PASTOR’S NOTE – October 15, 2019
by Rev. Dr. Shelly Wood
In our class Sunday night, we had an interesting conversation about offering plates. As our world is changing and more and more people use apps, online giving and automatic withdraw, the paper envelopes, cash and check writing seems almost old fashioned.
Depending on your generation, how you do your banking and access money differs. Some people don’t even own a check book, few people carry cash. Some churches are doing away with passing the plate during the offering and rather having a time of prayer when people commit to offering themselves in time, talent and treasure to God. Some churches have little slips of paper for people to place in the plate that says, “I give online.”
This discussion got me thinking, “How do you feel about the offering plate and do you know why we have an offering as part of worship?” Some churches do not have an offering in their worship service. Some churches have two!
Here is a little lesson on the Presbyterian Church’s understanding of offering from the “Directory for Worship” and the “Book of Common Worship.”
The Christian life is marked by the offering of one’s self to God. In worship, God presents us with the costly self-offering of Jesus Christ, who has claimed us and set us free. In response to God’s love in Christ we offer our lives, our gifts, our abilities, and our material goods for God’s service.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it. Ps. 24:1
Let us return to God the offerings of our life
and the gifts of the earth.
Book of Common Worship (WJKP, 1993) 68.
Notes adapted from Supplemental Liturgical Resource 1 (WJKP, 1984).
Excerpt from Worshiping God Together: A Guide for Children and Their Parents:
Every good thing is a gift from God — the food we eat, the things we have, the time we spend, our whole lives. We give our lives back to God as a way of saying thank you — sharing money with those who are in need, giving food to those who are hungry, and spending our time to help others.
Directory for Worship
The Christian life is an offering of one’s self to God. In worship the people are presented with the costly self-offering of Jesus Christ, are claimed and set free by him, and are led to respond by offering to him their lives, their particular gifts and abilities, and their material goods.
Worship should always offer opportunities to respond to Christ’s call to become disciples by professing faith, by uniting with the church, and by taking up the mission of the people of God, as well as opportunities for disciples to renew the commitment of their lives to Jesus Christ and his mission in the world. As the Holy Spirit has graced each member with particular gifts for strengthening the body of Christ for mission, so worship should provide opportunities to recognize these gifts and to offer them to serve Christ in the church and in the world.
The offering of material goods in worship is a corporate act of self-dedication in response to God. It expresses thanksgiving to God, the giver of life and all goods, the redeemer from sin and evil. It is an affirmation by Christ’s disciples of
their commitment to be stewards in all creation;
their responsibility to share the Word with and to care for all people;
their desire to share God’s gifts with those to whom believers are bound in the Church universal;
their common bond in the body of Christ.
In the Old Testament the people of Israel were commanded to bring a tenth of their income to support the work of the house of God and those who served God in it.
In the New Testament the apostles recognized that the work of the Church required disciplined support. Both in Israel and in the early Church the people were encouraged to give generously to meet the needs of the poor.
God calls believers today to be disciplined and generous in giving support to the ministries of the church. (W-5.5004)
During public worship, at an appropriate time, and as an act of thanksgiving, the tithes and offerings of the people are gathered and received. Having an offering in worship is more than perfunctory, it is an act of worship. Like David who danced, before the Lord, like the widow who gave her last nickel, like the people of Israel who gave of their own free will.
Above all, giving an offering should be about joy. There should be joy in giving. Joy for the ability to give back a portion of all the blessings we have, joy to share in the gifts we have been given, joy in spreading God’s love and peace to a broken world. Whether you give on line or write a check, it really doesn’t matter, as long as there is feeling of joy while you do so.
I spent an hour in the public library yesterday. I love libraries. I love the diversity of people who are there. I love watching students pretend to study as they flirt across the tables, and the moms with their strollers and diaper bags, as if packed for a weekend away, with a little hand bobbing along behind. I love the wonder of a library. I always wonder if the author, who sweat over the exact words and felt compelled to write, in hopes that someone might read their thoughts, if their book is ever cracked open, or if it just sits there with the thousands of words and ideas in that space. I love the quiet of the library, the way time seems to stand still, and you can just get lost, walking through stacks.
Libraries to me are like
sanctuaries, they are filled with people’s stories. The stories of authors who
wrote words of wisdom thousands of years ago, and stories lived today, and all
of the stories are held together in one common place. Sanctuaries hold our stories. They hold stories of grief and joy, trauma
and triumph. They hold the past, the
present and the future. They are places
for the young and the old, the newborn and the dying.
I pray there will always be libraries and sanctuaries. I pray there will always be communal places where everyone is welcome to come and explore and learn and grow. I pray that children will know that when they are walking into a sanctuary, they aren’t walking into an auditorium, or a gym, or a big room with chairs, but a holy space, that is set apart for prayer and participation.
Libraries have surely changed and adapted with time. I can now download an app and borrow books on my phone. I use a computer and not a card catalog. (Although I love the Dewey Decimal System). While libraries have changed, the communal space and concept of libraries have not. Anyone, with a library card, is entrusted to check out a book, take care of it and bring it back.
Sanctuaries have surely changed and adapted with time. I can now bring my Starbucks with me into the room, (although, I better have a lid on it), my children can sit next to me and even make noises without feeling shamed, there are drum sets and screens, and live streaming, and on line giving. While sanctuaries have changed, the communal space and concept of sanctuaries have not. Anyone, with a pulse is entrusted to come into this space and sit in a pew and open a book or a hymnal, or simply stare at a cross, or out a window and somehow, in some mysterious way, they know they are known and cherished.
May there always be libraries. May there always be sanctuaries. May there always be places that hold sacred stories. Your story.
June 4, 2019
What about you? How do you slow down?
How do you teach your children and grandchildren to slow down?
I remember spending a week at my grandparents house every summer, and boy did
things slow down. Sometimes I would complain that it was “boring!” But it was in the space of inactivity that my mind and body and
spirit was nourished.
My friend Matt posted a remembrance today taking me back to when we were both 14 years old. Matt and I have known each other literally our entire lives. He and I were in preschool together, had every grade school teacher together, and attended the same middle school and high school. He now teaches special education in my hometown and is a very successful girls high school soccer coach. He shared with us that my freshman science teacher, who was also his freshman basketball coach passed away last week. Mr. Caslow was only 63 years old. Matt wrote this beautiful remembrance.
If you're lucky, you will encounter a handful of people in your life outside of your parents who have a major impact on you and help to make you a better person. Dave Caslow was one of those people for me. He served as my freshman basketball coach more than 30 years ago, but I still have vivid memories of that season and the lessons we learned under Coach Caslow's guidance. We were a terrible basketball team, and I was justifiably buried deep on the end of the bench. But Coach Caslow made me and every other player on that team feel like we mattered and were part of something special. I learned more about the right way to play defense, how to be a competitor, mental toughness, and honorable manhood in that single basketball season than in many other experiences combined. It difficult to fathom the depth of the impact Coach Caslow had on me based almost entirely on 4 months we spent together when I was 14 years old.
He had a unique ability to challenge you to be better in a compassionate way, and I have tried to follow his example in every experience I've had as a teacher and coach for the past 20 years. His presence has remained with me that entire time, and when I have been faced with difficult challenges as a coach and teacher, I would often consider how Coach Caslow would approach the situation. Then I would proceed accordingly, feeling confident that I had made the right decision.
I was fortunate to run into him at Shorty's Barber Shop several months ago, and I'm really glad we took a picture together. I'm pretty sure I let him know how much of an impact he had on me and I feel like I've thanked him several times. But I'm haunted by the possibility that I left something unsaid, or that I didn't thank him enough for the impact he had on me. I know that I am a better man because of the lifelong influence Coach Caslow has had on me. I hope he knows that.
If you're lucky enough to have someone in your life that has had this same kind of impact on you, please take the time to let them know. It'll mean a lot to both of you.
Coach, there are a ton of men in the world who would run through a wall for you!
May God go with you, Coach Caslow!
I have been thinking about Matt’s words all day and how true they are. – That freshman team was awful. My Dad was the announcer at all of the high school games and Matt’s dad was the high school principal, so we grew up going to all of the high school basketball games starting when we were really little. We would run around under the bleachers, stepping over spilled pop corn and sticky soda. I can remember the sound of the game and the pep band and I can remember cheering on that sad, freshman team of kids I had known my whole life. I also remember how totally cool Mr. Caslow was.
The other thing Matt’s comments have gotten me thinking, is how important, crucial it is that we all have people in our balcony, our cheering section, believing in us, pulling for us and encouraging us to be the best versions of ourselves. The stewardship of ourselves, is vital to the growth of future generations. The stewardship of our time, our talent, our genuine interest in other people’s lives is what impacts the world more than anything else. I preach this a lot. I talk about that baptismal covenant and how important it is that we really lead from the heart when it comes to nurturing kids into adults. To be clear, I am not saying that we pay someone to do that for us, but that we do that. We know kids. We know them and we are the ones who help them grow in faith, by knowing their name and being interested in their lives and by supporting their parents. We walk beside them. This is what makes the church so unique and so important. The world needs the older generation to be invested in the next generation in very tangible, life giving ways.
The third thing that struck me about Matt’s post, is how he hoped he expressed his thanks to Mr. Caslow enough. I get that. I think about all of those adults in church, in theatre, on the tennis court, in class, who actually cared and helped me get from here to there. I hope they know that they made a difference. It’s never too late to tell someone “thank you.”
Our kids today are more anxious and depressed than ever. They have pressure both real and imagined. They live in a world where that is not going to change, so we have to let them know we see them. We have to let them know they all matter on the team, they all have something to contribute to this world.
Let our prayer be that we behold that baptismal promise we make and that we fulfill that promise in generous ways.
Rev. Dr. Shelly Wood
Lent is late this year,
thanks to an unusual alignment of the earth and heavens—the vernal equinox, the
paschal full moon—and to the Easter algorithm that for centuries has determined
the date of the Feast of the Resurrection. You don’t hear too much about it:
Ash Wednesday via liturgical math.
Early or late, Lent is a time to consider our mortality— and to shed the pieces of ourselves that keep us from being holy and to take on the things that make us whole,
A couple of weeks ago I attended a prayer retreat, where a leader of the group said
there were only 8 essential things everyone needs in life to be healthy. I came home to my busy family, where we often talk about grades and standardized tests and pressure from school. I told them that in truth if they can leave home with these behaviors, everything else will fall into place.
If we do these 8 habits every day:
- Have good dental hygiene
- Take showers
- Drink Water
- Eat Healthy Food
then we should be able to make good decisions for ourselves, have clear minds, and be able to care for others. If we aren’t well rested or well cared for, it’s really difficult to care for others and live out our purpose. This season of Lent is a time to do simple things like drink more water, eat more intentionally, spend more time in prayer. These are basic good habits that sometimes we neglect.
Likewise, if we take on habits that aren’t purifying, we become clouded with fatigue, frustration and self-destruction. These can be physical habits, like overeating and drinking or mental habits like jealousy or pride. They are the habits and destructive behaviors that keeps us away from God, i.e. sin. Lent is a time to let that stuff go and make room for the habits that bring us closer to God.
by Rev. Dr. Shelly Wood
I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and even then, I remember life being simpler. Less worry, more playing, and balance in life. While struggles still occurred, I remember rates of anxiety being much lower. I’m assuming many of you have a similar recollection, regardless of the era in which you grew up.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 18% of the population, 18 years and older, suffer from an anxiety disorder. 25% of kids, 13-18 years old, suffer from anxiety disorders as well.
The rates are up and alarming. So, what do we do to treat and manage anxiety?
Depending on the severity of the anxiety, a combination of therapy and medication continues to be a successful treatment for anxiety disorders. Utilizing evidence based theories, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, generally produces positive results and decreased symptoms. Additionally, holistic therapies such as Biosound therapy and acupuncture, can also generate positive results in the treatment of anxiety.
Here are 5 quick tips for managing anxiety:
- Deep breathe. I recommend counts of 5. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, then exhale for 5 seconds.
- Get rest. Lack of sleep is a major contributor to increased anxiety.
- Practice yoga. Yoga has proven results when it comes to decreasing anxiety.
- Use distractions. Count to 30. Read backwards. Look around your current space and begin listing items you see (clock, couch, desk, the color of my child’s shirt, etc.).
- Challenge your thoughts. Emotions are not facts. This is easy to forget when anxiety is high. Challenge your thoughts and ask if they are factual or emotional.
If you find you are struggling with anxiety on a daily basis, consult these additional resources as listed by www.everydayhealth.com. These institutions, many of which study anxiety disorders, can provide valuable information on the nature of these conditions and how to cope with them.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264)
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA): 1-240-485-1001
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): 1-866-615-6464
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Mental Health (CDC): 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)
American Psychological Association: 1-800-374-2721
American Psychiatric Association: 1-800-357-7924
If you think you would benefit from therapy, don’t hesitate to reach out to a provider. Anxiety disorders are very treatable and relief is within reach. Kristie Watts can be contacted at 317-474-6448 ext 108 or firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance with therapeutic services.
by Kristie Watts, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
by Kristie Watts, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
We come to you this morning as your people. Some of us weary, others refreshed. Some of us in pain, others healed. Some of us worried, and others of us at peace. Some of us doubting and others of us believing.
And we all come here to be closer to you, to pray for each other, to be prayed for, and to be reminded that you hear our prayers in here and out in the world.
You hear our prayers when we pray in the parking lot before a meeting; as we walk into school and sit down to take a test; in the waiting room as we wait for surgery to end; in the moment we hold a new grandchild.
We are grateful that you hear our prayers and we confess that we take the miracle for granted. We are grateful that you answer our prayers, and we confess that we take that miracle for granted. We are grateful that you are with us when we do not know how to pray, and we confess that we take the miracle for granted.
We come together and pray knowing that you are with us in our praying and that this moment is a miracle, because you are listening, you are leaning in to hear us and respond. Help us to pray in earnest, as we pray for the world.
We pray for places of violence and unrest. We pray for places of hunger and thirst. We pray places of sorrow and pain. – Lord, we pray you hand may reach down in those places and that you may create life and healing for this hurting world.
We pray for those who are need of healing of mind. Those with anxiety. Those with depression. Those with addiction and all mental illness. We pray that they may find healing and resources, hope and understanding.
We pray for those who are in need of healing of the body. Those who are in chronic pain. Those who are feeling new pain. Those are facing surgery and those are in treatment. We pray that you may be in every cell, every vein and that you may provide healing and hope and new birth.
We pray for the church. We pray for all churches who are praying right now, all around the world. We pray for the church in the world, that it may strive every day to reflect your purpose and not our purpose. We pray for our church community. We pray for those who are traveling, those who are not here, and we pray for our neighbor sitting next to us, in front of us, behind us. Keep us in your light, help us speak your truth and guide us in your way, we pray in the name of Jesus.
Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever.
by Rev. Dr. Shelly Wood
I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to all the Orchard Park musicians for a magnificent year of musical offerings and acts of praise in our worship services throughout the year. We are blessed with so much talent within our congregation and that those who have such talent are willing to share their time on a regular basis to give glory to our Lord and to inspire and lead our congregation in worship.
Our musical offerings are first and foremost for the glory of God. Secondly, they are to grant the listeners an opportunity to experience a glimpse of God’s majesty through the beauty of music. Finally, it is our responsibility – everyone’s responsibility – to make a joyful noise to the Lord each time we gather. In scripture we are reminded of the importance of music in worship. We know in scripture that the faithful “sang hymns, psalms and spiritual songs.” In addition, we are instructed “let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Our services are liturgy, meaning, “work of the people.” We have work to do when we attend church. Sing loudly, listen closely, pray unceasingly and go out into the world and spread the Good News.
by Michael Pietranczyk, Director of Music
July 14, 2017
Rev. Dr. Shelly Wood
Last week, I picked my 13-year-old up from a week of church camp at Pyoca, our Presbyterian camp in southern Indiana. She had, in her words, “the best week of her life.” It was a week of crafts and high ropes and campfires and chapel. It was a week of energizers and talent shows and checking for tics. The week closed with parents and campers standing in a circle, holding hands and singing “Sanctuary.” Kids were crying, holding on to each other, so filled with the Holy Spirit, wanting to stay on the mountain for just one more minute before coming down into the world, back on the devices and returning to the daily routines.
The first time I was aware of the presence of God was at Stronghold, a Presbyterian camp in Oregon, Illinois. I will never forget that moment I felt God’s presence. More than anything, I want my kids to know that Jesus knows them. I want them to have mountaintop experience, and be forever changed.
A week of church camp is a shedding of external influences and a time when one puts on the Body of Christ. It is a transformative and life-giving experience in which all are invited to be their best selves. This shedding and rebirthing is done in community. It’s done around tables where bread is passed and drinks are poured. It’s done in faith sharing and Bible study and conversations that are real and honest and accepting. Camp models what it means to live in community as the body of Christ.
I believe that the most important investment the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should be making right now is in our camps and conference programs. If you want to know what the future of our church looks like, look at the health and vitality of our camps. Look at the number of campers, the amount of money presbyteries allocate to camps and the overall health of the camps themselves. Reflect on how kids express their faith after attending a week of camp, and how invested they are in their youth groups and congregations. Consider how invested churches are in giving their youth an opportunity to experience a week of camp. We need to help kids have mountaintop experiences. We need to provide opportunities for kids to be away, to take Sabbath, to worship and to be in community.
Now, more than ever before, our tweens and teens need camp. They need seven days without cell phones and screens of any kind. They need to “rough it” by staying in hot cabins and taking cold showers. They need stories of critters in cabins and summer thunderstorms. They need campfires and energizers and Bible study. They need older mentors – who aren’t as old as their parents – to care about their lives and model compassion and conversations. They need to be affirmed and be encouraged to affirm others. If we give kids camp, we can cure the loneliness epidemic by assuring them that they are never alone.
Loneliness is becoming an increasing health crisis in our society right now. Loneliness leads to depression, obesity, heart disease and even suicide. Our kids are some of the loneliest people in our society. They need real community, not cyber ones. They are starving for connectivity. They need to let go of expectations, demands, pressure and the public persona and just be themselves – so that they can learn to be their best selves.
After three years of research funded by the MacArthur Foundation, digital ethnographer Danah Boyd and her fellow researchers concluded that teenagers use social media to establish “full-time intimate communities” that provide for always-on communication and relationships.
Digital ethnographers agree that the reason kids use technology is not because they are invested in gadgets, it’s because they are invested in friendships. Take away the connectivity of their devices, turn off text messaging and remove their contact list, and teenagers are far less interested in smartphones. Boyd says it this way: “Most teens aren’t addicted to social media; if anything, they’re addicted to each other.” Boyd and her fellow researchers concluded that teenagers use social media to establish “full-time intimate communities” that provide for always-on communication and relationships.
Imagine if the Presbyterian Church committed itself to curing loneliness in our society by investing in our camps. Imagine if the Presbyterian Church invested in the leadership development of young adults and youth and trained them on how to form communities where the gospel was both proclaimed and lived. Imagine if we made disciples of these young adults and gave them the vision to assure kids from all classes, races and backgrounds that they were welcomed at the Table. Imagine if we invested in our camp facilities and in the public relations of our camps and we conveyed to parents that before they invest in band camp, soccer camp or art camp they need to invest in one week of church camp because the mental, spiritual and physical health of their kid’s souls depended on it. Now imagine all of those kids are adults, and one day they look back on their childhood and ask themselves: When was the first time I was aware of the presence of God? I assure you, the testimony will be: “Of course, it was at camp.”
We need to invest our camps, like our future depended it on it – because it does. We need to invest in our camps, because our society, our kids need camp now more than ever.
The church can cure the loneliness epidemic in our society. The church can help kids who are so connected to their devices, yet so disconnected from human relationships. The church can offer a remedy for isolation and teach them that even in their loneliness they are never alone. The church can invest in young leaders – college students and high school students – and train them on how to mentor, how to listen and build teams and build character, and how to be disciples of Jesus Christ.
Keeping up a camp facility is more daunting than keeping up a church facility. Convincing parents to invest in camp is even more challenging than convincing them to get their kids to Sunday school on Sunday morning. Therefore, we need leadership on the national level and presbytery level and we need church leaders to cast a vision for what Presbyterian camps will look like in the next 20 years and be committed to living that vision out.
If the Presbyterian Church is going to be alive and strong and vibrant 20, 50, even 100 years from now, it will be because we invested in our camps and saw that it was simply by living out what it means to be faithful community that we contributed to the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God.