive list here but I will point out some of the highlights: The continuation of the Green Team as a strategic planning team, the development of a hospitality program for our visitors, the renovation of the bathrooms, the installation of the multi-media system in the sanctuary, the dedication of the Memorial and Peace rose garden, the erection of the playground adjacent to the pavilion, the establishment of the Endowment Fund, the opening of Little Acorns Preschool, the replacement of the boiler with a natural gas heating system, the formation of the Building Bridges program, concerts and talent shows for New Community Project and the Give a Girl a Chance Program, and the installation of a digital sign.
In addition to these accomplishments we have had seminars on leadership development, worship leadership, communication, spirituality, prayer, grief, biblical interpretation, the gospels, peace in the Old Testament, the Psalms, and the book of Revelation.
I share this list not to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, but to illustrate that we have worked hand in hand together in a good and productive manner. In a sense, we have been doing what a church should do. We have been working together and we have tried to move forward by helping to build God’s kingdom one brick at a time. And we are not done. I have no doubt that more things will come to the surface in our remaining eight months together. We can continue the work of Jesus peacefully and simply but it is best if we do it together.