Pastor's Corner

A Historic Day

posted Nov 29, 2018, 7:53 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace be with you this morning!

As I announced in worship a couple of weeks ago, November 29, 2018 will be a historic day in the life of our church. 

As many of you know, on January 9, 2017 the Consistory of Middletown Reformed Church met for their monthly Consistory meeting. After six months of prayer and discernment concerning the way forward for our congregation in regards to the non-welcoming and non-affirming climate for LGBTQ people in the Reformed Church in America, a motion was put forward and passed to begin to pursue dual affiliation with the United Church of Christ (UCC). 

Some background: The Consistory decided to pursue this action because of the possibility that the Consistory or I could be brought up on charges for our welcoming and affirming stance. That was one reason. But the more important reason for seeking dual affiliation is the matter of justice and love. We at MRC believe that our primary call is to live out the Greatest Commandment of Jesus to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. On these two hang all the law and prophets. As Marilyn Robinson said, “I experience religious dread whenever I find myself thinking that I know the limits of God’s grace, since I am utterly certain it exceeds any imagination a human being might have of it.” Indeed, God’s unlimited grace for all people is at the center of our church’s vision statement, and is the primary reason we pursued dual affiliation. I am so grateful that we have been called to live out this grace at MRC. 

Later in January of 2017, MRC held its annual congregational meeting. Here the process of dual affiliation was discussed, as well as the Consistory’s vote to pursue dual affiliation. The congregation was provided with handouts of the six month long discussion the Consistory had concerning dual affiliation. After a period of question and answer, the congregation voted by 2/3 count, as is our polity, to support the vote of the Consistory to begin to pursue dual affiliation with the UCC.

This year on May 14, the Consistory invited Rev. Rusty Eidmann-Hicks, previously the pastor of Holmdel Community United Church of Christ to a meeting to discuss the history, theology, liturgy, and ethos of the UCC. From our discussion, we found that we share so much in common, as would be the case for the body of Christ, and we were grateful for his time and insights.

All of this background information is to state that the day for dual affiliation with the United Church of Christ has arrived. 

Tonight at 7, I and two of our elders, along with three other churches in our Classis, will meet with the New Jersey Association Ecclesiastical Council at the Community Church of Cedar Grove for a question and answer session to affirm our status as dually affiliated with the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ. Once we have an affirmative vote, we will then be a part of what is called the Reformed Caucus of the New Jersey Association. All members of our congregation will have this dual status, and I, as long as I am your pastor, will have dual standing as a minister. However, if I were to go to another church that is not dual affiliated, I would no longer have my dual standing. Don’t worry! I don’t have any plans to go elsewhere! 

I want to reassure you that our worship, theology, and polity won’t change. We will still be very much Reformed while having a more united partnership with one of our Formula of Agreementdenominations. For example, the document we received from the UCC states,“Per the United Church of Christ’s Constitution and By-Laws, each UCC congregation has the right to order their life in accordance with the SpiritThe dialogue affirms the right of dual affiliating RCA congregations to continue to employ RCA polity to order their life of faith. RCA polity invests the local church consistory with the authority to make congregational decisions.” And we will have a voice on their councils and commissions: “The Reformed Caucus will have the responsibility to nominate a dual affiliated RCA voice to the New Jersey Association Council, Church and Ministry Commission, and the Pre-Ordination Commission. Other members of the dual affiliated churches may serve on these leadership teams and on the various working groups of the NJ Association.” 

To be sure, dual affiliation is not uncommon in our denomination. In fact, all four of the Collegiate Churches in NYC have dual affiliation with the UCC, along with other churches in New York State and some in New Jersey. And, one of our most historic churches, Pillar Church in Holland, Michigan has dual affiliation with the RCA and the Christian Reformed Church. 

Let me add that the people of the UCC with whom Pastor Dawn Seaman and I have been working have been nothing but absolutely gracious in the care of us during such a difficult time in our denomination. And the leaders of the UCC have assured us that if the climate changes in the RCA concerning LGBTQ people, and we would like to “just be RCA” again, they would give us their blessing. They have repeatedly said that they are not trying to take churches away from the RCA, but see themselves as a safe and welcoming space for us at a time of uncertainty and grief.

Beloved, this has been a long and arduous process (since August 2016), but one that has been filled with the Spirit's advocacy and hope. We have practiced due and careful diligence, and everything has been in decent and proper order. As much as I celebrate our soon-coming dual affiliation where we will have the opportunity to share in ministry with the UCC and live out more fully what it means to be the body of Christ, I continue to pray for the day when the Reformed Church in America will welcome all people — especially LGBTQ people — into the full life of the church.

Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to experience the unlimited grace of Christ’s light of hope on the First Sunday of Advent. Our Joyful Noise Adult Choir will be singing “An Advent Credo”  and I will be preaching from Jeremiah 33.14-16 and 1 Thessalonians 3.9-13. My sermon title is Share Your Light! We will also gather around God’s table of welcome as we celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. After worship, we will continue the feast as we break bread together at our First Sunday Brunch. A free will offering will be taken to support the ministries of the church.

Of course, as I’ve often said, if you have any questions about the process and what I’ve discussed above, I would be happy to meet with you for conversation.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Stick Season

posted Nov 23, 2018, 4:41 PM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Nov 23, 2018, 5:47 PM ]

Grace and peace to you! I hope your Thanksgiving was joyful, and that you were surrounded by a feeling of love.

In Vermont, they call November “stick season.” This is the time in-between the months of October, when thousands of people travel to the state to see the beautiful fall colors, and December, the very busy ski season. During this time, the trees have lost their leaves and all around the state are large maples, birch, and oak standing tall and stately as bare, wooden statues. As I looked out the window this morning at the forest around the church property, I realized we in New Jersey are pretty much in stick season. Everything looks dead, with varying shades of dull gray and muted brown.

But this is an illusion. Nothing is dead; all is very much alive. As I realized this, I wondered, for what is creation waiting? Do they have their own sense of expectation and longing as we humans have?

As we end our liturgical year with our Youth and Children led Reign of Christ worship this Sunday, we will then begin the church year with Advent, a time of waiting and expectation. Knowing this, and in my musings about the trees, my thoughts traveled to you all. What is it for which we are waiting? For what do we long? What are our hopes? It’s so easy to get caught up in what the world says we should hope for, or to whom we should look for our faith, and on what we should wait, but as I type these words the lyrics to the hymn “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” comes to mind: My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ love and righteousness . . . And I was reminded what the Reign of Christ really means for us as followers of Christ with this excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship, “As the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, Christ is the center of the universe, the ruler of all history, the judge of all people. In Christ all things began, and in Christ all things will be fulfilled. In the end, Christ will triumph over the forces of evil. Such concepts as these cluster around the affirmation that Christ reigns! As sovereign ruler, Christ calls us to a loyalty that transcends every earthly claim on the human heart. To Christ alone belongs the supreme allegiance in our lives. In every generation, demagogues emerge to claim an allegiance that belongs only to God. But Christ alone has the right to claim our highest loyalty.”

It’s stick season, but nothing is dead. Indeed, we are all very much alive, and yet, we are waiting. Our faith is secure in the fact that Christ does reign, and we will be reminded come Advent that what we are waiting for is nothing less than hope and the beautiful gift of unconditional love.


In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

posted Nov 16, 2018, 8:00 AM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Nov 16, 2018, 8:05 AM ]

Grace and peace to you in this season of gratitude!

*Give thanks with a grateful heart, Give thanks to the Holy One, Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son/And now let the weak say, "I am strong”; Let the poor say, "I am rich, Because of what the Lord has done for us”/Give thanks!

I have been singing this song all week. I do indeed have a grateful heart for what Christ has done for us here at Middletown Reformed Church. We have so much to be thankful for!

Let me share some of what the Holy One has done for us this year. We’ve had two
infant baptisms and we’ve welcomed six new people into our congregation. Wonderfully, we are seeing visitors in worship every Sunday. That said, we also have lost beloved people in our faith family; namely, Fred Colmorgen, Shannon Hermann, Frank “Frankie” Martin, Jr., and Lauren Coll. Although we miss them dearly, we celebrate and take comfort knowing they are in the nearer presence of Christ. 

Our New Jericho Choir continues to add little ones to the group; Ms. Bev and Ms. Nancy are
often practicing with fourteen children. Our Adult Handbell Choir is going strong, and is looking for more people to join in their ringing of joy. Our music ministry continues to stir our souls under the gifted direction of Judith Daugherty, as she brings us traditional and eclectic selections through our Joyful Noise Adult Choir, which has grown quite a bit in size! We marched for the third year in the Asbury Park Pride Parade, giving God’s love and welcome to our LGBTQ siblings who have been marginalized by the church. And we even had a float this year in the parade! We hosted the Central College A Cappella Choir, donating $800 to the choir and another $800 to Room for All, a non-profit organization whose mission is to support, educate and advocate for the welcome and full affirmation of people of all sexual identities and gender expressions in the Reformed Church in America. 

Our Youth Group is once again participating in the MOSAIC Interfaith Gatherings, where they learn about other faith traditions and work toward a world that will be more peaceful. We awarded seven $500 Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Youth Group scholarships to entering and continuing college students to support them in their education. Confirmation class has started again, with three of our young people learning and discerning what their faith walk will be. Our Adult Education continues to study, learn, and pray together, most recently exploring our faith through one of our Standards of Unity, The Heidelberg Catechism

Thanks to your consistent generosity on we now have $6700 in our Deacons’ Fund, and we’ve been able to help several people with their electric bills and rent because of your giving. We raised $2500 in our very successful and fun Rummage Sale. Through this event, several people learned about our church and our ministry in the community. Our Youth Group Heavenly Gift Auction also raised $2500 to continue to fund two adopted children through Compassion International, as well as other outreach programs. We are strong members of the Community Outreach Group, helping those in our community whom Jesus called “the least of these.” The Dorcas Circle and friends continue to lead us in the third year of participating in the Bayshore Lunch Program, where we provide a free lunch for God’s beloved people in the Bayshore area. And we have initiated some new ministries at MRC: First, “Mom-istry,” an informal gathering for mothers of New Jericho Choir youth, and any mothers who wish to have an uplifting discussion on faith and parenting; second, we have started a mid-week worship on the second Wednesday of the month, where we pause to have our bodies, minds, and souls refreshed in such a divided and weary world; and third, we now have our First Sunday Brunch, where we
extend the feast of the Lord’s Supper by breaking bread together around tables in the Education Building. It has been a wonderful time of communing together, and yes, enjoying yummy food!

Give thanks with a grateful heart, Give thanks to the Holy One . . .

Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to give thanks to God in all things. Our Joyful Noise Adult Choir will sing the anthem, “There is None Like You” and our New Jericho Choir will bless us with their young voices, singing “God is Great, God is Good.” I will be preaching from 1 Samuel 1.4-20; 2.1-10 and Hebrews 10.11-18, and my sermon title is God Will Make a Way. Finally, beloved, in this season of “give thanks,” we would be grateful if you would consider giving a special Thanksgiving offering as a way to continue to support the growing ministries of God’s church. We ask that you please use your regular offering envelope and write “Thanksgiving” on the front.

In closing, let me say I remain overwhelmingly grateful for all the ways you so selflessly give to our church. You are a congregation that takes seriously Jesus’ Greatest Commandment to love God with everything you’ve got, and to love your neighbor as yourself. I see you living this commandment everyday, whether in the ministries we do, or in the way you care for each other and our larger community. Truly, I see the face of Christ in each one of you. Thank you.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your pastor and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

The Gift That Is In You

posted Nov 9, 2018, 9:26 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Blessings of grace and peace to you!

This Sunday, November 11th, is Stewardship Sunday. It is a time in the life of our church where we reflect and act on how we can be faithful stewards of the money and spiritual gifts that God has given to us.

If truth be told, we don’t like to talk about money, because often we are made to feel shame or guilt around the topic of finance. I think we have this shame because so much in our culture measures our worth by how much money or things we have, and not necessarily by who we are. But, I’m not going to let what the world thinks stop us from talking plainly about money. However, I’m not going to preach this Sunday only about money. As people of faith, when we speak about our finances, we do well to see it through the lens of stewardship.

That said, we can’t examine stewardship unless we know what it means. Quite simply, stewardship is “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care.” But then, what is it, as people of faith that is entrusted to our care? We are entrusted with all of the gifts that God has given to each one of us, whatever they may be. We are stewards of those gifts; we are the caretakers of our talents, and as such, we are called to use those gifts in service to God and church as part of the body of Christ. As The Heidelberg Catechism states, “First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and joyfully for the service and enrichment of the other members” (Q & A #55). 

One of the most powerful moments for me at my ordination, besides the laying on of hands, was a sentence in the liturgy of the charge given to me: “Do not neglect the gift that is in you.” I repeat that sentence almost daily; I keep it ever before me. And each time I say it, I see it as a moment of faithful stewardship and worship. It is through being steadfast stewards of our money, time, and talents that we don’t neglect the gift that God has given each one of us. When we use these gifts, we are expressing gratitude and love to God for the mercy and grace we are given each day through our Savior Jesus Christ.

Come this Sunday to worship at 10:30 AM and bring all the gifts God has given to you. Tim Anderson will be our featured artist, singing the anthem “The Gift of Love.” I will be preaching from Ruth 3.1-5; 4.13-17 and Mark 12.38-44, and my sermon title is Practicing God’s Generosity

I look forward to worshiping with you in God’s house on the Holy Sabbath!

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

The Little Tree

posted Nov 2, 2018, 10:09 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Blessings of grace and peace to you!

It seems that autumn has officially arrived in New Jersey. Just like that, as if by magic, the trees have turned the resplendent colors of fall. This year seems more colorful, as the Japanese maple trees are a vibrant red compared to the dingy, silver-hued gray of the previous season. The maple tree out front and the one next to the garage are both bright yellow. Last year the leaves turned brown — no color — and became tall, bleak towers of twigs and branches.

The other day as I was looking around at all the majestic trees, some that have been alive for many years, one tree in particular caught my eye through the living room window. I didn’t notice it because of its grandness, but rather, because it was small, nestled in between other bushes and small pines. One might miss it in any other season, but not now, because oh my, what a striking color of red it is! I imagined this little tree saying, “I might be little, but I’m singing out my song of color! Yay for me!” 

Indeed. Its not the tallest tree in the forest, but its song was loud enough for me to hear, and to stop what I was doing to look, listen, and be amazed at its beauty.

One person said, “Gratitude may be the best measure of our spirituality. It demonstrates that we’ve been paying attention to the grace we received in Jesus Christ, who has restored God’s image in us.”

That little tree caused me to pause from some routine tasks and give thanks to God for the beauty of this season. I wonder, beloved, where do you find signs of God’s presence in your ordinary, hectic, and/or humdrum lives? What is a recent example of grace that has been extended to you, either by God or another person? Perhaps this presence of grace has been like a majestic maple, causing you to look up in wonder. Or maybe the grace has come like a small tree, hidden away, but whose colors shout of God’s miraculous creative works. Wherever we have witnessed God in our lives, we can trust that God is with us, and know that God also calls us to sing out our radiant colors of the abundant life we have in Christ.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Impressive Miracles

posted Oct 26, 2018, 11:45 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you!

I’ve been enjoying our study of The Heidelberg Catechism (HC) during our Adult Education time on Thursday evenings. Many of us are viewing the HC in a different way; indeed, some of us are even viewing our faith differently because of the comforting words of this great statement of faith. 

Last night we discussed the work of the Holy Spirit who gathers, preserves, and protects the universal community of faith. We specifically looked at the Holy Spirit’s relationship to our two sacraments — baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We began by asking, “What does participating in the Lord’s Supper mean to you personally? How do you experience the grace of God in this sacrament?” The answers varied but one thing was clear: we all knew that at God’s table we received extraordinary grace by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we affirmed that God’s table was one of welcome for all, and “we need to be ready to welcome anyone who desires to receive the transforming grace of God found in the Holy Supper” (Barnes, 105). What joy it is to know that we participate with the Holy Spirit in whomever she calls into communion with God!

But what was most profound about our study last night — at least for me — was the following statement from M. Craig Barnes, Protestants have long asserted that the elements of bread and wine do not change at the table. Right. But we have not with equal vigor claimed that the people who receive communion do change, which is a far more impressive miracle. And how we are changed is that we are set free to live an abundant life. But more importantly, God continually looks at us through the eyes of always-available forgiveness. 

This is how God sees us. 

This is how we ought to see ourselves. 

Because of grace, we are impressive miracles. 

I pray and hope that we see ourselves, and all people, as an “impressive miracle,” living into the freedom of grace and reveling in the joy of God’s boundless love. I look forward to being with you in worship in God’s house!

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

At the Bedside

posted Sep 28, 2018, 8:30 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you!

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5.17)

Last weekend, I heard a story about the power of new creation and things becoming new and I want to share it with you. (I was given permission to share this story, but I have left out names to respect people’s privacy).

A middle-aged man sat at the bedside of an unconscious woman who recently had a stroke. Her husband of many years had died a few months ago, and now here was his beloved, soon to join him. She was not a relative of the man, but was very much family to him. She and her husband, pillars in their church and in the Reformed Church in America (RCA), had been staunchly supportive of him when he came out as gay, and their support had continued throughout his lifetime. So, it was absolutely fitting that he would be there for her at such a time as this. He held her hand, prayed, and sang hymns to her, favorites like “Great Is Thy Faithfulness, “Amazing Grace,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “It is Well With My Soul.” 

After a while, the door to the room opened and in walked an elderly man. He introduced himself, but the other man knew exactly who he was as both had been members of the same church. And he remembered him as not being welcoming and affirming of his identity as a gay man during that time. The middle-aged man, in return, told the elderly man his name and said he was aware of who he was.

The elderly man said he had heard him singing hymns to the woman, and asked if he might join in the singing. And so they did. Sitting together, they sang, giving comfort to her, and perhaps themselves. When they finished, the elderly man turned to the other man and said he remembered who he was, and he wanted to tell him something. He said that he had changed his mind about him and LGBTQ people. He now knew that God loves and welcomes all people into the full life of the church. He stated that he had a gay grandson and a bisexual granddaughter, and that he was so happy that his grandson had found love and partnership with his husband. And he wished the same for his granddaughter and for others. After a pause, the elderly man said, “I imagine it’s been very lonely for you.” The middle aged man agreed it had been. They continued to sit together, holding the woman’s hands, a tentative, new creation of welcome and affirmation having been born around her bedside.

This is the power of transformation that only God’s encompassing love can bring. This is the power of the Holy Spirit to change the hearts and minds of people. This is the power of the Holy Spirit to change us.

I’m pretty sure the woman heard the exchange between the two men, as the ability to hear is the last to go in such a waning state. As a loyal and beautiful supporter of LGBTQ people in the RCA, I imagine she must have been very happy to be not only a witness to this reconciling act, but a catalyst for it at the end of her life. She died last Sunday. Rest in peace and rise in glory, faithful servant of God.

But, Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,

The sky, not the grave, is our goal;

Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord!

Blessèd hope, blessèd rest of my soul!

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

Rally Day This Sunday: The Spirit is Moving!

posted Sep 14, 2018, 8:29 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, and our Advocate the Holy Spirit!

Over the summer, I’ve been planning and dreaming, asking afresh what God wants MRC to do and where God wants MRC to go in our local and global communities. I’ve been wondering what is the Holy Spirit up to now for the fabulous church of love. As you are aware, Red Bank Pre-K is no longer with us, and we are currently seeking a new ministry partner for the Education Building. At the same time, though, we are already enjoying having more space for events and classes, and a dedicated room for our Youth Group. 

That said, I remain committed to the vision that over time (It ain’t gonna happen over night!), we will become financially self-sufficient through our generous giving, have the space we need for the spiritual life of the church, AND have a partner in the Education Building. In a letter I sent over the summer, I asked all of us to pray, look at our budgets, and discern how we can increase our tithes and offerings so that we can become self-sufficient. I have complete trust in God for this vision because I’ve been sensing the Spirit moving in our congregation over the summer . . . that is for sure. 

Now, though, summer is gone and we are moving into fall. Now is the time to put our faith into action, relying on God’s faithfulness as we “write the vision and make it plain” (Habakkuk 2.2). I’ll admit it. I’ve been so looking forward to all that God has planned for us, especially for this Sunday which is Rally Day. If you’ve been away for the summer, or maybe even longer, I invite you to come “home” to MRC. As you are aware, all of God’s beloved are welcomed, all are affirmed, and all are celebrated. And if you know someone who is looking for a church to attend, this is the perfect time to invite that person. I know many in our congregation have come because they were extended a personal invitation from a member of MRC. That’s how the Holy Spirit works. That’s how we build the reign of God here on earth, by telling someone that we know a place where they will feel the love of God in a meaningful and profound way. Then that person brings all their gifts for ministry to the community, and the concentric circles of God’s love and grace keep going out and out and out  . . .

And, look at this! We still have all our regular programming, but we’ve also added a few new ministries this year.

  • Sunday worship, 10:30 AM. First Sunday of the month we gather around God’s table of welcome and grace for the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Afterwards, we will extend the  hospitality of grace and gather around another table for First Sunday Brunches. A free will offering will be taken to support the ministries of the church.
  • New Member classes will be held September 23/30, 9 AM, with new members joining on October 7. If you have been thinking about officially joining MRC, please come to these classes.
  • Middletown Reformed Church invites the entire community to a mid-week worship of prayer, healing and hope on the second Wednesdays of the month, 7 PM. In a world that seems so divided, come and have your body, mind, and soul refreshed. Come and experience the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Worship dates: October 10November 7December 12.
  • Momistry, a once a month meeting of New Jericho Choir mothers and any other mother for a time to be together for good conversation and to talk about how our faith informs our parenting. Time is 6 - 7:30 PMon a Monday TBD.
  • World Communion Sunday, October 7. Worship will be Scripture and litanies that reflect the celebration of World Communion: “The Communion of Saints: Resources from the Worldwide Church” by Anne E. Zaki. This will be a multi-vocal, multi-gender, intergenerational worship.
  • MRC Rummage Sale, October 12-13, 9 AM - 3 PM on the Great Lawn of the Church and in the Education Building. We will have coffee, beverages, and hot dogs for sale for our guests. There will be face painting for the young ones, and church tours for those who want to learn more about us. You may bring any items for the sale to the Education Building. Please see Dara Steele or Patty Gallagher for more details.
  • Confirmation Class begins on October 28 and will meet twice a month through April. Students will join in May.

So, come to worship this Sunday at 10:30 AM to see what God is up to at MRC. Our New Jericho Choir will be leading us in song with several selections, and we will have a very special Blessing of the Backpacks with invited guest Suzanne Dice of The Backpack Crew. Beverly Bova Scarano has sent a flyer asking if we could please bring any of the following items for The Backpack Crew’s ministry: Snack Bars, Juice Boxes, Boxes of Cereal (large and small), Soups, Mac ‘n Cheese, Granola or Snack bars that kids like, Boxes of Raisins, Peanut Butter, Jelly, Cookies, Pop Tarts, Packages of Cheese and Crackers, and/or any other kind of snack or food. I will be preaching from James 3.1-12 and my sermon title is Speak Words of Wisdom.

I am excited to welcome you back to church this Sunday. The Spirit is up to something here; indeed, everywhere, and I can’t wait to see what it is!

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

I hope you will join me in praying for all those in the path of Hurricane Florence. We have been there; we know the damage and sadness such a storm can cause. Lord, in your compassionate mercy, keep all people safe. And may we do everything we can to help clean up and support those in the aftermath. No matter our differences that seem so highlighted now in our society, we are always stronger and better together as one!

A September to Remember

posted Sep 8, 2018, 7:25 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, and our Advocate the Holy Spirit!

On September 8, 2013 I was ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America.

On September 30, 2013 I was divorced and officially free from what I will graciously call a very unhealthy marriage.

Two life changing events in one month. Two life-giving events in one month.

I am still in awe of God calling me to ministry. I remain grateful that God’s presence and love never left me, even when I had walked away from God. Even though I didn’t recognize it at the time, I look back and can see God’s guiding hand, transforming my sorrow and pain to a place of joy. I am thankful for all I have learned, including how to do ministry and how not to do ministry. I think of all the people God has put along my path to encourage and challenge me, and I see the face of Christ in each one. And now, five years later, I am filled with peace and gratitude for God leading me to MRC.

I still get emotional when I re-read my vows, especially the part that says, Trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ for strength, I pledge my life to preach and teach the good news of salvation in Christ, to build up and equip the church for mission in the world, to free the enslaved, to relieve the oppressed, to comfort the afflicted, and to walk humbly with God. 

To express my thankfulness for God’s faithfulness, and to remind myself of my pledge to God, each year I watch a certain musical portion of my ordination. It’s a song written and composed by my friend Dionne McClain-Freeney that she sang at my ordination. I have always understood this as my love song to God as I took my vows. It’s called “Imperfect Me.”

Take me as I am, with all my faults, and all my scars from battle. I am who I am, and I am real, the one who loves you still. Take me as I am, broken but here, with all I have, I give you. All that I can give, and nothing less; I would give more, if I could. 

My heart is yours; my soul as well. My flesh, my blood, I give you. No sacrifice, too great to give. You have my vow; I am here. 

Take me as I am, imperfect me. Imperfect love is given. I stand strong with you. I’m here right now, my hand I give to you. 

My heart is yours, my soul as well. My flesh, my blood, I give you. No sacrifice, too great to give. You have my vow; I am here.

I am here. Imperfect me.

After I was ordained and divorced, I wanted to mark these occasions with something. I wanted to buy myself a ring, but I never got around to it. Yesterday, though, as I was walking around Sears waiting for my car to be serviced, I stopped by the jewelry counter. They were having a big sale on gemstones. 

It was time to buy that ring. 

It wasn’t expensive; the setting is a bit crooked; it’s not from a fancy jeweler. The ring is imperfect, just like me, but it’s my favorite gemstone -- an emerald -- and what I chose to symbolize two events that gave me hope. It’s what I wanted to remind me of God’s amazing grace for me; indeed, for all of us.

Beloved, how have you seen God’s continuing presence in your life? What transformations have you experienced because of God’s providence and guiding hand? Where in your life has God restored and renewed your sorrow to a place of hope? Thanks be to God that God takes us as we are, just as we are, loves us, and molds us into a more holy and human shape. 

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

The God of Lights

posted Aug 31, 2018, 9:49 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Creator and our friend Jesus Christ!

Did you see the full moon this week? Even though it has been quite warm in the evenings, it has been worth it to sit outside to catch a glimpse of its haunting beauty. My view of the moon rising begins with a faint glow amidst the pine trees. It starts low, and then as it rises, its light burns brighter as it begins to skim the tops of the trees. At last, it  it hovers majestically, seeming to command the night sky with its watchful gaze over the earth.

As I was sitting out back the other night, I waited patiently for its rising. I turned off the back porch light so as to appreciate better the contrast between light and dark. After a while, as one does in our culture of 24 hour social media, I got distracted by scrolling through Facebook and texting with friends. Finally, I looked up from my phone, and I was surprised at what I saw. The grass that had once been bathed in darkness was now flooded in a blue-white light. The leaves on the trees were shining too, fluttering ever so gently in the soft breeze. What a difference from shadow to light, and from what seemed like just a few minutes ago! I couldn’t help but think of a portion of our Scripture text for this Sunday:

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures (James 1.17-18). 

The Father of lights. 

The God of the sun, moon, and stars. The God who created us very good. 

In this God there is no wavering. In this God we only find steadfast love and faithfulness, having giving us new life through the word of truth in Christ Jesus. As one scholar said, “In antiquity the motions of the stars were thought to be eternal and, unlike earthly things, never subject to decay or alteration. God is greater than the eternal astronomical bodies because no type of change occurs in God. Consequently, God’s goodness will never change.”

Great is thy faithfulness, O God Creator, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been Thou forever will be.

Before I went inside for the night, I went out on the Great Lawn and took one last look at the moon. As I did, I thanked the God of lights for the gift of the light at which I was gazing, and the light of Christ that guides us every day. Great is thy faithfulness . . . 

In gratitude for the privilege of being your Pastor, and the holy call of loving you,

Pastor Trish

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