News & Announcements

Ash Wednesday – Out of Dust

As is obvious by now, we are not having an Ash Wednesday service this year, nor are the Community Lenten Services happening.  The pandemic continues to take its toll.  I know that for many of us, the Ash Wednesday service and the Community Lenten Services play a significant role in helping us mark the season of Lent.  Not having those services makes it hard to feel like it’s really Lent.  It would be like having Advent without Christmas music or decorations.  It’s just not the same.
 
I spent a large chunk of today working on a video about Ash Wednesday, something to tie together the beginning of Lent, the significance of Ash Wednesday, and the struggles we all face dealing with a pandemic that is working through its 11th month.  To be honest, it was a frustrating process that just never quite came together the way I was hoping it would.  So, I took a break and went for a walk.  Sometimes, you just need to clear your head for a bit.
 
While I was walking, one of my favorite songs started playing.  The song is Beautiful Things by Gungor.  As I let the song wash over me, I realized that this song pretty much covers everything I wanted to say, much better than I could have said it.  So, I’m including the video here, for your encouragement, enjoyment and edification.  May it help focus and center you for this season of Lent.
 


Read more...

Drive-In Food Drive & Caroling – This Sunday, December 13 @ 1PM

Food Drive Drive-in

Mark your calendars! It’s coming—the first ever Northminster Food Drive Drive-in! We will be collecting for Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN). The items most needed are listed below. Please bring your donation to the back parking lot at 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 13, and stay to sing some favorite songs of the season with Gospel on the Grounds.
 
Items requested by NHN:
  • 14oz. yellow mustard
  • 32oz. pancake mix
  • 4 lbs. sugar
  • 24 oz. pancake syrup
  • 15 oz. ketchup
  • 6 pack of fruit cups
  • 15 oz. mayonnaise
 

Drive-in Caroling

We invite you to enjoy the songs of the season on Sunday, December 13, at 1 p.m. Maggie Brockman and her group, Gospel on the Grounds, will be playing some beloved Christmas carols while we listen. You’re welcome to sit in your car with the windows up or down to enjoy the beautiful music. You can even sit outside on your lawn chair if the weather is nice. We hope you’ll join us for this out-of-the-box, drive-in Christmas caroling for 2020.

Read more...

December 2020 Pastor’s Corner – The Importance of Advent

“The special note of Advent is its primary focus on the second coming of Christ, who will arrive in glory on the last day to consummate the kingdom of God — its orientation toward the promised future.  Advent…differs from the other seasons in that it looks beyond history altogether and awaits Jesus Christ’s coming again “in glory to judge the living and the dead.” — Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ

This past Sunday, November 29, was the First Sunday in Advent.  It marks the beginning of the Christian year.  For most of us, Advent is the season preparing us for Christmas, as if it were simply the pre-Christmas season… after all, it does end on Christmas Eve.  But Advent isn’t pointing to Christmas at all, it points far past Christmas.  As the quote from Fleming Rutledge above states, Advent points not to Christ’s first coming, but to his Second.  While we tend to treat Advent as a “countdown to Christmas,” it’s actually far deeper and meaningful.

It seems that, each year, we are in a bigger and bigger rush to get to Christmas.  Stores have been pushing the “unofficial” beginning of the Christmas season earlier and earlier, and this year has pushed it even further — I saw Christmas decorations in stores this year weeks before Halloween!  It is a strange and confusing thing to see Halloween and Christmas decorations side-by-side.  Jack Skellington would be furious!  But I also get it — 2020 has been an amazingly difficult year (although not even close to the worst year ever.  That honor goes to 536 AD.  No, seriously.  Look it up).  After months and months of the pandemic and social distancing, a terribly contentious presidential election cycle, murder hornets, and record-breaking natural disasters, we’re all pretty desperate for a little light and a dash of Christmas cheer.  While I’m personally a staunch “no Christmas music until after Thanksgiving” Scrooge, I won’t judge anyone who has already put up a Christmas tree, some decorations, or gone all-in on Christmas music.

But don’t rush past Advent in order to get to Christmas.  While Advent has a particular emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ, it does so with its feet firmly grounded in the present reality.  As Fleming Rutledge explains, “Advent contains within itself the crucial balance of the now and the not-yet that our faith requires. [T]his book will explore this theme in relation to the yearly frenzy of “holiday” time in which the commercial Christmas music insists that “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” and Starbucks invites everyone to “feel the merry.” The disappointment, brokenness, suffering, and pain that characterize life in this present world is held in dynamic tension with the promise of future glory that is yet to come. In that Advent tension, the church lives its life…The Advent season encourages us to resist denial and face our situation as it really is” (Advent pp. 7-8).  The hope of Christ’s Second Coming, even the joy of celebrating his First coming at Christmas, is all the more bright and joyous because of the dark, brokenness of this present world, not in spite of it.

Advent is not for the faint of heart.  But there is a gift waiting for you, if you are willing to slow down and find it.  They say it’s always darkest just before the dawn…is it not the darkness of the night that causes us to appreciate the light all the more?  Allow yourself to be present in the hardness and pain of 2020 and in Advent’s much-needed reminder that, one day, Jesus Christ will come back and make everything sad untrue and make everything broken whole.  In doing so, we find that Christmas takes a place in our life and our hearts far more true than decorations, songs and presents.

“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:5)

Blessings,

Rev. David Garrison


Read more...

Pastor’s Mid-Week Bible Study Begins This Week!

These are strange and unusual times. Last week, the students of Amherst County went back to school – some are going in person, but only two days a week, some are 4 days a week; and others are returning to school virtually. And the life of the church is beginning to adapt to this “new normal” as well. Other than worship and a few circle meetings, for the past 6 months the ministry and life of Northminster has been on pause. It’s time to start some things back up.
 
One of the primary purposes of the church is discipling its members, helping us all grow in the grace and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. To that end, we are beginning a mid-week pastor’s bible study, starting Wednesday, September 16 from 10:30-11:30am. This bible study will meet in-person and online, at the same time. If you would like to join us in person, we’ll be appropriately socially distanced in the fellowship hall. If you’d prefer to join us online, you can do so through Zoom.
 
We do ask that you please sign up for one of the two groups – you can change between the two at any time, or just sign up for both if you’re feeling indecisive. Signing up will enable us to set up the Fellowship Hall appropriately, and also let us know how many to expect in-person and online. Click on this link to sign up.
 
If you have any questions, please let me know.
 
I look forward to exploring God’s Word with you, beginning this Wednesday.

Read more...

Weekly Youth Group Meetings Resume September 27, 2020!

Youth Group met for the first time in 6 months last night – it was so good seeing all of the students after so long, although we missed those who weren’t able to attend.
 
We are planning to resume in two weeks on Sunday, September 27. We’ll meet at Northminster at the usual time, 6:00-7:15pm. We’ll do our best to practice appropriate distancing and mask-wearing, and try to keep either outside or to the largest rooms available.
 
We are also looking at having separate High School and Middle School groups, either for part of the time or all of it. We have quite an age spread now, 6th grade is our youngest, all the way up to 11th grade, and we think we have enough participants to warrant two groups.
 
BUT! If we’re going to do that, we need help. Right now, it’s just me and Karey, and if we’re going to have two separate groups, we need at least two others to help out. If you are interested, or know someone who might be, please let me know.
 
You can learn more about our youth ministry and what we’ll be talking about by clicking here.
 
We look forward to seeing everyone in two weeks!
Rev. David Garrison

Read more...

What to Expect When Northminster Reopens

This coming Sunday, June 28, we are resuming in-person worship at Northminster. We’ve missed seeing you each and every Sunday and look forward to having you with us. As with most other places, things won’t entirely be normal, so here’s what you can expect when you join us this Sunday:
 

Social Distancing

  • Plan to practice appropriate social distancing. Try to limit hand shaking and hugs.
  • Every other pew will be closed to help facilitate social distancing.
  • Bulletins will be placed on the table outside the sanctuary. Please pick one up on your way in as we will not be handing them out.
  • Offering plates will be on a table just inside the sanctuary doors. Please place your offering in the plate on your way in or out of the sanctuary. We will not be passing them during the service.
 

Masks

  • Masks are encouraged, but not required.
  • Whether you wear a mask or not, we will not judge or criticize your decision.
 

Communion

  • Instead of passing the elements out, each person will come forward to pick up the elements.
  • An elder will dismiss each row at the appropriate time.
  • Please come down the center aisle, and return to your seat by way of the outside aisles, maintaining appropriate social distancing with the person(s) in front of you.
  • The bread and juice will be served in individual, disposable cups. Please pick up both elements and take them back to your seat. We will partake of them together as is our custom.
 

Sanitation

  • The church will be thoroughly cleaned before and after the service.
  • Most doors will be propped open to minimize contact with surfaces.
 
If you have symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, we encourage you to err on the side of caution and stay home. If you are anxious about returning to public spaces, please feel free to stay home. We will continue to broadcast the livestream on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/npcmh) for those who are not able to join us in person.
 
At this time, all other programs and ministries are still postponed. The Session will continue to monitor how things are going and make further decisions at their meeting in July. We appreciate your prayers and support for one another during these highly unusual times, and look forward to seeing you this Sunday, June 28!
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

Read more...

Northminster’s Plans for ‘Phase 1’

Good afternoon, Folks,

On Tuesday, the Session met to discuss our plans for Phase 1 of Virginia’s ‘Forward Virginia’ reopening plans.  Up to this point, we have been limited to no more than 10 people at any gathering and, out of an abundance of caution and a desire to follow the guidance from the VDH and CDC, we have postponed all ministries.  Since we have 8-9 people leading worship each Sunday, we’ve asked that no one else attend.

As of today, the 10 person limit has been lifted and so, if you greatly desire to do so and believe it is safe for you, the sanctuary is open for folks to join us on Sunday mornings.  However, we believe it best to err on the side of caution at this time and are encouraging folks to join us on Facebook Live for worship, especially if you are in an at-risk category or are experiencing cold symptoms.  Sunday school, women’s circles, children’s and youth ministries continue to be suspended at this time.

To summarize:

  • The sanctuary is open for worship, but we still encourage you to stay home and worship with us online.
  • All other ministries and programs will remain suspended for the duration of Phase 1.
  • If you have any symptoms or are at-risk, please remain home.

The Session will continue to monitor the situation and will make plans as we learn more about Phases 2 & 3.  As always, we welcome your feedback and invite you to email me or the elders.  Particularly if you have need, please let us know how we can be of help and pray for you during this ongoing season.

We miss seeing you very much, but want to be prudent and wise in how we move forward.

Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison, and the Session of NEPC


Read more...

A Call to Prayer and Fasting – Good Friday, April 10, 2020

This Friday we invite and encourage the members of Northminster Evangelical Presbyterian Church to join our brothers and sisters in the EPC, PCA, ECO, ACNA and many other denominations and churches in a day of prayer and fasting to cry out for God’s help in addition to a day of worship.  As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the globe and our nation, this is an opportunity for us to set ourselves before the Lord and plead with him to intercede on behalf of His creation.
 
If you’ve been joining us on B90, you’ve seen how, time and again, when the people of God were convicted of their sin and sought His intervention, they began with a period of fasting and then prayer.  While you might consider fasting from technology or something like that, there is something particular about going without food for a short period of time.  The pang and tug of physical hunger reminds us of our deeper, spiritual hunger for God and his action in our lives and our world.  As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13–14)
 
Setting aside a day of prayer and fasting isn’t something to be entered into lightly.  To help us prepare for this Friday, the EPC has provided several resources which you can find on their Good Friday Call to Prayer and Fasting Resources page.  There is a very helpful Guide to Prayer and Fasting, a suggested prayer list, and a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer that addresses the needs of suffering people in troubled times.
 
Our Day of Prayer and Fasting will conclude with the Good Friday service, streamed live on our Facebook page which you can find at www.facebook.com/npcmh (you do not need a Facebook account to access the livestream).  The service will begin at 7:30pm and is a simple service of scripture, song, candlelight and prayerful reflection.
 
We hope you’ll join us in this day of prayer and fasting, asking God to  intervene in the face of this ongoing pandemic.
 
Blessings,
Rev. David Garrison

Read more...

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


Read more...

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!
 

Read more...

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

Read more...

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.

Read more...