Posted on Wed, Sep 1, 2010
Since I missed last month’s Chimes deadline, Editor Margaret suggested that this month’s column should be an extra long one. In other words it should be a mega article…we will see…
A recent lead article in The Christian Century describes the size and features of what we understand today as a megachurch (mega, btw, comes from the Greek term megas, meaning mighty or much). A megachurch is any church with more than 2000 adults and children attending services weekly. There are about 1350 churches of that size in the country, representing about .05% of the 300,000 congregations in the country. However, they draw in nine percent (9%) of all churchgoers…
Think about that for a minute and do the math. What if megachurches represented 1% of all the congregations in the country? Statistically, they would account for 18% of active churchgoers. At 2% they would account for over a third of the folks in church on Sunday.
Do you see where this is going? At a mere five percent of all the churches in the USA, megachurches would attract ninety percent of every man, woman, and child sitting in a pew or an otherwise well- cushioned seat over any typical weekend.
Now, let’s apply this projection to the Presbyterians. We have about 10,000 (actually, 11,000+) congregations out of that 300,000 number - about .035% of all US congregations- with a membership of slightly over two million. Let’s assume that out of that figure about one third (650,000) are active church goers. Now, imagine that if we Presbys accounted for the same percentage of congregations that the megachurches do (.05), our weekly attendance would soar to over a million people.
At 1% the number would rise to two million. And at that five percent level there would be more than ten million - that’s a 10 with six zeroes beside it - Presbyterians in church every Sunday! Think of that! Ten thousand churches with ten million people inside! That comes out to 100,000 active members in every Presbyterian church in America! Every Presbyterian Church in our whole denomination would not only be a megachurch - we would all be multi-megachurches! Now…back to reality….
The median weekly attendance number of most Protestant churches is seventy- five and only five percent of all the nation’s churches average more than five hundred people each weekend, which means that ninety-five percent of our churches average five hundred or less, and it is that that company of souls to whom we belong. The question is: Does it make any difference to the world that we do? We may all answer that question as the Spirit may lead us, but my answer is yes - as long as it makes a difference to us.
The article goes on to describe the inner workings of megachurches and the changing effects they have had on American church life, which are both fascinating and widespread. It describes some of their virtues, such as the expected regular involvement of its adherents in church activities, outreach and leadership, and some of their faults, including a lack of formal training for its clergy and little attention paid to historical Christian doctrine and belief. In essence however, the author, John Dart, concedes that megachurches are a force to be reckoned with and will have a continued diminishing influence on the mainline Protestant community.
Some have concluded that the long-term effect of this downward trend will be the end of traditional Protestantism as we have known it, or at least the “sidelining” of the mainline churches in the Reformed tradition, as we have known them, to the point of obscurity. In light of such eventualities, it seems right to rephrase the above question: Does it make any difference to the world if that happens? Again, speaking for myself, the answer is yes, as long as it makes a difference to us.
The Reformed tradition, of which the Presbyterian Church is a founding member, has withstood the challenges of time and changing circumstance since its beginning a half a millennium ago. Its very nature - once reformed, always reforming - has given it the inspiration and direction to confront the threats, both internal and external, to its fundamental beliefs and practices, to redefine its mission in response to the level of human need it encounters in the world, and to call out men and women to lives of service in the name of Christ in all times and places in God’s creation. And I believe that as long as that tradition continues, we, of smaller size and stature, will be faithfully present and accountable in the greater Christian community.
We will be here and there and wherever God calls us because it does make a difference to us, knowing that the meaning of church is more important than the meaning of mega. One is a prefix, the other is ekklesia - a people “called out” to be a community of faith whose worship and practice and primary loyalty is to God.
And that is calling extended to all of us, regardless of size…
Contrary to popular belief, churches do survive pastoral transition periods, or in lay words (or hysterical screams), “Our Pastor is leaving, what’s going to happen to us?” The process of searching for a pastor can feel like running the New York City marathon when you’ve never even gone for a walk. I truly believe this is also an opportunity to explore ourselves and envision what God has planned for us and then trust in Him and He will provide.
The duties of an interim pastor, Dr. Harry, and your Committee on Ministry (COM) liaison, me, myself, and I, are to help the congregation prepare for a new pastor, and it can be a refreshing and exciting time in the life of the congregation. Ask just about anyone, I have always said, “When a Pastor leaves it is a sad time, but at the same time I’m excited. I know the departing Pastor has given us all of his/her gifts and talents to us, and now we need someone new to bring us new gifts and talents we don’t yet know we need.”
I’m not saying that you won’t face issues during this transition time. The lack of a permanent pastor can cause anxiety. I want you to know this is a normal, and COM has already anticipated these concerns, and as your liaison, I will help in every way to calm and assure you. We need faith in knowing that God is in this search with us. He will take care of us.
Recently, your Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC) gave everyone the opportunity to tell what they feel is important to them about your worship, mission, and ministry visions and pastoral care needs. I hope each of you took the opportunity to fill out those forms. Information gathered will be vital to the PNC team to complete the Church Information Form (CIF) and convey the best picture of Westminster Presbyterian Church’s congregation to pastors seeking the opportunity to serve and walk in faith together with a congregation that is seeking and is hungry for their gifts and talents.
The PNC is a highly confidential committee and has a huge task before it. Your PNC is made up of caring, talented and passionate people: Larry Loy-Chairperson, Fran Beason-Secretary, Phyllis Lester, Kathleen Sherman, and Ray Mitcham.
So now what? What happens next? What does our COM liaison do? What does PNC do? What can someone not on PNC do?
Be in continuous prayer. The congregation, the session, the Pastor Nominating Committee (PNC), the church staff, and the interim pastor all need prayer. All churches experience times of transition; it’s a fact that we need to accept, pray for guidance, and know God will provide what is necessary to find the pastor with those gifts and talents we need and don’t know it yet. We meet those pastors by receiving their Personal Information Form (PIF).
Stay in communication. Many members are unclear about the transition process. The liaison and/or the PNC can explain the necessary procedure and keep you up-to-date on the search progress. Currently, they are gathering and reviewing the responses received and compiling this and other information to create your CIF. When they feel it is complete and conveys the best image of the congregation, it will be presented to COM for approval.
Once approved it will be placed online with Church Leadership Connections (CLC), and we begin the wait, the exciting wait. Please be understanding and respectfully aware that there will be information that cannot be reported due to confidentiality of this committee.
Trust. Transition is a time in the life of a church that serves a specific purpose. Trust in God, embrace the transition process, and make the most of it.
COM Moderator and
Liaison to Westminster
The next meeting of Westminster’s PW Circle is September 13, 2010. The lesson leader will be Mary Puckett, and the hostess will be Phyllis Zumwalt.
We will begin the study of Revelations. All ladies are invited to join us.
Wanted: Someone(s) to cut out already marked quilt squares. We’ll even supply easy-on-the-hands scissors! Contact Mary Puckett at 622-4437 if you’re interested.
Our Community Kitchen Committee needs additional volunteers! If you are available on Thursday mornings from 9:30 to 12:30 and can stand on your feet for this period of time, would you consider helping our Committee of Fran Beason, Phyllis Lester, Marno Talbott, Tony Merz, Sharon Cutrell, and Faby Skaggs serve meals and prepare sandwiches?
The Westminster Crew serves at the Community Kitchen every three Thursdays out of four. If you would not be available for every Thursday, would you consider volunteering for just one or two Thursdays a month? If you are interested and can help out, let Phyllis or Fran know. And if you can't help out, let them know we appreciate the swell job they're doing.
Summer school: Who in their right mind would want to take extra classes in the summer? I would… mostly because they were classes being taught in London, England. For six weeks earlier this summer I took part in one of the most amazing, exhilarating, and motivating experiences of my life. I was lucky enough to take two classes at the Notre Dame Center in the West End of London: “Shakespeare in London” from a world Shakespeare leader, Boika Sokolova and “Global Medicine” from the program director and renowned scholar, Cornelius O’Boyle. Like I said, I was lucky!
However, I think the most important part of this experience was that not only was I studying in London, I was living in London. I had my own flat, shopped for my own groceries, cooked my own meals, and was responsible for getting myself from my flat in Camden to school in Westminster, over two miles away. I’ve been told that London is great to visit, but I’m pretty sure that living there beats visiting hands down. The walk to class was always invigorating, being able to experience multiple neighborhoods on the way including Shoreditch, SoHo, China Town, and the Theatre District on the way.
I spent my time visiting a multitude of museums, seeing musicals and Shakespeare plays as well as attending concerts, spending afternoons in parks, visiting markets, and testing out the local pubs. But the fun didn’t stop there. I also made sure to visit a little more of Europe, including Scotland, Spain, Holland, and Italy. I must say that Edinburgh was my favorite!
A wonderful group of friends met in the park Sunday afternoon, August 15, for an Old-Fashioned Church Picnic. There was shade and a nice breeze. Seventeen were there to share the delicious food from the picnic baskets. The conversation was lively, and we caught up with everyone's family news. How blessed we were to be packed up and at home before the storm hit. We are sorry if you missed this fellowship!
PLAN AHEAD FOR SEPTEMBER!
There will be a Pot-Luck supper on September 19 at 5:30 pm in the fellowship hall. After the meal, we will have a program, called: "What I did on my Summer Vacation." Chase Martinson is putting together a program for us, so PLEASE, get several pictures of your summer good times to Chase by September 12. Hope to see you there.
Memorial gifts to Westminster this month were received from the Estate of Helen Sager and from the Roy Brady/Helen Sager Deferred Payment Gift Annuity. Helen had remembered Westminster in her will, designating that 10% of the cash portion of her estate go to Westminster.
And in November, 1996, Roy and Helen established a Deferred Payment Gift Annuity through the Presbyterian Church Foundation, naming Westminster as the beneficiary. Roy passed away in 2009 and Helen in February, 2010. Through the foresight, generosity, and devotion of these two people, Westminster received $17,472.92.
According to guidelines established in May, 2005 by the Session such unpledged, undesignated funds are distributed 1/3 to the Memorial Fund, 1/3 to the Endowment Fund, and 1/3 to current needs or projects deemed appropriate by session--this 1/3 was placed in the Facility Reserve Fund.
Have you remembered Westminster in your will? Thank you, Roy and Helen. Well done, good and faithful servants!
Word has been received of the passing of Vergine Gates on August 3, 2010 in the Hempfield Manor Nursing Home in Greensburg, PA. Vergine was very active in the National Presbyterian Church, the Synod of the Southwest, the Presbytery of Sierra Blanca, and Presbyterian Women as well as her home church of Artesia and in later years in her life, Roswell Westminster.
Memorial services for Vergine were held at First Presbyterian Church of Artesia on Saturday, August 28, at 1:30 pm. Vergine was president and organizer of the Artesia Meals on Wheels for 25 years and the family requests memorial contributions be made to Meals on Wheels, P.O. Box 208, Artesia NM 88211.
Once again, Hungry Harold has looked into his pantry. He found he is needing paper products this month to help out his friends at the Community Kitchen.
What he needs are:
#8 White paper bags
#8 Brown paper bags
8” Styrofoam Plates
“The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back, in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.” C.S. LEWIS.
“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.” ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
A wise doctor of natural medicine, Andrew Weil, M.D., has this to say about the benefits of meditation. “Researchers have documented immediate benefits in terms of lowered blood pressure, decreased heart and respiratory rate, increased blood flow, and other measurable signs of the relaxation response. Teachers of meditation usually recommend it for greater goals than mere relaxation. They promise that it can calm an agitated mind, creating optimal physical and mental health; that it can undo our sense of separateness, which is the common root of fear and misery; and that it can unify consciousness, putting us in touch with our higher self and connecting us to higher consciousness. They say it restructures the mind, allowing us to achieve our full potential as human beings.” Natural Health, Natural Medicine.
Your library has a shelf or two of great books of devotional literature—meditations, contemplations, prayers for individuals and families, special times of the church year, or certain scriptures, religious poetry intended for devotional use. They are shelved under the Dewey Decimal series 242. Here are some samples:
365 Meditations For This Day, by J. B. Phillips.
The Prayers of Peter Marshall. Devoted to practical prayers and prayers he used as chaplain to the U.S. Senate.
The Hungering Dark, by Frederick Buechner. Ps. 17:8-9. Two parts: “The Search” and “The Sought.”
Reflections After Eighty – A Glory in it All, by John Knox.
Listening to Your Life, by Frederick Buechner. Daily meditations.
Birdlike and Barnless, by Jim Burkis. Prayers and songs for progressive Christians.
Because many of them are geared for daily use for 365 days, and because we really don’t have people standing in line to check out books, I think we can arrange for the user to check a book out for a whole year. And by the way, there are always copies of the great little Presbyterian-UCC daily devotional pamphlet, These Days, available in the Narthex.
Check it out. Anne the Librarian
Mark Your Calendars!
Sept. 1, 2 pm. E & C Comm. Meeting
Sept. 2, 6:30 am. Men’s Prayer Breakfast picks up again
Sept. 5, Communion Sunday
Sept. 6, Labor Day. Office Closed
Sept. 7, 7 pm. Property Comm. Mtg.
Sept. 13. 9:30 am. PW Circle
Sept. 13, 2 pm. M & S Comm. Mtg.
Sept. 13, 3 pm. Spanish Class
Sept. 14, 7 pm. Session Meeting
Sept. 16, 9 am. Community Kitchen
Sept. 17, Chimes Deadline
Sept. 19, 5:30 pm. Potluck Dinner – What I did on my Summer Vacation
Sept. 20, 3 pm. Spanish Class
Sept. 23, 9 am. Community Kitchen
Sept. 26, Cents-Ability Collection
Sept. 27, 9 am. Piece Maker’s Day
August 1 45
August 8 45
August 15 67
August 22 61
None Available at Press time.
E. Clark, S. Sherman, T. Gresham, C. Hughes, A. Cooper,
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