This week was my second Annual Congregational meeting. And I am delighted to say, like I said last year, I am grateful and energized as the Transformation Pastor (interim pastor) at Cold Spring Presbyterian Church. God is obviously up to something in greater Cape May and I believe that Cold Spring Church, as it approaches its 304th year, is at the center of that spiritual activity!
A Signpost Up Ahead : Transformation Journey
We are a community of faith on a transformation journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. We are moving forward to vitally connect spiritual and other resources with the community at large. God has blessed us with an amazing congregation and a beautiful campus including our cemetery, Price Hall, other buildings and our historic red brick church worship center. The transformation journey of learning, improving, and trying new things, and everyone is on this journey together!
“But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do” (James 1:25 CEB).
Mile Marker Report
Putting the Good News into practice is our mission. The term Mission is used a lot, and its not surprising that its meaning can be broadly understood. “A congregation, like the human body, can be represented by its resources, values, and priorities. But the change a congregation can experience is developmental and is governed by the capacity of its members to learn and grow.”1 So Mission refers to how we put our resources, values, and priorities to work. Distinct from Mission is Vision. When we refer to Vision, we are describing a future time when we hope to have realized our goal. A sample/draft Mission might be: Our vision is that our community at large experiences improved spiritual health and wellness accessing Cold Spring Church resources including worship, events, cemetery services, meeting space, and other connections in person and online. Our Mission Study Team is now working and will be responsible, in consultation with the session, to research and explore new connections with our community and propose new ministry ideas to expand our mission and contribute to our growth.
To help us measure our progress, we paused during a sermon last Spring to reflect on how we are feeling now about our spiritual connections compared to the year before. The survey said most of us moved from low engagement to high engagement. Wonderful! 82% said they would recommend Cold Spring Church to a friend or neighbor. Amazing! Good has blessed us with 7 friends who decided to become members of our community of faith in 2017, the most added in many years. Worship attendance was up 20% with increased giving, more visitors, and an increasing number of innovative events. We are now blessed with a Singing Team that enriches our worship.
Let’s recall a few of the 2017 events (attendance in parentheses). Palm Sunday (75), Maundy (Holy) Thursday (23), The Hunt Is On! Easter Egg Hunt (85 kids), Sunrise at Sunset Easter sunrise service at Sunset Beach (32), and our Easter Celebration (107). Our Gift & Craft Fair, Presbyterian Women Christmas Bazaar and Luncheon, and the Open Air and Craft Markets (one of which had a music group of local performers) were well attended and provided opportunities to build relationships with the community. Christmas Eve was unusual in that it fell on Sunday in 2017. We enjoyed two worship services that drew a total attendance of 150 with 70 attending the morning Christmas Eve worship and 80 the candlelight service. I am grateful to God for inspiring us to gather as we are sent out to bless the community! I am also grateful for everyone who is growing, learning, and trying new things. This Annual Report includes stories of these activities that are enthusiastically supported by the Cold Spring Church community of faith!
Taking New Paths
We made significant new connections with the community at large, too. We are now on the tour schedule of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), and we receive referrals from Cold Spring Village. (P.S. The Village lovingly refers to us as “their church” connection!) We also renewed partnerships with the Cape May Historical Society, Congress Hall, and the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, among many community groups. I have enjoyed participating with the Lower Township Clergy, as well as our improved participation in West Jersey Presbytery. In 2017 several of our leaders attended the presbytery’s Congregational Life Sunday and I presented a workshop entitled, How Your Church Can Become A Community Destination. (I hope even more attend this year’s event!)
I continue to be grateful and amazed by our staff: Judy, Jayne, Scott, Chris, and Bob, and those on our part time crews as they meet unexpected challenges and joyfully serve others with commitment, passion, and love. I am proud of our Leadership Team (Session), Caring Team (Deacons), Presbyterian Women and the Circles, Busy Bees, Singing Team, and our Wednesday morning Bible groups, among others, who have joyfully provided opportunities for people to get involved. The congregation’s generosity allows us to offer reduced fees for some non-profit community services groups like A.A., and free space for ministries like the Christ Child Society and the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Ministry is a partnership and I welcome your comments on what is working well and what improvements might be made.
What Does the Pastor Do the Rest of the Week?
Some have asked how I spend the rest of my time when I am not fulfilling the 30 hours/week, part-time, ministry as your pastor! On of the activities I enjoy is teaching in my third year on the faculty of City Vision University (www.cityvision.edu). This accredited, faith-based, university provides low-cost undergraduate and masters degree programs for students from all over the world. I have the pleasure of teaching Youth Ministry, Social Entrepreneurship, Small Business Entrepreneurship, Theology of Work, Leadership and Management, and Organizational Systems. I enjoy the impact I can have on students, especially those in other countries.
I am glad to share with you that my first book, Crayons for the City: Reneighboring Communities of Faith to Build Communities of Hope was published in November. It tells an amazing transformation story set in Kensington, Philadelphia. A congregation learned how to create new connections with children and families, and it all started with a box of crayons! Written mostly for community and church leaders and students who want to make a positive difference in their communities. If you enjoy Philadelphia history and learning how seemingly ordinary people can achieve extraordinary impact, you might also enjoy this book. I presented a signed copy of Crayons to the session. It is available in the church office if you’d like to review it. You may visit the publisher’s page here: https://wipfandstock.com/crayons-for-the-city.html
Expecting More Movement Ahead in 2018!
Now in our 304th year, we can deliver spiritual and other resources through our community of faith to our community at large that transforms our neighbor’s lives in the name of Jesus Christ. What do you expect this year?
In 2018, our leadership and caring teams, groups, teams, staff, and individuals just like you all have an opportunity to expect more of Christ, and of each other. Imagine how our greater Cold Spring area neighbors could experience God is new ways, more relevant and effective ways? How could seniors be energized by hope? How can younger people grow and connect to serve and learn so that more and more people experience the abundant life?
I hope you are growing and learning! Let’s get involved a bit more. Give a bit more. Engage a bit more. Serve a bit more. Love a lot more.
“My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God” (1 John 4:7, NRSV).
Cold Spring Church. Energizing Spirits. Transforming Lives. Expecting More in 2018.
Are you on the road with the Spirit?
1 Yoho, Kevin R., et al. Crayons for the City: Reneighboring Communities of Faith to Rebuild Neighborhoods of Hope. Cascade Books, 2017. Page 64.
The Clerk’s Corner by Rob Riehl, ruling elder
Have you ever heard of a Lenten coin? It is a two-sided ordinary coin with a “heads” side with the flip side being “tails” –nothing unusual about that!
However, for the purpose of encouraging you to do something of a self-disciplinary nature for the season of Lent, this image of a coin will hopefully challenge and inspire you to act ! The head-side of this coin encourages you to do something positive, something a bit challenging, and something that would improve your quality of life; the tail-side of this coin encourages you to dispose of something negative, something difficult to release, and something self-sacrificial ! You may choose to do either the “heads” side ( positive ) or the “tails” side ( negative ) of this coin. If you are indecisive, you could simply “flip the coin” relying on fate to determine your choice. A more interesting and beneficial choice would be to act upon both sides of this coin for the season of Lent ( about 40 days ). This is the daunting challenge: could you be determined enough to sustain whatever choice you make for forty days?
Before Jesus Christ began His mission of Redemption, He spent forty days and nights in the desert wilderness preparing for His mission and ministry. He was alone, without food, water, and shelter; He emptied Himself to be filled with the Father –praying and fasting. Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted by Satan, who offered “the best” of his world — if Jesus would only give up His mission and worship him. Jesus is calling us, His followers, to do likewise: to spend forty days of prayer and fasting, of self-denial and sacrifice, allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us with strength and courage to denounce Satan, reject sin, overcome temptation, and share in the glory of rising with Christ !
As the season of Lent calls us to prepare for the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus at Easter, what are some ways we can participate in this experiential journey ?
For one, we could improve our relationships with others ( be they spouse, relative, friend, neighbor, co-worker ). Instead of speaking negatively of their shortcomings, we could replace that destructive habit by speaking well of their attributes; our goal is to “build them up” instead of “tearing them down” ! Think about the reward for them ( and for you ) over the forty days of Lent; these relationships would improve significantly with a “win-win” payoff for everyone ! For another, do random acts of kindness everyday, wherever you go, and to anyone who provides you with the opportunity to act. Imagine your new habit of such “connecting” with others taking hold over the forty days of Lent. Become more generous: carry “extra change” to give away to anyone in need. Even a dollar a day ( over forty days ) would create in you a more generous attitude ! How about reducing an addictive habit, such as committing to “no social media on Sundays!” ( Just wondering… Is there anyone who could do this over forty days? ). Consider sacrificing some television or computer time each day to engage with real people in meaningful conversations –thus building relationships! Displace routine “trivial pursuits” with Bible study, meditation and journaling, reading spiritual books and commentaries. Be the voice, hands, and feet of Christ: become a liturgist, a communion server, an usher; join a church small group, fellowship or ministry; call or visit our church homebound members; give of your time and talent to enlarge the development and growth of our church congregation. Over forty days, you would become more invested in our church life.
To encourage any readers who find the “40-day challenge” too stressful, consider this option: Do weekly stretches ( with weekends “off” ), such as designating a “no dessert week”, “no Facebook week”, or pre-determine “lunch-free days” ( pray and fast instead! ), “coffee or cocktail-free days” ( drink juice or water instead! ). Think about selecting one good habit to add ( and one bad habit to eliminate ) for a week, such as adopting an attitude of gracious gratitude and eliminate the self-serving attitude of entitlement –serve others before serving self, and the like. Be sure to keep in contact with God to help you overcome the difficult times; if you fall, forgive yourself and continue with God’s grace to achieve your goal.
Post “reminder” notes in places you frequently look at everyday: on your bathroom mirror, computer screen, vehicle steering wheel / dashboard, and other such places to remain focused on your commitment to the Lord Jesus and yourself. Remember that you and Jesus are yoked together in this “work-in-progress” !
Whatever challenge you decide to pursue, remember WHY and for WHOM you are undertaking this transformation during the season of Lent. You are called to give honor and glory to God, to become more Christ-like in your manner, and more Spirit-led in your attitude. Along the way of this spiritual experiential journey, you may stumble and fall, suffer a bit, be tempted to “give up”, understand self-sacrifice, lean on God for strength to endure to the end. Looking back after Easter Sunday, the blessing is the reward of a “new you” –a new creation– to have followed the way of Christ for forty days! As for the Lenten Coin, I never heard of it either; it is simply a metaphor that arose from my imagination !
Mr. Rob Riehl, ruling elder