Pastor's Corner


Thoughts While Observing Mr. Red

posted Aug 10, 2019, 6:13 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you!


How is your summer going? Have you traveled? Read some books? Gone to the beach? Or enjoyed the hot lazy days of summer quietly at home? For me, it has been more of the latter. I have been mindful to follow my own gentle call to be still and know during this season. And the other day, I was so grateful I was being still, for I would have missed something had I been busy or distracted.


I was sitting outside watching the many birds come to the feeder. There were purple finches, sparrows, blue jays, mourning doves, grackles, and cardinals. One particular male cardinal — I call him Mr. Red — was underneath the feeder, feasting on the seeds being cast down by other birds. Next to him was a baby bird, squeaking with mouth open, tittering its wings, begging for Mr. Red to feed it. 


But the baby bird wasn’t a cardinal. It was a cowbird.


Some of you may know that cowbirds don’t raise their young. They are brood parasites. They lay their eggs in other birds’ nests, and those birds then sit on the eggs until they are hatched. I’m not sure if the host bird realizes that the incubating eggs are of a different species but it doesn’t seem to matter. I witnessed Mr. Red feeding baby cowbird for several days in a row, making sure the little one survived. 


Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew 6.26).


Even though cowbirds don’t “parent” their young, somehow God has designed it that they will survive and flourish through the care of other birds. 


Oh, that humans could learn a lesson from Mr. Red! That no matter what, no matter who, no matter where, we would take care of each other, recognizing that each person on this planet is a child of God and worthy of dignity and love and God’s grace; and that we, as people of faith, are commanded to love our neighbor as ourself. I am grateful that I serve a congregation that gets this truth. Thank you for being a church of Mr. Reds! My prayer is that as we continue to witness in our community to God’s love, more and more people will see this love shining through us, and God’s peace will take flight into our world. 


Come this Sunday and let’s witness to God’s love, peace, and care together! As it is the Second Sunday, we will have our first service at 8:30 AM. Come early to church and worship God in our beautiful Meditation Garden. We will celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper outside in creation. Sarah Gordon will be playing flute and Mike Steib will sing and bless our souls. And then, at 10:30 AM we will worship again. A special quartet — Debbie Burke, Diane Grady, Dan Pannebaker, and Izaak Thorpe —  will sing the anthem, “Spirit Song” and the Offertory song, "Faith, While Trees Are Still In Blossom.” I will be preaching from Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16 and my sermon title is The Things Hoped For. 


See you in church!


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


Pastor Trish


We Do! Once Again

posted Aug 2, 2019, 8:46 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you!


After worship this Sunday we will have the 14th Annual Lt. Dennis W. Zilinski, II Youth Group Memorial Scholarship BBQ and Picnic where we will remember and honor our beloved Dennis, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country. In addition, we will award seven $500 scholarships to our continuing and beginning college students, and enjoy LOTS of food and wonderful conversation on the Great Lawn of the church and inside the air-conditioned Education Building. A special thanks to Jo-Ann LoSapio and the Scholarship Committee for their good, hard work that has made this day possible.


As many of you know, this event is always a special time in the life of our church. Not only do we get to worship and break bread together, but we also get to live out, once more, the vows we made to these young adults so long ago. The Memorial Scholarship BBQ and Picnic helps us to remember the promise we made to them when we answered the following question at their baptism: Do you promise to love, encourage, and support these brothers and sisters by teaching the gospel of God’s love, by being an example of Christian faith and character, and by giving the strong support of God’s family in fellowship, prayer, and service? At that moment in their lives, we responded with a joyous “We do,” and we continue to say we do when we encourage them through our financial support, love, and prayers for the next step in their life’s journey. I am convinced that our young people know that they are unconditionally loved by God, and also loved by this church. And MRC beloved, I hope you understand what an incredible gift you are to them. I am very proud to be the pastor of a church that has committed so steadfastly to our young adult’s lives. So, thank you. Thank you. I am grateful for your witness to Love in the world.


Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to worship with your church family. Judith Daugherty, Director of Music, will play a special piece by Chopin called Prelude (Raindrop) Opus 28, No.15 in D-flat Major. I will be preaching from Hosea 11.1-11 and Luke 12.13-21, the Parable of the Fool. My sermon title is Don’t Be a Fool! We will celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper around God’s wide-open-welcome table, and after worship we will gather around the picnic table to continue the feast of God.


I look forward to welcoming you to God’s house where we will bless our scholarship recipients as they go into the world. 


May the rhythms of your creation be the heartbeat which sustains our very life. May the lamp of your word guide our feet on the unsure paths of each day. May your breathing be the winds which lead us across strange new oceans. 


Go in the name of the Spirit who moves across the surface of the waters and in the beating of the human heart,

Go in the name of Jesus, the God-Man who died, rose and lives on for us,

Go in the name of the Creator and re-Creator, the mother of grace. Amen. 


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


Pastor Trish

Prayer Musings

posted Jul 26, 2019, 1:02 PM by Tricia Sheffield

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


Prayer is a gift, and it is always my great joy to pray for you and with you anytime and anywhere. As our lectionary text this Sunday centers around the Lord’s Prayer and Jesus instructing us on how to pray, I thought I would go back and look at some of my thoughts concerning the life and meaning of prayer. I was especially drawn to the following two quotes: 


Prayer is the breath of faith. — Pope Francis


We are not asked to believe in prayer. We are asked to believe in the God to whom we pray. — M. Craig Barnes


I also looked at a sermon on John 17, specifically Jesus’ final words around that last supper table. Those last words? They were a prayer for his disciples. Certainly, Jesus went to be alone and pray quite often, and I’ve always been curious as to what he prayed during those times. In John we get a glimpse. Jesus, knowing he was going back to God, prayed for his beloved followers and for what they would have to endure once he was gone. Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the Lord of all, who is one with the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe, prayed for his friends. 

 

So often we are the ones who pray to Jesus, petitioning him, thanking him, maybe even pleading with him. But how many of us have considered that Jesus is praying for us? In the Gospel of John, Jesus knows he’s about to die and instead of praying for himself saying, “Please, God, don’t let it be that bad," he prays for his followers, claiming them as his own, and thus as God’s own. And then a bit further, Jesus prays for those who will believe in him through the witness of the disciples. 


When Jesus prayed, he prayed for us. 


The Savior of the world prayed for us. And thanks be to God, the Savior of the world is still praying for us!


This is because Jesus knew that through prayer we are in a place of direct connection and intimacy with God. And we achieve this intimate relationship when we pray and claim the power of the Holy Spirit as given to us through Christ. It is through the power of the Spirit in prayer that we can discern God’s will for our lives; it is by listening to the Spirit that we can live out our call; it is by being still during prayer that we are held in God’s arms, like the beloved children of God we are.


So, beloved one of God, come to church this Sunday at 10:30 AM and join with your church family in learning about Persistent, Insistent Prayer. I’ve asked a few of our members t0 help “write” my sermon by giving them two questions to answer regarding their prayer life. I will be sharing some of their thoughts in my sermon as well as what the Holy Spirit whispered to me this week regarding our Scripture text, Luke 11.1-13. Nancy Coffin will be our featured soloist for our anthem, “The Lord’s Prayer.” If you are not local to Middletown and would like to know what the two questions are, I invite you to email me and I will send them to you. And I certainly do want to hear your answers!


Prayer is the breath of faith. As you will often hear me say, keep breathing.


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


Pastor Trish

Summer Sabbath Time

posted Jul 19, 2019, 9:05 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you!


I say it every summer. I’m going to slow down, take some time to read, reflect, have more intentional prayer time, maybe go on a day-long silent retreat upstate, and listen more closely for God’s voice. In other words, I’ve made countless summer resolutions to spend quality Sabbath time, as Episcopal priest Barbara Brown Taylor (BBT) describes it, With sundown on the Sabbath, I stop seeing the dust balls, the bills, and the laundry. They are still there, but they lose their power over me. One day each week I live as if all my work were done. I live as if the kingdom has come, and when I do the kingdom comes, for one day at least. Now, when I know the Sabbath is near, I can feel the anticipation bubbling up inside of me. Sabbath is no longer a good idea or even a spiritual discipline for me. It is my regular date with the Divine Presence that enlivens both body and soul. 


Doesn’t that sound lovely? And yet . . .


When I make the commitment to have Sabbath, I start out pretty well, but then eventually, when I’m praying and being quiet, my Protestant work ethic kicks in and I see those dust balls, or think, I need to do laundry, or I really need to clean the cat litter. Then quiet, sitting still Sabbath time with God becomes get-up and do time, and the opportunity to enliven my body and soul becomes forgotten in the tasks of the day. I’m especially mindful of how my inability to go slower is ironically at odds with our summer sermon series, Be Still and Know. Hmmm . . .


But yesterday was different. As I didn’t take my usual day off on Monday, I decided I would have my day of rest yesterday. Yes, I may have done some cleaning, but once my chores were done, I decided to go and get a manicure-pedicure. Oh, how indulgent! Strangely, something within me battled going to the salon. I really didn’t want to spend an hour-and-a-half away from home just sitting in a chair. I felt fidgety, thinking my time would be better used doing some catch-up administrative work. But, I went anyway. And instead of reading a magazine or a book, or scrolling through Facebook, I let go of my uneasiness, closed my eyes and prayed, talking with God, or rather, asking God a lot of questions. And after yammering on, I grew quiet and listened.


BBT was correct. 


I may not have taken the entire day to be still, but in those two hours, the kingdom did come, at least for a bit. And my soul was not only enlivened, it was refreshed and centered, and my fidgetiness went away.


My prayer for you this summer is that you will take your Sabbath, and not see dust balls, bills, laundry, or whatever else distracts you from being still in the Divine Presence. My hope is that when you are quiet before Christ, the kingdom will come and you will rest easy in the amazing grace we are lavishly given each day.


Come this Sunday at 10:30 AM to be in the presence of the Divine and witness a glimmer of the kingdom coming. Please note that due to the excessive heat, worship will be in the air-conditioned Education Building. We have a lot of special music this week, and Juliet Gallagher, Dan Pannebaker, Izaak Thorpe, Jacie Thorpe, and James Zeller will lead us in song. There will also be a Visible Proclamation of the Word portion of our Scripture reading called “The Dinner Party.” I will be preaching from Luke 10.38-42 and my sermon title is Word and Work. 


I look forward to welcoming you on Sunday as we gather to worship our God who loves us more than we can ask or imagine. 


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


Pastor Trish


What I Learned from a Yucca Plant

posted Jul 12, 2019, 10:48 AM by Tricia Sheffield

The peace of Christ be with you!


Earlier in the spring, I noticed two stalks rising up from the yucca plant on the front lawn of Coventry House. In the four years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen this plant bloom; so needless to say, I was excited to witness what would come forth. Each week I went out to inspect for some signs of flowers. I waited. And waited. And waited. I grew impatient. I could see the buds growing and beginning to unfold, but still this blooming process seemed to be taking forever. And then one day, there they were, resplendent in their gentle glory, white flowers hanging off the stalks like little lanterns. 


Since then, I’ve been questioning why the plant decided to bloom this year and not others. Perhaps it was because we had a warm winter. Or maybe it was because Jamie had done a lot of weeding in that area of the lawn last spring, enabling it to grow with greater ease. I probably will never know why it blossomed, but I do know this. This was the moment for the plant to show the world its resilient beauty. This was its time to thrive. And I heard God say ever so quietly, "Go, and do likewise."


Beloved, in these (hopefully) slower months of summer, have you been hearing the Spirit whisper that now is the moment in your life to bloom and to flourish? If you have been waiting, perhaps fearfully wondering if it’s time to let go of what holds you back from claiming your wonderfully made child of God-ness, I pray you will take your cue from the yucca plant. It may take some time to start releasing your new buds, but once you do, there will be no stopping the beauty that will come forth. Because, as one who is loved by God more than you could ask or imagine, flourishing in a space of freedom from what would hinder our growth, and thriving daily in joy and peace is precisely how God wants us to live out our faith.


I look forward to welcoming you this Sunday as we celebrate the One who calls us to have life abundant. As this is the Second Sunday, we will have two opportunities for worship. The first is a shortened service at 8:30 AM in our beautiful Meditation Garden, and the second service is at our regular time of 10:30 AM in the sanctuary. I will be preaching from Luke 10.25-37, the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and my sermon title is A Most Unlikely Neighbor.


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


Pastor Trish

We Are Called Beloved

posted Jun 28, 2019, 11:25 AM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Jul 11, 2019, 1:06 PM ]

Greetings of summertime peace to you!


I told Jesus it would be alright if he changed my name. 


This line from the song of the same name speaks to the promise that when we are baptized we enter into a new life, and God changes our name to “saint” and “beloved.” This new life won’t be easy, especially being a child of God in a world that doesn’t recognize the all-encompassing love of God, but the song writer Liz McComb says, It’s alright; go on, Jesus, and change my name.


I often think of this song when someone is being ordained to the Office of Minister of Word and Sacrament. But this week, as I’ve been humming the song, I’ve had on my mind the joy we will experience as we confirm three of our youth this Sunday. I’ve been reflecting on their spiritual journeys, as well as my own spiritual journey, namely my ordination. On that day, the preacher spoke about how my name was being changed. She said that the journey of faith that started when I walked down the aisle of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach and accepted Christ on August 15, 1982, was really just another marker on the way. It was another moment of God directing my path and walking beside me throughout all of the stuff of life. And, she added further, when I was ordained in NYC in September 2013 my name wasn’t changed, full-stop, a once and for all past action, but I was entering into the process of being changed again; I was becoming ordained. To be sure, I was on paper going from Minister Trish to that of Reverend Trish, but — and I’ll never forget her words — it was not a one time moment, but a lifetime of being called, being transformed, as all of our spiritual journeys are an ongoing action of always shifting, always being pushed and stretched and shaped into a “brighter and more beautiful version of the person God wants us to be.”


So, for our confirmation youth — Damien Howlett, Marie Howlett, and Michael Howlett — their names are going to be changed once more. Their confirmation is just one further step along their faith journeys that began at their baptisms. They are being changed into God’s likeness, by the real presence of Jesus given to us by the power of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, as I told them several times during our confirmation classes, their faith may waver, and it will certainly shift over time. But I reassured them that they will always belong to God because there is nothing anyone can to do to change that. And we, as their church family, can’t wait to see how God is going to use them and all of their gifts in the world.


I can’t wait to see you in God’s house of love!


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


Pastor Trish

Update from the General Synod of the RCA

posted Jun 21, 2019, 3:00 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you on this day of the Summer Solstice!


I promised you an update from the events of the General Synod (GS) of the Reformed Church in America (RCA), held in Holland, Michigan June 6-11, and so here it is. But first, let me say that with all the proceedings regarding polity shifts, terrible Biblical interpretation, and questionable theology, what is most crucial is that our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer siblings in Christ are hurting terribly. The denomination that we once considered as a home, maybe even family, is no longer what it once was. And now many LGBTQ people are wondering if they will even be able to be ordained, serve in some ministerial capacity, or even have a place at the table in the RCA. So, I want to acknowledge this pain because what is the most important topic regarding what happened at GS is the despair of God’s beloved people.


This is going to be a long missive , so I beg your grace.


On June 10th, Monday night at GS there was a recommendation put to the delegates of General Synod that any constitutional amendments that come out of the Vision 2020 decision next year be passed by a simple majority vote, and not our usual 2/3 vote as has been our history for church government for almost 400 years. This recommendation passed and will now go out to all of the classes for a 2/3 vote. Here is the recommendation: 


If it is ratified, the amendment will be added to the “Rules and Amendments” section of the Book of Church Order, reading as follows:


c. A majority of the classes shall approve any proposed amendment needed to implement the 2020 General Synod’s response to the Vision 2020 Team’s final report in order to secure its adoption. Only classes whose delegates were eligible to be seated at the General Synod at which the amendment was adopted are eligible to vote on the recommendation for approval. This subparagraph c. shall only apply to amendments approved at or before General Synod 2023.


This is not very encouraging news. If this recommendation passes 2/3 vote of the classes and is upheld next year at General Synod when the recommendation comes from the Vision 2020 team, there is widespread belief that the welcoming and affirming churches will lose and will probably be asked to leave (think what happened at the United Methodist Church recently). This is because it has become very clear that the RCA has been taken over by a traditionalist (their name for themselves) majority and they want the denomination to be theologically conservative, not only in regards to human sexuality, but also Biblical interpretation and theology. Much of what they are putting forth does not reflect any type of Reformed tradition.


Allow me to remind you of what Vision 2020 is for the RCA. The Vision 2020 Team was formed by General Synod 2018 to prayerfully explore three different scenarios for the future of the RCA: staying together, significant reorganization, and grace-filled separation. The team was proposed by interim general secretary Don Poest in response to deep divisions in the denomination. The theological differences within the RCA have led us to a point where we are not sure how to continue ministry together. Poest identified human sexuality as a point of significant division in our denomination, but he acknowledged other divisions as well, including polity and lack of alignment with Transformed & Transforming, the RCA's strategic goal (https://rca.org/vision-2020-team).


I'm not sure that the traditionalists who are in power in the RCA will accept just one scenario, but maybe a combination of 2 and 3, the significant reorganization being changing our form of church government (polity) to achieve their results. The General Secretary of the RCA, Eddy Aleman, even said that our polity doesn't work for us anymore. Read: "us" means work for the traditionalists. The traditionalists are working to ensure that churches like MRC leave the RCA, or are forced to leave. Basically, the majority of those who are power in the RCA do not care for our history, theology, institutions, church government, or process. It has become evident that they care about winning, and will do anything to achieve their goal. As one colleague has said, “The writing is on the wall.”


My colleague and friend Paul Janssen said their recommendation regarding the simple majority vote was one of the most "pernicious" things he has seen at a GS. I quote Paul below as I think his reflection of the events of GS get to the spirit of the matter: Allow me to offer how last night's actions are perceived from an outsider. First, it seems like a total truncation of the 2020 process. You (the GS, not you personally) talked and talked about process and how important it is, etc., and then, in what seems like a strategy that was cooked up before synod, a small majority decided to shortcut the process by attempting to abrogate the order without even following the appropriate process. How did the matter NOT go to the advisory committee on governance, other than that the leadership (James and Eddy and EJ) didn't want it to go there? It should have been automatic - Committee on Reference TO Committee on Governance, and THEN back to the floor. It is very, very hard not to view things as having been pre-cooked, from the highest levels of leadership right on down. Which makes the whole thing feel like a cynical changing of the rules in the middle of the game. Look, if folks want a church with a polity that looks like the PCA, just go to the PCA. Unless the actual agenda is somewhat less pure: i.e., to take over the RCA and make conditions so harsh that any dissenters will either feel obligated to leave or will be pushed out by disciplinary processes that are founded on an ecclesiology that is congregational, not reformed. The hurt you may have sensed isn't so much from "losing a vote." It's from seeing a group of supposed colleagues manipulate a process; i.e., changing the rules in the middle of the game. That's where the hurt comes from. From betrayal of what was understood to be our common culture, and finding out that, no, apparently, others have taken over and are willingly pushing them out. (Which, as Lynn Japinga said, should require a HIGHER percentage because it's so consequential.) Finally the whole thing feels like a pig in a poke. I.e., what's being asked is a 51% vote on something that could range all the way from benign to drastic. But we don't know that yet, do we? So now what we have is (potentially) a container for the most drastic changes to be made and ratified by a bare majority. That, frankly, is dirty pool. It was illegal and should not have even been entertained. It violates the life of the body.


So, what does this all mean? I am in conversations with the Consistory, my colleagues in Classis New Brunswick, and others as we realize the need to strategize our next steps in order to protect our commitment to God’s loving justice, our people, and our property and assets should we leave, or be asked to leave, if the traditionalists have their way. I must say I am glad for our foresight in becoming dual-affiliated with the United Church of Christ as this may offer us some protection.


As for me and my ordination, I told the Consistory on the Monday night of June 10 that if the recommendation that is listed at the top of this email was even approved to go out to the classes for a vote, I would begin looking into the process of moving my ordination to the United Church of Christ. Ten minutes after leaving our meeting, I found out it had passed. (Remember, though, it still needs 2/3 approval by all the classes). I am keenly aware now more than ever they will come for me, and other welcoming and affirming ministers/LGBTQ ministers and seek to demit (defrock) me/us, as they want to change our polity to allow for cross Classis disciplinary proceedings. Right now, only someone on our Consistory or in our Classis can bring me up on charges. 


This moving of my ordination is not something I do glibly; it is something I have been thinking and praying about for several years. 


Allow me to tell you a story from this week. I was praying hard as I traveled on Tuesday to Montclair to serve on the Church and Ministry Commission of the United Church of Christ as part of the Reformed Caucus in the New Jersey Association. As I was driving, I kept asking God what is the best and most faithful way I can serve the congregation to which I have been called? I just kept asking that question and listening. What came back to me was I needed to be in a space of ministry where I can be joyful and at peace, and not always looking over my shoulder wondering if someone in my denomination is coming after me, or us. And, what I also heard is that our church will best flourish if we are not in a constant battle just to exist in our denomination. Flourishing means we can do the ministry that God has called us to do without fear or being encumbered. Thus, this Tuesday I informed the Church and Ministry Commission of the UCC I would like to move my ordination to that denomination. So begins the process which will probably take about a year. Once my ordination is moved to the UCC, I am still able to serve MRC under the Formula of Agreement. I thought I would be sad about moving my ordination, but honestly, I think I have been grieving a long time about where I have seen the RCA going, and I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders and a strong sense of freedom with this decision. That said, I am Reformed through and through, with my theology, my love of our history, our church government, and our style of worship and liturgy.


So, there you have the update from GS. These are unstable and uncertain times for the RCA, but you have my faithful promise that I and the Consistory will prayerfully discern what may be next for MRC. In the near future, we will be having a congregational meeting for an honest and transparent question and answer time. In the meantime, feel free to write back, call or text, if you have further questions.


I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday at 10:30 AM where we will celebrate the One who welcomes all people to the full life and ministry of the Universal Church. We will begin our Summer Sermon Series, Be Still and Know. Diane Grady will be our featured soloist singing the anthem “As the Deer.” I will be preaching from 1 Kings 19.1-15 and Psalm 46 and my sermon title is Be Still and Know.


In closing, please let me remind you of this: your membership is not in a denomination; your membership is held in a local church with a functioning Consistory. Your identity is a beloved child of God because “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8.38-39). And whoever we are or whoever we become, I am assured that the Holy Spirit will always be present at MRC. I invite you to join me in prayer and ask the Spirit to guide us as we move forward in these uncertain times. Come, Holy Spirit! 


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


Pastor Trish

Our Children, Our Now

posted Jun 14, 2019, 11:39 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Pentecost blessings of wind and fire to you!


The set is up on the pulpit area; the tails and ears are ready to be put on; Kitty O’Bey will make a command performance; Growlbert will return; and the voices of our youth will sing loud and clear in glory to God.


No, it’s not a new Broadway musical; it’s Children’s Day at Middletown Reformed Church! This Sunday, June 14, MRC’s mini-members will be telling a story of how to honor your family, biological or chosen, with Copycats of the King, Part II.


Whenever I’m with our children, I recall something a friend of mine once said, “Children aren’t our future. They are our now.” I have never forgotten that statement because it rings so true.


And so, as we rejoice with our children this Sabbath, let us also remember ALL the children and youth of our world who are caught in the middle of wars, who are languishing in between borders, who are going hungry and thirsty every night, who are not welcomed in their places of worship because of their gender identity or sexual identity, and who are being physically and sexually abused. They too are our now.

I hope for a world where one day this prayer will be our reality:

O God, help us to recover our hope for our children’s sake.
Help us to recover our courage for our children’s sake.
Help us to recover our discipline for our children’s sake.
Help us to recover our ability to work together for our children’s sake.
Help us to recover a spirit of sacrifice for our children’s sake.
Help us to recover our faith in You for our children’s sake. (Marian Wright Edelman, Guide My Feet)

May it be so, Lord Jesus. May it be so.


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


Pastor Trish




Come, Holy Spirit!

posted Jun 7, 2019, 5:15 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Grace and peace to you for this last week of Easter!


This Sunday, June 9th, we will mark one of the most important moments in the liturgical year, the Day of Pentecost. Oddly, even though Pentecost is essential for the Christian life, it doesn’t seem to attract as much attention as Christmas and Easter do. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it’s because Pentecost is not linked with gift-giving and a jolly-bearded man. There’s no fluffy bunnies at Pentecost, the new life of spring flowers, or chocolate crosses and little yellow chicks. And yet, Pentecost is about a gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate and Comforter; and it is certainly about new life, a life that is fueled by the Spirit’s power of fire and breath, the breath that brought about the creation of the world. Assuredly though, the most significant part about Pentecost is, because of that day of fire and wind, we have become joint heirs with Christ and are now part of God’s covenant people.


On that day in Jerusalem, when the Spirit came, gentle as a dove and burning as fire, the Spirit was no longer the possession of a few, like kings, or prophets, or the covenant people of Israel, but was given to all people: the rich, the poor, the highly favored, the oppressed. And now the Spirit is offered today to us, our children, and to everyone near and far. Pentecost is the evidence of God’s longstanding promise of unconditional love, care, and most importantly, the restoration of all creation.


When the Spirit was poured out that day in Jerusalem, the people in the crowd responded immediately, asking what is it we have to do? And many people were baptized, as the holy rushing wind of the Spirit moved out into the world, and the good news of God’s love spread into the surrounding areas. 


But it didn’t end there. 


The Spirit is still being poured out today when we come together to worship and celebrate the One who gives us life. I look forward to worshiping with you on Sunday as we rejoice in the blessings of wind, fire, and Spirit.


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


Pastor Trish


Why We March in the Asbury Park Pride Parade

posted Jun 5, 2019, 3:14 PM by Tricia Sheffield   [ updated Jun 5, 2019, 3:17 PM ]


Greetings of grace and peace to you!


Sunday, June 2, will be a big day in the life of our church! We will take to the streets to show that God’s love is available for all people during the Asbury Park Pride Parade. This parade is one of the biggest outreach moments we do for our church. 2019 marks our fourth year participating in the parade, and each time I am happy to hear from the crowd assembled along the streets how glad they are to see a church there. Glad to see us yes, but also, people often say they are surprised too. People are still surprised that a church would be welcoming, affirming, and celebrating of LGBTQ people. Their surprise is disheartening and sad. Certainly we know that Christ welcomed all, and as recorded in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit’s movement was an ever widening and growing circle. As Peter said regarding Cornelius, the Roman, Gentile centurion: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10.47)? How can we quench the Spirit’s direction of “all come” when She has clearly spoken?


Even though Peter was forbidden as a Jewish person to associate with Gentiles, not to mention eat at table with Gentiles, God had shown him something different. No one, in God’s eyes should be called profane or unclean; God shows no partiality; in every nation, anyone who loves God is acceptable to God. This was a complete reversal of what Peter had been taught since he was a child. The law was the law, and that was it, or so he thought . . . until that day. But really, if Peter had been paying close attention to how God acts he would have noticed that God was always casting the circle wider throughout salvation history: God includes the Egyptian Hagar in the covenant promise; God brings in Rahab, a prostitute and foreigner; God drew to the faith, Ruth, another foreigner, a Moabite woman who would be an ancestor of David, and then Jesus. A wider welcome was nothing out of the ordinary for God; it was just new for Peter. 


Seeing that Gentiles like Cornelius and his family had been given the Holy Spirit just like all the people present at Pentecost, Peter finally realized that God’s love and grace was available for everyone, for there was no way that the Holy Spirit could be held back to go where she would. So, Peter ordered Cornelius and his family to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. And the Scripture tells that the people in Jerusalem praised God. After this, they must have been thinking, where is God’s Spirit of grace going now?


I think that’s the question we have for us still today. Or better phrased, where on earth and to whom is God’s grace going now? But the answer to that question is no different now than it was in the first century: God’s love and grace goes everywhere and to everyone. As one theologian said, “Faith, when it comes down to it, is our often breathless attempt to keep up with the redemptive activity of God, to keep asking ourselves, ‘What is God doing?’” 


The Spirit moved in unimaginable ways for the first century church. And the Spirit is still moving in unimaginable ways in the 21st century, with or without us. I hope and pray, as followers of Christ, we will continue to be witnesses for a wider welcome, and go with the Spirit who is constantly casting the circle wider and wider and wider. 


And that is why we march in the Pride Parade.


Beloved one, our welcoming statement, theology, and worship are not just for our LGBTQ siblings, but for all people. Anyone who walks through our doors will know they are welcomed, affirmed, celebrated, and shown the love of God in Christ Jesus. You may think what we do and who we are is ‘normal,’ but, I assure you, for many people who have experienced church, it is not. My prayer is that one day our fabulous church of love and God’s open-arms-welcome will be the norm for the Church Universal. May it be so!


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


Pastor Trish


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