Grace and Peace to you!

What a great weekend at CEH:

  • On Friday, the mission team served 180 at the Cranmer Chapel Dinner! Thank you to Louise and Graham Powers for chairing this event and to all who helped.
  • Thanks also to our clean-up crew who swept the basement on Saturday morning! Your contributions to Project 2020 help us keep the cost down!

Note: Tour (sneak peek) of lower level project is rescheduled to Jan 31. You MUST sign up for this tour by calling the church office, 887-3603.

Please join us for the 9:15 Fellowship time by calling in to Zoom. Catch up with your CEH family, meet new friends, and plant the word of God in your heart with some scripture. We’ll close with prayer in time for the 10 AM Worship Premiere.

Click HERE for the 10 AM Worship @ Home premier for Jan 17.

Click HERE to join the Zoom Fellowship & Prayer call (passcode CEH).

Our theme through Ash Wednesday (only five more weeks until Lent begins!) is RESET

RESET 

As the Wiseman “Went home by a different way” to assure the safety of the child King after following a mysterious star, we too must seek different ways to continue to build that child’s Kin-dom. 

RESET: The Baptism of Jesus encourages us to consider all the new understandings that the Incarnation revealed. 

RECALL Today’s story from John 1 of Jesus calling his first disciples reminds us that God is with us wherever we are – “who can run from your presence?” as Psalm 139 says.


Still to come . . . Reclaim, Reaffirm, Restore, Reveal.

I pray our sermon and worship series will help you recognize and recommit to listening to the voice eternally calling us to love and serve the Lord in peace.

Peace in Christ,

Rev. Paula

Here is the full Zoom invite in case you need the dial-in numbers:

Topic: January Sundays Online Fellowship

Time: Jan 17, 2021 09:15 AM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

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This post was emailed out on Thursday, Dec 31, but many people mentioned they did not receive it. Please check your spam box and email settings to make sure that our emails are not being sent directly to your trash or spam folder:

 

Presbyterian Church of the Eternal Hills

10 AM  Worship @ Home 

January 3, 2021

 

Preparation for Worship:

We don’t typically celebrate “New Year’s Day” together but this year has been different all around. We need a way as a people of God to mark 2020 and move forward together into 2021. We will do this with a very special Worship & Communion @ Home on Sunday, January 3, 2021.

Here is how to connect to the worship:

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During Worship we will be hearing beautiful scriptures to help us into a new mind set and a new perspective! We will also share Communion. I’ve included a recipe for Beef Stew from a cookbook James and I received as a wedding gift. Sponsored by the Junior League of Wichita, the cookbook has been around as long as I can remember at all of my mother’s friends homes: “The Sunflower Sampler.”

For preparation of your heart, consider these questions for discussion and contemplation:

  1. When did you most feel God’s presence through 2020?
  2. When did you notice an absence of God (sometimes resulting in an empty feeling, or loss of hope)?
  3. 2020 has given us many reasons to grieve over loss — loved ones, honored traditions, etc. What loss has affected you the most?
  4. God challenges us to find the light in the darkness: where did you find light during 2020?
  5. What is something you would like to treasure from 2020?
  6. What are you leaving behind for 2021?
  7. What is your goal for your own faith journey in 2021?
  8. Take some time to read through these scriptures on Guideposts: Read These Scriptures . Which ones offer you the most hope? Remember just one of these verses to share as you wish on Sunday during worship. If you write it down you can type it into the chat during the service.

New Year’s Stew

Since we are having Communion together and we typically would have had a pot-luck to mark this new beginning, let’s share some New Year’s Stew. This recipe will allow you to use your Communion wine and bread for a special lunch following worship.

 

For Communion

1 Bottle Red Wine (mostly for cooking)

1 Loaf Crusty Bread (we love the roasted garlic bread you can purchase at City Market)

For the Stew

1/2 C shortening

3 Lbs chuck roast, cut bite size

3 T flour

1 1/2 t salt

1/2 t pepper

1/2 t thyme

1 C beef broth

1 C dry red wine,

1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced

1 yellow onion, cut into chunks

 

Before Worship: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Brown beef in shortening; add rest of ingredients except mushrooms and onions.

Bake 2 hours (if you stick this in at 9 AM, you can add the final ingredients after worship and the stew will be ready at 12:30 for Sunday Lunch).

During Worship: Share Communion with the bottle of wine you opened for the stew, and share a small portion of the delicious, crusty bread you selected for your dinner).

After Worship: Add your final ingredients (should be onions and mushrooms if you’re following the recipe) and bake for 1 1/2 hour more. James and I made this last week, and added carrots, new potatoes, turnips, parsnips for the final 1 1/2 hour cooking. If you add root vegetables, I recommend adding liquids at the same time. We chose to use an additional 1 C beef broth and 1 C wine, but you may need more or less depending on what you want in your stew.

About 15 minutes before you serve lunch, throw that crusty bread into the oven to warm it up and get it even more crusty and delicious! You won’t even need butter as the delicious stew will be flavorful enough as you soak it up with the bread.

Finally, before you share your dinner, offer a big thank you back to God for all we have; for our church family and a table full of food, for being able to worship through the year and stay in touch as best we could.

Enjoy your first Sunday Lunch of 2021, and let’s hope for a year where we will be able to gather again for fellowship and meals around the tables in our Fellowship Hall!

Peace in Christ, and Hope for the New Year,

Rev. Paula

Liturgical Time of the Year: White for Christmas

As the celebrated season of the Nativity of our Lord, Christmas is a high holy season — which indicates we use WHITE. We have also used white and gold, as we do on Easter. White is the color of divinity and purity, so it is also the perfect color for Christmas! We use white every time we share communion as well. 

 

Theme: New Year 2021

The Wise men went “Home by a different way” to avoid having to face Herod again. As 2020 came and went, we had to find new ways of doing things and new ways of being the CHURCH.

 

We have seen the light of Christ and need wait no longer to arise, SHINE! 

Thinking back over our Advent season, and our preparations for Christmas Eve, have we shined? Moving into a New Year, what do we need to do a different way?

IT’s finally Christmas Eve! We have so many fun things happening at CEH to mark this Christmas holiday.

The Nativity Lights Drive-Thru will be tonight from 6-9 in lieu of our traditional service of carols and scriptures. We will also premiere a Christmas Eve @ Home worship service on YouTube at 8 pm if you are safer at home!

If you’ll be walking through the Luminary Forest or driving through the Nativity Lights display, you’ll need to download this audio track to play from your phone on headphones or through your car speaker:

https://soundcloud.com/user-49975035-707486656/christmaseve_podcast

You can also read the scriptures yourself using the drive through/prayer path guide when you stop at the greeter’s table.

Hope these experiences will warm up this cold and dark Christmas, and help us all to remember the joy of gathering together to light some candles and retell the Nativity Story.

Peace in Christ,

Rev. Paula

Sunday, Nov. 1, we pause to celebrate 115 years worshiping in Grand County as a Presbyterian Congregation.

It is also All Saint’s Day by the calendar, so we will pause to honor the lives of the CEH saints who died in 2020: Mark Harrington, Win Watkins, and Steven Sears.

We’ll enjoy peace together in these chaotic, divisive times.


Topic: All Saints Day, Nov. 1, 2020
Time: Nov 1, 2020 09:30 AM Mountain Time (US and Canada)

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We are surrounded by death throughout life, but we do not know how to bring this reality to light and so death stays in the shadows and lingers there, full of shame and a sense of losing or giving up; a fear of losing status or authority or influence or worst of all loss of dignity and relevance. That is our fault. Many of us are in the the shadowy darkness right alongside the dying because we ourselves are full of shame and a sense of losing or giving up. . . a fear of losing status or authority or influence or worst of all loss of dignity and relevance. The shadowy nature of dying is our own human frailty. Our human nature is that which dies with our body, so we must abandon the human nature to cling to life and survive needlessly.  Instead we give our Hearts to absolute LOVE because that is what is GOD and that is what is eternal within us.

This CoVid Crisis has shined the spotlight upon death and it it impossible to ignore or deny the attention it is drawing. Because during our solitary physical distancing and our necessary isolating to preserve our own health and lives there is still the same Samsara-pattern of life and death happening everywhere around us. People are still dying peacefully of old age. Some are still dying because of a massive and sudden heart attack or a sudden and tragic car accident. Some give in to mysterious diseases that share no diagnosis and still some are facing curative treatments that seem worse than death. Some suffer in their minds so greatly that even when their bodies are filled with life they long for death. And somehow, although the ways that Co-Vid has prohibited us from celebrating the joy and hope of death together through our ceremonies and rituals, we have failed to address death with wisdom and guidance and open conversation and acceptance. Why? 

And when I am called to the side of a dying soul and am asked to pray, I pray the words below in some form or another, using words of comfort and familiarity when I know their faith, and framing the prayer with the most well known or common terms for the same things I know and share in my own theology depending upon their context. I do this and respect the other names and revelations of God because after the intensive Chaplaincy training during my Clinical Pastoral Education, I began to understand that my acknowledging God in others’ revelations and souls did not and should not diminish my own understanding of God. My God, and my God’s unmerited grace is big enough. It’s why I rest into that Holy Mystery; I may not understand it but I can live into it and trust the truth of what I know: God is LOVE. 

So many people ask me how we “should” feel about death and admit to them I’m not sure, but I know that if we did not have the hope of eternity we would be absolutely lost. It took me grabbing hands with Christ to understand the Holy Mystery but Christ does not have the monopoly on peace or revelation. Perhaps others find it through the hands of the Creator revealed in Creation and the Saṃsāra rhythms and cycles of life or through the shiny Spirit sparking light and love within their own hearts; some feel dimished in their faith when they cannot remember a time without YOUR presence surrounding them and I remind them they are reborn every day into new life and that their unbeknownst origin of faith does not mean they don’t already live and breathe with that Holy Mystery. . .

It’s not ours to know details because what happens after death is in God’s Hands and many, as do most Christians, believe that our Spirit is already part of the Holy Mystery and certainly positively proof of that same Holy Mystery breathing life giving inspiration throughout ALL.

And so we do not fear or freeze with inaction like a deer-in-the-headlights. No! We trust, and trusting includes recognizing how courageous it is to sincerely pray this prayer every day. I’m inviting you to embrace this prayer and pray it for the dying and also for yourself.
 
We pray:
 
A Prayer for the Dying
 
Holy Mystery,
God our Creator of
Christ the Human Presence of the
Spirit the Shiny Living Inspiration of
YOU:
 
YOU
Only
Know our days and so
We pray for those who are dying
 
That if they have any life in them to live
whether their souls long for death
or their souls shrink in fear of death we pray
that each moment
will be surrounded by love and meaning, dignity and purpose, and that
Each breath
Each inspiration
would thrive with your Energy.
And that they would be surrounded by those they love and cherish most
 
and that they would tangibly feel the presence of all those who love them
 
whether present in body or Spirit joined.
 
That if they have come to the end of their time here
And if they have many days to contemplate this
Give them an inner peace that is so warm that your
Peace that Passes Understanding
Finds a permanent home within their soul and that
they begin to value every inspiration and marry it with the breath that is YOU that is that shiny Spirit.
Give them the time here among the living saints
and give them living saints worthy of the Calling to
Be YOUR Body, to be Christ;
present and peaceful and in-Spi-ra-tion-al.
 
That if they have made their peace
And are safely and securely resting in your LOVE
Holy Mystery,
We pray they would go quickly without suffering and
If
O God
The dying one cannot let go
We pray for Ourselves to Trust,
As we surely are the ties holding onto
Your Beloved Child.
And So
Our Holy and Present Mystery
Give us your peace to release this saint
Into
Your
Arms.
Amen.

 

—Rev. Paula Daniel Steinbacher

I came across a picture today of 8 Years ago when we were having our “Last supper” as a family around our table in Winfield before we sent Addie off to college. 8 Years and I swear I have not adapted to having an adult daughter; maybe I’ve adapted to it but most of the time I still feel that ache for our home. Our Winfield home was wonderful and full of life and friends and too many pets. My hobby and passion was my rose garden in the front and the little wildflower garden out by the bluebird houses. We spent each evening around the campfire in the back and took nightly walks through our “Tall Grass Prairie” path.
I moved to Colorado during Stephen’s senior year of high school. James and Stephen stayed in Winfield to finish out public school. They did a great job together, but it was extra difficult for me to be in a new “temporary” home and in a brand new job. I didn’t know who I was or what I was without having my children under my roof; I spent my time investing in being the best Pastor I could be and didn’t do any figuring out who I was.
It is strange to think that I am finally finding a new normal. And now the entire world has changed so I need to find a new new normal. And occasionally, pictures like the one I found from 8 years ago pop up and remind me of how beautiful our lives are, how rich and complete our days are when we spend them with family and friends. We love where we live and what we do when we have the right focus and then — oh, how fortunate to truly love where we live.
I’ve taken a week of reflection and introspection. It’s been a very difficult time — it was my first real taste of what many of you experienced during the shut down. I was so busy during the shut-down I never had time for reflection. Or should I say, I didn’t MAKE time for reflection. Because reflection can be very difficult (who really wants a mirror held up in front of them with all those things that are shoved way down deep in our selves?). And honestly, though I knew I was exhausted and empty, I knew if I stopped I would have to deal with all this grief.
Grief over my father (died 30 years ago) and mother (died nearly 10 years ago) and what I always felt was “Home.” Goodness, I am fifty one years old and I still feel the brief years of birth through 18 are “home?” Since then I’ve created five beautiful, colorful homes where people are always welcome and where James and I nurtured and tried to cocoon Addie and Stephen. And I have a homesickness for them as well.
Grief over how quickly my own Thing One and Thing Two become their very own selves and how proud I am of them but also how much I wish they were actually right here under my roof every night so I knew they were safe and sound and that they went to bed every night knowing they were loved and safe.
Grief over the world and what we have lost and how we need to move forward and figure out how to keep everyone around us loved and safe.
Father Richard Rohr says this homesickness (where all my grief comes back to) is what we feel when we are missing being in the presence of God. I think of this feeling and the presence of God as the Divine Mystery. Our world here is full of liminal spaces where we can tangibly reconnect with that Mystery. Sometimes it happens with a community, sometimes in a place of Natural Wonder, and sometimes when you are silenced by the beauty of something made by human hands — but your heart is warmed and healed and your senses are heightened and you feel right then that everything actually is okay. You feel, for the moment, that you are right where you belong and you belong right where you are.
Liminal spaces are thin. We can’t live our lives in that closeness to God or we would never want to be in the muck of our day-to-day grind. Those spaces might be thin, but they can actually be every where, so ultimately when our day-to-day grind allows more space for the Divine Mystery than it does the muck, our every day moments become more and more holy.
Through many tears, much confession with God, much openness to grace I have started grieving. It is as if the floodgates have opened and I can finally feel and mourn and cry and scream out in angsty teenage-style groans. I think it is making up for all the times I have lifted my chin and just kept on going.
I guess every now and then you have to stop and cry. Toddlers do it without any apparent reason. They become overwrought with whatever it is and they sit down and have a good cry. But then they either fall asleep or get up and move on. I’ve been falling asleep too much.
What I’m learning and re-learning and reminding myself is that I truly love where I live now. Most of the time I am still in so much “Awe” of the mountains and the wildflowers and the aspen trees and the freshly running clear water in our streams and creeks to even settle in. I don’t want to “get used to it” because I never want to take it for granted.
I adore my congregation and honestly am just now able to feel the devastating effects of CoVid on our community and church.
I don’t know why I’m writing this so publicly. I don’t really want sympathy or encouragement (people are always generously loving me and expressing their hearts — thank you). I guess I just want you to know it’s hard right now.  Not just for me — for all of us. And I get it.  Wherever you are in life. Whatever big changes you’re experiencing within the big changes we are all experiencing. It’s hard.
But we will come through this and we will work towards making our home a little more like the Kin-dom of God. I like “Kin” dom rather than “King”dom. God’s family was never meant to look like a kingdom — it was supposed to look and feel as close to home as we can get while we are on this mortal coil.
What can each of us do today to make our new normal more full of Liminal Spaces, where we can touch base with that ultimate source of LOVE? We have the choice as we rebuild — will we leave more room for the muck or for the holy moments?
I’m choosing to give myself into the Divine Mystery. Will you join me?

“I can see clearly now the rain has gone/ I can see all obstacles in my way/ Gone are the dark clouds that blinded me/It’s gonna be a bright, bright sunshiny day!” (from the song “I Can See Clearly Now” by Jonny Nash).

This is the song that comes to mind when I think of the Saul story of conversion in Acts 9. In a flash of light, he is struck blind and encounters the voice of the Lord crying, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” Then, days later, Ananias, one of the ordained leaders of “The Way”, receives the message to go and pray for Saul’s healing. The story has a tidy ending when Ananias faces his fears, heads to Straight Street and prays over the blind-struck Saul.

Oh if only all conversions and stories of faith were that nice and tidy. Saul changes from a persecutor of followers of “The Way” and becomes one of the greatest teachers of Jesus’ lessons, interpreting what it means to be righteous without “working” for it — righteous by the grace of God alone. Quite a turn-around for a Pharisee who had found his righteousness in rituals and following The Levitical Codes for cleanliness.

But for most of us, our faith journey neither begins or ends in a single moment. Rather it is a life-long journey that begins in our homes, perhaps — through the prayers and lessons of our parents or grandparents. And it continues throughout our lives.

We find moments where things become crystal clear to us — like the Jonny Nash song — “Look all around/there’s nothing but blue sky/ Look straight ahead/ nothing but blue sky!” These are moments when we touch the Divine — “Liminal” moments, where the space between the Holy and the worldly is very thin. But most of the time we trudge through, hoping for that clarity.

This Co-Vid time for me has been full of “the rainbows I’ve been praying for” as well as the “dark clouds that blinded me.” Sunday, I’ll ask you to look for those Divine moments of transformation. The kind that led Saul to begin confessing Jesus as the Son of God, and the kind that filled Ananias with courage when he wanted to do anything in the world except seek out the Saul who had murderous intentions for those who followed Jesus.

Tomorrow, we’ll begin with Fellowship & Prayer time on Zoom.  You can join us at 9:15 am with this information:

Paula Steinbacher is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Sunday Prayer and Fellowship
Time: Jun 21, 2020 09:00 AM Mountain Time (US and Canada)
Every week on Sun, until Aug 2, 2020, 7 occurrence(s)

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Session met on Wednesday, June 18 and assembled a “Re-entry Team” to pray and discern when the best time to open back up for Public Worship will be. In the meantime, perhaps these zoom prayer and fellowship times will help us feel more connected.

Peace in Christ,

 

Paula

 

Presbyterian Church of the Eternal Hills

10 AM Virtual Worship premiere

June 14, 2020 

follow the worship links at the top of our homepage to view worship and bulletin!

Amazing Acts of the Apostles: The Gift of Courage

Theme Verse: Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. Acts 2:43

Today’s Theme: In chapters six and seven of Acts of the Apostles, we hear about an extraordinary young apostle named Stephen. His faith leads him to preach and teach courageously to the court and he is sentenced to death by stoning. Even with his last breath he prays, “Forgive them, Lord.” Can we let our faith lead us to live courageously and forgive radically?

Stephen’s Courage

We have been looking at the extraordinary gifts bestowed upon the first followers of “The Way.” Last week we heard Peter step up to the plate and speak with such authority, that all the gathered listeners returned home to share the good news with their families — and the gospel on one day left Jerusalem in the hearts of 3,000 families!

This week our message is difficult to hear. Stephen, considered the first Christian Martyr, preached a sermon that summed up the entire history of the Israelites and presented the penultimate conclusion?

Here is it — I wish I could write conclusions like this:

‘You stiff-necked people,
uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you are for ever opposing the Holy Spirit,
just as your ancestors used to do.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One,
and now you have become his betrayers and murderers.
You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels,
and yet you have not kept it.’
Acts, end of Chap 7, emphasis added

Of course, it did make the religious leaders so angry they stoned him then and there. If it was anything, it was the line about being uncircumcised in heart and ears. Stephen was addressing the most righteous of God’s people — the leaders of the Temple! How dare he call them “uncircumcised?” This language hearkens back to the prophets calling God’s children back into Covenant with sincere worship. Stephen was a remarkable leader, who was raised as a Hellenist Jew (of Greek descent, but Jewish as he was born from a convert mother and circumcised on the eighth day; this was a minority of Jews, but from his sermon we hear a proper education in the Torah). Earlier in Acts we read that he called the Temple leaders out for not caring for the widows and orphans as the Law demanded. The Apostles created the ministry of διάκονος, or what we call Deacons. Stephen was ordained as one of the first! They were called to the task of being servants — we say “the hands and feet of Christ.” It was the passion of the first deacons to care for those who fall through the cracks of the big Temple politics.

Stephen was speaking at a time that was a pivoting point of all history. We use the birth and death of Jesus Christ to divide our known time. This portion of history was known as “Anno Domine” or Year of Our Lord, which definitely shows how everything changed with the Christ event. Now children are taught about the “Common Era,” which doesn’t make it Christo-centric at all (BC, which I learned was history Before Christ, has now become “BCE” or “Before Common Era”).

The change in the way we annotate the era in which we live should be a wake up call that the days of Christendom are over. No longer does the Church (note the capital C on Church, which indicates the Church Universal — the entire Body of Christ) hold the reverence and esteem it once held in communities across the globe. No longer do we depend on people to immediately seek a church for membership when they move from area to area.

But we continue to operate things as if we are living in Christendom. What can we learn from the courage that Stephen showed as he stepped up and shared a stunning sermon? He wanted the leaders to hear that Jesus was the Righteous One who had been promised by the prophets — and they couldn’t hear it. Their hearts were not ready for it.

What message is difficult for us to hear? We too live in a pivotal time in history. Never in our life times has there been a global crisis like Co-Vid, and during this time of isolation and grief (so many things to grieve) we are crying out to “Just go back to the way it used to be.”

I’m sorry to let you know that we will never return to the “Way it used to be.” Nor should we. The Church had gone so far astray from what Christ has demanded of us that we too need a wake up call. Together I believe we can discern and seek out Christ’s Way forward. We may have some teeth-gnashing and our stiff necks may get whiplash, but together, I truly do believe we can find that way forward, when we can honestly pray, “THY kingdom come; THY will be done — on earth as it is in heaven.”

May it be so!

With Love,

Rev. P

 

The presence of the Holy Spirit (Paraclete, Advocate, Comforter, Friend) reminds me of the classic song “Stand by Me.”  The zeitgeist has me really feeling that song lately:

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me (Ben King, Stand By Me).

As a member of the clergy here in Grand County I know many people are looking for me to offer comfort or reassurance and hope for these dark times. As if the Co-Vid crisis, isolation, and physical distancing wasn’t enough, many of us felt our heart pierced by the dying cries of George Floyd and then faced further anxiety over the ensuing riots and violence that the media has on replay.

The scripture I chose for this week in our series, “Amazing Acts of the Apostles” offered an astonishing parallel to my situation. I often keep my voice and opinions quiet and gentle while preaching in response to division (except to constantly beg us to listen to someone with a different opinion or viewpoint. . .to listen in love and compassion and restrain judgement to continue holding our minds and hearts open to each other or what God may be calling us to speak out to as a congregation).

The scripture is the very moment when Peter crosses all ethnic and racial lines to speak out about the wonders of Jesus’s teachings, death, and resurrection. It follows last week’s fiery gift of the Holy Spirit by visible tongues of fire that enabled all ethnic and language barriers to disappear and “everyone understood.” And Peter found his voice!

Peter declares: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”  Peter replied, “Repent . . . Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!” (selections from Acts 2:34 ff)

If only we could find that in today’s culture – the part about ethnic and other barriers being lifted and “everyone hearing and understanding.”  Instead, we feel more isolated and more divided than ever. I admit that I don’t have answers, but I am seeking for the Truth that always rises over the chaos. Truth . . . is different from facts. Everyone wants facts and data and details.  But we only find Truth when we listen deeply to all of Jesus’ teachings and when we heed the powerful words of the prophets throughout our scriptures. When we find that Truth, sometimes we know that we may also be “cut to the heart.”

The apostles were able to do brave and courageous things after they stared fear down in that room for weeks upon weeks. When the Holy Spirit rained down on the day of Pentecost, the timing was perfect for a miracle of understanding and transformation. We learn from this that sometimes understanding and transformation only come after fiery, terrifying revolution. Think about the voice Martin Luther found when he nailed those 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg castle church! He didn’t expect the fiery Reformation to sweep across Europe in the way it did, yet it changed everything: theology, politics, church, and personal identity.

Nearly 500 years later, Martin Luther King, Jr found his voice through peaceful protest and eloquent speaking crying out for the day “. . .That my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The fiery revolts and riots following his assassination seemed to effect little change in our nation when we consider how many Americans find it hard to breathe because they have too quickly been judged — and not on the content of their character.

Yes, I am disheartened. Yes, I am discouraged. But you know what? I’m not afraid. Like Peter, the time has come for all of us to raise our voices and speak out the Truth. As Presbyterians we truly believe that the Truth also comes to us through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, through deeply listening for the Truth that bubbles up out of chaos through our work together. I’m not afraid because Jesus promised us we would not be left alone — that he was sending along the Advocate to guide us and teach us Truth. We must work together, listening deeply to hurts and our own stories, learning from scripture together, trusting that we are not separated from God in any way because the Holy Spirit is standing with us just waiting for our awareness. To do this we need to find our voice together and be courageous enough to speak out as a congregation.

Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for raising his voice against the violently oppressive Apartheid, eventually rose to become a voice of reconciliation and forgiveness as President of post-Apartheid South Africa. He reminds us, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Which is why our Confirmation Students are reacting with courage to the anxiety and fear so prevalent all around us and offering a Parking Lot Peace Day. We will worship at home, sharing Communion with the elements we find in our own homes, and then try a fellowship experiment this Sunday, June 7. Please drop by between 1-6 to see the imaginative ways our treasured Confirmation students offer our community to lament together, speak out for and pray for peace, and include a virtual “audience” of those who wish to fellowship with us but are still isolating or quarantining themselves.

CEH has always been seen as a rational voice during times of division, and I pray we will do so through this Peace Day as well. Because no matter what our political or ideological philosophies are, we recognize that we worship the Prince of Peace who challenged us to live into the Kin-dom of God (“Kin” like family; a better word for our understanding, because Jesus did not use power or political reign to spread his love; we call him King but we have elevated him to that position — he never did).  Each week we pray “THY Kin-dom Come. . . THY will be done.” Let’s make it so, and come Stand by Me.

With Passionate Love for you, the Beloved Community,

Rev. Paula

PS: I call it an experiment in fellowship, because we will have to abide by safety guidelines that require physical distancing and wearing masks. It will be similar to what we may experience at worship when we can return to worshiping together either outside in the parking lot or seated as family units with 6 feet of space between us. It means we will have to resist the hugs and embraces that so many of us long for, and have to settle on a wave instead. It means we will not see the smiles except in the eyes of our church family and community.

Dear Friends,

Our meeting on May 31 is incredibly important! An affirmative vote will allow us to “encumber our property” with debt long enough for our pledges to come in over a three year period of time, when the money will all be spent within a few months (many of you may have used a construction loan to build your own homes until you could secure a mortgage when the construction was finished and the property assessed).  Please recognize that the $600,000 loan total may never be reached, and we know the sustaining debt (if any) will be much more manageable. Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program is fully supportive of our project and actually excited for the good work our congregation is engaged in as we reach out to the community and look to a very exciting future! Sunday’s service celebrates the Pentecost Fire! We look to the ways it has touched me as a pastor in my call to preach the Word, and it looks to the ways the Spirit has moved through this whole project.

Please read this to consider and pray about before worship tomorrow and before we engage in our congregational vote on Sunday, May 31:

Project 2020: Congregational Meeting on May 31

On Sunday May 31, we will hold a very important congregational meeting and vote. Due to a lot of work by many in our congregation and others, we are now ready to start construction and bring our Project 2020 vision and dreams to reality!

At the virtual congregational meeting we will (1) provide an update on Project 2020; (2) provide information and answer questions on the construction bridge loan; and (3) ask for a vote to approve proceeding with the loan.

***This meeting will be held on Sunday May 31 at 11:15 and clicking on [Zoom link].***

Please plan to join this Zoom meeting!

 

Background

We have been approved and are ready to close on a flexible construction bridge loan of up to $600,000 from the Presbytery Investment Loan Program (PILP). These funds will cover costs during the construction phase of Project 2020. It allows us to pay construction costs while we accumulate pledges and other funding through December 2022. This is a typical approach to funding a construction project. We will start drawing on this loan as construction begins.  The 3.6% interest rate is calculated based on only the amount we need to borrow, and there is no penalty for prepayment.

  1. Our intention is to pay the bridge loan back as pledges and other donations are received and convert only a manageable amount to a regular loan. Any remaining loan balance (i.e., residual debt) will convert to a 20-year loan at 3.4% interest. We consider debt service in the range of 5% of our annual budget to be manageable.
  2. This bridge loan would encumber our church property (that is, use church property as collateral to secure the loan) and requires a vote of the congregation. We are confident in our ability to use this loan during construction while incurring manageable residual debt. Our goal remains to manage the project to zero debt.
  3. There are a number of factors that will impact the residual debt, if any, including the accuracy of the initial cost estimate; actual cost of the project; pledge fulfillment rate; decisions to defer scope; and additional gifts and grants that may be received.
  4. Taken together, our pre-campaign gifts, pledges, and grant amount to more than 80% of our original Phase 1 construction estimate.
  5. Note also that the Denver Presbytery has given us a grant of $121,500 toward Project 2020 with the possibility of additional grant funding.

 

Action

At the congregational meeting, you will be asked to vote to approve securing a construction bridge loan in the amount of up to $600,000 from the Presbytery Investment Loan Program (PILP).

 

Please feel free to contact Pastor Paula, Matt Nixon, Meryl Eddy or Bob Gaskins with questions.