Pastor's Corner


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


Hands in the Dirt

posted May 17, 2019, 5:42 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of grace and peace to you!


 . . . then the Lord God formed the human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into the nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being (Genesis 2.7).


Today, the flowers and plants were delivered for the Annual Dorcas Circle Plant Sale. This is a day to which I’ve been looking forward for some weeks now. I've been eager to receive my plants and herbs, wanting the colors of spring to once again adorn the back garden. The hosta and lily of the valley got a head start on me, but no matter. They bloom when they do, and I’ve been grateful for the fragrance from the lily. Also, with the delivery of my plants, I’ve been hoping that the little wren from the past few years would make her nest in one of my hanging pots.


After everyone had left, I began the task of planting. No putting it off for me! I couldn’t wait to dig in the rich soil that we have here on the church grounds. I carefully placed the vinca and lantana in the dirt and watered them. The basil and rosemary went into pots. Soon enough, I knew I would be witnessing them grow. As I dug in the dirt, I noticed the rocks in the soil, some coal, earthworms, and left over roots from previous plantings. 


At one point I took off my gardening gloves because I wanted my hands to touch the earthy soil. I scooped it up between my hands and rubbed it. It tingled, itched, and tickled a bit. That’s the stuff of life, I thought. Feeling the earth in my hands is always very grounding and calming for me. It is a connection to God’s creation, and it reminds me that from earth we came and to earth we shall return. Such a thought I don’t consider morbid; I consider it wondrous to recall God creating each one of us fearfully and wonderfully with love, and then breathing the breath of life into us.


I look forward to welcoming you, fearfully and wonderfully made beloved one, to God’s house on Sunday at 10:30 AM. The Joyful Noise Adult Choir will be singing the anthem, “We Will Glorify.” I will be preaching from Acts 11.1-18 — Peter’s vision that leads him to the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius — and my sermon title is A Wider Welcome.


For me, the simple, quiet act of gardening is joy; it is holy; and put simply, planting flowers speaks to me of God's grace. Where, and in what acts, have you heard the Spirit whispering joy, holiness, and grace to you this week? Listen . . . it’s all around us, if we but take the time to be still and feel the breath of life in the earthy goodness, or to whatever God directs your spirit.


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


Pastor Trish


Hands in the Dirt

posted May 17, 2019, 5:42 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of grace and peace to you!


 . . . then the Lord God formed the human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into the nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being (Genesis 2.7).


Today, the flowers and plants were delivered for the Annual Dorcas Circle Plant Sale. This is a day to which I’ve been looking forward for some weeks now. I've been eager to receive my plants and herbs, wanting the colors of spring to once again adorn the back garden. The hosta and lily of the valley got a head start on me, but no matter. They bloom when they do, and I’ve been grateful for the fragrance from the lily. Also, with the delivery of my plants, I’ve been hoping that the little wren from the past few years would make her nest in one of my hanging pots.


After everyone had left, I began the task of planting. No putting it off for me! I couldn’t wait to dig in the rich soil that we have here on the church grounds. I carefully placed the vinca and lantana in the dirt and watered them. The basil and rosemary went into pots. Soon enough, I knew I would be witnessing them grow. As I dug in the dirt, I noticed the rocks in the soil, some coal, earthworms, and left over roots from previous plantings. 


At one point I took off my gardening gloves because I wanted my hands to touch the earthy soil. I scooped it up between my hands and rubbed it. It tingled, itched, and tickled a bit. That’s the stuff of life, I thought. Feeling the earth in my hands is always very grounding and calming for me. It is a connection to God’s creation, and it reminds me that from earth we came and to earth we shall return. Such a thought I don’t consider morbid; I consider it wondrous to recall God creating each one of us fearfully and wonderfully with love, and then breathing the breath of life into us.


I look forward to welcoming you, fearfully and wonderfully made beloved one, to God’s house on Sunday at 10:30 AM. The Joyful Noise Adult Choir will be singing the anthem, “We Will Glorify.” I will be preaching from Acts 11.1-18 — Peter’s vision that leads him to the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius — and my sermon title is A Wider Welcome.


For me, the simple, quiet act of gardening is joy; it is holy; and put simply, planting flowers speaks to me of God's grace. Where, and in what acts, have you heard the Spirit whispering joy, holiness, and grace to you this week? Listen . . . it’s all around us, if we but take the time to be still and feel the breath of life in the earthy goodness, or to whatever God directs your spirit.


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


Pastor Trish


Hands in the Dirt

posted May 17, 2019, 5:41 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of grace and peace to you!


 . . . then the Lord God formed the human from the dust of the ground, and breathed into the nostrils the breath of life; and the human became a living being (Genesis 2.7).


Today, the flowers and plants were delivered for the Annual Dorcas Circle Plant Sale. This is a day to which I’ve been looking forward for some weeks now. I've been eager to receive my plants and herbs, wanting the colors of spring to once again adorn the back garden. The hosta and lily of the valley got a head start on me, but no matter. They bloom when they do, and I’ve been grateful for the fragrance from the lily. Also, with the delivery of my plants, I’ve been hoping that the little wren from the past few years would make her nest in one of my hanging pots.


After everyone had left, I began the task of planting. No putting it off for me! I couldn’t wait to dig in the rich soil that we have here on the church grounds. I carefully placed the vinca and lantana in the dirt and watered them. The basil and rosemary went into pots. Soon enough, I knew I would be witnessing them grow. As I dug in the dirt, I noticed the rocks in the soil, some coal, earthworms, and left over roots from previous plantings. 


At one point I took off my gardening gloves because I wanted my hands to touch the earthy soil. I scooped it up between my hands and rubbed it. It tingled, itched, and tickled a bit. That’s the stuff of life, I thought. Feeling the earth in my hands is always very grounding and calming for me. It is a connection to God’s creation, and it reminds me that from earth we came and to earth we shall return. Such a thought I don’t consider morbid; I consider it wondrous to recall God creating each one of us fearfully and wonderfully with love, and then breathing the breath of life into us.


I look forward to welcoming you, fearfully and wonderfully made beloved one, to God’s house on Sunday at 10:30 AM. The Joyful Noise Adult Choir will be singing the anthem, “We Will Glorify.” I will be preaching from Acts 11.1-18 — Peter’s vision that leads him to the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius — and my sermon title is A Wider Welcome.


For me, the simple, quiet act of gardening is joy; it is holy; and put simply, planting flowers speaks to me of God's grace. Where, and in what acts, have you heard the Spirit whispering joy, holiness, and grace to you this week? Listen . . . it’s all around us, if we but take the time to be still and feel the breath of life in the earthy goodness, or to whatever God directs your spirit.


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


Pastor Trish


Here is Water

posted May 10, 2019, 7:07 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of peace in this season of Eastertide!


For you Jesus Christ came into the world; for you he died and for you he conquered death; All this he did for you, little one, though you know nothing of it as yet. We love because God first loved us.


The above quote is one part of the liturgy of the baptismal covenant. The waters of the baptismal font will stir with the power of the Holy Spirit as I say these words to two little ones this Sunday. Henry Achiel Basler, Jr. and Tommi-Grace Josephine Howlett will receive the sign and seal of God’s promises to the covenant people, joining us and all the communion of saints that have gone before as beloved children of God.


When Philip met the Ethiopian eunuch on the wilderness road, and told him the good news of Jesus, the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Humans may give conditions for baptism and for being a part of the covenant people, but the good news of great joy is that the Holy Spirit always answers the eunuch’s question in the same way, “Nothing.” 


Nothing.


Nothing prevents us from receiving the grace of Christ in the waters of baptism. Nothing can take away the truth that we are freely given this irresistible grace every day. And nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. On Sunday, Henry and Tommi-Grace will be welcomed into that grace and love. And I pray that when the water is stirred in the font and placed on their heads, you will remember your baptism; you will remember that you are a child of the covenant; and you will breathe deeply of the Spirit, knowing how much you are deeply loved by God.


Come, child of the covenant, on Sunday at 10:30 AM as we bear witness to what the Holy Spirit is doing in the lives of two little ones . . . and in us. We have a special day of music planned for worship. The Handbell Choir will be ringing the Prelude, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”; the New Jericho Choir will bring us a Word from the Children, “Honor Your Father and Mother”; the Joyful Noise Adult Choir will be singing our anthem, “Take Me to the Water”; and Sarah Gordon will be our featured soloist for the Offertory, “I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry.” I will be preaching from Acts 8.25-39 and my sermon title is Here is Water.


Water is powerful; water is soothing; water is sustaining; water is holy. Jesus Christ is living water. Thanks be to God!


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


Pastor Trish


Pay Attention

posted May 3, 2019, 12:56 PM by Tricia Sheffield

Greetings of peace in this season of Easter!


As I wrote earlier in the week, I had a very relaxing vacation. One of the things I’m grateful for about taking time off is first, I am able to take vacation. I am mindful that not everyone has this privilege. And second, vacation for me is about not adhering to a tightly organized schedule. Our lives are already so hyper-scheduled and busy-busy. I believe vacation should be a moment when one can do anything they wish, or not do anything at all. 


So it was for me last week. 


One thing I did want to do was go on a walk every day, weather permitting. I desired for this to be time with God, just us together. Each day I set off down the road I would say, “Okay, God. What are you going to teach me today? I’m listening.” And each walk God showed me something new: a spiritual blindspot I had regarding being uncharitable toward someone; the beauty of color in the trees and plants that is very different from the color of fall, and yet, it is color; remembering a long time friend and giving thanks that we could pick up wherever we left off last. My walks became a time of breath-prayer, breathing in the fragrance of spring, exhaling a word of gratitude. 


But one walking day was different than the rest. I was going along, admiring the lilacs and other flowers, distracted by their color and fragrance, when I tripped and stumbled over a tree root in the ground. Exasperated with myself, I said aloud, “Tricia! Pay attention! Look where you’re going!” (I could hear my mother’s voice saying those words to me. It was a repeated mantra while I was growing up). On I went, but two words kept playing over and over in my mind, Pay attention. Pay attention. I couldn’t get that phrase out of my head.


Later that afternoon, I sat in a comfy chair and opened the book I had been reading to the next chapter (Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans). And two words ended each paragraph, Pay attention. Hmmm. I put my book down and wondered to what or whom God wanted me to pay attention. I waited. And waited. And waited. No divine chorus showed up, no bright light shone, no vision came to give me my answer.


I got my answer this morning when I looked at the chapter again, knowing I wanted to write to you all about this pay attention experience. The chapter is called “Breath” and it’s about the Holy Spirit. Held Evans writes:


It is as near as the nose and as everywhere as the air, so pay attention.


It is as necessary and as dangerous as fire, so stay alert; pay attention.


It’s as invisible as your breath but as certain as your skin, so pay attention; don’t forget who you are.


There is no city, no village, no wilderness where you cannot find it, so pay attention.


So look up and sing back, catch the light of God in a diaphanous scrim of wing. Pay attention.


There are so many new things to see, so many gifts to give and receive, so many miracles to baffle and amaze, if only we pay attention, if only we let the Spirit surprise and God catch our breath.


I think I didn’t get my answer right away that day on my walk or during my first reading of the chapter because I had not been paying attention to her words, and had only focused in on the phrase, pay attention. But now, I know one thing: I am to pay attention more to how the Holy Spirit shows up in “so many miracles to baffle and amaze.” Beloved one, I pray you also will pay attention to the joy-filled wonder in your life that has its source in God. God’s love is everywhere; sometimes we just need to let go of our over-scheduled lives, take a “walk,” so to speak, and let God catch and hold our breath.


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


Pastor Trish


The Most Holiest of Weeks

posted Apr 12, 2019, 9:38 AM by Tricia Sheffield

Blessings of God’s holy love to you!


We are a few days away from beginning Holy Week. Judy, I, and the Worship Committee have planned what we hope will be a meaningful time of worship as we journey with Jesus through his final days. As I’ve been preparing for Holy Week - creating bulletins, writing liturgy and sermons — I am keenly aware of how full this time of year is for those who are called to ministry. Deep down, something is whispering to me this ought not to be so. 


Recently, it was mentioned to me how busy our culture is, especially here in the Tri-State metropolitan area. It seems the more busy we are, the more importantly we are regarded. I have been sitting with this observation for a few weeks now, wondering how we can do the work of ministry to which we are called, and also create a space where we are quietly resting in the presence of God. I think if ever there was a time to slow down and think on God’s grace for us — Peace, be still! — it is Holy Week.


My hope for us as a congregation for the next week is just that. Slow. Down. 


Take time to pray, go for a walk, sit in a park, meditate. Carve out the space in your schedule to observe the beauty of spring singing out the song of new life. Did you know there are Scripture readings for every day during this most holiest of times? You can find them here. Read, and listen for a word from God. Let us resist the temptation to hurry and scurry, thinking that “doing” is more important than “being.” Instead, I invite you to approach this very well-known story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in a manner that encourages seeing God with a fresh and joyful perspective. Perhaps, just perhaps, we will not only see the holy power of resurrection around us; we will feel it too.


Come this Palm Sunday at 10:30 AM in as we remember Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem on his courageous way to the cross. And come early to witness the children parading with the Potter donkey. The Joyful Noise Adult Choir will be singing the anthem “Hosanna in the Streets” with featured musicians Sarah Gordon, Alan Rubenfeld, Eli Thorpe, and Jacie Thorpe. I will be preaching from Zechariah 9.9-10 and John 12.9-15 and my sermon title is Blessed is the One. After worship, we will have a light lunch in the Education Building, sponsored by the Dorcas Circle.


And now, beloved of God, receive this prayer as we walk with Jesus into Jerusalem: Now, O Lord, calm me into a quietness that heals and listens, and molds my longings and passions, my wounds and wonderings into a more holy and human shape. - Ted Loder


May God bless your journey of — Peace, be still — this Holy Week. I will be praying a joy-filled calm for you.


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


Pastor Trish

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