church blog

Greening your christmas

Looking for ways to make your holiday season a little "greener"? Here are nine tips our Environmental Stewardship Small Group!

Shop Local: 

Support your community and local economy by shopping small mom-and-pop stores, especially if those stores also sell locally made items. 

Sustainable Wrapping Paper: 

Use fabric, paper grocery bags, newspaper or magazine gift wrap. Remake last year’s greeting cards into new cards or to make gift tags. Ask recipients to reuse gift bags by writing "Reuse this bag!" on it instead of their name. 

The Gift of Charity: 

Give money to a charity, sponsor a child overseas or help impoverished women start a small business all in the name of your loved ones. OPPC Share the Light Gift Market has some great options!

Handmade Gift Exchange or Experiences: 

Give handmade gifts or experiences such as cooking classes, walking tours, art museums. 

Decorate With Nature: 

Bring in elements from the outdoors to incorporate into your home, such as a wreath of pine boughs or an abandoned nest to place a candle within.

Energy-efficient LED Lighting: 

Replace your 10+ year old strands of lights with newer LED bulbs. They last longer than traditional bulbs and can save on energy costs. 

Utilize Timers: 

Place your Christmas lights on timers, from the strands adorning your trees to the lights outside. 

Skip Disposables: 

Dust off the fine china, utensils and cloth napkins. Freeze leftovers. 

Avoid Individual Beverages: 

Make homemade eggnog, hot chocolate or mulled cider in large quantities to reduce waste from soda bottles or cans.

A Thank you and from Dr. Renaud Gerve

Dear members, friends and donors, 

Thank you so much on helping Profamille Clinic (PCF) with our needs.

First, during the hard situation we have in Haiti political problems, fuel shortage, most of hospital are in the situation to close the doors because they cannot find the fuel for the generators . The crisis is very bad at this time. Profamille Clinic is still open and receiving patients daily with the system solar we have, continuing with the nutrition program, the mobile health clinic and teaching the midwife.

Once again thanks for being part of our work. Thank you so much for thinking to help PCF, with the birthing kits because the midwife are happy to find the kits and help the mothers and decrease the mortalities infantile. Your help means a lot. With your help, we save many lives together. We are all in it together. Thanks to the donors for the systems solar, it’s very helpful and we have electricity and we can work daily and laboratory also for analyses. 

Many blessings, Renaud Gerve, MD

A Letter From Stephen Ministry Leaders

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: 

The leaders of the Stephen Ministry at Orchard Park Presbyterian Church have some difficult news to share with you. After much prayer, thought and discussion, the four leaders have made the unanimous decision to close the Stephen Ministry program at OPPC effective October 31, 2021. It was not an easy decision and this letter is to share with you the ‘why’ and ‘how’ we came to this decision. 

Essentially, the core mission of Stephen Ministry is to be a confidential ministry where a trained Stephen Minister walks alongside a hurting person to offer spiritual and emotional support for as long as needed. We are aware that the program has not met this need for some time. Over the last few months, each of the four leaders has given thoughtful consideration and much prayer to this issue. Ultimately, we asked a former Stephen leader to facilitate a Zoom discussion meeting among to help us share our concerns openly. The three-hour discussion concluded with unanimous agreement the program was not meeting its core mission, nor could it be adapted with change to make a significant difference. What follows are the reasons underlying our conclusions. 

First, we know there are hurting people in the congregation who could use the care of a Stephen Minister; however, few from the congregation have contacted us to ask about or to refer someone to a Stephen Minister. Referrals we do receive come from the pastoral staff. Our commitment to confidentiality in any caring relationship limits our self promotion to efforts that educate and encourage others to ask for help, and it is not working well. 

Second, the majority of our Stephen Ministers are not engaged in an active caregiving relationship, which was the reason they committed to the required training and commissioning-- to help others in need. They are losing heart. Undoubtedly, the long term pandemic along with our monthly zoom meetings add another layer of fatigue. As we draw the program to a close, there is only one active caregiving relationship, which will continue as long as needed. In short, we have not been able to offset the distancing limitations these past many months have required. 

Third, is an issue of Stephen leader continuity. Two leaders have spouses with ongoing health issues and are unsure how much longer they are able to serve as leaders. A third Stephen leader has served over 10 years and wishes to retire by June, 2022. This will leave the remaining leader is in an untenable position. Efforts to recruit new leaders from the current active roster, from the retired ministry roster, or even from the congregation at large have been unsuccessful. 

Additionally, we believe that some of the long-term Stephen Ministers will be retiring from the program soon, which creates the need to recruit a new class of Stephen Ministers. Recruiting and training new Stephen Ministers is a long and time intensive process. It would be very difficult for new Stephen leaders to do this successfully. 

Finally, we considered whether the Stephen Ministry program could adapt to a new normal. At this point, we cannot foresee what that normal may be, nor do we see how our core mission of confidentiality and our spiritual and caring support to those who are hurting will be practiced. 

Therefore, due to the unresolved points listed above and not knowing how to adapt the ministry to future, unknown circumstances, we believe we can no longer continue the Stephen Ministry program at Orchard Park. Notably, this decision was made solely by the four Stephen leaders and is within our commissioned authority. Although both Shelly and the Session received an earlier letter detailing our concerns, we want to use this letter to tell you, the congregation, ourselves. 

In recognition of the 35 years of Stephen Ministry at Orchard Park, Shelley has offered to hold a Celebration of Ministry on November 14 at 4 PM. The program will last approximately half an hour. All are invited to attend; however, there will be no live stream or video available. 

If you have any questions, concerns or comments, you are welcome to contact either Nancy McDonald at 317 377-4276 or Mike Andrews at 317 939-1800 and we will be happy to answer your questions consistent with maintaining the confidentiality that the Stephen Ministry program requires. 

Respectfully, Nancy McDonald, Elsie Potts, Doris Wright and Mike Andrews

embracing liminal space

Pastor's Note - September, 14, 2021

by Rev. Dr. Shelly Wood

Dear Friends,

I wrote a sentence earlier today that used the words, “Pandemic,” “ZOOM,” “Delta” and “variant.”  Words I never would have used in my daily vocabulary are now known and commonly used.  There is a new word that is being used, that may be more helpful in these unprecedented times.

The word is liminal. In case you were not aware, we are now living in liminal time. The word liminal comes from the Latin word limens, which means "limit or threshold."

I shared an article with Session that I’ve found helpful as we live in this liminal time. Embracing Liminal Space - Susan Beaumont and Associates

Beaumont argues that what’s needed for an in-between time for the church — whether pre-pandemic or mid-pandemic — is a different kind of leadership than most pastors and most churches are accustomed to.

“We have to move out of the striving mode — working harder and faster — into a surrendering stance.”


“The traditional teaching about good leadership is all about providing order and solutions and control,” she said. “When in fact that is not the kind of leadership that serves us well in liminality.

“The kind of leadership we need is rooted in unknowing, being untrusting about our own expertise. We hav e to move out of the striving mode — working harder and faster — into a surrendering stance. That’s not about giving up. I’m talking about the kind of leaning-in yielding. I can’t change the situation, so what can I learn from the situation?”

For several decades now, churches have been coached to manage change by identifying where they are today, where they need to be tomorrow, and what steps will be necessary to get from here to there. This is the bread-and-butter of most church strategic planning.  This has been my best practice for 20 years. – The work I have studied, researched and tried to accomplish.  Today, this sort of change theory will not work.  Why?  Because “the thing that’s different about liminality is we don’t know where we are and we don’t know where we’re going,” Beaumont explained.

Her favorite example of the kind of adaptive leadership needed right now is from a pastor friend who has told the congregation about coronavirus: “We’re going to be back in the building on this date — unless we’re not.”

The big problem with living in a liminal space is that while you “don’t know where you are or where you’re going, yet you still have to lead.”

The way through such a time as this is not a traditional strategic plan, Beaumont advised.

Four big ideas for leaders

She highlights four big ideas for church leaders in this moment:

Deepen capacity for group discernment. “Break out of the mode of using Robert’s Rules of Order” to make orderly and rational decisions and instead take time for spiritual discernment, she said.

Tend to institutional memory. “This is deeply sacred work right now,” she explained. “Aristotle said memory is where the soul resides.” For churches, this work must include not only reviewing key institutional stories for transcendent values but evaluating them for truth. “Many of the ways we’re telling our stories are not serving us well right now.”

Discover purpose. “We look at the stories to get the meaning of where we’ve been, but we have to move from that to where we’re going,” she said. “Most congregations have a scattershot sense of purpose and broad mission statements. A season like this requires focusing in on what we need to do.”

Engage emergence. “As the chaos begins to resolve itself, there’s a predictable pattern in which that happens. Out of that comes the experimentation and the creativity and the coherence into something new,” Beaumont explained. “The challenge for us as leaders is you cannot lead emergence. But you can adopt behaviors that support it. There are also things you can do that will stop the process. Right now, you can’t plan your way out of this. What we need to do is learn how to experiment and fail.” And a corollary is that churches often see they have declining resources and become afraid to use those resources to try anything new.

Innovation and anxiety

Herein lies a possible positive outcome from this age of church uncertainty, she continued. “The nature of liminal seasons is that they are ripe for creativity and innovation — but they are dangerous. Anxiety is high. Most people right now are so distracted by the noise of anxiety that they can’t figure out what to pay attention to.”

Anxiety in a liminal time may create shifting power dynamics in a church, she warned. “Problem people may be stepping out, but new problem people may be stepping in.”

Where do we find resiliency in this liminal space?

Research on resilience has shown that there are two essential factors that people need when they find themselves living in a liminal time: spirituality and community.

Spirituality is what defines "true north" for us all the time, but especially in times of change. Spirituality is what inspires people to risk their own health at a time like this, to show up and support others—whether as health care workers, first responders, or grocery store workers. Spirituality is what helps people to choose love over fear. Spirituality is what gives us a bedrock of meaning, purpose, and hope, when so much around us is changing.  Spirituality is what holds us.

Community is our network of friends and family, the people we can turn to when we need support. This is a challenge in the face of our need to "socially distance" ourselves for the greater good. But because the need to connect is so strong and so universal, we have seen the creative ways people are finding to connect in the midst of this pandemic.  Community is what grounds us.

The light of love shines in this liminal time of darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.  

Dear Friends, we may feel untethered, but even in uncertainty we can still sing, “He’s got the whole world, in his hands.”



passing the plate

PASTOR’S NOTE – October 15, 2019

by Rev. Dr. Shelly Wood

Dear Friends,

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.


Making Disciples

Sunday night, we held a congregational gathering in which we talked about the Christian Church in 2019, what has changed and what is changing.   We began the discussion talking about two fundamental passages of scripture: the great commandment and the great commission.  We talked about what it means to follow through with the commission to make disciples.

How many disciples have you made?

Have you been made into a disciple?  And if so, who lived into the commission and helped make you?

None of us can claim our commitment to our Christian faith without acknowledging that someone cared enough for us to mentor us in our lives.  Faith is always first generation.  None of us are born disciples, we all become them.  Some of us are like Peter, and we need Jesus to come by and invite us along the way.  But then when we do, we still are human and we get afraid and we deny knowing him, when the risk is too high.  Some of us are like Paul, and we see the purpose of the Christian faith, until one day, a crisis comes, and we are knocked over the head, and we see the world differently than we ever have before.  Some of us are like Mary, and we want nothing more than to sit and learn and be in the presence of him.  Some of us are like Martha and believe that the best way to love Jesus is by working for him.  The point is, there is more than one way to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The bigger point is, if we don’t model that, mentor that, care enough about a younger person also knowing that, then our discipleship dies with us.

That does not mean we push our faith on another person. It means we live our faith with another person.

Write a timeline of your life and mark the times you felt the presence of God.  Where were you?  Were you in church, or at camp?  Were you in a car or in your room?  Now look back over your life and make a brainstorming list of all of the people that walked beside you. They were disciples.  It’s that easy and that vital.

Consider that being a disciple of Jesus Christ means being invested in another person’s life and walking beside them.  Consider that if we are not stewards of God’s commandment to love God and our neighbor, that commandment will disappear.      


We have come to the end of our summer season and our series on Fred Rogers.  I want to conclude this series by talking about how he confronted tragedies.  Here is what he said:

In this time of national tragedy, with two mass shootings over the course of 24 hours, we all need to keep our gaze toward hope.   We need to remember that children are watching and taking in all of the news and conversations around them.  Mr. Rogers wrote this advice to parents:

In times of community or world-wide crisis, it's easy to assume that young children don't know what's going on. But one thing's for sure -- children are very sensitive to how their parents feel. They're keenly aware of the expressions on their parents' faces and the tone of their voices. Children can sense when their parents are really worried, whether they're watching the news or talking about it with others. No matter what children know about a “crisis,” it’s especially scary for children to realize that their parents are scared.

The mayor of Dayton has been one of those leaders who has looked for the helpers and lifted them up.  Dayton was struck by tornadoes earlier this year, and the community responded with grit and compassion.  Once again, she has pointed out the compassion of their community and the work of first responders as they face this horrific tragedy.
Keep looking for helpers be near and far.  Look for the one who opens the door and carries the bag, who picks up the fallen and holds the hand.  My favorite place to look for helpers is in rehab centers.  I am always inspired by the aids and physical therapists, nurses and occupational therapists who patiently walk along side the aged and the infirmed.  They are sacred places.  

What about you?  Where do you see helpers in your daily life?



Mr. Rogers class I

June 4, 2019

Dear Friends,

As you are hopefully aware, we are spending our summer exploring the teaching and ministry of Mr. Rogers.
  Last Sunday, we began with an introduction and talked about what we remembered in watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as children, or with our children.  Every Sunday, children and adults are invited to come together in a conversation and presentation on the life and ministry of Mr. Rogers.   We meet at 10:10 in the North Chapel.

Summer is supposed to be a time of slowing down, of taking a breath and changing the daily routine.
  However, our busy schedules are even encroaching on what is supposed to be the lazy days of summer.”  Mr. Rogers was all about slowing down.   Its no accident that each episode of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood begins with a shot of traffic light flashing in yellow caution mode.  The message is the essence of every episode:  its time to slow down.  When he changed from work clothes, to comfort clothes, it was his way of lulling us into a time of stillness.

Mr. Rogers was keenly aware of the fast-pace life of children and adults and the action-packed episodes on television. Imagine how he would feel about cell phones and social media!
  Who knew, we could get even faster!  Mr. Rogers knew that we all need to slow down, to be intentional, to be thoughtful.  He once said in an interview, It seems to me, though, that our world needs more time to wonder and reflect about what is inside, and if we take time we can often go much deeper as far our spiritual life is concerned than we can if theres constant distraction.

Studies found that children who watched Mr. Rogers were more patient and tolerant in waiting for their parents' attention and that they were more apt to follow his stories, than following the stories on Sesame Street.
 Mr. Rogers provided solitude on television.  He modeled that you can be productive and still at the same time.  He said its o.k. to be quiet and that being loud doesnt mean you have power.  Children need to learn the value of silence.  Adults need to be reminded of the importance of stillness. 

Our worship service on Sunday morning should have that same feeling, that we are not together to rush, we are together to be present.
  Henri Nouwen wrote, Solitude is very different from a 'time-out' from our busy lives. Solitude is the very ground from which community grows. Whenever we pray alone, study, read, write, or simply spend quiet time away from the places where we interact with each other directly, we are potentially opened for a deeper intimacy with each other.

What are some ways we can practice slowing down and being still?
  Here are some things I do:

  • Put restrictions on your phone. 
  • Turn off the radio in the car and drive in silence.
  • Watch television less/read more
  • Play a game.
  • Color
  • Go for a walk outside
  • Make a meal together
  • Have a quiet morning with no devices, radios or television
  • Get a bird feeder
  • Pet your dog
  • Sit long enough that your cat curls up on your lap.
  • Practice saying mantras like, Take your time,”  Take a breath,”  Be still.

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.

Sometimes there was nothing to do, but lay in the grass and look for ladybugs and caterpillars.
  Sometimes meals would begin at noon and end at 2:00.  Sometimes we would take an afternoon bike ride to a neighbor down the street and I would sit on a wicker chair and be still as my grandparents would talk to their friends and I would just be present.  Those weeks were the best weeks of my summer, where we did nothing big, but everything that was meaningful.

What about you?
  Where do you slow down?  Where have you been given the gift of stillness, where you let a glass of lemonade last and you taste and see that the Lord is good?

We begin this summer with these questions in our hearts and this intention in our thoughts.



Mr. rogers class ii

Dear Friends,

We had a wonderful discussion on Sunday as we reflected on the subtle ways Mr. Rogers preached the Gospel to his television audience. The episode we watched was on the importance of kindness.   In the episode, the Trolley visits the Land of Make Believe, where King Friday is preparing to welcome someone very important, and all of the children and Owl are observing the things he says and does as he welcomes some and doesn’t welcome others. 

As an adult viewer, I saw a message that was meant for us, and that is:  children are observing us.  They are watching how we talk, react, treat, and behave, and not just our children, but all children.  I doubt Mr. Rogers could have ever imagined such a thing as social media and the things people say to each other on Twitter and Facebook.  I am sure he would be deeply concerned on the impact such communication is having on our society and on children.

This past week, we had over 100 children here, playing, singing, learning and sharing during a week of Vacation Bible School.   It was led by a great group of adults and youth who modeled kindness and compassion.  Yesterday, the gathering area was packed with parents, chaperones, teenagers, siblings and grandparents as our senior high youth left for Webster, West Virginia.  All of the luggage, food, air mattresses, bedding, tools and equipment was a sight to behold.  I think about the ways the adults who are giving up a week of their summer to hang out with teenagers will model patience, hard work, community, and compassion this week.   What about you?  When are children watching you?  At the grocery store?  At a restaurant?  At Church?  What are you showing them through your actions? 

When I was about eight years old, my dad picked up me up for a dance class on a Wednesday evening.  As I got in the car, the sun was setting, and the sky was a deep purple.  He said, “Hurry up!  I just some kids knock out somebody’s tail lights.  They took off down the street and into the neighborhood.  We are going to follow them!”  “We are what…?” I said.  The two college-age students zig zagged through yards and alleys and my dad and I trailed them, without being noticed.  About an hour went by and the sky was now completely dark.  The boys had gone into a Mr. Quick.  All of that running had made them need a burger and a shake.  My dad got out of the car, walked over to a pay phone, and called the police.  He told them the description of the car that was vandalized as well as the description of the boys that were responsible.  We then got in the car and drove home.  It was the most exciting Wednesday night I had ever had in my whole, eight-year-old life.  On the way home, we talked about being a responsible citizen, seeking justice when you see a wrong, and holding people accountable.  I’m sure he didn’t use those words, except for the citizen part. Being a good citizen was probably the most important life lesson he modeled for me. – So, the next week, when a teenager threw a coke can out of the car and my dad followed him to his house and told him to turn back and get it, I was not surprised.

In his final send off before he died, Mr. Rogers gave these closing remarks to the now adults, who had watched him as children.  It’s a charge really, to give to children of today, what was given to them. – To remind them that children are watching and learning from them.

I hope you will join us next Sunday as we continue this intergenerational conversation.  Every age is welcome!

Be Kind,

Baptismal Promises

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!

"Little Men...GO!"
"Big Men...GO!"

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:

  1. Have good dental hygiene
  2. Take showers
  3. Pray
  4. Sleep
  5. Drink Water
  6. Exercise
  7. Stretch
  8. 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 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 for assistance with therapeutic services. 


by Kristie Watts, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Prayer of GOd's People

Eternal God,

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

Music for the glory of god

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

Camp and God's Kingdom

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.