A Word from the Pastors | 2-24-22

EARTH TO EARTH, 

ASHES TO ASHES,

DUST TO DUST.

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Ash Wednesday

    This calendar year, the Church Year season of LENT begins on March 2. The Israelites wandered 40 years in the wilderness. Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights struggling with Satan in the wilderness. During Lent we will journey through our own 40-day wilderness as we seek to die to our old habits and destructive ways. In this season we will journey with Jesus toward his death. In this season Jesus journeys with us as we seek – not just denial and sacrifice – but transformation, new life, resurrection. Now is the right time, now is the day of God’s salvation!

On this first day of Lent we will distribute ashes on the forehead downstairs in Rhoda Hall… or perhaps outside if the weather is appropriate… from 10:00am to 12:00noon. This is open to the congregation and the community. It is not a two-hour worship but a two-hour time period for individuals to stop by and to start Lent. Please continue to follow appropriate “COVID guidelines” relating to your own health and the safety of others.

There will also be an online Ash Wednesday Zoom worship service beginning at 7:00pm. If you like, you might prepare your own ashes. Traditionally, ashes are prepared by burning palm fronds from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. You might have palm from a previous year… or you might have a fireplace with ashes… or you might have a piece of charcoal… or you might have some mud from your yard or flower pot. Whatever you use, make sure it is finely ground and safe for your skin. On Ash Wednesday you might have a small bowl of water nearby. You can dip your finger in the water, then into your finely ground homemade ashes, then make the sign of the cross on your forehead at the appropriate time in the worship. The small bowl of water can also be used to clean your finger.

On Ash Wednesday we are reminded of our mortality and that the wages of sin are death. Each of us. All of us. But the sign of the cross also marks us as children of God and as disciples of Christ. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.” 

As we walk with Jesus to Calvary, we journey toward a death of self to eternal life in him!

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” to St. Peter’s, Part 2

On February 9, 2022, St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church reached 92 years of trying to follow Jesus and trying to love like Jesus. In our last “Word from the Pastors” we reprinted a history that was written in 2020 for our congregation’s 90th anniversary. This time we are reprinting our reflection on the two congregations where we have served.

As we know from current “critical race theory” debates and legislation, not only is our nation still struggling to attain true peace and justice, but even the Church has been shamefully divided by color.

A story of two congregations dealing with race and change.

Both congregations were located in Philadelphia neighborhoods that were “changing” in the early 1960s. Each responded in a different way.

At Immanuel Lutheran Church, 57th & Christian Streets in West Philadelphia, the Church Council discussed “the colored situation” at one of its meetings. The men voted 11-1 against inviting and welcoming their new neighbors or receiving them into membership. It was reasoned that they have their own churches to go to and also that they don’t belong here. Mr. William Bloemker, one of the Church Council members and the only one who voted “yes”, was visited in secret by Immanuel’s pastor, one of the eleven who had voted “no”. The pastor told him, “Bill, you were right. But I couldn’t vote that way, or these people would have my job!” Bill told the pastor, “Well, you keep your job and I’ll keep my Jesus.” And Bill went all by himself to invite his new neighbors to church. But the transition of Immanuel was a rough and slow journey because there wasn’t much of a welcome  for the few new African American neighbors who even risked coming. A few actually joined, Eventually, almost all of the white people fled the congregation just as they had fled the neighborhood… except for a very few. Then the transition was completed.

Around that same time, at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 74th Avenue and Briar Road in the West Oak Lane neighborhood, Pastor G. Edward Knapp was a strong proponent to the congregation of inclusive hospitality and was an active evangelist to new African American residents. He preached from the pulpit, “If you are a Christian, you will invite your new neighbors to come to church. If you are really not a Christian, then maybe you should move to another congregation.” In 1964 the St. Peter’s Church Council passed and published a resolution stating that it would welcome as neighbors and as potential church members any and all persons “regardless of race, religion, or national origin”. The strong and faithful leadership of a pastor and a core of committed members provided the foundation for a more successful transition by St. Peter’s in its membership and its ministry as other white Protestant congregations in this neighborhood and the city of Philadelphia resisted change, faltered, and ultimately even collapsed. In 1979, when Pastor Mark S. Livermore began serving St. Peter’s (after a long tenure by Pastor Knapp), the congregation was 70% white and the neighborhood was 80% African American. Under his youthful and inspired leadership and that core of Christian members, the congregation continued a transition in its membership and its ministry until it more closely resembled the West Oak Lane community.

 

In a BLACK HISTORY MONTH” AFFIRMATION that our congregation uses, one section proclaims:

    We remember this congregation’s own journey to become a more inclusive ministry, and we celebrate how the Light of Christ has enabled us to walk together in worship and witness, in love and faith. Not only do we remember and celebrate, but we also commit ourselves to shine forth with the liberating peace and justice of God’s love this day and our entire lives. May the Lord inspire us to be faithful and courageous!  Amen.   

 

Love you all!

            Keep the faith… but not to yourself!

Pastor Neil & Pastor Gwen

Upcoming Events

Jun
23
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 23 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jun
30
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
3
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jul 3 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jul
5
Fri
2024
8:30 am Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Jul 5 @ 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Check out the Senior Food Program’s page for more information.
Jul
7
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jul 7 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...