Friday, April 15, 2011


The Service of Tenebrae has ancient origins, and as it is passed through the generations its form changes.  Tenebrae comes from the Latin for shadows or darkness, and the Tenebrae service, in a small way, hopes to recreate the emotions of those who followed Jesus to the cross.  Many find this service to be an import part of their spiritual pilgrimage, for one cannot fully experience the joy of Easter without first living, at least for a moment, at the foot of cross where Jesus suffered.

In some churches this service has a formal liturgy, and it can be offered on Wednesday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.   Different liturgies will focus on the various aspects of Jesus’ Passion.  For the past several years, here at Westminster, we remembered the seven last words of Christ.  But this year our Tenebrae Service will remind us of cross and the events that led to it.  We will be reading Scripture text that tells of the shadows of those final days in Jesus’ life that ends in total darkness.   Specifically we will be looking at texts that tell of the shadow of betrayal, the shadow of denial, the shadow of aloneness, the shadow of accusation, the shadow of suffering, the shadow of crucifixion and the shadow of death. 

On Thursday, April 21 we will celebrate our Maundy Thursday Communion service at 7:30 PM, and on Friday evening, April 22 we will approach the cross during the Service of Tenebrae.  The Tenebrae service will also be at 7:30 PM.

Over the past eight years attendance has grown at our Tenebrae service, but the sanctuary is still pretty sparse on Good Friday.   The testimony of many of those who attend tell us that attendance at the Tenebrae service heightens the experience of Easter and it is my hope, whether or not you attend the Tenebrae service that as Easter approaches we will all be struck with the horror of the cross, the glory of the resurrection and the wonder of God’s love.


Friday, April 8, 2011

The Twenty and the One

How about something light, and thank you to the person who sent me this story:
     A well-worn one-dollar bill and a similarly distressed twenty-dollar bill arrived at a Federal Reserve Bank to be retired. As they moved along the conveyor belt to be burned, they struck up a conversation.  
     The twenty-dollar bill reminisced about its travels all over the country.. "I've had a pretty good life," the twenty proclaimed... "Why I've been to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, the finest restaurants in New York, performances on Broadway, and even a cruise to the Caribbean  ..." 
     "Wow!" said the one-dollar bill. "You've really had an exciting life!" 
     "So, tell me," says the twenty, "where have you been throughout your lifetime?" 
     The one dollar bill replies, "Oh, I've been to the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church  ..." 
     The twenty-dollar bill interrupts, "What's a church?"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

You Got to See These Photos

I received an email from one of our members saying that she had posted some photos on the church's "shutterfly" page.  My first thought was, what is "shutterfly"?  And where on earth is the "shutterfly" page?  I looked in the library, then the offices.  I checked the bulletin boards, but could not find the "quacking insect."  I finally remembered being told something about how to post photos on the church webpage, so I checked there, and low and behold, I was in for a wonderful surprised.  There are hundreds of photos there and you need to take a look, for it will certainly lift your spirits.

To view the photos, you first must go to the church webpage --  "Click" on the tab that says "Church Life."  Then click on the Photo Gallary.  And finally on "" and start viewing.  However looking at what I just typed, maybe all you have to do is enter the "shutterfly" address which is in green in the above line.

In my last post, I wrote about an issue that is facing the Presbyterian Church USA.  And I know when the news breaks about the passing of General Assembly Amendment 10-A, there will be some who will think that the Presbyterian Church, as we know it, is in trouble.  Well, I think if you look at the photos on the "shaking  arthropod," (I mean "shutterfly"), you will know that all is well at Westminster as we work for, and worship Jesus Christ as a church family.


Friday, April 1, 2011

A Pastoral Letter Concerning Ordination Standares

Dear Church Family,

            Last summer, at the General Assembly meeting, the commissioners voted to make a change to paragraph G-6.0106b in the Book of Order:

            Currently, paragraph G-6.0106b reads, “Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons, elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.”

            Once a majority of Presbyteries vote to make a change, and at this point this will happen in mid to late April, the old language will be erased from the Book of Order and the new language will read, Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.

            The first thing people notice is that the new paragraph does not contain the “fidelity and chastity” clause which was added to the Book of Order about fifteen years ago.  There are some in our denomination who are very concerned about this omission; however the Book of Order was never meant to be a book with specific rules, but a book of principles.  So rather than listing one particular sin among many, the new wording states, “Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life.”  This one sentence expresses what a list can never do, for our faith is not a list of rules to keep but it is about a Lord whom we serve.

            With this said I must be up front and point out that the upcoming change to the Book of Order comes with a measure of controversy.  Though, the wording of the new paragraph is superior to the wording of the old paragraph, the intention behind this change is to open the way for the ordination of gay and lesbian persons, which is of course a hot issue that faces several other denominations. 

            I do not want to labor on this issue, but in short, it is the task of a Presbytery to examine, ordain and install ministers.  Please note, there are no mandates which would instruct a Presbytery to ordain gay and lesbian persons.  However, some Presbyteries may interpret that an actively gay person is called by Jesus Christ, and has the gifts for ministry, and ordain that person.  Mike Cole, our Presbytery Executive, told our Session that what the PCUSA is doing would best be described as “The Local Option.”  That is some Presbyteries may choose to ordain active gay and lesbian persons, and some will choose not to do this. 

            What does this mean for Westminster?  Well it depends on your perspective.  I like to think that there will be no change.  We will continue to be part of a Presbytery that I assume will not ordain gay and lesbian ministers.

            Now let me be frank (or Steve).  I know that this change in the Book of Order and its implications for the PCUSA will, and has caused a level of distress in our church.  And I will be open with you and say that accepting the Old and New Testament to be the unique and authoritative witness and God’s word to me, I am not convinced that the ordination of gay and lesbian persons is something that is appropriate for the church.  However, with that said, I must be willing to love and accept anyone who enters our church doors. 

            So, it is late-April and you pick up the Daily Sentential and the headline reads, “PRESBYTERIANS VOTE TO ORDAIN GAY AND LESBIAN PERSONS,” I hope you understand that what we are actually doing is allowing a local option for Presbyteries and Sessions, and  this means some gay and lesbian persons may be ordained in the PCUSA, but of course this is already the case.

            And when this happens what do I plan to do?  I plan to pick up my hammer and go to the Habitat work site on Tuesday and Saturday mornings and help build a house. I will continue to teach a Pastor’s Class, a Sunday School class when called upon, work in Vacation Bible School and teach Confirmation Class.   I will enjoy watching the members of this church lead this community in mission: as you mentor young children in the public schools, teach ESL classes, help evacuees during hurricane season,  serve on various charitable boards in our community, deliver furniture for Love in the Name of Christ, feed people through Project hope, teach Vacation Bible School both here and in Romania, make prayer shawls, meet for Bible Study and prayer in circles, and who knows what else we do, along with giving beyond the call of duty to support this church and our mission in the world.  What did Jesus say, “By their fruits you will know them.”  I also expect to see everyone on Sunday morning as we join our hearts and voices in the praise of our Lord Jesus Christ who gave his life that we may be free from the chains of all that would hold us back in sharing his love.

            Finally, since I know that many of our members will have questions, our Session has set aside Sunday evening, April 10 for anyone who wants to come and hear a little more about this issue, express your concerns, and asks questions.  This meeting will begin at 7:00 PM and we are planning to meet in the Sanctuary.  If only a few come we may move to a smaller room.

            Please keep the church and our mission in your prayers.