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Worship Schedule for September

  Worship Worship Blog
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teaching the Gospel

September 7—The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
Commissioning Church School Teachers
Rev. Chandler Stokes preaching on
Matthew 28:16-20
Christian education is a matter of catching the aroma of hope in a place. 
— C. Ellis Nelson

 

A Special Sunday in the Life of Westminster

September 14—The 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Sacrament of Baptism
Candidate for Associate Pastor,
Rev. Jen Porter preaching on
Revelation 22:1-7
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God…
—Revelation 22:1

This Sunday, our candidate for Associate Pastor will preach her candidating sermon.
After the APNC’s twenty month’s search, we celebrate together their nominee and
follow our worship service with a congregational meeting to consider formally the committee’s nomination.

There is a river running through the middle of the city of God: a river
that flows and nourishes, a river that brings healing to the nations.  And one day, there, where God is,
"there will be...”  And so, together, we hold that vision. 

Rev. Jennifer A. Porter comes to us from Spring Lake Presbyterian Church, where she has served for nearly ten years.

More info here

 

Confirmation and Fall Preaching Series 2014 begins:

Questions for a Lifetime of Faith

 

Why Are We Here?

September 21—The 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Commissioning WCDC Teachers
Rev. Chandler Stokes preaching on
Micah 6:6-8
In keeping with our call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God,
by God’s grace Westminster Presbyterian Church will be a servant leader in
worshipping God faithfully; serving God and others joyfully
creating a community of dialogue, nurture and learning;
and welcoming all in the name of Christ. 

—Westminster Vision

 

Who Are We?

September 28—The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Commissioning Camp Henry Staff
Rev. Chandler Stokes preaching on
I Corinthians 12
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it;
if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.  
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

—I Corinthians 12:26-27

 

Notes on Benton Harbor’s Summer

  Updates
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer has been an overflowing season, full of the glow of not just the sunshine, but of God’s goodness and grace here in Benton Harbor. By the grace of God, enough money was raised to send 10 beautiful and energetic youth to Camp Henry. The tears and hugs on departure day was only a small indication of how transformal this week has been to all of them- it is a week they will forever treasure in their hearts. 

The summer youth leadership program, a class dedicated to helping and encouraging middle schoolers to stand up to peer pressure, instilling good values, and discovering God in new ways through art, new experiences and Bible lessons, came to a close and seven bright youth stood up during worship on Sunday July 27th to be recognized for their accomplishment in graduating the course. Now, a fun outing to Michigan Adventures is being planned for all the youth as we partner with a church in Niles and continue to build bridges and create lasting memories and relationships. 

Many service learning groups have also stepped foot into our community and church during the past few months, leaving behind beautiful footprints that demonstrate their love and dedication to our humble community- a roof of a dedicated family was repaired, flower beds were weeded at a local community garden, walls were painted, and lives were touched as helping hands, steadfast feet, and giving hearts shared their time and gifts with us.

One Saturday in the month of July had special significance, as 20 local churches came together at a park and put together a Community Explosion- an afternoon of food, fun, music, face paint, prayer, worship, speakers and raffles. It was a witness that we were not going to let the gangs run the streets of Benton Harbor and that other alternatives for the youth are available. It was a true joy to witness so many inspiring moments throughout the summer months.

Now, the air is bustling as a new pace is set with kids going back to school, summer vacation coming to an end, and the season slowly beginning to show signs of a new and beautiful change. The community of Benton Harbor continues its journey too, as each individual and each story is weaved into God’s bigger picture. Here at First Prez, we are gearing up for the fall season as we face many big decisions that cannot be taken lightly. There is a growing number of youth involved in some way or capacity in our church and it is our hope, desire and dream to not let this spark fizzle out but instead continue to nurture and feed this little flame. God is up to something, and with time, we will see what this beautiful change will boom into. Funding and resources are limited, but with God, all things are possible and I believe something transformational is going to soon take place.

In addition, please keep our building, session and church family in your prayers. Our church body is strong and full of life, yet the structure that is supporting us is in great need of repair and some very costly decisions have to be made in the near future. Please pray for guidance, peace and love as we discern what God wants us to do with the gifts He has given us.

Thank You for your continued support and prayers. May the God that holds us all in the palm of His hands continue to lead and guide us all through His grace and mercy. Amen.

 

-Julie Brien, Resident in Mission

 


July 27th- Praying together on the Sunday that we recognized the graduation of the youth leadership program participants, all the while being blessed with volunteers from First Presbyterian Church in East Aurora, New York who came to serve in our community for the week

Wanda Tillery, Julie Brien, Gentry Phillips and Cherrie Okonski- a great team of leaders, teachers and artists who led the Summer Leadership Program 2014

A number of the pastors in and around Benton Harbor who made the Community Explosion on July 26th possible. Pastor Laurie Hartzell of First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor is 5th from the left.

A note about “Ordinary Time”

  Worship Blog Worship
Monday, August 25, 2014

The Sundays of August and September are all under the rubric of “Ordinary Time.” What does that mean? More than “ordinary” as opposed to “extraordinary," “ordinary” in the liturgical calendar really refers to “ordered” time, as opposed to “disordered” time. This old terminology is meant to remind us that God has ordered the world, that we are in good hands, as opposed to suggesting that there is nothing special about this time of year!

Trace Evidence

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, August 24, 2014

“Trace Evidence” Rev. Chandler Stokes will be preaching on Matthew 11:2-6. This is one of those sermons back by request for this summer. It is easy in this harsh world to wonder where truly is there evidence of a loving and gracious God. By reflecting on a story by Jorge Luis Borges and the work of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, we will look for the trace evidence of the world changed by Christ’s presence: “…not through proofs or arguments, not by ceasing to question or doubt,” but by listening for and following that voice that seems out of place in this world, listening for and heeding that discrepant note: the tenderness and exaltation, the silence and the mitigation of this often harsh world. Please join us.


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Rocks and Words

Rev. David Baak

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, August 17, 2014

Rev. David Baak: Two conversations that we overhear; words about important events, but also stories that are critical points in our faith history: Moses is rescued by his sister’s quick words for the Princess who takes him from the river and it is he who later delivers his people; Peter the disciple says out loud who he believes Jesus to be—the one who will deliver his people. These are stories that help us “check our words” and help us explore the will of God, challenging each other to understand what following Christ means.


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Questions for a Lifetime of Faith

  Worship Worship Blog
Monday, August 11, 2014

Questions for a Lifetime of Faith

Confirmation and Fall Preaching Series 2014

 

I’m sure you have heard this old quip: This is a test. This is only a test. Had this been an actual life, you would have been given more complete instructions.

When it comes to Confirmation, that quip suggests two implications. One: This is not a test. This is so not a test. Confirmation is not first of all a test that involves getting the answers right, but about how to live with incredible questions that will never have final answers. Confirmation is about growing in faith, not stopping with answers. Two: Confirmation is about your actual life; it exploring some of those “more complete instructions”—but they’re not so much instructions as they are questions.

The questions we explore in Confirmation are questions that can help build meaningful relationships, questions that can turn our lives inside out, questions that invite us to a greater sense of intimacy with God, and questions that can lead us into adventures we have not yet imagined.

The fall preaching series is closely linked to our Confirmation curriculum. In years past the series associated with Confirmation has been called Confirmation for the Whole Church or Confirmation for Everyone. This year I am calling it: Questions for a Lifetime of Faith.

Irvin Yalom, the psychotherapist and author, once wrote: The rational questions one can pose about meaning will always outlast the answers. Confirmation is not about answers to questions; it is about questions that form our faith. Yes, there are responses to these questions, both traditional responses and newer ones, and they are really good answers—time-tested and wise. But the answers change with our experience; they change over time. The questions persist, and they frame our lives. We do not stop asking questions, and they are an indispensible part of our faith.

Nearly everyone I know has experienced some time in their lives when questions about their faith overwhelmed them and seemed to shake their very foundations. That seems to be the nature of our journey in God. As Barbara Brown Taylor recently said: “For many years I thought my questions and my doubt and my sense of God’s absence were all signs of my lack of faith, but now I know this is the way the life of the spirit goes.”

Our hope in the Confirmation process is to culminate it by asking the confirmands: “What questions do you have now?” And in this process we hope to prepare them for the reality that their faith will be shaken; it happens in the normal course of growing in faith. We don’t fail when we question—we can and will come back to faith—we grow. Confirmation is in part about coming to that understanding.

And part of the confirmation process is to allow our questions to change, perhaps from Who am I? to Whose am I? From Why me? to What next? From What am I supposed to get out of this? to What do I get to offer? We will also ask these kinds questions: Why are we here—here at 47 Jefferson, here as part of a church? What or who is God, and how can I learn anything about God? How does this Bible really work? I just don’t get Communion: What is that all about? What is Love trying to do here? Why is there so much pain in the world?

As the confirmands will each be writing a statement of faith, we would like to invite all those in the congregation to join in that project. Over the nine weeks of this series, I invite you also to try your hand and stating what you believe at this point in your life. I hope that you will join us and our young people, as we explore these questions for a lifetime of faith. The series begins on September 21.

What’s Next for the Church: Embodied Faith

Rev. Katherine Baker

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reverend Katherine Baker will deliver this week’s sermon and will be exploring our call to embodied faith--What does it mean? How is it demonstrated? Why does it matter? At the forefront of our congregation, what's next for the church? We’ll look to the greatest commandment to aid us in answering these questions.


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Worship Schedule for August

  Updates Worship Worship Blog
Friday, August 8, 2014

August 10: The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Music: Janlee Richter & Family

Sermon: “What’s Next for the Church: Embodied Faith” - Reverend Katherine Baker will deliver this week’s sermon and will be exploring our call to embodied faith--What does it mean? How is it demonstrated? Why does it matter? At the forefront of our congregation, what's next for the church? We’ll look to the greatest commandment to aid us in answering these questions.

August 17: The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Music: Frank Van Haven and New Revival Jazz Band

Sermon: “Rocks and Words” a sermon by Rev. David Baak on Exodus 2 and Matthew 16 — two conversations that we overhear; words about important events, but also stories that are critical points in our faith history:  Moses is rescued by his sister’s quick words for the Princess who takes him from the river and it is he who later delivers his people; Peter the disciple says out loud who he believes Jesus to be—the one who will deliver his people.  These are stories that help us “check our words” and help us explore the will of God, challenging each other to understand what following Christ means.   

August 24: The 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Celebration of the Ministry of Jackie Schoon

Music: Viviana Kloostra, Soprano

Sermon: “Trace Evidence” Rev. Chandler Stokes will be preaching on Matthew 11:2-6. This is one of those sermons back by request. By reflecting on a story by Jorge Luis Borges and the work of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, we will look for the trace evidence of the world changed by Christ’s presence “…not through proofs or arguments, not by ceasing to question or doubt,” but by listening for and following that voice that seems out of place in this world, listening for and heeding that discrepant note: the tenderness and exaltation, the silence and the mitigation of this often harsh world.

August 31: The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Labor Day Weekend

Music: Al Exoo, guitar and voice

Sermon: “No God in There?” Rev. Chandler Stokes will be preaching on John 1:1-14. This is the last of the sermons back by request. In the midst of tragedy and suffering, we often struggle to find where God is. We will explore the hopeful meaning of the Incarnation in the midst of a world of hurt.

Worship and Communion at Camp Henry

Music: Sanctuary Choir

Sacrament: Communion

Sermon: “Lost and Found” a sermon by Rev. David Baak on Exodus 3 and Matthew 16.21-26.  Losing and Finding each produce strong emotions and interesting behaviors.  The mundane looking through the camp dining hall for that elusive shoe can be a metaphor for the sublime theological attempt to understand how losing can be finding a whole new life—and both are strengthened by community.

August Chimes: Westminster Buildings Through the Years

  Chimes Updates food pantry roof
Thursday, August 7, 2014

The August issue of Chimes is now available. In this month's issue:

  • The building through the years
  • Welcoming our new friends
  • Downtown Food Pantry notes
  • Roofing project moves forward
  • Music - summer projects in motion
  • WCDC receives surprise gift
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The Dangerous Waters of Baptism

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, August 3, 2014

This Sunday we celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism as well as Communion. When we baptize an infant in worship, we are very careful: careful not to traumatize the child, careful not to make it painful or frightening. And that is as it should be. And yet there are dangers in baptism, no matter how careful we are with the child and with the water. And we will explore some of those dangers this Sunday.


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The Vector of Worship

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rev. Stokes: "I was asked to revisit some earlier sermons, and this is the first that I'll be exploring this summer. It is about worship--what exactly is it to worship God? The text is Job--and so the nature of God comes into view as well: who is this God Whom we worship? How do we keep God God and not just a human projection? It's not a simple topic; I'm glad someone asked us to go here again."


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I Am Who I Am: The Kingdom of God Wrestles with Identity

Rev. Katherine Baker

Sermon     Sermons
Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rev Katie Baker will be exploring the theme of adoption, identity and the nature of our reformed faith. When we say "reformed and ever reforming" and might that be a nod to the paradox and mystery of God's name: Yahweh: I AM WHO I AM?


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It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Rev. David Baak

Sermon     Sermon
Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Genesis story of Jacob tricking his twin brother Esau out of the birthright is a classic ancient Hebrew story. The question for us, as always, is what is the teaching here for us, for today? It probably says something about immediate gratification and certainly it teaches us about God’s providence—though we never really know quite what that is until after it’s over. So, surely, that should remind us that for us, and certainly for God, It’s Not Over Until It’s Over.


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Wise Infants

Rev. David Baak

Sermon    
Sunday, July 6, 2014

Questions for this Sunday's meditation, as we celebrate the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, include: Is Jesus' statement about children playing in Matthew 11, ("We played for you and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn") a metaphor for 21st century American society? And, how does the invitation of Jesus to "Come to me all that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" help us respond? And, how are "wise infants" the key to understanding this mystery?


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Recognizing Truth

Rev. David Baak

Sermon     Sermons
Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hannaniah and Jeremiah square off in Jeremiah chapters 27 and 28 over whose prophecy is true. Jeremiah claims that we’ll know the real word of the Lord when it comes to pass. Is that the only way we know truth?…after the fact? “Recognizing Truth” this Sunday, we explore one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in this season after Pentecost as we think about the Spirit’s work in our liv


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