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Pastor’s Message 9-28-18

On the Road!

This past week I was on the road, teaching in two locations in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Last Sunday, I flew to St. Louis after worship to teach a workshop at the annual Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference. I have taught at it every year since it began a decade or so, and it was great to see a group of old friends in ministry while making new connections with people across the church who are working so faithfully in so many different circumstances. But I was only able to stay for the first day, because that night I caught a late flight to Washington, DC to speak there on Tuesday!

The National Capital Presbytery invited me to do an afternoon program and then speak on a panel related to their presbytery’s initiative on confronting racism in and through the church. That, too was rewarding, as I have many friends who are pastors in the DC area, and the subject of combatting racism continues to be one of the most important and urgent social issues facing the church and society in the United States today, in my opinion. Now, as I write this, I am on a train back to Philadelphia, where I will catch the Bieber bus back to Bethlehem, arriving close to midnight so I can get to an 8 AM meeting on Wednesday at FPCB!

While I wouldn’t want to do that kind of trip on a regular basis for a variety of reasons, I felt that it was good and important, even holy, work to do this week. And there are several reasons why that I want to share with you.

First, I see it as a way of showing gratitude for the blessings of being part of a connectional church. I think we have a whole new appreciation now for those blessings, for what it meant to FPCB to be accompanied and supported and prayed for during the past couple of years, which were unquestionably some of the most challenging in the history of our congregation. These were two very different but very important opportunities to help fellow Presbyterians who are wrestling with complex challenges and opportunities in the life of their congregations, and it was a joy to be able to give them that support after all that we have received.

Second, it was a way of tending to FPCB’s relationship to that larger connectional church. Practically every person I met or reconnected with knew something of our story, wanted to hear how things were going in Bethlehem, was delighted to hear some of the stories of our ministry the past nine months, and wanted me to pass along their ongoing prayers, congratulations, and support to you. I wish you could have all experienced the appreciation and enthusiasm for what we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time, but I’m glad that the larger church was able to hear it and to celebrate that, too.

Third, it was a wonderful opportunity to tap into the larger wisdom and experience of the church across the country. Many of our current challenges and opportunities at FPCB have parallels in a number of other places, and drawing on that wealth of experience and insight has already given me some new ideas, even in such a short period of time.

And finally, on a personal note, it was a delightful reminder of how grateful I am to be serving as your pastor. I enjoyed the work I did the last 8-9 years as a theological educator, which was often like the past few days, and it was great to be teaching pastors again. But it was even better to be doing that only briefly as an emissary of FPCB, and then returning to all of our work together in Bethlehem (and beyond!). I am so excited about all that God has in store for us in the coming months, and I can’t wait to explore it with you!

Grace and Peace,
J.C.

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