The Lenten season this year occurs while the world prays for the people of Japan. The earthquake and the devastating tsunami that followed have left large swaths of the country obliterated, and the death toll continues to rise. In the midst of a very bad situation, the leaking of radiation from a damaged nuclear power plant remains a real threat. Our congregation joins with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and with Christians and other persons of faith around the world in praying for for the people of Japan, for those who grieve loss of life, for those made homeless, and for those hungry and alone. Mindful of the prayer we often pray in worship, that “in all the things for which we pray, give us the will to bring them about,” I encourage you to visit www.pcusa.org/news/2011/3/11/pcusa-framing-response-japan-earthquake-tsunami/. There you will find the latest news about our Presbyterian mission co-workers in Japan and the opportunity to give through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Even as we pray for Japan, we remember that the the people of Haiti still suffer tremendously from the earthquake that wiped out much of their already weak infrastructure, leaving tens of thousands homeless. A group of mission co-workers from our congregation are answering the call of God to be with the people in Haiti. The group will install a water purification system through Living Waters for the World and lead Vacation Bible School March 22-April 1. Please be in prayer for the team – Kris McCain (team leader), Chandler Joiner, Kim Joiner, Cathy McCall, Matthew McCall, Jessica Queen, Alex Quintana, Sharon Roumen, John Wade, and Tom Wilhoite.
Sunday’s worship included the Baptism of Elic Ball at 8:30, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in both services, and the Annual Meeting of the congregation. On such a full Sunday the signs of God’s grace were as abundant as the water, bread, and wine. The bell choir prelude was an advanced arrangement the choir learned while at the Montreat Music and Worship Conference last summer, and when they were done I was grateful for their willingness to take on such a beautiful piece of music. The choral arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” accompanied by the flute, helped us all to hear that hymn as if for the first time, taking in new experiences of grace in the hearing. As I was preaching on the Garden of Eden, it was easy to see that each time we hear the beauty of worship music, engage in intimate prayer, and listen for the Word of God, we catch a glimpse of that Garden and a foretaste of the Kingdom to come.
Sunday ended with “40 Days and 40 Nights,” a gathering of over 60 people to hear a presentation on the congregational Lent book, “Soulfeast,” by Marjorie Thompson, and to share memories and dreams concerning our congregation in its bicentennial year. You will see elsewhere a brief report on some of the ideas shared during the event, but in this space I want to thank the Vision Team – Bill Bastl, Bill Carver, Lashlee Garafola, Phil Leftwich, Kathy Morris, and Anne Parsons. Each of them contributed to the success of the evening. One participant emailed me the following – “I was inspired, encouraged, and just plain had fun Sunday night. It made me feel included, and sparked my imagination about the future of the church. Participating in the exercises, listening, and being inspired by others was just wonderful.” We will gather again during Lent. Be sure to watch this space for the day and time.
It is on Sundays like last Sunday when I come to the end of the day thankful to God for a congregation filled with so many and diverse gifts. Whether it is in mission work, sacramental worship, music, education, or discernment of our future, God is definitely at work among us. Thanks be to God.