What’s Happening at Emsworth U.P.? — May, 2014 (Pucks and Bucs Edition)

Pastor’s Letter

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last Sunday, I preached about one of my favorite stories in scripture – the story of the two disciples and the well-worn path between Jerusalem and Emmaus (Luke 24:13 -35).  The two disciples in the text retreat (perhaps rather hastily) from Jerusalem, feeling like the entire world has come crashing down on their heads.  For them, the facts of the matter are quite clear. Jesus is dead. The women who say they saw an empty tomb and spoke with angels are full of baloney.  Cleopas and the unnamed disciple are so filled with misery, they don’t even notice the stranger who joins them.

The disciples were so busy dwelling in the events of the past, they didn’t even realize the stranger walking beside them was the Resurrected Christ. 

It seems that everyone has an opinion on why the North American Church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) in particular, is having significant difficulties.  Like the disciples on the Emmaus Road, many of us are so focused on who or what is to blame – the culture, the millennials, the “spiritual but not religious,” the media, the liberals, the conservatives, you name it – that even if Jesus came along and smacked us in the head, I’m not sure we’d recognize him.  What the Emmaus story shows us is that the question we need to ask ourselves is not, “What happened?” and “Why did this happen?”  Instead, the church of the Resurrected Christ needs to be asking, “What’s next?” and “Where is Jesus leading us today?” 

A few months ago, your session and pastor decided to start asking forward-thinking questions about the future mission and ministry of Emsworth U.P.  Through our participation in a PCUSA pilot project, “The Unglued Church,” we hope to discover what God would have us do to proclaim an unchanging gospel in a world that is changing rapidly.  Although Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, it is clear that the way in which faith communities practice, worship, and communicate their faith will be changing significantly in form and function. 

Eight churches in Pittsburgh Presbytery are participating in the “Unglued Church” process, which was conceived by a group of pastors here in Pittsburgh, drawing upon the assistance of two Presbyterian ministers in California who have significant experience in adaptive change work for churches like ours.  

The project began last month when assessors from the PCUSA spent a day with each of the churches to help us develop a clear and objective portrait of our communities, our congregations, and our resources.  Many of you participated in a discussion with the assessor here on the evening of April 21.  At the end of May, representatives from all eight churches will gather to receive the finished report and begin the next steps in doing the important work of adaptive change in our congregations for the sake of the gospel.

There is no predetermined outcome in this process. Nobody will tell a congregation “what to do.”  My hope is that throughout the process we may look at alternatives that have never crossed anyone’s mind.  In fact, adaptive change means that what happens next in our life as a faith community may, indeed, look quite different in 5 years.  My hope is that many of you will be part of these conversations over the next two years as we meet in one another’s homes, at the church, at coffee shops – to work out our faithful purpose as people of God. 

It is important as we go through the “Unglued Church” process that we listen to one another carefully, pray deeply as individuals and in community, study scripture together and joyfully expect to hear God’s word for us as we gather in worship.  Over the summer months, we will participate in worship that will be designed to draw us closer together as the Body of Christ.  We will hear each other’s stories and share the Lord’s Supper frequently.  As the year goes on, we will continue to invite guest preachers and laypeople to help us see how Jesus is already at work in our community and how we are being called to serve alongside him.

Change can be frightening.  Change can feel threatening.  But I am convinced that if we are faithful to the Gospel, and committed to one another, this journey on which we are embarking will be life saving and life-sustaining for all of us.

Next year marks the 120th anniversary of this church.  I can think of no better way to honor the legacy of the saints who came before us in this place than to do the hard work of living into our call to ministry for the next generation of God’s people. 

Thank you, as always, for all you do for this church – your work, your prayers, and your contributions of time and talent.  It all matters deeply in this small corner of God’s kingdom.

In shared ministry with you,

Pastor Susan

Thank You for your Generosity!  In the first quarter of 2014, Emsworth U.P. made the following mission gifts:

Meals on Wheels:  $278.75
Shepherd’s Door:  $250.00
Board of Pensions Assistance Program (PCUSA):  $100.00
One Great Hour of Sharing:  $572.00
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance:  $200.00
Pittsburgh Presbytery Mission:  $200.00

Summer ReadingPastor Susan will be leading a summer book discussion around Barbara Brown Taylor’s New York Times bestseller, Learning to Walk in the Dark. We will gather on four evenings:  Wednesday June 11, 25 and July 9, 23 at 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.  The book is available now for purchase from Amazon.com, or at your favorite bookstore.  Read a description of the book at Amazon by clicking this link: http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Walk-Barbara-Brown-Taylor/dp/0062024353/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399469351&sr=1-1&keywords=learning+to+walk+in+the+dark

Flip Flop Summer Worship Watch for more information about summer worship as Pastor Susan at Emsworth U.P. and Pastor Donna at Community Presbyterian invite our congregations to a flip flop summer of worship, story and song beginning in July through Labor Day weekend.   The June issue of Happenings will have a complete summer worship schedule. 

Clean Up Is Progressing Work on the clearing the overgrowth parking curb side of Hiland Avenue is progressing. 

Guest Preacher on May 25th We will welcome Jay Poliziani, Director of Northside Common Ministries (http://www.ncmin.org), to our pulpit on Sunday, May 25.  Make it a point to be at worship on the 25th to personally welcome Jay to our church. 

The Unglued Church Our work has begun!  The next phase of the process  will continue on May 30-31 with meetings at Presbytery on Friday from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m..  If you are interested in serving our church in this process and helping shape our future ministry here in Emsworth, please contact Pastor Susan. 

Pastor’s Schedule  Susan will be attending the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis for her 2014 continuing education on May 19 – May 24.  For pastoral assistance during her absence, please contact Jon Stellfox, Clerk of Session