Category

Intersections

Cold Spring Church has been at the crossroads of our community for more than 300 years, and Intersections is our blog of engaging ideas designed to get you connected to what matters to you!

How to Use the Brickette and the Connections to be informed and share the news!

By Intersections

Happy New Year! Thank you for being connected to Cold Spring Presbyterian Church. There are many ways to be involved in our community, and two of them are easy to access and share!

The Brickette- Monthly Newsletter—

(coldspringchurch.com/newsletters/)

The first week of each month, the Brickette will highlight upcoming events and tell the story of our community of faith as it enters its 305th year of ministry, witness, and mission.

Connections- Weekly Briefing

(coldspringchurch.com/email-campaigns)

Remember to sign-up to receive the weekly Connections news brief. While the Brickette is a monthly review and pre-view, receiving our Connections in your inbox (usually sent Thursday each week) will give you a timely, quick read of the weekend-ahead events including worship, activities, and lots of photos that help tell the amazing way people like you are making a difference in greater Cape May.

You can catch-up on past issues of both the Brickette and the Connections online, too. So get connected and share what God is doing in our community.

Open the Deck Chairs- TEA for the New Year!

By Intersections

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone (Titus 3:8, NIV).

Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!” (Matthew 9:37-38, MSG).

SS Cold Spring Church– One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons shows Lucy, once again, lecturing Charlie Brown on the meaning of life: “Charlie Brown, life is like a deck chair on a cruise ship. Passengers open up these canvas deck chairs so they can sit in the sun. Some people place their chairs facing the rear of the ship so they can see where they’ve been. Other people face their chairs forward – they want to see where they’re going. On the cruise ship of life, which way is your deck chair facing?” Charlie replies, feeling frustrated: “I’ve never been able to get one unfolded.”

Sometimes we can feel a lot like Charlie Brown. Getting stuck at getting started! It can consume our valuable time, energy, and attention to the point that we end up accomplishing very little, and even more importantly, could end up distressed, or depressed, figuring out the next step! For Charlie, which way his deck chair was facing, finding his place on the ship was secondary to getting the deck chair opened in the first place! 

Opening our own life’s deck chairs represent how we invest three gifts that God has given all of us to share. And I mean all of us; no matter our age or experience, whatever our talents or interests, or particular cycle of life, or our mobility. The three gifts are our Time, Energy, and Attention. (Think of it as our TEA, for short: Time, Energy, and Attention.) As the New Year begins, take a moment to review how your TEA is tasting! If you have lots of Energy and Attention, but no Time, you probably feel overwhelmed. If you have Time and Attention, but no Energy, you are likely exhausted. Or, maybe you have lots of Time and Energy, but no Attention. If that describes you, then you are probably distracted. But when our TEA is in balance, we can “open our deck chairs” to feeling more energized and engaged. And, we will feel more satisfied in doing good in the community in the name of Jesus Christ! We will find our own unique place on the ship called, Cold Spring Presbyterian Church. God commissioned us three hundred years ago to chart a course for blessing our community in the name of Jesus Christ. Do you need help with your deck chair?

Consider the scripture verses above for insight from God’s word about how we can find our place on board. The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to Titus, the New Testament book bearing his name, as a kind of instruction manual for the young pastor. Titus was concerned about what activities the new community of faith should focus on. The believers who met at Titus’ house church on the Island of Crete didn’t just to be busy. They wanted their Time, Energy, and Attention focused on the right priorities. Loving and glorifying God. Serving others. So Paul stressed— devote yourselves to doing good! That’s Titus’ bottom line as he followed Christ, and how Paul wanted every ministry and activity to be evaluated. Was it good for others? Did it accomplish good, or not? If so, do more of that. And if not, then stop doing that!

Jesus’ words inspire us to get involved in this New Year. He said, “What a huge harvest! How few workers!” When we look at the greater Cape May community of neighbors, friends, and family, do we see opportunities? Well, God does. And God has invited Cold Spring Presbyterian Church to “open our deck chairs” and do good! There’s work to accomplish. Love to demonstrate. Service to offer. Like it was said of Jesus who reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. Proclaiming the Good News about Jesus requires us to do good. To bless others. To respect others. To welcome everyone.

Once we figure out where we put our “opened deck chair” we will know how we fit in, join in, or serve by investing our Time, Energy, and Attention better. Some of us want to celebrate where we’ve been. We have lots of experience. That’s great. You would be a great encourager, prayer warrior, or contributor, and your source of wisdom can help us move forward. Or, perhaps you are called to face forward and help to set the course, grow, and help the ship bring its gifts to the community.

Our communities and neighborhoods deserve hope and wellness of mind, body and spirit. Cold Spring Presbyterian Church has the spiritual resources to do even more good in 2019. Will you consider your TEA this week and ask God how to best invest your Time, Energy, and Attention. Get those deck chairs opened and get ready, “striving what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). I think 2019 is going to be an amazing adventure in our 305th year of doing good in Jesus’ name. Get your TEA ready! All aboard!

-Dr. Kevin Yoho, transformation pastor

Christmas- The Gift That Keeps Us Growing

By Intersections

Once you open Christmas, God’s Gift, nothing remains the same.

 

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son. Generous inside and out, true from start to finish(John 1:14).

 

Hello friends,

Every day of the year is special. To someone. Yourbirthday is special, for example! In fact, every single day of the year has been co-opted to celebrate or commemorate one thing or another. Did you know that January is “National Bath Safety Month” and “Penguin Awareness Day” is January 20? The list is endless! Among thousands of personal, regional, national, and religious special days, Christmas, December 25, is unique. It’s the day we have chosen to especially celebrate God’s Gift when long ago, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood”(John 1:14). What a day!

No doubt your memories of Christmas’ past are expressed through today’s traditions and customs. They help you unpack Christmas’ meaning. Seasonal food favorites. Special ornaments and events. Christmas movies and holiday music. Gatherings and gift-exchanges. Christmas Eve candlelight worship. The traditions go on and on. Sometimes the pastfamiliar traditions can overwhelm us as we miss loved ones, reminisce about by-gone days, or just feel a bit lonely during Christmas. Now is a great time to remember that from that First Noel, Christmas was always about the futureinvading our present.

Those former memories may be little more than nostalgic, but the real gift of Christmas is anything but! All things can become new…again. Once you open Christmas, God’s Gift, nothing remains the same.

We can incorporate and build upon Christmas memories when we invest time to learn and grow. We can create new memories, making this Christmas, and every Christmas to come, vitally different, better.

Can you imagine a thriving Christmas, not merely surviving it?! This year, let’s take all the best of Christmas’ pastand open our arms and spirits to new ways to receive God’s gift of Christmas now? And help others do the same. Our greater Cape May community needs to experience Christmas anew this year, and you can be a part of that experience.

And what is that Gift ready to be opened this year? Jesus. Jesus is the Gift. The Gift that keeps on giving. It’s Jesus moving into our neighborhood, now. Today. Sure, he was born in the pastto Mary and Joseph among the animals in crowded Bethlehem. But it’s (also) todaythat God is with us. Today, God can blossom afresh into our lives.

This week, all month, and as the new year unfolds, make time to talk with God. Pause long enough to listen, too. (Check out our online resources for your very own 30-Day Challenge.) Let God know you are grateful as you recall the best of your Christmas’ past, but that you want the Spirit to energize your life this Christmas!

God wants to inspire your thoughts. (Pick up the Bible and take fifteen minutes to read Nehemiah, chapter 1 and Romans, chapter 12. Consider how Nehemiah responded to the cries of his community and how the Apostle Paul urged the house churches to renew their minds for action.) Once you open Christmas, God’s Gift, nothing remains the same.

This Christmas, God can empower us to live our very best selves. Or, sure, we can remain stuck in Christmas’ past, repeating fine traditions but not learning or growing into God’s preferred future. Overhearing the Greatest Story Ever Told is O.K., but not letting the radical Good News transform our life is just a missed opportunity. God Is With Us, Emmanuel(Isaiah 7:14, 8:8; Matthew 1:23), as God’s emerging future unfolds with our every step. How exciting this Christmas could be!

The first New Testament letter was sent to the house churches in the city of Thessalonica, in modern-day Turkey. Paul begins his letter thanking God for the way their lives were changing. He praised them for how they let the Good News shape their community. Each believer responded to God’s invitation to faithfulness in their own, unique way. It was all good. And different. Their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” empowered them to revolutionize their neighborhoods, improve people’s lives, and it elicited some of Paul’s strongest affirmations and expressions of gratitude.

Be a Part of the Advent Adventure. It All Begins December 2

Cold Spring Presbyterian Church enjoys many wonderful traditions during Advent and Christmas that will provide a foundation for experiencing the presence of God in our lives today. Everyone is welcome to come and worship with us every Sunday in December. Enjoy special music, an interactive and inspiring message from God’s word, and a joyful community of faith! This year’s Advent Message Series is titled The All-Inclusive Storyfeaturing the animals of Christmas. Animals, you ask? Yes!

The pastor, Jerome (347-420 AD), helped early believers learn the four gospels using familiar creatures, each representing Mark (the Lion, 12/2), Luke (the Ox, 12/9), John (the Eagle, 12/16), and Matthew (men and women, 12/23). Let’s open God’s Gift of Christmas together using these traditional illustrations.

Melissa and I wish you a very merry Christmas. Remember: Once you open Christmas, God’s Gift, nothing remains the same.

Every. Single. Day. Our All-Season Mission

By Intersections

Greater Cape May has enjoyed a remarkable 2018 Summer tourist season, according to tourist data. More visitors. More economic growth. More memorable family experiences. This Summer, Cold Spring Presbyterian Church has enjoyed many visitors and has made many new connections, as well.

With the Summer season officially ending with Labor Day, we have already noticed less traffic on the roads, more available parking spaces when we shop, getting a table at our favorite restaurant without reservations, and we have enjoyed saving money with seasonal discounts. Cape May has welcomed vacationers from near and far for an extraordinary experience. But according to New Jersey tourism officials, the season isn’t designed to be over at Labor Day. Commissioned studies have found that the modern tourist is increasingly upscale, desires shorter experiences because of a more demanding work and school schedule, and wants experiences that feel vibrant and exciting. I think Cold Spring Presbyterian Church can apply many of these tourism discoveries to its year-round mission. We have a call from God as a community of faith to achieve a positive impact on the communiuty at large in the name of Jesus Christ. God is on the move. Every. Single. Day. And we are uniquely positioned to serve our community in every season of the year.

The tourism study stated that it “isn’t enough to advertise the beach.” That is, to advertise the typical, expected, and in some respects ordinary beauty of the beach. Sure, the beach is beautiful. But the modern tourist wants active, unique experiences that capture the spirit of our seashore community. Similarly, its not enough to be the oldest church in the area, or have the largest campus, or be a resting place for our centuries of dearly departed. While these are blessing from God and ministry assets, our neighbors and visitors alike want to nurture their spirits with engaging, unique experiences that not only “capture the spirit of the community,” but offer unique experiences with the Spirit of God.

Modern tourists in the study want an “insider view” of wherever they visit. They want to connect. The study asked the question: “What could the county do by 2020 to attract that new kind of tourist? Creative, all-season activities that are more diversified and age-interest focused have attracted more participation in recent years. Our congregation’s ministry, likewise, has a year-round crowd, Summer-attending individuals, those who return in the Fall, and still others who leave in the Winter who return in the Spring. Each of these groups present a wonderful and challenging opportunity to deliver “experiences that feel vibrant and exciting” in our worship, community programs, Bible studies, weddings and other family-focused events, dinners, and connections with other community groups. Everything Cold Spring Presbyterian Church does will not be for everyone all the time. Some our our activities focus on our current congregation. Other events provide opportunities for our current congregation to bring friends and neighbors to enjoy. Other programs will be geared to a more youthful group while other ministries will be perfect for those who are older. Our interactions will be available onsite and also online which offer us amazing opportunities for impact.

Our leadership team is exploring ways to feature our “beaches” which represent our physical assets including our beautiful, historic, red brick building and 200-acre campus along with developing new programs and improvements that engage our community all year long. Our partnerships with community groups, support groups, the Lower Township Chamber of Commerce, the Historic Cold Spring Village, and other churches help us to learn and grow. We will increasingly provide spiritual resources for everyone to live the abundant life in Christ through seasonal attractions that seek to bring regulars, neighbors, and visitors back to experience the Spriit of God again, and again.

Be inspired at Cold Spring Presbyterian Church. There is a place for you to meaningfully learn, grow, and serve all year round!

Sincerely,
Pastor Kevin

The River Is Moving

By Intersections, Uncategorized

“On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says’ (John 7:38).

Rivers of water are powerful. We know this power living at the shore. While it looks like the sandy beaches constrains the water, it is the power of the water that moves and shapes the beach. Jesus said that rivers of living water of the Spirit would flow from those who follow him, quenching every thirst. Our church was named for the cold spring nearby, a place of refreshment for all who pass by. But sometimes the rivers of life are hard to get to safely so we build bridges that make connections for us so that the river does not overwhelm, but remains accessible on our journey.

Take a look at the photo (above) of the Choluteca Bridge in Honduras. It was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers in 1930. It survived many storms providing safe connections from one side of the river to another, and easy access to the river bed below. Until Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
Hurricane Mitch was a Category 5 storm that decimated Central America with more than 22,000 human lives lost and millions left without adequate shelter. Many lesser bridges were destroyed.

As you can see from the photo taken after the storm (above), the Choluteca Bridge survived unscathed. (Yes, that is the same bridge! It’s the river that moved!)

Where did the river go? The hurricane couldn’t move the bridge, but the hurricane picked-up and moved the river making the bridge a bridge to nowhere.

Sometimes we can recognize that our former “bridges” and “community connections” remain intact, but they are no longer anywhere near today’s community or its concerns. Since Jesus is the Living Water, the water of life, our mission as the bridge is to connect people in our communities to that Living Water. For the bridge to fulfill its purpose it must be in the river and connecting others to the river of life, too.


Cold Spring Presbyterian Church has withstood the seasons and storms of life for hundreds of years. We’re still standing! We were build on a solid foundation. Our structures are strong. We just may not always notice that the water has moved. Our neighbors may not even know they are thirsty, but the accessibility to the Living Water is out of reach… unless we extend our bridge in every direction to reach people who need to see God’s love in action.
We have the Living Water. We don’t want to be a beautiful bridge to nowhere. Instead, we have begin a transformation journey to let the Living Water flow and connect to our community’s rivers in Lower Township and Cape May that are flowing, moving, dynamically changing. Let’s work together to address the moving river:

(We’re the bridge!) Be Willing to Relocate the Bridge: When its really difficult to make new connections, what do you do? Stay rigidly in place, or adapt and grow until new connections are made.

Spirit Bridges Are Flexible: We have many wonderful structures, our bridges, that need to be flexible to stay connected to the Living Water and the rivers of life all around us.

Everyone is a Bridge-Builder, a People-Connector: Each of us has a gift, an interest, an experience, talent, or skill that can help relocate and reconnect our bridge to our community.

Oddly, the word “bridge” does not appear in the Bible, but remember that Jesus is the ultimate Bridge-Builder, “as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10).

The Apostle Paul again wrote, “Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

The Choluteca Bridge was a marvel of engineering but lacked the capacity to keep up with the river waters. Let’s be sure our bridges are making contact with people where they are by getting in the water, the flow of the Spirit, so even more can drink and quench their thirst.

 

 

Focus Your Vision — 30-Day Challenge

By Intersections

“If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith” (Gal. 6:8b-10, NRSV).

On June 24, about sixty people participated in our Focus Your Vision Day in Price Hall that included worship, luncheon, and conversations about the future. It was an engaging and energizing milestone on our transformation journey. A summary of our focused vision includes: 1) Hold on to the best of the past, 2) Explore the new, 3) Plant spiritual seeds, 4) Serve everyone in the community, 5) Grow the ministry. The session will be leading us in th next view months as we put this vision into action.

We are grateful to everyone who participated, offered comments, shared ideas, concerns, and hopes, and affirmed their visions for the future. We expressed thanks to the Mission Study Team, especially to Lenore Bowne for organizing the delicious luncheon and making Price Hall welcoming for everyone, including many first-time and returning visitors and guests.

Keep the best of what you have moving into the future.

Hold On To The Best, Let The Rest Fall Away

About forty-five remained after lunch to watch the Focus Your Vision video and table conversations led by Melissa and Pastor Kevin. We filled a dozen newsprint sheets with great ideas that included:

  1. Celebrated our congregation’s many strengths, staff, leadership, new members, 200 acres including our facilities, cemetery, and historic red brick church
  2. Identified the best of what we do that we want to keep doing as we move into the future including our Reformed worship, events, tours, and dinners, a history of service to veterans, families, and the community at large
  3. Proposed improvements to areas and facilities to make our ministry more welcoming, accessible, and able to serve youth, younger families, and older individuals
  4. Listed priorities to guide us as we follow Jesus Christ into the future to ensure that we do what we agree is important as we grow

Focusing our vision is not just a one day event. Every day we listen to God’s Spirit who is showing us where and how to become more engaged with our community through worship, witness, mission, and service. Our leadership team (Session), caring team (Deacons) and our many groups and committees will ensure that Cold Spring Presbyterian Church continues to learn and grow as we follow Jesus Christ.

Keeping the best of what we have was one of the seven key insights from the video. Blessings from God include tangible assets (people, location, property, buildings, and finances) and intangible assets such as our history, relationships, experiences, passions, hopes, talents, abilities, and our mental, physical, and spiritual gifts.

On June 17, the message Feed the World, Plant More Seeds considered the mustard seed. (Listen to the message by clicking here.) Though it is the smallest of seeds, it will grow into an incredibly large tree. The same is true of our faith. While we may think our faith is small compared to others, it is enough and it can grow. We are in the seed planting business. Not only in our ministry as a Farming Church, planting seeds and sharing the produce with the community at large, but we are planting spiritual seeds, as well. Whatever amount of faith you have, it is sufficient for God to bless and use us in amazing ways! But we don’t want to merely consume the spiritual fruit for ourselves. If we consume all our fruit, we not only will become overfed, but others are left hungry! We want God to produce fruit in abundance to feed us to feed others! So, how can we nurture our community of faith to have spiritual fruit to generously share with the community at large? One way is to accept the 30-Day Challenge.

The 30-Day Challenge I am passing on to you a gift given to me years ago by my mentor, the Rev. Chuck Reinhold, a Presbyterian minister and regional director for Young Life when I was on staff with that national youth ministry.

Like any gift, this gift comes free and is useless unless you use it. As Chuck said, this gift is also very expensive and actually cost Jesus Christ his life, which was his mission and his joy (Heb. 12:12). He died on the cross for our sins in order to bring us to God (John 3:16, John 1:12, 1 John 5:11–12). This gift comes alive to us when we accept the challenge every day.

We can know a lot about religion. We can recount historical facts about faith, the Bible, and might be able to tell wonderful stories about Cold Spring Presbyterian Church, but this gift is not to know more about Jesus Christ, it is to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. The gift is received when we accept this Challenge: decide to meet with God every day for thirty straight days by reading a portion of Scripture and asking the Lord for something specific to apply that day. That’s it!

If we miss a day, then we start the thirty-days over again until we read and apply what we read for thirty straight days. If you already set aside time to read Scripture daily, make sure that you actively try to internalize and apply it to your day. The 30-Day Challenge should be challenging! And practical. When we do this, chances are we’ll never quit, and the spiritual seeds planted in our life will continue to grow. What’s more, this gift becomes a gift to others through you!
As you read a portion of Scripture ask yourself, “What does God want me to be, feel, or do today?” Then as you pray, write out a sentence about what you discovered so you will remember to put it into practice. Repeat daily.

As we gathered around the Lord’s Table July 1, we recalled John 15:5 when Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” We are in the seed planting business at Cold Spring Presbyterian Church. Growing is what we do. Imagine the possibilities if each of us in our own way commit to the 30-Day Challenge. Remember, if you miss a day, there is no failure or judgement. Just renew your commitment the next day!

To bring our focused vision to life we need nourishment to grow. Let’s plant spiritual seeds. Let’s share God’s abundance and grace with others. It sounds pretty simple, but many things most treasured in life are just that, simple. So start the 30-Day Challenge today to spend time with God and you will enjoy renewed energy, insight, sensitivity, and love for yourself and others, too. You might want to share your experience, too. As you keep the gift going you will be amazed how your life, our congregation, and community are being transformed!

Let’s get growing!
Sincerely,

Memories for the Imagination

By Intersections

Memories for the Imagination

“Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.’”… Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord’… So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:1-7, NASB).

What do you remember? We recall lots of facts, but many important events and experiences are often forgotten. When the nation of Israel was freed from slavery and led to the promised land about 3,400 years ago (circa1451-1260 BCE), God wanted them to remember how the waters of the Jordan Rover were held back allowing the people to cross on dry ground! He instructed that 12 large stones carried from the other side be placed along the river bank as a memorial. “When the children ask, ‘What do these stones man to you?’” They can tell the amazing story of safe passage. God knows we need help remembering from time to time and memorial stones become an object lesson with a story.

Cold Spring Church Historic Ancestors Walk– One way Cold Spring Presbyterian Church remembers God’s activity in our lives during three centuries is through the thousands of markers and memorial stones placed across our cemetery campus. Our cemetery staff continue the tradition of dignified and personalized service to families. In all shapes and sizes, stones not only mark where the remains of loved ones were safely laid, but they also represent individual and community stories worth retelling. Later this month our Historic Ancestors Walk cemetery tours will invite the Cape May community to enjoy its new season. Our history-loving team of costumed docents and storytellers will recount heartfelt struggles, sadness, and grief along with inspiring stories of success, triumph, and hope of those who have been buried here. Visit online for our schedule to be posted soon. If you enjoy history and would like to join the team, please contact Elaine Jordan or email hello@coldspringchurch.com for more information.

How We Remember– There are three main memory functions in our brains: Sensory, Short-term, and Long-term. Sensory memory fills up with what’s happening now. Short-term memory processes information for a few minutes longer. If we attribute importance to it and repeatedly access it, it becomes a short-term working memory. Information that has great value to us is kept indefinitely as Long-term memory. This is the “remembering” part of the brain that is encoded with meaning, smells, colors, and other sensory attributes. These memories can deeply affect our future behaviors and attitudes. Being aware of what we remember informs our future.

Memorial Day each year represents personal (and national) awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. Our national “Remembering Day” emerged before the end of the Civil War when women who lost family and friends annually gathered to place flowers on the graves of those who had fallen in the service of their country. A hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920).

In what part of your brain’s memory is Memorial Day remembered? Many visited our cemetery last weekend. The Veterans’ graves were honored with flowers. Memorial Day can be a gratitude-driven day of remembering.

Communities Have Memories– Listening to each other’s “memories” and honoring the values attributed to them is a great way to build a sense of neighborliness, solidarity, and a spirit of humble gratitude in the community at large.

Not only do individuals have memory, but so do communities, groups, institutions, and companies. Kensington, a northeast Philadelphia community, suffered from traumatic and troubled neighborhood memories. These memories were reinforced by racism, classism, and sexism which later stigmatized not only the people, but the place, as well. The neighborhood’s quality of life and associated economies promoted historical and persistent injustice and the abuse fragmented families and communities. Instead of ignoring the community’s stigma, we embraced the community through personal and direct engagement which empowered the neighborhood to imagine a new future.

Our love for the entire community and an empathetic recognition of those painful memories created positive connections. Leaders accepted and reframed painful memories to empowering stories during individual and small group exercises. Resolution and hopefulness emerged using simple tools. For example, the children shared their stories and imagined new narratives using crayons. Adults explored their ethnographies on a room-sized timeline to better understand their long-term memories. An entire community was transformed and you can read about their story in my new book, Crayons for the City, Reneighboring Communities of Faith to Rebuild Neighborhoods of Hope.)

Memories shape our life-narrative, and are affected by our biases. All of us have biases that change the way we evaluate information and form ideas, whether ideas about out past or when considering the future. When we are aware of our biases, we can honestly reflect on them, be more thoughtful, and our behaviors become more intentional. But when we are less aware of our biases, attitudes, moods, and predispositions, our understanding is clouded. Distorted memories can prevent us from being open to new ideas and cause us to feel stuck in the past, unable to move forward.

Deeply felt memories can be seductive. Like a familiar pair of comfy slippers, memories can lock us into debilitating sentimentality, or fear, anxiety, and pettiness. People gathering as congregations or teams can devolve into a Memory Organization (stuck in the past story) instead of growing into being an Imaginative Organization (co-creating a new future story).

Memories alone and without a shared context can provide marginal benefit and few positive outcomes. But memories can inform new, creative, learning that results in fresh ways of authentic, intentional, and active engagement and outcomes.

Many of our memories can imaginatively enrich the lives of those around us as we embrace a better, hopeful future.

Get Ready To Focus Your Vision! After worship in Price Hall on Sunday, June 24, you’re invited to enjoy a special luncheon that will be followed by an exciting and interactive learning experience for the entire congregation. We will build on our memories as we focus on our future vision. Pastor Kevin and Melissa will lead this special event. Will we discover how to grow from being only a Church with memories? to becoming a Spirit-led community of mission imagination! Plan to attend. All are welcomed!

Memorial Day is a great time to recall stories of those who sacrificed their lives in service to their country. Let’s honor them by using our memories to unlock our imaginations in God’s emerging future.

“Memories are not keys to the past, but to the future.” Corrie ten Boom

Ministry of Loneliness

By Intersections

Lonely? Find hope here!

“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25: 35).

While most countries around the world seem hyper-focused on security, the economy, education, jobs, housing, and justice (to name just a few important topics), there is a newly created governmental office in the United Kingdom that few saw coming. It’s the Ministry of Loneliness. Yes, loneliness. Not its promotion, of course, but an entire government office dedicated to reducing loneliness across the country. I think you will agree that Cold Spring Presbyterian Church is committed to addressing loneliness across our community, too.

The Ministry of Loneliness was launched after a twelve-month investigation reported that nine million Britons suffer from loneliness: fourteen per cent of the population. The elderly and the young were both cited in the studies as particularly affected. And this loneliness diagnosis is not Britain’s alone. Japan has identified elder loneliness, too. What’s going on?

Technology: All of our technology and communication improvements makes it easier and cheaper than ever to say connected, we are actually feeling less connected than ever! What we are learning is that as media/device use goes up, social interaction goes down.

And making maters worse, our time spent on device is less about producing content or helping us pay better attention, and more about consuming entertainment. We have tools of communicating, which is great. But we are not very good using tools to help us connect to the people and places in our life that matter the most.

Patterns of Behavior: We can be stranger-averse. That is, we can resist interacting and even noticing strangers in our community. From an early age we were admonished, “Don’t talk to strangers.” Stranger danger! Good advice. Well, for kids its absolutely great advice. Why? Because the developmental resources of a youngster is not sufficient for them to detect and defend themselves from danger. Their experience is limited. It’s necessary that children develop a sense of caution, especially around older kids and adults that could pose a risk.

But we’re not kids anymore. In stores. At church. On walks. At the beach. From cookouts to sports, and even the more solitary activities like gardening and fishing, can find us creating zones of isolation. For example, my grandparents’ house had a front porch from which they freely connected to those that passed by. By contrast, nowadays we have moved our “front porch” to the back and call it a “deck.” We tend to listen to narrow bands of information that can unintentionally reinforce our own tightly held opinions that can’t benefit from an exchange of ideas and promote understanding and learning. How many strangers do we stop and talk to?

Engage or Not Engage? Some of us just like to strike up conversations with others. Maybe our personality is more expressive. Perhaps we have had more trusting experiences with others that give us a sense of confidence and hopefulness that the next time we meet a stranger it will be positive. We may regard talking to strangers as polite behavior. But it can even be enjoyable to meet someone new and sometimes informative.

One the other hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to be more reserved. Change can be challenging for anyone. Meeting a stranger is being face to face with change. Some of us don’t like to initiate conversations with those we haven’t met before. We keep to ourselves. Maybe it’s a learned behavior that helps us feel safe. We have our reasons for avoiding unknown situations, or we just seem to keep hearing our parents’ advice echoing in our ears, “Don’t talk to strangers.”

Our learned resistance to welcoming strangers can unfortunately reinforce a culture of loneliness. We can go through our day feeling alone, even if we are surrounded by crowds of people. We can even feel like a stranger among a sea of strangers, unintentionally act distant, express distrust, and feel truly isolated. Extreme feelings of isolation are often associated with anxiety, fear, and depression. Because we focus our vision inward, we eventually feel stuck within our limited self-referenced experience. Organizations and even churches can promote a sense of loneliness, too. What can we do about loneliness? There is hope!

What Does the Bible Say? From the earliest of times, the Bible urged that kindness be extended to strangers, and not just as they pass by, but to make strangers your friends. The Bible consistently challenges the status quo with paying attention to those who have been excluded. Consider:“You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt”(Deuteronomy 10:19). “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God”(Leviticus 19:34).

Of course, Jesus came to us as a stranger and became our friend, our Savior. He said we were to treat everyone as we would treat him. In the crowds of people, where people can feel lonely, Jesus reached out to make everyone feel welcomed. No one was excluded. Think about the lost coin, lost sheep, and the lost coin, for example. In Acts, the earliest followers of Jesus seemed to be pretty attached to staying in Jerusalem, a place of relative familiarity and safety, rather than head off to places and peoples unknown. They were shocked that “even Gentiles” believed in Jesus, that you can eat all foods, and you didn’t have to become “Jewish” to become a “Christian.”

Take a Step. We can do something today to make a difference in our community, especially for those who may be experiencing severe loneliness. According to Talk-To-Me-London, a non-profit organization established several years ago to promote community building, we need to challenge existing norms around talking. Try these suggestions.

  1. Just begin to talk to strangers.It’s risky, but if you try, you might experience very positive outcomes! This advice is often overlooked because it’s just too simple of a solution, but doing so can help a person who feels isolated to make a new connection.
  2. Think about yourself.Think about what you would like more of – maybe time with friends or family, if so invite others with you. Often if you are lonely you think people do not want to visit. This is understandable but often people will respond to an invitation and will come and spend quality time with you. Pick up the phone, reach out!
  3. Take care of yourself.If you can do something to improve your health, take small steps to eat well, take gentle exercise and keep active, all of these things can help you to relax more fully in your own company.
  4. Get connected.Take a walk. Go to worship. Volunteer. Cold Spring Church has many activities that can be perfect places to meet new people. Volunteer to help others get ministry goals accomplished. Check our calendar for activities that are already scheduled. Cape May offers abundant activities, centers, and groups. Walking groups and tours. Singing groups. Book clubs and even bridge.
  5. If you feel very lonely, speak now to a health worker.Long term loneliness could contribute to later depression and other health problems. Your GP, primary care physician, should be able to direct you to local services that can help.

Every friendship you value now initially started as conversation with a stranger. Imagine the possibilities. Talking to strangers can help create a better world. Jesus’ mission was to show us what a real friend is like (John 15:13). Remember that God loves you (John 3:17-18) and Jesus “moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14), and into your home, among your family and friends, to bless your life (John 10:10). “Behold!” Jesus said, “I am right there at your door.” Ready to bless your life. Just open the door and you will find that amazing, abundant, hopeful life that lasts forever! (Rev. 3:20ff).

“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? …The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:35-40 NASB)

It is hard to change people’s attitudes about talking to strangers but we can all do our part in bringing about more conversations between strangers. So let’s continue to be welcoming and innovative as we organize activities that create spaces where people feel freer to talk, and by working with others across our community, we can raise awareness of the importance of talking to strangers.

As our tagline says, Cold Spring Presbyterian Church, Energizing Spirits. Transforming Lives.

All Are Welcome!

Sincerely,

Pastor Kevin

Breath Prayers

By Intersections

From the Clerk’s Corner-   “Breath Prayers”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!”  my father would mutter under his breath whenever he was emotionally distressed.  As the eldest of then three young boys, I wondered if my father was upset with something we had done to displease him. Being raised in another traditional faith in the 1950’s, I thought my father was being profane –wasn’t that sinful?  In a culture of “children were seen and not heard”, not one of us dared to even raise the question to my father!  Dad’s word was like God’s authority to us.  But that was then and this is now:  I have come to see that perhaps my father was really praying for help, that he was– in his way– reaching out to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to calm and center himself.  Instead of utilizing the oft-suggested secular “counting to ten”, he was actually relying upon his faith praying for heavenly assistance!  This was his “default prayer”, an invocation he reverted to use automatically when feeling distressed!  Upon reflection, I admitted that I did not have such a prayer in my “spiritual portfolio”; perhaps I needed to invest in one, a default prayer that would pay spiritual dividends down the road — an automatic muttering that would give glory to God rather than besmirch His name!

Do you have a default prayer to help you cope with an unexpected distressful situation?  From my life’s observation most people do not and probably have never given this a thought. Many people under distress simply blurt out “OMG”, “GDI” or “JC” without thinking.  As Christians we ought to do better than that; we can move from the profane to the sacred—even in our mutterings!

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” is the quintessential default prayer to use at any time. It quickly sets my mind and heart upon the One I can truly rely upon to help me through difficult times. It uplifts my plaintive cry for mercy –“help me Lord in my distress!”  It is one of the oldest prayers in the Christian community of faith, dating back to the third century from the Eastern Orthodox tradition; it is considered to be one of the greatest treasures of Christianity!  I learned about “the Jesus Prayer” last year while on a three-day monastic retreat. With a little practice, this prayer can become your default prayer too!  Now say (under your breath): “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” –and repeat. This is a “breath prayer” because it is said in rhythm with one’s natural breathing.  Inhale the first part “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” then exhale “has mercy on me, a sinner” –and repeat. When we connect the power of the Holy Spirit with “the breath of life”, we can fathom the deeper spirituality of “breath prayers” —breathing new life into our souls!  This practice of literally breathing our prayer lends itself to inhale the holiness and power of Jesus Christ and to exhale our petition. It is a “centering prayer”, a prayer of consent to God’s presence and action to me. I let other thoughts go –to create room to return to the presence of God. I focus on Christ Jesus acknowledging Him as both Lord and Savior of my life, the Son of the Living God –and my dependence upon His mercy, compassion, and divine forgiveness.

“The Jesus Prayer” is the ultimate source of intercessory prayer; the more I live with it, the more it will live with me!  Instead of “cursing the darkness” or “counting sheep” on a sleepless night, practice repeating this prayer — embed it into your consciousness as a profound gift from God, to be in continual communion with Him, as the Apostle Paul would say “pray without ceasing!”  Breathe in and out s-l-o-w-l-y:“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” —and repeat again and again until it becomes your default breath prayer!  One last thought to seriously ponder is the payoff of this sound investment:  when taking your final breaths of life, what better words — indelibly inscribed on your mind, in your heart, and within your soul — can be uttered from your lips than “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”!

.                                                                    –Rob Riehl, clerk of session, ruling elder

Our Mission After Easter. Now What?

By Intersections

Hallelujah! Christ is risen!” We respond with another exclamation: “Christ is risen, indeed”!

This proclamation will ring in our ears on April 1, Easter Sunday. It reminds us that just as Jesus was born to us and “moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14), he became our sacrifice on the cross (1 John 2:2). But the fact that the tomb was empty confirms that God’s Spirit now moves in our hearts and lives (Romans 5:4). We can be assured of a future resurrection life, God’s eternal love, and the joy of living in the power of the Spirit. Now, that’s good news worth sharing! Read the exciting way Paul described our new life:

“But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” (Romans 8:9-11 The Message).

What’s next, after Easter?

The disciples asked that question. So did the throngs of people who must have felt like they were on a roller coaster ride of emotions during Holy Week. Consider Jesus’ Palm Sunday march for life, to Good Friday’s crucifixion and burial. Wow. What a change in mood. Huddled together for comfort, the followers of Jesus stressed and grieved in clouded faith. Now what?

We know the story. Though Jesus’ death and resurrection was predicted, that Jesus Christ would somehow rise from the dead was still unexpected. After Easter, life would be different for sure, but not in the way they might at first have imagined.

Since I was a kid, church was a part of my Sunday morning routine. That’s how it was for many people in the 1960’s. Actually, from the 1940’s until the 1970’s, everyone seemed to belong to a place to express their belief whatever the religious preference, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian or other Protestant tribe.

Of course, this is not our experience any longer. As we pay attention to our communities and the social trends, we have come to learn that you do not need to belong to express one’s belief. You don’t have to join to formally be a part of a group or church to feel like you belong. What’s more, you don’t have to attend regularly to somehow prove or confirm your connection. Expectations are different now. There are more options and opportunities. 50 years ago high attendance was the norm. But here’s an interesting fact: During the same period, say from 1940 through 1970, the time of peak church attendance in the United States, all other non-profit volunteer associations were on the rise, as well. Think about that. When many churches began experiencing steep declines in attendance, so were the Rotarians, Lions, Optimists, Boy Scouts, and Woman’s Leagues. (Here at Cold Spring Presbyterian Church, our manse and Price Hall was built at that peak time.) Most new church construction and expansion projects occurred then, too.

To understand the church decline, we should try to understand the decline of other volunteer groups, and here’s what we have learned: The fewer community connections the volunteer groups and churches had, the fewer members resulted. And the inverse is also true: Volunteer groups and churches that grow are more deeply connected to their communities.

(Now, back to the disciples feeling lost and abandoned after Jesus’ death.) The natural instinct when stressed and challenged, when ridiculed and attacked, is to huddle together facing inward, hiding out for safety. But when Jesus rose from the dead, and the disciples finally understood that Jesus’ victory over death now made the abundant life in Christ possible. Relieved, they saw Jesus and listened to the news:

“Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.” Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said” (John 20:19-23).

Instead of retreating, Jesus sent them out. Though they likely wanted to stay safely secluded to recall the recent Palm Sunday festivities, Jesus has a different plan.

The disciples were invited to be vulnerable and place their trust in Jesus. So are we. What we can learn from the attendance boom in the 1960’s and its steady slope of decline since is that it is not the time to sit back, hid out in seclusion propping up our beleaguered faith with stories of old. No. We learn from history that when we sincerely make deep community connections in our neighborhoods and listen to our communities, we will work hard and smart to position our ministries and programs to meet real needs. We will help families, old and young, from long-time residents to seasonal guests, to connect to the spiritual resources we offer in Jesus’ name. Believe, Yes! God invites everyone to believe, to be vulnerable and place their trust in Christ. To make that happen, we need to hear Jesus’ words when he said: “Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”

We are on a transformation journey. We can start with the Easter Good News ringing gin our ears by choosing to be a good neighbor, putting love into action, with a spirit of generous reciprocity. We can be sure that as we practice good discipleship, our commitment as a follower of Jesus Christ means we also practice good citizenship.

We demonstrate transformational behaviors by listening to the cries of the poor, becoming more of a neighbor-church. Then God’s story and God’s message will ring out, and our faith in God will become known everywhere (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). We listen. We serve. We grow. We learn. Let’s do more of that! Churches that transform to establish new community connections become thriving communities of faith!

Thank you for all you do that expressed in so many unique and sacrificial ways to show God’s love in worship, giving, mission events, activities, service, and hospitality. “For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”

After Easter, let’s get up and go. Go where? Across the street. Next door. Pick up the phone. Send an email or a card. Invite others to join an event with you. Make a new friend. Reestablish a connection to Bible study, a mission activity, and share the Good News. Receive God’s peace and the power of the Holy Spirit: Make new connections because:

Hallelujah! Christ is risen!”

“Christ is risen, indeed”!

Gratefully,

Pastor Kevin