NEPC’s Response to COVID-19

March 18, 2020

Dear Friends,

We are in unprecedented times, being forced into new patterns of being that feel unnatural and strange, but are ever so necessary in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of this pandemic.  The rhythm and flow of our “normal” lives has been completely disrupted, and we’re just beginning to experience what this is going to be like.  It’s hard, it’s scary, and it’s frightening. What are we to do? Well, there are a few answers to that, which I’d like to share with you today.

What am I to do?

Be wise and prudent, but not fearful.  We can take the novel coronavirus seriously and apply appropriate social distancing and good hygiene without falling into fear.  I encourage you to follow the guidelines issued by the CDC and the federal and state governments.  Wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, stay 6’ away from others, and avoid large group gatherings.  But even with those efforts you might contract the virus.  Whether you do or not, you are always in Jesus’ hands.  He is present with us in our isolation, our quarantines and even more in our illnesses.  He is already and will continue to watch over each one of us.  We need not fear for our present or future, because Jesus is already there.

What is our church to do?

Both Scripture (Romans 13:1) and our confession (Westminster 23.4) command us to submit to civil authorities, and while (at the time of the writing of this letter) no law has been issued barring us from gathering for worship, we do believe that it is our civic responsibility to comply, as best as possible, with their recommendations to slow the spread of this virus.  To that end, we have cancelled all ministries and missions outside of worship.  This includes Sunday school, Bible studies, women’s circles, and youth group.  We are also moving the focus of our worship service to online streaming.  As long as you have an internet-connected device (cell phone, TV, computer, iPad, etc), you can join us for worship.  Simply go to www.facebook.com/npcmh at 11am on Sunday morning, and you’ll see the livestream there (you do not need a Facebook account to see the service).  We will publish the bulletin online so you can follow along.  We’ll send more information about how this works on different devices in a few days.  In addition, the Sanctuary will still be open if you would like to be present with us, but we encourage folks to sit 6’ apart.  But let me re-emphasize: If you are in the higher-risk categories for COVID-19, please do not put yourself at risk by going out.  Also, if you have been reading for B90, by all means keep it up!  While our discussion groups won’t be meeting, we’ll email you online videos and tools.

The Work of the Church goes on

In the midst of this, we are still hard at work serving you and our community. Our programs might be temporarily cancelled, but the work of the church is more than a program or ministry.  Please continue giving.  Our community needs the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ now more than ever.  Send your tithes and offerings in weekly.  If you find yourself quarantined and unable to go to the store or need help, please let us know.  Look for ways to to love your neighbor, old or young.  Invite a neighbor to join your family for worship in your living room (but practice appropriate social distancing).  Call one another and check in to see how folks are doing.  And when you hear of a need or concern, please let us know.  In the midst of this terrible situation, we have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus for each other and our neighbors in ways we’d never dreamed.

The Church has faced pandemics like this time and again throughout history.  While we don’t know how long this will last, we know that it too shall pass and look forward to the time when we can worship and be together in person.  Until then, be wise and prudent.  Practice good hygiene, appropriate social distancing, and the guidance of our governing authorities.  Help where you are able.  And above and beyond all else, pray.  For we are all in God’s hands, and we should earnestly pray for his mercy to bring an end to this pestilence both here and abroad.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. David Garrison


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Dander, Discipline, and Decisions

Paul faced many of the same challenges we face today and he reminds us in Ephesians 6:12 “We are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil spirits…” In the First Battle of Manassas some of Thomas Jackson’s troops broke ranks and charged. At first they made some gains against the enemy but soon where overtaken and overcome. When asked about it later Jackson’s reply was “It’s good to have your dander up, but it is discipline that wins the day.” The words dander and discipline are very effective in our spiritual warfare against the Devil.

Taking the Bait

Social media is rife with bait. The Devil dangles it and we bite down…hard. As  Christians, we are called to evaluate what we post  and how we respond to the comments of others. Several questions will help us do this?  Do these remarks glorify God? Does this unite of divide? Are we exercising the right of free speech to voice an opinion, win an argument, impress others with clever banter or are we trying to advance the kingdom of God? Proverbs 4:22 tells us that God’s words to us bring life and healing.

Jesus never used the tactics of embarrassment, guilt or shame. To the tax collector, Matthew, Jesus extended the hand of fellowship, dinning with Matthew and his friends. (Matt 9:9-13) To the woman caught in adultery, Jesus extended mercy. “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11) To the woman at the well, Jesus offered refreshment – “I will give you living water.”(John 4:7-28)

How Many Times?

How many times will we take the bait? How many times will we allow ourselves to be offended or to offend before we realize that once again we have allowed the Devil to influence our thought and emotions? How many times will we travel down the path of destroyed relationships before wising up to the Devil’s tactics? Thomas Jackson’s advice serves well here. It is good to get your dander up, to become feisty, have little spunk when determining in our hearts that we will no longer be pawns in the Devil’s game of divide and conquer.

Choose Your Hard

Sometimes life gives us choices. It is not easy to exercise. Neither is it easy managing health issues that might have been avoided or delayed by exercising. Choose your hard. It’s not easy implementing a regular time for Bible Study and prayer into our daily routines, but neither is it easy living with anxiety, disappointment, and uncertainty. Choose your hard. Thomas Jackson was right – discipline wins the day. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “If your right hand causes you to offend, cut it off.” Should he be living today, he might have said, “If social media causes you to offend or be offended, cut if off.” It is hard to refrain from social media. It is hard to repair relationships damaged via social media or live with feelings hurt by comments made on-line. Choose your hard.

Discipline requires action. Ephesians 4:31-32 say-, ”Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ forgave you. Colossians 3:12-15 has a similar message. ”Since God chose you to be holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Make allowances for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.” Proverbs 4:23-27 says, “Guard your hearts above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Avoid all perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech. Look straight ahead and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” Keep, guard, avoid, look, clothe, fix- action verbs galore. Discipline requires action.

Stay full

A basic principle that applies to many areas of life is simple-to avoid bad things, stay full of good things. Paul put it differently in Philippians 4:8,”Fix ( there’s that action word again) your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely ,and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Does reading social media leave you feeling full of good thoughts? Does it nourish your soul or create anger and anxiety? We have choices to make. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. Will we choose what is sometimes hard to gain what is ultimately for our good and his glory?
 
Author: Elder Maggie Brockman

 


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A Wonderful Valentine’s Dinner – 2/15/2020

On Saturday, February 15, the Fellowship Committee hosted a wonderful Valentine’s dinner for the congregation.  Complete with lasagna, spaghetti casseroles, Olive Garden salad and a strolling violinist, it was a wonderful evening for couples and families.  Thanks to all who helped pull it together!
 

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Gleaning for the World Service Project – 2/13/2020

On February 13th a crew of seven went to Gleaning for the World. Personal hygiene products were sorted and boxed. Fabric was cut and packaged for delivery to cottage industries in developing countries.A good time was had by all.
 

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Pastor’s Corner – February 2020

Almost every Christian would say that they believe in the Bible, but according to a recent Lifeway Research survey, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible. I hear from many folks who have tried to read through the Bible, usually in a year, but haven’t been able to finish. To be honest, it can be a daunting task.
 
One of the other challenges with reading the entire Bible is that many of us only read the Bible in small snippets, a few verses here or there, usually in a Sunday school class or a sermon on Sunday morning. Don’t misunderstand me here, those are important and necessary ways to understand what the Bible is teaching and how to apply it to our lives. But the risk we run is not seeing how each of these isolated passages relate to the grand arc of redemptive history.
 

Binge Reading…

One of my favorite TV shows was LOST. The hardest part of the show, though, was keep track of all of the different threads and plots from week to week. A couple of years ago, my son and I sat down and binged the entire series in a few days. Doing so enabled us to keep track of the various threads much more easily. Sometimes we need to experience the big picture so we can appreciate the details even more. That’s what we’re going to do with the Bible – we’re going to “binge read” it.
 

…The Bible in 90 Days

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, the Session and I invite you to make a commitment to reading through the entire Bible in 90 days. By the time Pentecost rolls around, we’ll have read the whole Bible, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. That might sound daunting, but it actually works out to just 12 pages a day. And, you won’t be going through this alone — this is a church-wide endeavor, and we’ll be making several tools available to help you succeed.
 

What Bible Should You Read?

You can read any Bible you like (even an app that reads the Bible to you!) — we’ll provide a reading schedule for those who would like it. However, we recommend purchasing the Bible in 90 Days Bible and participant’s guide (we’ll have these available for $20). You can also find them for your favorite e-reader (Kindle, iBooks, etc). The B90 Bible has a couple of advantages: first, it has the daily readings already broken down in the text, which makes it easier to follow along; second, it has minimal notes and whatnot, which can be very distracting when you’re trying to read on a schedule.
 

Sharing the Journey Together

In addition to the Bible, we’ll be asking everyone to sign up for a discussion group. We’ll have two times during the week — Sunday mornings during the Sunday school hour at 9:45am and Wednesday evening at 5:45pm. This is an essential part of successfully reading through the Bible in 90 days, as it provides accountability and an opportunity to learn and discuss what we’ve just read the previous week. In addition, each Sunday’s sermon throughout the 90 days will follow along with our reading. To help us focus on our readings, we will only be offering the one class during the Sunday school hour for youth and adults.
 

Who Can Participate?

Anyone who can read, frankly! Aside from that, we’re encouraging our late-elementary kids, youth and all adults to participate. Please feel free to invite folks from the community to join us on the journey as well, especially folks you know who might be interested in learning more about what the Bible says – this can be a fantastic evangelism tool.
 

Find Out More on Sunday, February 23

Come to Sunday school on February 23 at 9:45 where we’ll be providing more information about why we believe this is important for our church and how this will work. It’s going to be an exciting journey for all of us, and we look forward to traveling together on The Path of the Phoenix.
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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Reading the Bible as a Single Book – A February 2020 Table Talk Series

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with how long and diverse the Bible is? Do you struggle with seeing it as “one book” with a single message? Join us at Table Talk as we explore the unity of the Bible. We’ll be meeting at 5:45 p.m. on February 5, 12, and 19. This is a practical, hands-on series that will equip you to read through the Bible with greater understanding. You can expect to gain useful tools and resources that will make reading the Bible from cover to cover a more meaningful experience.
 
Join us Wednesdays, 5:45-6:45, beginning February 5.

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January 2020 Pastor’s Corner – Is Anyone Listening?

Is Anyone Listening?

“What is the word that Jesus has for your church?” I looked at my spiritual director a little befuddled, mostly because I wasn’t expecting the question. “Do you believe that Jesus has a word for your church today?” Well, of course I do. “So are you listening for it?” That’s really the question isn’t it? Am I listening for Jesus’ word to Northminster? To me? Just how does Jesus speak to us today? I fully believe that Jesus can speak to us in any form he chooses — directly, through someone else, a nudge of the conscience, the gift of a beautiful sunset, so on and so forth. The primary way He speaks to us is through His Word, the Bible. When we read the Bible, we’re usually pretty aware that we are reading, in some respects, a conversation between God and other people. We easily forget that God’s Word is just as much a conversation between us and God as well. Is anyone listening?
 

Tuning In

Much like tuning our car radio (does anyone even do that anymore?) to get the best reception of our favorite radio station, we will hear that for which we’re listening. When we step outside on a spring or summer day, at first the world sounds quiet. As we listen, as we “tune in,” we begin to hear the birds chirping and the wind rustling the leaves. When we listen more attentively, we begin to pick out different kinds of birds singing to each other. Eventually we can even locate particular birds in the trees and to whom they’re singing. We might not think Jesus is speaking to us, but He is, and we need to make sure we’re tuning in. Are we listening?
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Rev. 1:10–11)
 
During the season of Epiphany (all of January and February this year), we’re going to focus on “tuning in” to hear what Jesus is saying to us by listening in on what He said to the seven churches in Revelation. In the Bible, the number seven denotes fullness, totality and comprehensiveness. The letters to these seven historical churches represent the church universal. The Word that Jesus had for these seven churches is also the word He has for us individually, for Northminster, and the Church (capital “C” means the universal church, all churches in all times and all places) today. We will use these seven letters to help us tune in to what Jesus is saying to us right now. Once we get tuned in, we can start listening.
 

The Word That Speaks

Jesus isn’t just speaking to us through the seven letters of Revelation, though. We believe that every page of the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but most of us have never read through the entire Bible. How can we say we’re listening to Jesus if we don’t know what His Word says? Beginning on Ash Wednesday, we will embark on a journey to listen to the Word of God itself, the entire counsel of Scripture. In the 90 days from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost, we will read the entire Bible together. I know that sounds kind of daunting, but it works out to just 12 pages a day. Look at it like “binge reading” the entire Bible. Now that many shows and TV series are available to stream, you can watch an entire series in a weekend. “LOST” makes a lot more sense when you binge it (although it’s still really confusing). We’re going to do the same thing with the Bible. The sermons on Sundays will follow along with the weekly readings and we’ll provide tools and other things to help us all stay on track together. We’ll share more details about how this is going to work in next month’s newsletter.
 
The Session and I have been talking and praying about this for many months, and we’re really excited about what God will reveal to us — as individuals and as a church — when we tune in and start listening for His word to us. In 2020, let’s make sure we’re tuned in to Him and listening together.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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“It Happened Like This…” – An Advent Sunday School Class

We all know the familiar Christmas story, and each December we are given many opportunities to hear and see the story retold through pageants, nativities and countless other celebrations of the season.  Most of those stories have something in common: they take the accounts of Jesus birth as told primarily through the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and combine them into one cohesive tale.
 
However, just as each Gospel is unique unto itself, so also are their respective birth narratives.  Of the four gospels, only three have an introduction that refers to the coming of Jesus Christ, and even then only two actually speak of his birth.  In this class, we’ll take a look at what makes the introductions to the Gospels of John, Matthew and Luke unique, how the way they relate the birth of Christ impacts the rest of their Gospel, and what each version means for us, today.
 
Join us Sunday mornings in December.  9:45am in the Tatman room.

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Pastor’s Corner – December 2019

“Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!” — Psalm 90:13

The Christian calendar begins, not with January 1st, but instead with the first Sunday in Advent.  It’s an interesting decision that the early church fathers made in doing this.  Interesting  because the Christian year begins not with resolutions and activity, but with waiting.  Advent is an intentional season of preparation and pause, a time to reflect and prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Lord’s Messiah, Jesus Christ.  There is great wisdom in this decision, particularly for our current times.  We live in a culture of hurry and rush and activity, the last thing we want or like to do is wait for anything.

By starting the year with a season of waiting, we are invited to settle into a different rhythm of life and living, a rhythm that is ultimately about trust.  Trusting in the God who created Time, trusting in the One who has set His plans in motion and will see them through, trusting that there is One who knows and understands more than we do, trusting that He is good and that He is love.

So the Christian calendar begins with a reminder that there is a holiness and a righteousness in waiting.  But there is a hard-ness and challenge in waiting as well.  The Psalmists cry out, with great regularity, “How long, O Lord?”  Even as they wait on the Lord, they express their frustration, their discontent.  And in that we are shown that there is such a thing as a holy discontent.

But as much as we are waiting to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the season of Advent points to an even more significant event, an event most of us usually forget is yet to and actually is going to happen.  The Hebrews waited over 500 years for the Messiah to come the first time.  We’ve been waiting nearly 2,000 years for him to return.  May our lives be lived with the faith that comes from knowing our Savior’s return is imminent, with the hope that comes from knowing that what is broken will soon be made right, and with the love for those who don’t yet know that their Messiah has already come once and will come again.

“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” — Revelation 22:20

Blessings,

Rev. David Garrison


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Neighbors Helping Neighbors Community Meal – November 26, 4:30-7pm

Neighbors Helping Neighbors will start having a FREE evening meal (5:00-7:00) on Tuesdays beginning in November.  They are looking for volunteers.  We would bring the food already prepared and then warm it up upon arrival.  Jimmy Price has opened his building located on route 29, near Dixie Airport Road, for this purpose.  We (MOE committee) invited Garry Friend to speak at Northminster and explain in detail what would be expected of an organization willing to help. 

We have agreed to serve one meal, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, November 26.   We will serve about 50 people – about the size of a church covered-dish meal.  This may be the only Thanksgiving dinner for our guests.  

NHN provides plates, napkins, cups and eating utensil and they clean up.   

The menu is listed here: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, rolls and butter, cranberry salad, pie and whipped cream, coffee, sweet tea, and water. 

We need people to serve, greet, cook, pray, and help with a little clean up.  (Donations are helpful as well.)
 
Update from Sunday, November 24 Bulletin:
Thank you to everyone helping with the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Evening Meal on Tuesday, November 26th
Just a few last minute items:
If you are making food be sure to deliver to Jimmy Price’s building no later then 4:30 (4:15 would be better). We start serving at 5:00 p.m.
If you are dropping off your food at NEPC or are unsure of the location and want car pool please let me know or see Vonnie.
Find your NEPC tee shirt and wear so our guest will know who to ask for help or seconds.
Please be in prayer for those coming for dinner.
Thank you
 
Update from Sunday, November 17 Bulletin:
MEAL FOR NHN ON TUES NOV 26:
Northminster is serving a meal on Tuesday, November 26 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. We need to be at the Jimmy Price’s building around 4:30 p.m. to pray and see where we will be serving. Please wear your NEPC tee shirt. See Judy Reyburn if you need one.
  • We still need volunteers to serve the meal
  • Kitchen volunteers to dish up the plates
  • Cooks
      • 2 more turkeys
      • Rolls and butter
      • Drinks (sweet tea, lemonade, water)
      • Pie and whipped cream
      • Cranberry salad
  • Light clean-up
 

Please contact Judy Reyburn if you can help prepare and serve food, or if you can prepare food but cannot attend the meal.  

Missions, Evangelism, Outreach Committee


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