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God’s Kingdom & Children

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Jesus reminds us that children have a special place in the Kingdom of God. We need to remember this and treasure them as part of the church, not just the future of the church.

The children were crowding around the baptismal font, trying to get their shells in the water at the same time. A couple of the older children stood in the back, waiting patiently, but finally managed to squeeze their way to the glass bowl, where they dipped their shells in and shook the water off on each other. These shells are extra special as they have been gathered by the CEH family from all over the US and even around the world. The children pray over a shell, promising to look upon the newly baptized as part of their family. Then we place the shells in a glass jar or, for our older newly baptized, into a wooden bowl lovingly made by Gary Perkins.

Our new shell tradition was taking on special meaning Sunday, as each child held two shells: one for the precious toddler, Vivian; and one for our precious college student, Iris.

Iris was baptized as an infant, and wondered about being baptized again. In our Reformed Theology, we understand baptism to be a one-time only thing. As Iris and I talked about it a couple of weeks ago, I promised her we could help her “remember her baptism” and give her some special memories about joining CEH.

This is something that we should all be “remembering” every time we celebrate baptism, and even weekly when we gather for confession around our baptismal font. As most Christians raised in a main-line denomination were baptized as infants, not many of us can actually remember it. So after I poured the warm-ish water over Vivian’s curly brown hair, I sprinkled Iris as well.

“Remembering” your baptism is important. What we remember is that, in the Presbyterian Church, we understand the sacrament as “an outward sign of an inward change.” Something wonderful and mystical happens as we join our voices together to promise our attention to the raising of the child and their faith development. It isn’t just the parents and the family that make a promise on that day, the whole congregation promises to welcome the newly baptized into our church family and invest our lives in them.

When you look around CEH, you’ll notice our children are taking ownership in our ministry and mission. That’s because over the past three years we have moved our emphasis from having a children’s and youth ministry that function separately from the church, to intergenerational ministry where our young children and youth serve alongside the adults on a weekly basis.

Studies have shown that one of the main indicators in why our young adults are not returning to church when they start their careers and families is because as children themselves, they experienced instruction and activities that were separated from the perceived whole church. In worship they were told to be quiet and sit still; some were even taken out of the service and removed after making “too much noise.” What we are witnessing after nearly 60 years of doing things the same way, is that those children never felt like they were a true part of the ministry of the church and couldn’t see themselves engaged. Some people have even told me that they felt like they were always “in the way” as children growing up in Church.

So we celebrate that at CEH, our adults are already invested in the lives of our children. It isn’t rare to see a child helping to pick up plates or sweep during fellowship, or to see a child working with an adult to set up the communion or greet at the front door. This is really living out God’s dream of shalom. We remember that Jesus told us to do this in Matthew 18: Let the little children come to me. . . For such is the kingdom of heaven.” And “Unless you enter the kingdom as a child, you just don’t get it!” (That’s the New Revised Paula Version). So not only do we walk alongside and teach our children, we take it a step further by listening to them and learning from them so that, through their beautiful spirits, open hearts, and eyes full of wonder, we can learn more about our Creator and draw closer to God.

Sunday was momentous for our congregation for another reason as well. We experienced Shalom as we welcomed new members into our family. Lee Anderson, Iris Barks, Amber Butterfield, George Dennison, Amy & Greg Hoover, Carolyn Sunderland, Adam & Tara Walker, and Kent and Debbie Wehmeyer stood before the congregation to “Reaffirm their Baptism” and become members of CEH. What a joy to see a group as diverse in age as we witnessed on Sunday! I completely believe that there is no other place in our culture that is building bridges between the generations right now, and that when we do so we are creating the perfect environment for living in Shalom!

Thank you for being willing to participate as we continue to practice worship, faith development, mission work, generosity and hospitality with our children, always ready to learn something wonderful about God even as we learn more about each other.

Shalom,

Rev. Paula

Hospitable Environment

Envisioning Shalom

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angelswithout knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).

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We have just entered into “Ordinary Time” and the liturgical color is GREEN, symbolizing growth in our faith. Don’t be deceived by the name though, because Ordinary Time at CEH is anything but ordinary! The title “Ordinary” only indicates that we are between some of the big feast/festival days of the liturgical year. Sometimes I use the word “Proper” to distinguish it, because it’s another traditional term used for numbering the holy time of Sundays.

Now that we have worshiped the wonder of the empty tomb, walked with Jesus on the long dusty road to Emmaus without noticing his presence, witnessed the Ascension and the command to “Go! and Teach!”, been filled with the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, and then learned all about the way we label our relationship with God as “Three-in-One,” it is time for us to take that knowledge and grow!

To do this we are going back to the beginning, in a sense. We’ll be traveling through the lectionary readings from Genesis for the next several weeks and learning about Abraham & Sarah, Hagar & Ishmael, Isaac, and the long line of descendants that fulfilled God’s covenant promise to Abraham to make of him a “Great nation.”

What we’ll learn along the way is that through all the laws and covenants, through all of God’s Word to God’s people, everything was communicated so that we could move towards a sense of שָׁלוֹם (Shalom).

Shalom is typically translated “Peace,” or “Good will” and sometimes even “Hello” or “Goodbye,” but even all of those words combine provide an incomplete understanding of the word, and of God’s intent in desiring it for God’s people. More than a personal peace within, it is a sense of the well-being of the whole community. “In the Bible, the word shalom is most commonly used to refer to a state of affairs, one of well‑being, tranquility, prosperity, and security, circumstances unblemished by any sort of defect. Shalom is a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace” (citation here).

A large part of encouraging shalom was offering hospitality — not just the hospitality we like to profess we are so good at: opening our homes to our friends and family and making them feel welcome and well-fed. But opening our lives to the stranger among us.

God’s people were often the “Stranger” who received hospitality which allowed them to thrive and survive. Just in Genesis we have:
Genesis 12:1 – The call of Abram: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Abram became a stranger in a new land, a wandering sojourner).

Genesis 12:10 – “Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land” (Abram and Sarai were literally refugees in search of sustenance).

Genesis 19 – Lot takes his family and flees Sodom (then lived in a cave in the wilderness!).

Genesis 23 – Abraham is a stranger and an alien in the land of Canaan.

In our reading from Sunday (Gen. 18:1-15, 21:1-7), we see Abraham opening his home and offering his own sustenance to three complete strangers who appear in the heat of the day. It’s a terrific story of radical hospitality. He fetches water, seats his guests in the shade of an oak tree, and has Sarah and his servants fix up a scrumptious smorgasbord. Little does he know that the three visitors are messengers from the Lord, bringing Abraham the good news that at this time next year, Sarah will welcome their promised child into the world.

And she laughs. This is the promise she has waited too long for — so long that she took matters into her own hands with her servant Hagar, who birthed Abraham’s son Ishmael. Sarah has waited so long that she abandoned hope that God was going to offer her a portion of the return on the covenantal relationship to make their descendants “as numerous as the grains of sand on the beach, as numerous as the stars in the sky.”

But in offering hospitality, and even in Sarah’s laughter at the foolishness of her bearing a child at such an old age, the covenant was fulfilled and a child was born. They named him “Isaac,” which means “Laughter,” so that everyone could remember what joy the child brought into the lives of Abraham and Sarah, and under impossible circumstances.

In our “Ordinary Time” it is right for us to use this ancient story to help us grow in our faith. Like Sarah, we still laugh at God’s promises and the crazy way those promises are sometimes fulfilled. We doubt that God can handle things and we take them into our own hands, typically creating chaos or disruption. Not that we are called to do nothing — we need to fulfill our end of the covenant with God, and in fulfilling that end we find the answers to the promise.

Our covenant with God is what Jesus requires of us: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is the “New Covenant” of the cup poured out at the last meal Jesus shared with his buddies around that table, after he had washed their feet and asked them to serve one another in love. The New Covenant is for the forgiveness of sins, and when we live into the love that God wants us to share among ourselves and among the stranger, we may find ourselves entertaining angels.

When we love, wholeheartedly and unreservedly, we certainly do find ourselves living into the concept of Shalom. There’s nothing ordinary about that, is there?

With enduring hope that we can grow together into a fuller understanding of Shalom through the rich stories from Genesis during this extraordinary time.

Peace,

Rev. Paula

***

Lend a Hand

Create Shalom Through Serving CEH

Cookies for Donna Childress Service:

Please bring in desserts/cookies to serve at Donna Childress’ service on June 24. We also need assistance serving the food and drinks after the 11:00 service. If you can help, please let us know at the church office: 887-3603.

Habitat Hobble Team or Donations:

Habitat for Humanity of Grand County is holding its annual Habitat Hobble at 8:30 AM on June 24 at Granby Ranch. Join in as part of the CEH team and we can walk the course together. Call or email the church office to become a member of the team! 887-3603 or pastor@eternalhills.org. You can also give a donation to boost the team’s total.

College Group Movie Nights:

Entertain some “angels” at your home for dinner and a movie. The college kids would love the opportunity to stay connected to the congregation and each other through the summer. We have about 5 students in the valley right now. Paula can assist with the dinner and film discussion, or you can work it out yourself! email pastor@eternalhills.org if you want to help. The dates and times are up to you!

Fellowship Hosts:

Practice Radical Hospitality and sign up to serve and clean up fellowship for our social time after the 10:00 Worship Service. There are always extra hands to help you get ready! Food is provided — all you need to do is put the cheese and meats/crackers/cookies on the platters and make coffee, lemonade and water. Call Sue Perkins to sign up.

Follow-Through Opportunities

Helping at Church of the Eternal Hills

In a recent sermon I challenged all of us to be better at the “Follow-Through:” now that we have received the Good News and we hold this incredible promise for ourselves, how do we respond? Peter and his buddies went back to fishing and had to be reminded again that they were supposed to be telling Jesus’ story, healing the sick, feeding the hungry.

If you’ve felt like you want to work on your “Follow-Through” I have some opportunities coming up soon:

New Beginnings

Thank you to everyone who attended the New Beginnings “Appreciative Inquiry” on Tuesday, May 2. As one of the first steps in the New Beginnings process, we were led through a series of questions by PJ Brobston, who will gather our responses as well as statistical data for our community, demographic information on the county, and financial information of our church into a comprehensive assessment to assist us as we move forward with our visioning.

I need 10 people who are committed to this process to attend training with me in Denver on June 9 – 10. The training will teach us about the remainder of the process, and will include meals and lodging, generously paid for by the Denver Presbytery.

Specifically, the 10 people need to be committed to serving as hosts for six small group (a group of 6-8 people) meetings, where participants will engage in deep discussion about our congregation and where we want to focus our energy as we move forward together. Meetings can be held at homes or at the church, and will be a great chance to grow closer to your church family.

If you can lead a small group and will be able to attend the training on June 9 and 10, please let me know ASAP by emailing pastor@eternalhills.org or calling the church office at 887-3603.

Second Wind Fund

This ministry is supported by three Presbyterian congregations down on the front range. Their mission statement is, “to decrease the incidence of suicide in children and youth by removing the financial and social barriers to treatment.”

We have been invited to their annual breakfast so that we might learn more about this wonderful program and perhaps consider joining into Mission Partnership with Green Mountain Presbyterian (where Gretchen Bretz serves) and Arvada Pres (where Bill Sanders serves). We have two spots open to attend the breakfast, which begins at 7 AM in Denver (I realize that means an early morning!) on Thursday, May 25. If you’d like to go with Pastor Paula and Sue Perkins, please call the church office or email Paula directly at pastor@eternalhills.org
Vacation Bible School

This year we are engaging in a partnership with Highland Presbyterian Camp and Retreat Center. They will be sending us four staff members for a week to run our our “Day Camp.”

We need housing for the staff, meals, and some extra hands to help wrangle children during the week they are here: June 11 — 16. Please sign up on the “Mission of the Month” table outside of the sanctuary, or speak with Rochelle Lantermans to volunteer.

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Many Rooms: John 14:1-14
desk pic
From the Pastor’s Desk
Don’t Be Troubled; Don’t Be Afraid

Jesus’ farewell discourse from John offers words of comfort to his disciples

“Don’t be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus seems to know that his disciples and those gathered near him needed to hear that often, as he says it repeatedly in all of the Gospels.

It was wise guidance at the time — the promise that Jesus, though leaving this place, would go ahead to prepare a place for his disciples. They were upset because they didn’t want to be left alone; they didn’t want Jesus to go anywhere else. But in the gospel of John, chapters 14-17, Jesus teaches his disciples for the last time, trying to sum up everything he had been trying to instill in them over their time together (read here for more about the Farewell Discourse).

And his words, “Don’t be troubled and do not be afraid” were comforting to the disciples as well as the first Century Christians who were reading this account of Jesus’ teachings, a Gnostic community trying to learn what it meant to live out the Good News despite an ascended savior.

The disciples’ fear was that they did not really “know” Jesus, and didn’t really know God. Jesus comforts them by saying, basically, “You know me better than you think you do. You know God, and you know me. You know me through God and you know God through me.”

This is true for us today. We do know the nature of God through the life and teachings of Jesus. This is a really cool thing. Since humans couldn’t get it from God’s working throughout creation, covenants, and the Words of the prophets, God became flesh and lived and taught among us.

Jesus also says that there are many rooms in his father’s house. Yes – room for everyone! Why do we read this as though we have some special privilege that other people will not have? It becomes troubling if read as an exclusionary passage instead of an inclusionary passage. (What I mean by this is that Jesus is telling his disciples not to worry — that God has many dwelling places for them and they already know to to abide there. It does not indicate that we have some special privilege that others will never have access to).

Part of the trouble with interpretation of this passage is that people read it as some kind of eschatological promise rather than a promise to be able to live peacefully and full of hope now. Jesus was leaving, but his disciples would remain. How could they continue to “Dwell” in God if Jesus was no longer present with them? And not dwell in the future sense — dwell in the sense of the here and now.

Look, I sure don’t mind this passage as a promise of what is yet to come — I often use it for memorial services and for comfort to the dying and their family. It has long held promise for the suffering of those who lead lives of desperation in the here and now that some day they will have a “Mansion” in heaven. This comes from the King James translation of the passage, which translated the word meaning “Dwelling Place” into “Mansion.” What we fail to acknowledge is that in King James’ time, “Mansion” only indicated any kind of place where a person could dwell — be it a cardboard box under a bridge, a lean-to corrugated metal building, or one of those million-dollar homes nestled in this beautiful valley. Basically, it meant a place that felt like home. Safe, comforting, peace-filled. A place where we can continue to abide in Jesus, and therefore continue to manifest his light to this world.

You have this choice every day. You can choose to live a troubled, anxious life — surrounded by bad news of wars and poverty and corruption. Or you can choose to abide in Jesus, not be troubled or afraid, and shine some of his light.

And if we can find some hope in the here and now, and begin to share that with others, then we can begin to imagine a little better what the place is that Jesus is going to prepare for us. And maybe we could become a little less worried about other people and how we perceive that they will or will not have a room in God’s house (remember, Jesus told us he had “other flocks” as well as “many rooms” not so that we’d worry other people weren’t going to share in God’s glory, but so that we could find our own peace).

May you find that dwelling place in your journey — a place where you can truly abide in Jesus and bring light and hope to all those who wonder how you can possibly be so comfortable and full of life in these troubling times. It’s a great promise that he made to us, so let’s grab ahold of it and begin living into it.

With Hope,

Rev. Paula

Invitation from Pastor Paula

On a completely church-unrelated endeavor, I want to personally invite anyone to attend a special meeting tonight, Tuesday, May 16, to hear about the “Girls Leadership Council of Grand County” in our Fellowship Hall from 5:30 to 7:00. I’ve been partnering with Dr. Susanne Jalbert to envision what a council would look like and what benefit it might have for our community long term. If you are interested in helping to build girls’ confidence and leadership skills, please join us tonight. There is no commitment expected — we just really need some feedback and help visioning this GLCGC.

The Follow Through

New Beginnings

How do we continue our Easter Journey?

On Sunday we explored the question of “Now What?” as we looked at the story of Jesus feeding Peter and the disciples from John 21. For the third time since his resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and the boys to remind them to get busy with the work they had to do. The first time, he even gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit to breathe a little life into them. But still they found themselves going back to their “old way of doing things.” They went fishing for fish, when Jesus had been asking them to go fishing for people!

As a congregation, we find ourselves at a time of incredible rebirth. There is a new sense of energy and commitment all around CEH. The question is, “Now What?”

How do we keep this spiritual growth and energy? How do we continue to be a beacon to our community, and learn how to reach out even further? As I look forward to many more years leading this congregation, I want to assure that we have a shared vision that we can work together to realize.

The Session of CEH has engaged with the Denver Presbytery in a time of reflection and visioning called “New Beginnings.”

You can learn all about it on Tuesday, May 2nd, 6:30 PM

PJ Brobston, of the New Beginnings Foundation will be in our Fellowship Hall for a question and answer session about this exciting opportunity for us.

Please save this time, and whether you’re a member, visitor, regular attender or someone who doesn’t come any more, consider coming to learn about the process of introspection we’ll be going through over the next year.

Please call the church office at 970-887-3603 if you will need:
* childcare
* transportation
* special accommodations
for this important event!

With Hope,

Rev. Paula

Believing Without Understanding

Thomas After Easter: FOMO

There is a syndrome among our young people (I’ve actually suffered from it for ages) called FOMO. “Fear of Missing Out” is the concern that one might be missing out on all the action, and it has been exacerbated by the prevalence of social media. People are constantly posting pictures of their good times and memorable moments, leaving those who are not present with a tinge of jealously or sadness that they were not a part of the event.

My daughter had a slight tinge of it on Easter evening, when my nieces, sister and I sent her little videos of the fun we were having. She texted us back, “I have a serious case of FOMO.” At the time, none of us could figure out what “FOMO” even meant, but we completely understood once we looked it up online.

Then it occurred to me while reading about Thomas from the gospel of John this week, that he must have had the worst FOMO of all time:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ (John 20:19-29, NRSV).

While Addie was sad that she was missing out on family who lives far away (that she will get to see again this summer), Thomas felt like he had missed out on the most EPIC reunion of all time. His personal Rabbi, with whom he had spent the last three years living, and for whom he gave up any semblance of his previous life, had died brutally in a public execution. And he missed it when Jesus appeared again.

What Thomas would have given to see Jesus again! To touch his hands and feet; to see the wounds on his body. He was filled with grief and remorse that he had missed that moment.

Of course we remember him as “Doubting Thomas,” and I suppose it has stuck for so long because it is comforting for all of us who haven’t had the opportunity to “See” for ourselves. Without Thomas and his need to SEE, we wouldn’t have heard these powerful words from Jesus, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (John 20:29).

Unlike those scared disciples huddled in a locked room, we see because we believe; we don’t believe because we see. Jesus reminds us through his words to Thomas that we receive a special blessing in that.

Many scholars and theologians have a lot to say about faith, believing, doubt, and understanding. It’s a little overwhelming to be sure! My favorite for the week came from commentator Clayton Schmidt, writing the “Feasting on the Word” Lectionary Commentary for Easter 2 Year A, “Faith is a mystery of the heart that the mind wants to solve.” It’s ironic, isn’t it, that while we can agree that faith is a mystery of the heart we find entire tomes written to “work out” what faith is and try to rationalize or explain things like belief and doubt.

Faith is a mystery of the heart, and when we get our minds too invested in trying to figure it all out, we are actually missing out on the freedom of leaning into that mystery, being enveloped, surrounded, and comforted by it.

Take for instance, that wonderfully warm feeling of peace that washes over you in a moment of trial or tragedy. That’s a mystery of faith and it holds fast. . . until our minds get busy (our minds are practicing their own version of FOMO! They don’t want to miss out on anything, so our minds begin their processing). Rather than resting in that peace and soaking it up, we think, “Wait, this is terrible! What am I going to do? How will I solve this?” and then our minds race with all the “What ifs?” and “Whys?” and as our mind becomes more active we destroy that incredible peace that came as a gift of faith; a promise from the Spirit that we are cared for and comforted. It could be what we read about in the epistles: “A peace that passes understanding” (Phil 4:7). But our minds cannot understand it, and more often than not, in our attempt to try and understand or explain it, we utterly destroy it.

If there’s anything to be learned about Thomas and the blessing of believing without seeing, it is that we would do well to let go of our need to prove and explain everything. There is a special blessing to be found in a child-like faith: a faith that feels and experiences while engaging fully in the wonder of it all.

It’s almost as if it is a choice then, to believe. To believe even when we feel our prayers aren’t answered; to believe even in the face of terrible evil and destruction in the world. I think I like the way Madeleine L’Engle, a wonderful weaver of fictional tales and a beautiful commentator on living a life of faith, responded when asked, “Do you believe in God without any doubts?” In her self-assured way, she answered, “I believe in God with all my doubts.”

May you also lean in and embrace the mystery. May you find yourself full of wonder and willing to let go of your need to understand every little detail. May you come to believe in God with all your doubts.

With Hope,

Rev. Paula

Resurrection Sunday: The New Journey

Christ is Risen!

He is Risen, Indeed!
Alleluia! Amen!

We had gorgeous Easter morning sunrise and 10 AM worship services at CEH. In lieu of trying to recap our journey together and the message of the Empty Tomb, I wanted to share this wonderful story I received in the mail last week. I could not write anything more promising or affirming than my new (and old) friend Suzie Brane shared with this congregation! Her story is a testament to how sincerely each of you take our mission statement of being a welcoming congregation with “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Arms.” The story made me laugh and cry and remember how grateful I am to serve you. Enjoy!

***
Susie Mim Bud
Bud Crawford, Mim Heistermann, Pastor Paula, and Suzie Brane
This story is about the amazing way that God continues to weave threads of the past and present to reach down into the deepest part of our soul to surprise and remind us that he is constantly at work on the tapestry of our lives…

It started on a Wednesday at the top of the Winter Park & Mary Jane Ski Area, just inside Lunch Rock Café. We pulled up with our chips and sandwiches to share a large round table with skiers Bud (age 83) and Jan, his younger sister by ten years. Delightful back & forth table conversation led to the pinpointing of our lodging for the month of March in The Highlands, just outside of Tabernash, CO. This promptly motivated Bud to tell us about his church located just across the road from our mountainside neighborhood. He spoke with contagious enthusiasm about his beloved church, and their amazing Pastor-Paula. Pure inspiration sat right beside me at the top of that mountain. I could feel it.

We told Bud we would certainly look for him on the approaching Sunday when we arrived at Eternal Hills Presbyterian Church. He told us to be sure and get “up close” and personal on Sunday as his eyes were growing old & weary at face recognition. The challenge of macular degeneration was clearly not causing him to “wave the white flag” at life as he set sail to conquer the slopes for the rest of the afternoon. In that small space of time I was more than drenched by his zest for life.

As we pulled in the parking lot on Sunday it began to snow. It felt good to be at church. The snow seemed to confirm the perfect beauty of this outdoor sanctuary, even if only sitting in the parking lot. After grabbing everything they had to offer on the back table we carefully chose our pew, not too close to the front, as is our usual cautious way. Immediately I loved the entire Lenten theme of journeying to Jerusalem as I thumbed through the literature.

The first Sunday of Lent, the children and some adults, including myself, received compasses as a symbol to “stay the course” on this sometimes unpredictable roadmap of life, and to count on Jesus as the ultimate GPS in all situations. Pastor Paula’s poignant review of our previously missed Sunday drew me in even deeper as the service continued to make direct contact with my heart. It was as if each word, prayer, & song was directly intended as a personal message to me alone. So I leaned in even more…

Today, the 2nd Sunday of Lent, focused on navigating the wilderness–another instant connection to my spiritual & emotional trigger buttons. I have known the wilderness. The “object talk” with the kids included all kinds of walking sticks, and how they support us along the road of life…especially when the way is rugged and unpredictable. I am now more than fully engaged as I ponder the “walking stick” moments in my own journey, and those

people who held me up, and encouraged me when days were dark. The guest speaker then spoke of his “wilderness experience” as he found himself in one of the Twin Towers on nine-eleven. It was a moving & powerful testimony unlike anything I’ve heard. I could have gone home at this point, my cup more than overflowing. But God was not done with me yet.

Following the service Judy, my new friend from “Passing of the Peace,” insisted on an introduction to Pastor Paula. That conversation quickly spiraled into a “connect the dots” of monumental proportion. Paula grew up in Wichita, and in my neighborhood of College Hill. From there we discovered we had both attended Grace Presbyterian. Next came my parents Mim & Kieth—and of course she knew them, because everyone knows my mom! But what really grabbed my heart and stirred my soul was that she knew my brother, Hans. Paula knew him. She loved him. She knew exactly where she was the day he died, and spoke of the rainbow she saw as a sign that he was in good hands. Somehow this little piece of my “frozen in time brother” erupted like a storm in my heart. I too, remembered driving frantically through a heavy rainstorm and the miraculous parting of heavy sheets of rain to be at his side. I thought of that ornery-freckled red head boy that I loved so much–and I missed him instantly. Caught in a gust of forgotten memories because no one has spoken my brother’s name with that kind of passion for nearly thirty years, I cried. My heart broke wide open at the unexpected surprise of it, and in that moment I was consumed by waves of tears, love, and memories. Oh love that will not let us go…

The wilderness of where we’ve been, and where we’re going is sometimes a daunting voyage. But as we put our trust in this GPS-Jesus, it does indeed; make all the difference in the world. We will not be lost. It is everything, this Jesus–everything.

So thank you 83-year-old Bud & amazing Pastor Paula. Thank you Susan & Judy–and the entire family of Eternal Hills Church. You handed me a compass, walking stick, and a drink of much needed living water to continue the journey. It was exactly what I needed. I am once again amazed and inspired by our good-good Father who brings us these unexpected gifts if we will but watch for them.

Blessings to you, my mountain church family-! God’s hand has been at work through YOU-! Until next time—peace & the love of our Savior to all.

Journey to Jerusalem

Lent Six: The Destination
Triumphant Entry and a Passionate Death

We’ve arrived at our destination. You may have thought the empty tomb was our destination, but here, at the end of our Lenten journey, we find ourselves outside of a sealed-up tomb as night falls. This is where we’ve been headed all along.

The nature of the Passion is such that we need to stop here; pause for a bit in wonder and awe; marvel at how this journey brought us to this point.

Sunday morning at our 10 AM worship, we began with a loud and palm-waving entrance. Our shouts of “Hosanna!” and our songs of praise led a parade of children and kids-at-heart right to the baptismal font, where we celebrated the baptism of baby Noelle. Everything was perfect — the baby didn’t flinch or grimace when I poured the water over her voluminous black hair, and she smiled and cooed at each of the congregants when I paraded her around the sanctuary for her blessings. My heart felt especially full as I watched the face of Noelle’s maternal grandparents and her eight-year-old cousin, all of whom spoke no English, hear the translation of the liturgy from our translator, Kathy Naples. Because they had traveled all the way from Paraguay for this momentous occasion, we indulged a little bit and had the liturgy in Spanish as well. The light in their eyes and the smiles of peace upon their faces told me we did it right.

And the smiles on the faces of the congregants, and the tears I saw in many people’s eyes, reminded me how precious our baptismal service has become. We certainly have a ritual that involves many people — from the children who bless the shells to the people who have brought in shells from so many different locations; from Jocille who ordered and picked up the cake to Betsy, who stitched together the keepsake quilt; from Sue coordinating fellowship to Patti and the choir planning out a special song for the parents I think there are over 40 people involved!

Our joy at the font turned quickly sober as we began the readings from Matthew’s passion. Throughout the readings Jesus was calm, driven, and did not deny nor admit to any guilt or innocence. Meanwhile, Judas betrayed his teacher, the other disciples fell asleep while Jesus was praying, Peter cut the ear off of a soldier who had come to arrest Jesus, and then all of them — all of them, all twelve of them deserted Jesus as the trial progressed. The only ones remaining at the cross as Jesus breathed his last were the women:
“Many women were also there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee” (Matthew 27:55-56).

And us. We’re here. We made it. Now we stop to ponder this wondrous love, as we gaze upon an empty chancel and the cross draped in black. Through this week we’ll continue to wonder, read through some of the other Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death, we’ll stop on Thursday at the table, be blessed in the washing of feet, and on Friday, gathered with believers from around Fraser Valley, we’ll venerate the cross one last time before we enter into the darkest days of our faith.

Thanks for coming with me on this journey. I feel we have so many reasons to be in wonder, and it is more satisfying to wonder alongside each of you.

May God bless this week for you in new and challenging ways, and may you grow in your own understanding of this holy mystery.

With Love and Devotion,

Rev. Paula

What Wondrous Love Is This
American Folk Hymn
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this
That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb,
Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free
I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.

***
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Your Guide to Holy Week and the Holy Triduum

Monday — Saturday, continue your study of the GPS (included below or available at Welcome Center in our foyer) and the readings from the “Meeting Jesus” devotional.

Tuesday — Noon and 5:30 PM — Lenten Study. Lunch is served at the noon study, and the 5:30 study will be abbreviated this week due to another ministry at the church starting at 6.

The Holy Triduum

As Reformed Christians, we have an abbreviated version of the Paschal Triduum; we still celebrate Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in full fashion, but our Easter Vigil is quite different.

Thursday — 7 PM at CEH Maundy Thursday Service. “Maundy” from the Latin “Mandatum Novum,” or the “New Mandate” that Jesus gives to his disciples at the feast of the Passover in the upper room to “Serve One Another in Love.” We observe this mandate by mirroring Jesus’ actions that night in a holy and sacred ritual of foot washing. This intimate, humbling ritual is one of the most moving of the year, and I encourage you to come forward in courage. This year you will be able to wash your own hands if you are uncomfortable with me washing your feet. We will break bread together in communion.

Friday — Good Friday, 7 PM at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Granby. We will use this time to hear the Passion again, this time from John. This very traditional service includes time to “venerate” the cross, which means to stop and adore it.

Saturday — The Great Easter Prayer Vigil. From the end of the Good Friday service to the break of dawn on Easter morning, CEH members will be engaging in our version of the “Great Easter Vigil” by filling that time with prayers. You can devote yourself to prayer any time that day, or you can add your name to our list of hours and pray during that set time. Call the church office to sign up for any available hours. I am preparing the Prayer Vigil guide, which can be emailed to you or you can stop and pick one up at the Thursday and Friday services, or in the office starting on Wednesday. You can also let yourself into the church to engage in the prayer stations any time on Saturday. If you take your time at each station, you can easily fill your hour time slot with prayer.

Resurrection Sunday
7:00 AM — Sunrise service of song, scripture, and communion.
8:00 AM — Potluck Easter Breakfast and Fellowship
9:00 AM — Service Station — our all ages mission opportunity. We’ll be packing hygiene kits for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
10:00 AM — Worship and Praise — quite a celebration! Meet in the Fellowship Hall and we’ll process into the Sanctuary together.
Following the 10 AM service — Fellowship and an Easter Egg hunt for the little ones.

Please join us for these last days of Lent and the beginning of an entirely new journey into celebration!

Peace,

Rev. Paula

GPS Week 6: The Destination
The week starts off with a show of God’s strength and a display of God’s power in Palm Sunday. As the week unfolds, Jesus will experience betrayal and desertion from many in his inner circle. We have come so far with Jesus on this journey. Jesus asks us the same thing he asks his disciples this week. “Stay awake and pray.”

During this last week of Lent, we will be looking at scriptures that allow us to journey with Jesus during his time in Jerusalem on the last week of his earthly life. Use this devotional time to grow closer to the one who gave up everything for you and the rest of God’s children.

Monday – Matthew 21:1-11

This was no ordinary parade. This was Jesus engaged in street theater. Jesus is making a statement against the power, violence, and exploitation of Rome. While Roman officials would have ridden into Jerusalem on war horses, Jesus chose a symbolic animal of peace. God’s power is not measured by the world’s standards. God’s power is located in a peasant who peacefully rides into a city that will kill him in five days. What are some ways that we could participate in non-violent demonstrations that showcase God’s love for everyone?

Tuesday – Matthew 21:12-17

Jesus wastes no time in liberating God’s house for God’s people. It’s one thing to talk about justice. It’s quite another to participate in liberation. The money changers were making a huge profit by exploiting the poor. All throughout the Bible, God has been on the side of the oppressed and the marginalized. This is no exception! How can we work alongside God in proclaiming justice for all?

Wednesday – Matthew 23:37-39

This passage shows God’s full range of forgiveness and devotion to God’s people. Jesus is expressing remorse that Jerusalem won’t listen to him. Not because Jesus is mad at them, but because they are choosing to live outside of God’s desire for them. Even though this is the city that will kill Jesus, he still prays for them and wishes to gather them home. How does it feel to be connected to a God that loves you despite what you do? Our God is ALWAYS on our side and desperately wants the best for us.

Thursday – Matthew 26:26-29

Communion was central to the life of the early Christians. It was a meal where they talked about their day and shared their lives with each other. Jesus is taking this opportunity to break bread with his closest friends. It has since become a ritual in Christian worship, but the heart of communion is still sharing a meal with your church family and God. Jesus shared this table with the one who would deny him three times and with the one who would betray him. Jesus extends an invitation to this table to everyone who wants to partake.

Friday – Matthew 27:45-46

Matthew describes this event with rocks splitting and the earth shaking. The death of Jesus shook even the foundations of the world. It should shake our foundations as well. Do not fall into the temptation of reading this event as something that happened 2000 years ago. The injustice that Jesus stood against and eventually died for is still alive and well in our time. What are some ways that we can shed light on the problems of inequality, racism, and bigotry. If we are not willing to work for justice, then we might as well be the bystanders in this passage who witnessed the death of Jesus and did nothing to stop it.

Saturday – Sabbath Rest

The journey became even harder this week. In fact, the journey became impossible. Jesus was alone on the cross at the end. The disciples were scattered. Peter had denied him. Even the women watched the events unfold from a distance. There are many times we have disappointed God in our faith journey. But tomorrow, God beats death. And we aren’t just invited to watch from a distance. We are invited to take part…

Suggested Daily Prayer
_ God of commitment and righteousness, we long to follow you to the very end. We acknowledge that it is beyond difficult for us to walk the path that you would have us walk. Give us strength and courage to complete this journey and proclaim new life in you. When we stumble, lift us up. When we doubt ourselves, remind us that we were created by you. When we doubt you, remind us of your power and grace. And when all we see is death and destruction, remind us that with you is abundant life. In Jesus’ holy name we pray, Amen.

EASTER WEEK SERVICES @ CEH

Palm Sunday
8:00am:  Worship and Communion Service with Palm Parade
9:00am:  Service Station (all-ages mission project)
10:00am:  Worship Service and Palm Parade followed by fellowship

Maundy Thursday
7:00pm:  Communion Service and Foot-Washing

Good Friday
7:00pm:  Ecumenical Service with St. John the Baptist Episcopal and Lord of the Valley Lutheran at St. John’s, 390 E. Garnet in Granby

Easter Vigil
8:30pm Friday evening through 6:30am Sunday morning, to be done at home, in your car, wherever you are.
Please call the office at 970-887-3603 if you would like to volunteer for one of the 1-hour slots.

Easter Sunday
7:00am – Sunrise service and communion, with potluck breakfast to follow
9:00am – Service Station – (all-ages mission project)
10:00am – Worship Service, with fellowship and egg hunt to follow

Journey to Jerusalem

Lent Five: The Road Narrows
Jesus Stirs Up Trouble With Religious Leaders

We are on the road! We’ve covered tons of ground but now we begin the steep climb towards the ultimate destination: a triumphant entry into Jerusalem; the upper room for a Seder together; the Garden at Gethsemane; Golgotha.

Sunday we took a brief look at the way Jesus’ acts of mercy were impeded by the religious leaders of the time. When they called Jesus out for not following the law to the letter, Jesus called them out for leading insincere lives of hypocrisy. He told them they look clean on the outside, but they were filthy and impure inside. “Woe to you!” he cried to the scribes, the pharisees and the lawyers.

I say “brief” because we covered only two small passages that have to do with upsetting the religious leaders and challenging the status quo. In reality there are hundreds of passages where Jesus does something a bit outside of the law and causes the religious leaders to question him. Not that it was difficult to do something “outside of the law.” Even forgetting to wash your hands before dinner was a violation. And this is what Jesus did in both of the passages we looked at Sunday, but he did it intentionally to challenge those who were keeping track of his movements.

In calling attention to the ways that the “Honorable and Righteous” leaders of the time were clean on the outside and dirty on the inside, Jesus calls us to attention too. Are there areas in our life that are rife with sin? Places where we look clean but are really dirty? We sure don’t like it when people point those places out to us, do we? Pew-sitters across the globe get all tingly and happy when they hear an uplifting sermon about the miracles, healings, and the “Love your neighbor” admonishments Jesus makes repeatedly; but there is an awful lot of squirming in the pews when we begin to talk about sin.

Jesus preached, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” But as a character in the TV series “Justified” pointed out, “The truth is always painful to those living in sin.”

Welp, there’s truth in that for sure. We squirm and fight against the idea of sin being present in our life rather than acknowledging its presence and choosing to look at it as an obstacle that can be overcome. With effort, we can push that obstacle of sin out of our way and move on in the light.

And what we know about obstacles on our trails and roads here in Grand County is that they rarely keep us from trudging onward, heading towards that next mountain peak or whatever promised vista is our intended destination. Indeed, as we hike the trails around here, we are more likely to join efforts to clear every obstacle along the way rather than just turn around or feel dejected or hindered by the fallen trees or rocks that have tumbled down the mountain and onto the path during the long winters. And we extend considerable energy to remove those obstacles not only for our own journey, but for the benefit of those who will travel that same trail later.

What a cool world it would be if we expended the same amount of care and energy to remove the obstacle of sin from each other’s lives. I mean, we’re always going to have sin in our lives; there will always be sin in this world; but how better would our life be if we encouraged and worked alongside one another to continue on this glorious journey, unfettered and uninhibited by even the most insurmountable obstacles?

As we continue towards Jerusalem in the coming weeks, let’s not think of the cross as one of those obstacles, but rather the gateway to overcoming any obstacle that will ever come our way.

Your Travel Companion,

Rev. Paula

***
Prayer Stations
doodle prayer 2017
Using Psalm 32 to “Doodle Pray.”
The prayer stations are available during regular church office hours (10 — 4 M-Th) for anyone who would like to spend some time in contemplation and meditation. The centers are self-guided, with instructions at each station for how to proceed. Please take a moment to enrich your own prayer life by spending some time at your leisure to study and pray.

desk pic
From the Pastor’s Desk
Travel Guide for Our Lenten Journey

We are near the end of our journey! Sunday we barely touched on the controversial acts of mercy that Jesus performed that enraged the religious leaders of the time.

You will benefit the most from this journey if you participate in the activities beyond Sunday worship. There are plenty of opportunities; just check out our trip itinerary:

Tuesday Noon (lunch provided)
or Tuesday Evening (5:30 — 6:30)
Our Tuesday Lenten study will include deeper readings of the scriptures from the previous Sunday. You will also get to engage in “Prayer Centers” from week to week that will guide you to a deeper prayer experience. If you are unable to attend on Tuesdays, the Prayer Centers will be open when the office is open during the week, and study guides will be available to help you through the centers.

The Banner
Each week we will be coloring in a beautiful banner designed by local artist and CEH Member Laura Veenstra. Each week at the Service Station, the prayer centers, and during our Lenten Study time, we will be coloring in a section of the banner that coordinates with the week’s theme. The banner will hang during our worship services to be a visual reminder of where we are headed in our journey.

The Cross
There is a cross that was fashioned from the CEH Christmas Tree (thank you Stephen Eddy!) that will journey from the foyer to the Chancel throughout Lent. As we progress on our journey through Jesus’ life, we will be bringing the cross closer and closer to the front of our sanctuary as a reminder where we are headed. There will be activities throughout the worship service, focusing on the cross, that give you an opportunity to deepen your commitment to Christ.

GPS
Each week you will receive a “Grow, Pray, Study” Guide to deepen your understanding of the life of Christ. Like a GPS Navigation system, your GPS will guide you through this journey.

Compass Clips
The kaleidoscopes during Advent were so successful, we looked for an appropriate symbol to hold onto for this Lenten Journey. The children will be receiving their own “Compass clip” that they can put on their backpack or carry in their pocket. This compass will be representative of needing God’s guidance and direction in our lives. These are available for adults if you would like a physical reminder to let God be your guide through life.

“Meeting Jesus” Lenten Devotional
The 2017 “Presbyterians Today” Lenten Devotional contains 47 short, 1st Person Readings from people who encountered Jesus. This is an excellent way to challenge yourself to daily contemplation on the Word and on the life of Christ.

Holy Week Services
We will have our regular Monday and Tuesday studies, with an additional service on Maundy Thursday, and an ecumenical service at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Granby for Good Friday.

Easter Vigil
We will cover the darkest hours of our faith with prayer, from Friday night after the Good Friday service through sunrise on Easter morning. You can sign up for a one (or more) hour slot during which you can pray and be in meditation. Pastor Paula will make a Prayer Vigil Guide for your time of prayer. Don’t worry! The guide really helps you through the hour of prayer and meditation.

Resurrection Day (Easter!)
Sunrise Service, followed by a breakfast will begin our day with worship and fellowship. After breakfast, we are sponsoring an Easter Egg hunt for our entire community, in hopes that they might stick around for the rest of our festivities. Our Service Station will be really amazing for this holiest of days, so plan to come at 9:10 if you would like to participate in being the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world as we make “Gift of the Heart Kits” for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Our 10 AM service will be an incredible celebration of the empty tomb, beginning in the Fellowship Hall and moving to the sanctuary to roll the stone away!

All of these resources can also be emailed or mailed if you cannot pick one up from the church.

With Encouragement for the Journey,

Rev. Paula

New Song Sunday

How He Loves

Take a moment on this beautiful Saturday to read through the lyrics to a new song we’ll be singing tomorrow at worship:

“How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And, oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

That He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves.

Beautiful, aren’t they? This is my preferred song the past several weeks as I’ve been feeling the pressure of Lent and the approaching glory of Easter: “If grace is an ocean we’re all sinking.” Hope the words remind you of God’s amazing love for us, and the freedom we have to begin anew when we trust that “He loves us, Oh how he loves us!”

Take a listen here, to the “Passion, featuring David Crowder” version of this gorgeous song:

“Oh, How He Loves Us” lyric video

In His Love,

Rev. Paula

***
Journey to Jerusalem
We are near the end of our Lenten Journey. Up to this point, the path has been pretty well-paved; a comfortable path for walking with a group of people and to stop and admire the view and drink in the goodness of our story together. But now the road begins to narrow and we face some obstacles. Read about Jesus’ three year stint Teaching, Preaching, and Healing in the article below.

You will benefit the most from this journey if you participate in the activities beyond Sunday worship. There are plenty of opportunities; just check out our trip itinerary:

Tuesday Noon (lunch provided)
or Tuesday Evening (5:30 — 6:30)
Our Tuesday Lenten study will include deeper readings of the scriptures from the previous Sunday. You will also get to engage in “Prayer Centers” from week to week that will guide you to a deeper prayer experience. If you are unable to attend on Tuesdays, the Prayer Centers will be open when the office is open during the week, and study guides will be available to help you through the centers.

The Banner
Each week we will be coloring in a beautiful banner designed by local artist and CEH Member Laura Veenstra. Each week at the Service Station, the prayer centers, and during our Lenten Study time, we will be coloring in a section of the banner that coordinates with the week’s theme. The banner will hang during our worship services to be a visual reminder of where we are headed in our journey.

The Cross
There is a cross that was fashioned from the CEH Christmas Tree (thank you Stephen Eddy!) that will journey from the foyer to the Chancel throughout Lent. As we progress on our journey through Jesus’ life, we will be bringing the cross closer and closer to the front of our sanctuary as a reminder where we are headed. There will be activities throughout the worship service, focusing on the cross, that give you an opportunity to deepen your commitment to Christ.

GPS
Each week you will receive a “Grow, Pray, Study” Guide to deepen your understanding of the life of Christ. Like a GPS Navigation system, your GPS will guide you through this journey.

Compass Clips
The kaleidoscopes during Advent were so successful, we looked for an appropriate symbol to hold onto for this Lenten Journey. The children will be receiving their own “Compass clip” that they can put on their backpack or carry in their pocket. This compass will be representative of needing God’s guidance and direction in our lives. These are available for adults if you would like a physical reminder to let God be your guide through life.

“Meeting Jesus” Lenten Devotional
The 2017 “Presbyterians Today” Lenten Devotional contains 47 short, 1st Person Readings from people who encountered Jesus. This is an excellent way to challenge yourself to daily contemplation on the Word and on the life of Christ.

Holy Week Services
We will have our regular Monday and Tuesday studies, with an additional service on Maundy Thursday, and an ecumenical service at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Granby for Good Friday.

Easter Vigil
We will cover the darkest hours of our faith with prayer, from Friday night after the Good Friday service through sunrise on Easter morning. You can sign up for a one (or more) hour slot during which you can pray and be in meditation. Pastor Paula will make a Prayer Vigil Guide for your time of prayer. Don’t worry! The guide really helps you through the hour of prayer and meditation.

Resurrection Day (Easter!)
Sunrise Service, followed by a breakfast will begin our day with worship and fellowship. After breakfast, we are sponsoring an Easter Egg hunt for our entire community, in hopes that they might stick around for the rest of our festivities. Our Service Station will be really amazing for this holiest of days, so plan to come at 9:10 if you would like to participate in being the hands and feet of Christ to a hurting world as we make “Gift of the Heart Kits” for the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Our 10 AM service will be an incredible celebration of the empty tomb, beginning in the Fellowship Hall and moving to the sanctuary to roll the stone away!

All of these resources can also be emailed or mailed if you cannot pick one up from the church.

With Encouragement for the Journey,

Rev. Paula