October 2020 Pastor’s Corner – Pulling Together — For The Kingdom

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.— Eph. 4:11–13 THE MESSAGE)
 
I’ve been watching a trend recently that has me concerned. It has become increasingly difficult to find people who are able and willing to serve in the various ministries and missions of the church. Our committees have been shrinking and appeals for folks to get involved and help out have gone unanswered. As a pastor, I am concerned about this trend and spend much of my time praying about why this is and what we might do about it.
 
Perhaps you might be thinking, well, we are in a pandemic. We are discouraged from participating in the very things that are part-and-parcel of church ministry. This is true. But what the pandemic has done is accelerate what was already happening. Even in my short three years at Northminster, I’ve noticed a very steady decrease in volunteer activity in the church. The pandemic creates problems with solving this issue; it doesn’t explain the cause.
 
A better diagnosis might be found in the reality that we are an aging congregation. Many of you have served the Kingdom of God and this congregation faithfully for decades. You have tirelessly poured yourselves out for the sake of Northminster, and have done so willingly and gladly. There are not enough words to express the gratitude I, and everyone else, feels, for your service. You have earned a rest, and you deserve a rest.
 
The hard truth is that aging congregation or not, global pandemic or not, the work, ministry and mission of the church goes forward. No church can function without its volunteers — for small churches like ours, though, it’s more than essential. God has gathered this congregation together, and He has given each of us gifts and abilities meant to be used for the building up of the Body of Christ. An essential part of our growth as disciples, of our maturing as Christians, is putting into practice “skilled servant work” as we read above. In order for the church to be healthy, we all need to participate. How we go about that work might look a little bit different in the midst of a pandemic, but nevertheless the work goes on.
 
Why do I bring this up? For several reasons. While some ministries are still on hold due to the pandemic, others are still moving forward and we need folks to serve in those areas. One such example is the youth ministry — we have enough students and a broad enough age range that we need to have separate high school and middle school groups. But more than that, it’s time to find our next class of elders to begin serving in 2021. We have two or three elder positions to fill. One of those positions has remained empty since I arrived in 2017. Each year, the challenge before the nominating committee to fill the open seats has increased. This year, we go about this work in the midst of a pandemic.
 
I invite you to search your heart humbly and prayerfully to see if the Holy Spirit is prompting you to step into one of those positions. Under normal circumstances, that can be an intimidating nudge. I know that under these circumstances it’s even moreso. I leave you with these verses to guide your prayers:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. — 2 Tim. 1:6–7
 
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. — 1 Tim. 3:1
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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April 2020 Pastor’s Corner – The Conundrum of the Cluster

The Conundrum of the Cluster

We are creatures of habit, it’s a part of human nature. Part of that habit is grouping together with like-minded individuals, collections of people with shared beliefs, routines, customs, vision, etc. This is very normal and natural, it’s how communities form — including church communities — and it’s encouraged. We need the mutual support, accountability and encouragement that comes from the Body of Christ. In fact, in adolescent development theory, the “cluster” is an important and necessary part of the social development of the teenager. Where “cliques” are unhealthy and exclusive, “clusters” are not only inclusive and healthy, they are necessary for proper and appropriate development.
 
But this “clustering” also presents a problem, a problem we’ve been talking about in the church for several decades now. We aren’t called to be the church “gathered in” or “clustered together” but rather the church “sent out” (we’ve called this being a “missional” church) But the “sending out” part is hard — well, it’s very easy to talk about theoretically, but gets harder when we actually go to put it into practice. Why is it hard? Because it means leaving our comfort zone, our “cluster,” and going “out there,” wherever that may be. Our natural inertia is toward the cluster, not away from it. Throughout history, it has taken an outside force acting on the cluster that forces it to disperse and be sent out.
 

The Church Scattered

There is an interesting word used several times in the book of Acts, diaspeiro. It appears in Acts 8:1, 4, and 11:19 and it means “to scatter abroad.” After Stephen was stoned to death in Acts 7, there was “a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem” (8:1) that caused the Christians to be “scattered” (diaspeiro). And what happened? “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4) From the very beginning, Christians preferred to cluster together (see Acts 2:42). It took a persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem to send them out to Phoenicia, Cyprus, Antioch and further. It was the persecution of Christians by Nero in AD 64 that sent them out to “the ends of the earth,” spreading the Gospel far and wide. But God doesn’t always use persecution to scatter the church.
 

The Church Closed. Or is it?

We are, in many respects, in an unprecedented time. It certainly isn’t the first time humanity faced a pandemic like this, but it is for most of us it’s the first in our lifetime. It’s forcing us to rethink much of how we understand being “church.” How do we “do church” if we can’t meet for worship on Sunday mornings? But the church never was a building or a time. For the sake of the health of each other and our community, we can not gather in groups of 10 or more until this pandemic passes. But that doesn’t mean the church is closed. A colleague of mine posted this on her Facebook wall the other day,
A couple of years ago, God gave my associate pastor a vision of our church having transparent walls. For two years, we have been wondering how on earth God was going to turn stone and stained glass into transparent walls. We got the interpretation today. He’s making them transparent by locking our doors. Suddenly people will be able to see in from the outside! May God make transparent all the walls of our churches, that the world may know the Good News of Jesus Christ… He has been preparing us for this since November. We just didn’t understand what he was saying until now. Our church is being called to love and serve one another. We are the church sent out, not the church closed!
 
Through the wonder of modern technology, we will still “gather together” for worship, but in our own homes. Each Sunday morning, we will still worship in our sanctuary, and you can join us for the worship service at www.facebook.com/npcmh (no, you don’t need a Facebook account to get to it, just a phone or web browser).  The service will be adapted to focus on and facilitate at-home worship as families and individuals.
 

The Church Sent Out

We are still Northminster Evangelical Presbyterian Church, but we are not closed. We are the church dispersed, scattered, sent out, like dandelion seeds. Even in the midst of the social distancing of this pandemic, we have an opportunity to love our neighbor in ways we’ve forgotten or lost. If your neighbors are elderly or in the higher-risk categories for the coronavirus, offer to go to the store for them and leave the groceries on their porch. If your neighbors have kids and jobs that don’t allow them to work from home, offer to watch the kids during the day. There are many other ways to serve our neighbors, and we’ll help you explore some of those in the weeks to come. This is going to be a difficult season, let there be no doubt. But the church has faced pandemics and difficult seasons before, and every time the light of the love of Jesus Christ has shined brightly in the darkness. Hold fast to your hope, stand firm on the foundation of Jesus Christ and don’t be afraid.
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

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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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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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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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Operation Christmas Child 2019 is Underway!

The Sunday School classes will be taking up items for our shoeboxes through Sunday, November 17.  We will put together as many shoeboxes as we can during SS on November 17.  However, we will continue to put boxes together during that week should we have more items come in later.
 
Operation Christmas Child suggests that we have one WOW item per box such as a doll, a stuffed animal, an outfit of clothes, a small musical instrument, or a backpack.  Our boxes are divided by gender and the following age groups:  2 – 4, 5 – 9, 10 – 14.
 
Some suggested items are: combs, hairbrushes, chapstick, bandages, toothbrush, watch, packaged soap, washcloth, stick deodorant, reusable plastic containers (cups, plates, bowls), blunt edged utensils, blanket, nail clipper, finger nail file, shirts/pants, loose fitting sundress, underwear, shoes, socks, flip-flops, hat, scarf, mittens, sunglasses, tote bag/purse, hair bows, pencils, manual pencil sharpener, colored pencils, pencil case, crayons, markers, pens, ruler, scissors, coloring pads/books, picture books, notebooks, glue sticks, tape, water color set, play doh with plastic cookie cutters, sewing kit, stickers, chalkboard and chalk, jump rope, foam ball, finger puppets, slinky, etch a sketch, yo-yo, marbles, costume jewelry, small Frisbee, small kite, solar powered calculator, puzzles, binoculars, plastic tools, plastic dinosaurs, small cars/trucks/boats, flashlight (if battery powered – an extra set of batteries), and compact mirror.
 
The things that are not allowed in the shoeboxes are as follows:  candy, toothpaste, gum, used or damaged items, war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures, chocolate or food, seeds, fruit rolls or other fruit snacks, drink mixes (powdered or liquid), liquids or lotions, medications or vitamins, breakable items such as snow globes, or glass containers, and aerosol cans.
Please bring any donations to church by Sunday, November 17. There will be a collection bin in the church foyer for your donations. If you choose to pack your own shoebox, please bring it to church that Sunday morning as well.
 
If you have any questions, please contact Sharon Bryant.

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School Supply Collection

We’re close to two months into the school year, but there are many children that still don’t have basic and essential school supplies.  Over the next few weeks we are collecting supplies for our local elementary schools to give to their students who otherwise would go without.  Here are a few items students need daily:
  • Backpacks (currently 50% off at Target)
  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Paper
  • Folders
  • Markers
The next time you head to Walmart or Target, pick up some of these supplies.  You may leave your donations in the church foyer where you will see the Mission/Outreach/Evangelism display.  Thank you in advance!

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Pastor’s Corner – May 2018

After the Storm

Storms are used in fascinating ways in Scripture.  Take a look at Genesis 6-9 (Noah’s flood), Psalm 18, and Matthew 8:23-27 (Jesus calms the storm) for a couple of good examples.  But my favorite “storm story” is in 1 Kings 19.  Elijah has just won a powerful victory over the prophets of Ba’al, but ends up fleeing for his life as Jezebel and Ahab seek vengeance.  He hides in a cave on Mount Horeb (also known as Mount Sinai), and God tells him, Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”  What happens next is incredible:

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11–13)

I think most of us would assume that God would’ve been in the storm, the earthquake or the fire.  But He wasn’t.  God was in the stillness and quiet that came after the storm.  The same is true with the story of the flood – the rainbow came after the waters receded.  And when Jesus calmed the waters?  That’s when the disciples fell down in worship.

“What are you doing here?”

That’s the question God asked Elijah in the silence after the storm.  Through your tireless acts of love and support, God’s presence after the storm has been made real.  I have been overwhelmed with the incredible response of our community in the weeks that have followed the tornado in Elon and Lynchburg.  You have answered God’s question to Elijah with your actions – by faithfully living what Paul calls us to in Galatians 5:  Serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Gal 5:13–14)  The cleanup work for those affected has just begun and will continue long after the tornado has left the news cycle.  May we continue to be God’s hands and feet as we pray without ceasing, give as we are able, and serve as the opportunity presents itself.  You can find some helpful suggestions and guides on our website at www.npcmh.com/blog. 

Blessings,

Rev. David Garrison


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How To Support the Recovery Efforts Going Forward

According to a press release from Amherst County, 126 homes have minor damage, 25 are restricted use and 22 are destroyed.  That means at least 47 families are displaced until their homes are repaired or rebuilt.  The recovery needs for these families will be ongoing, long after this event moves out of the news cycle. And many of those in the path of the tornado, whether their home was destroyed or not, are dealing with wounds and hurts that go beyond physical.  So what can we do to support our neighbors and friends in the weeks and months to come?
 

Pray

Make praying for those affected a regular part of your prayer routine. Include in your prayers the contractors and builders, insurance adjusters, police, fire and medical first responders who have and are continuing to step in to help these families rebuild their lives. Here are some practical steps and prayers in the weeks and months to come:
  • Pray for healing.  While certainly praying for physical healing, also pray for emotional and mental healing.  Continue to praise God that no one lost their life, and ask Him to rest His hand of healing on those who need it.  The emotional and mental scars can last far longer than the physical ones, which leads to…
  • Pray for rest.  This might sound trivial, but many of these people, particularly the children but also the adults, could well be having a hard time sleeping.  Nightmares, stress, the internal need to keep working on cleanup, and especially post traumatic stress can negatively impact sleep.  Pray for God’s peace to settle over those trying to piece their lives back together when they sleep.
  • Pray for a smooth process.  Working with insurance companies, contractors, government aid agencies is a difficult and time-consuming process.  It can be its own layer of stress on top of an already stressful and traumatic event.  Pray that God would smooth out the process and that there wouldn’t be any hiccups for these folks.
  • Pray for moments of normalcy:  In the midst of the aftermath of a traumatic event like this, it can feel as if “normal” is a word that will never be used again.  Pray for moments of “normal” for these families and people, That might come in a meal taken as family at a restaurant, to even the regular routine of work and school, or maybe even just going to the store to buy groceries.  A moment of “normal” can go a long way in helping the healing and recovery process.
  • Set a reminder.  Put a reminder in your phone to repeat once a week, and maybe another one in a month or two, to remind you to continuing praying for their recovery.
 

Give

Many have given sacrificially already, but there will continue to be ongoing needs for those affected in the weeks, and especially the months, to come.  Many of them have no idea what they need at this time, so gift cards to grocery and home improvement stores can be very helpful, as they can make use of those as they figure things out.  There are several GoFundMe donation pages set up for these families, if you would like to give directly to them.  Here are some suggested links and ideas:
  • GoFundMe: This link is  a generic search for “Madison Heights, VA fundraisers,’ however at the time of posting (4/24/18), all but one result on the first page of results were for victims of the tornado (there’s another tornado victim fundraiser on the 2nd page of the results as well).  If you would like to give aid directly to the families, this can be a good option.
  • ElonStrong.com: Our friends at River Church have been actively involved in helping those affected from the first day.  Donations made through ElongStrong.com and AmherstStrong.com are primarily going to families with no insurance.
  • Gleaning For The World: GFTW has been partnering with local churches to minister to those displaced by these storms, particularly in providing emergency assistance to those are are victims of the tornado.  They have been distributing food and materials directly to the families and victims.
  • Through Northminster: Please put “Elon Strong” in the memo field of checks made out to Northminster, and we will direct those funds to those in need.
  • Gift Cards: Purchasing gift cards to Food Lion, Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot and various places like that are very helpful.  Many of these families have lost everything and don’t know what they need right now.  A gift card can be very helpful in allowing them to purchase what they need, when they realize they need or are ready for it.  Gift cards can be turned in to the Amherst County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor’s Center in Amherst, to the church office, or placed in the offering plate on Sunday mornings.  Gift cards given to us will be passed along to Elon Presbyterian for them to give out directly to the community impacted.
  • Set A Reminder:  As with praying, set a reminder for a month or two, if not longer, from now.  There is always a large influx of donations in the immediate aftermath of disasters like this, but the needs last for months.
 

Volunteer

If you are looking to volunteer, we encourage you to contact Gleaning for the World to see when and where they are distributing materials.  Right now, we are not aware of other organizations that are actively looking for volunteers to help victims rebuild and repair.  If you know families impacted, we encourage you to contact them directly to see how you might be of service.  As we hear of opportunities, we will post them here and on our Facebook page.
 
Thank you for the wonderful ways you have already cared for our neighbors affected by the tornado, may God bless each of us as we seek to continue to be Christ’s hands and feet in caring for and loving them in the weeks and months to come.

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GFTW Seeking Volunteers for Monday, 4/23

Volunteers needed for Monday, April 23rd from 9 to 5 … Gleaning for the World plans to set up out of Elon Presbyterian’s parking lot again Monday to distribute supplies to those affected by the storm. We’re going to do things a bit differently this time around. We will send pickups and/or vans and SUVs – anything with substantial cargo space – along with two or three volunteers into the neighborhoods affected. The vehicles will be loaded with a good variety of the things we anticipate people may have need of. If we don’t have it, we’ll have it delivered later from the home base in the parking lot. We’ll need vehicles and/or volunteers in shifts more or less as follows: 9 – noon, noon – 2:30, 2:30 – 5. Please text or call David at 828.273.1003 to volunteer … or, just show up! Thanks in advance!

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