Mission Is More Than “All Are Welcome”
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by ac- tion, is dead (James 2:15-17 (NIV)).
What is Our Mission?
Well, you’d likely begin by describing our worship together on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. in our well-known red brick building, our Worship Center. Worship includes welcoming and engaging activities such as singing, praying, re- sponses, Scripture readings, and the preaching of God’s Word. In worship, whether in our personal devotional time or together, we express our gratitude and praise to God and become energized and equipped to make a positive difference in the world. But there is more to Cold Spring Church’s mission than corporate worship on Sundays. Much more.
Faith Is Action
Look around. Though our attendance is increasing (seventy-eight last week), the vast majority of people do not attend our Sunday worship. Actually, most of our community does not attend any Sunday worship. While we want to keep improving our interactive worship experience for every age group, for newcomers as well as longtime participants, we must work hard to make our faith visible, as James exhorts us to do in the passage above, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by ac- tion, is dead.”
Action Starts with Listening
When we respect others and really listen in a spirit of openness, we begin to hear stories that deserve our response. Cape May County families are being ravaged by the opioid abuse and overdose epidemic sweeping the country. While this epidemic may seem a bit distant to you personally, not far from our Worship Center a thirteen-year old middle schooler recently died from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The parents were as shocked as they were devastated by this tragedy, unaware of how or even why their child would be taking these drugs. This is just one of many horrific opioid overdose stories being told in our neighborhoods. While this news can easily feel overwhelming, the faith community must respond with practical resources, something in addition to, “Come to church on Sunday.”
As I left the Wawa on Bayshore Road the other day, there was a Prescription Drug Drop-Off zone that urged parents to clear out dangerous and unneeded drugs from their medicine cabinets. I wonder if we could provide prevention training in partner- ship with the New Jersey Opioid Program, or space for classes to help Parents learn how to better monitor and support their kid’s activities?
Listening Leads To Change
As we keep listening, we also recognize that some in our community have had traumatic or painful experiences related to God, religion, de- nominations, or churches in general. Our Explore God series provides a safe place for inquiry and sharing. How many have become disillusioned by religion, disappoint- ment by bad-actions associated with Christ or the practitioners of the Christian faith, or simply lack hope that their faith could once again become more meaningful and alive. While we are welcoming, our neighbors may need something more as they seek spiritual energy, hope, and possibilities.
As we move into the holiday months of Advent and Christmas, let’s renew our commitment to be more than just welcoming and more than just worship. How can we practically address urgent community needs and partner with others by learning and listening, loving and serving, inviting and building discipleship, and becoming a pro- active champion for our greater community? Of course, we still will gather for worship, but if all we do is worship on Sundays, we will miss even greater weekday opportunities God has set before us to do (John 14:12).
Action Changes Things
What connections can you make in your neighborhood? How can we help? Think about those who may need an encouraging phone call? Think about the teenage skateboarder you see on the corner, the family next door, the person walking down your street every day, or your favorite store clerk? Many have not been in a worship service recently, or ever. They may not want to, either! Realize that our world of favorite songs, sermons, and prayers will be unfamiliar to them, not make any sense, and they may feel more like outsiders.
What activities does our community enjoy? Pet lovers? Hobbyists? Community- minded volunteers? How about connecting to others around art and food? Studying the Bible? Homework help? Youth activities? Senior respite? Any car or motorcycle en- thusiasts? Outdoor fans? These activities can create natural connections that can be nurtured at Cold Spring Church.
Our community of faith has held fast to core Christian theological beliefs since its founding by followers of Christ in 1714. Let’s recommit to putting that faith in action! However you put your faith in action, know that it is deeply appreciated. I believe Cold Spring Church’s mission can achieve an even greater impact in our community as we work together! What will you do today to make your faith real?
Sincerely, Pastor Kevin
The Clerk’s Corner, by Rob Riehl, clerk of session, ruling elder
With the need suddenly arising to get a “Thinking of You / Get Well” greeting card, I hurried to the card store and became somewhat unhinged to discover that the usual display racks allocated to such cards had been displaced with Halloween cards along with yet another section for such cards likewise replaced with Thanksgiving Day cards. To add to my discomfort was the intrusion of Christmas music embellishing the holiday atmosphere at the “hard-to-ignore” decibel level. All of this holiday madness before the week of Halloween ! Being the only customer in the store at the time, I queried the cashier on duty, “How can you stand this –hearing Christmas music every workday from now til Christmas? How many times a day can you listen to “Jingle Bells”?” I admitted that I would have a hard time working in such a workplace environment; I would be all “Christmas-ed out” well before the actual holiday! How does this overdose of “triple-play commercialism” affect the original meanings of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas –and how does this blending and blurring of these special days affect our respect and understanding of these disparate days? Ecclesiastes had it right: “To everything there is a season.” There is something to be said about having too much of a “good” thing ! How much hot sauce can you add to a recipe before all you can taste is the hot sauce? How much tuna fish can you eat before it becomes nauseating? Allow me to apply this to other areas: how many instant replays can a televised sport employ before it loses the interest and enthusiasm of the spectators? How much socialism can a democratic-republic absorb before it becomes a socialist government? Churches of all denominations are not immune to the infiltration –and sometimes imposition– of secular humanism with biblical principles. How much of “man’s word” is conflated with God’s Word thus blurring the original message causing confusion of the truth among the believers?. Upon reflection, it is endemic of our present progressive culture that the traditional boundary lines governing the order of things — both commercial and social– have been incrementally and insidiously combined ( the blending ) or expanded ( the blurring ) causing the suffering of unneeded anxiety and distress, leading to chaos and confusion. The secular world for the most part has undermined the true meaning of these three unique days of our calendar year. As Christians we need to “sort through this holiday mix” to recover and uphold their true spiritual purposes –both for ourselves and for those in our sphere of influence!
On Halloween, we enjoy seeing the costumes, the parties, and the “Trunk and Treat” community events. As Christians, we are reminded of the dark demonic presence that exists –the spiritual warfare within us to follow Satan or Jesus Christ. On Thanksgiving Day, we are grateful for so many persons, benefits, and opportunities received in our lives. As Christians, we are thankful for the churches, pastors, fellowship, and discernment using God’s Word to help us navigate through the obliteration and confusion of boundary lines in our daily lives. On Christmas, we are joyful of celebrating the “goodwill” and gift-giving of the day with loved ones. As Christians, we are thankful that God has sent His Son to redeem us, personifying in Jesus Christ THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life –for us to truly live free from sin, and for the sending of the Holy Spirit to energize us to be “containers of Christ” transforming the lives of those we encounter everyday!
The secular commercial world has no problem with the blending and blurring of what they call the “holiday season”; after all, for them it is all about the money! But for us Christians, we see the importance of framing these special days as distinctly significant to ponder. After all, they point out to us aspects of our spiritual life journey that we must heed ( and be reminded ) :– recognizing our “dark side”– our propensity to sin; our need for humility — to be grateful and thankful; and our reason to be joyful — receiving the gift of Christ, our Hope.
Only God can write such a letter. His letter authorizes us to help carry out this new plan of action. The plan wasn’t written out with ink on paper, with pages and pages of legal footnotes, killing your spirit. It’s written with Spirit on spirit, his life on our lives! (2 Corinthians 3:5-6).
October may herald the start of the Fall season, but apparently there is much more associated with the month. Did you know that October, for example, is Computer Learning Month? It’s also International Dinosaur Month, Bullying Prevention Month, ADHD Awareness Month, Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, Diversity Awareness Month, Positive Attitude Month, National Ergonomics Month, and National Book Month. Whew!
October is also a great time to reflect back on our Summer. We enjoyed very strong attendance and giving at worship and our events from Open Air Craft Markets to dinners which were truly energizing events! Thank you for the way you and your family connects to what God is doing in our community!
Part of our mission as a worshipping community is also being excellent stewards of our expansive campus of more than 200 acres. This is an area we have experienced some growing pains this past Summer. Our cemetery is visited every day by families expressing love and devotion for loved ones. We are honored to serve families at every stage of life and take great pride in providing burial and grave services that make visits to our cemetery meaningful, safe, and welcoming. We recognize our special, sacred space is important to hundreds of families and we have a great staff that consistently ensures that it is beautiful and well-maintained. But unfortunately, the last 6-8 weeks of the Summer have been particularly challenging to our team and we have not meet our high standards and campus appearance goals.
On behalf of the entire Cold Spring Church staff, leadership team, and congregation, I offer my apology for any distress or concern the tall grass and unkempt look around your family’s tombstones, headstones, or markers may have caused your family. Our staff knows better than anyone that we got behind in our grass cutting efforts. We realize there is no excuse that can make up for the unexpected and atypical deficiencies this Summer, and you will be glad to know that we are again achieving our high standards of care and maintenance.
I’d like to help you understand what we have learned and what we are now doing to keep our campus looking great. We have a great staff! Our staff persistently cut the grass, but the grass was just too high for too long in some areas across our cemetery, especially in July and August. The grass cutting challenge was caused by a combination of factors. First, we had record rainfall this Summer. The grass and the weeds responded with aggressive growth. Normally by August the grass is pleasantly tan or brown color and almost dormant requiring less cutting. Not the case this Summer! Second, two of our staff left earlier than unexpected; one due to family matters and the other returned to school. Recruiting replacements has taken a long time. Third, this year we have accommodated more funeral services than usual, and during one seven-day period in August, we had seven funerals. We cannot cut grass in a section in which a funeral is being conducted. With so many funerals across our campus, re-scheduling the mowing activities to keep up with the active grass growing was a insurmountable task. Finally, thanks to our skilled and persistent staff, our campus is looking great again!
October is the month for learning! On our website you will discover many energizing events and enjoyable opportunities for your entire family. Please let us know how we can better serve you. Cold Spring Church has been serving this community for more than 300 years, and as we keep growing and learning, it feels like we are just getting started!