A community church in North Andover, Massachusetts

From the Pastor

Dealing with Stress

Welcome to the fall season and all the events that come with it. We have holidays headed our way, both secular and religious, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We have the advent season coming our way as well, special services, and family coming in or us traveling to family. Then there’s a midterm election approaching. We have decisions to make on so many fronts. Are we pumpkin spice people or not? Will we be full candy bar people at Halloween or are we mini treats folk or those who turn out the lights for the evening? So many choices, so little time. Which is why stress has been on my mind lately.

The First Year

My friends, it is hard to believe it has been a year since I began my ministry here with you at First-Calvary Baptist Church. I guess it is true that time flies when you’re having fun. I look back over all that has happened and shake my head in wonder sometimes. After the vote to hire me, the clock was ticking. Sherry…

Summer Adventures: Abolishing Loneliness

Loneliness is like lightning. It can strike in any place, at any time. Loneliness can impact all of us, not just some unlucky few. Loneliness played a major role in our period of isolation during the pandemic crisis. So, here in June … and July and August … and all the warm months for that matter … it is time to strike back. It’s time to counter loneliness with positive action of our own.

Winter Is Over

We have celebrated Jesus’ resurrection and the new life that comes through Jesus and all he accomplished on the cross and through the tomb. We celebrated with flowers, sure signs of Spring, and Easter eggs, reminders of new life. Now we really get to enjoy the new life that comes with warmer weather.

Easter 2022

I am the resurrection and the lifeJohn 11:25

Dear Friends,

This is our first Easter together. How exciting that is! Looking back at John 20: 1 – 29, we have the wonderful story of Jesus appearing first to Mary and then to the disciples. Over the past two years with a raging pandemic, I think we can all appreciate Mary’s feeling of being utterly alone. We can also well understand the disciples locked in a room together for fear of what might come at them from the outside. We have felt locked away and isolated too.

We Journey with Jesus

The Lenten Season Continues and We Journey with Jesus

Here we are, well into the season of Lent, journeying with Jesus toward Jerusalem. His forty days in the wilderness before beginning his ministry, tempted by the Devil, victorious over three classic temptations, gives us the number of days for Lent (not counting Sundays). During Lent, we do things we normally don’t. We pause in our busy lives and look back on who we have been since the last time we took this journey. We reflect on our spiritual lives and practices. We come to understand what we must change, where we need to repent (turning our lives around and changing them to better follow Jesus’ example). We spend more time in prayer and we look toward sacrifices we can make. Lent is also a time to look for the ways we are not choosing the gospel or welcoming those whom Jesus calls us to embrace.

Communication

The ability to communicate, to share the very meaning of life with each other, is the supreme expression of God’s image reflected in us. This is a beautiful observation from religious scholars. Communication, as observed in Genesis 11:1-9, the Tower of Babel story, has also been a challenge for us from almost the very beginning. In Chapter 9, God had told Noah and Noah’s sons — twice — that they were to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. God says this in verse 1 and repeats it in verse 7. Two chapters later, humanity decides to ignore this communication from God, to ignore the one job God gave them, and instead settle everyone in Shinar, build an impressive city, and create a tower to heaven to not only ignore God’s clear communication, but to violate God’s boundaries as well. Seeing nothing but trouble coming, God scatters humanity across the globe and creates many languages among us so we could not repeat this feat of human cooperation set to entirely human goals. And so, communication has been a challenge for us ever since.

February

From December on, I tend to think of the winter months as dark months. The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year. I often find myself grateful for many lights in the dark, cold nights, whether it’s from Christmas lights, streetlights, or the gentle glow from windows of family homes. Reflecting on this a bit, I was reminded of Jesus call in Matthew 5:13-20 that we Christ followers, disciples of Jesus, should be lights to the world. We should not worship in private and hide our faith away. Rather, in what we say and do, we should be lights in an often dark and frightening world, providing gentle direction to the source of all light and love found in Jesus.

Moving Forward Together

Sherry and I are gobsmacked when we look back on what 2021 held for us, thanks to God continuing to do new things in our lives. In January 2021 we could not have predicted how different life would be in January 2022. We could not be happier and hope you all feel the same way. Our experiences in moving north without all the details firmly in place reminded me of the psalmist declaration in Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” God lights the way and we follow; Jesus blazes the path and we go; the Holy Spirit gives us a nudge and we move. It is a sound approach for individuals and for whole church communities. The way is never easy, but it’s never dull either.

Christmas 2021

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for see — I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people …”Luke 2: 8-10

Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas to all. First times give us pause and make us think … like, writing this letter for the first time. More importantly, the above scripture from Luke lets us witness a really big first thing, the long awaited arrival of humanity’s savior, the Messiah, and the first announcement of Jesus’ arrival as a baby by God’s messengers to a very surprising … and surprised … group of people.

The Night the World Changed

It has been an eventful time since Sherry and I arrived in North Andover in early September. We have celebrated and mourned together, shared our joys and concerns, prepared for both a pastor’s installation service and five baptisms on the first Sunday of Advent to ring out the month of November. Now the Advent season is upon us once again and well underway. Soon we will be focusing on preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and driving ourselves to distraction with every other thing we do during the Christmas season, both religious and secular. Before we get there, let’s pause and take a moment to really consider what happened that night so long ago in Bethlehem.

Easter 2021

Thine is the glory,
Risen conquering Son!
Endless is thy victory
Thou o’er death has won!

In the spring we see plants coming back to life with new green growth, and flowers, and the sweet scents of warmer air and sun. We see the birds and woodland critters becoming more active, some even after an entire winter’s sleep.

Out Of My Mind – March 2021

I write this on the morning of February 12, the coldest day so far this winter, and if the weather prognosticators are accurate, we’re right in the middle of a series of “snow events,” three in the last nine days and three more coming in about as much time. I have to keep reminding myself that spring begins officially on March 20. And reminding myself and reminding myself. I have to admit, I will be relieved when the season of “snow events” is over until next winter.

Out Of My Mind – February 2021

I probably said this last year, but I think it bears repeating: Ground Hog Day should be a national holiday. I’ve thought that since I first started reading the comic strip “Pogo,” when I was nine or so. (Yeah, I’m REALLY dating myself.) Just to have a holiday for no specific purpose except to celebrate a grumpy rodent waking up. And I’m sure the idea will never fly.

Christmas 2020

A year ago, who would have thought we would be where we are today? There is no question that the Covid 19 pandemic and subsequent lock-downs have changed our lives dramatically and not always for the better. I suppose we must obey the “powers that be” in these matters, but I have to admit, Advent services without singing is hard. And I am sure that everyone will have at least one uncomfortable memory of these days.

That’s the bad news, and enough of it, because Christmas is about good news.

Out Of My Mind – December 2020

As we approach the season of Advent this year, with so many unexpected and terribly disrupted events, it might be good for us to think back 2000 years to that first Christmas, when Jesus was born. With all our political turmoil (as I write this mid-November, the election is still in the courts) and unanswered questions about the virus, maybe some perspective could help, I hope.

Out Of My Mind – September 2020

Let me tell you about 1968, the year I turned 20. In January, the U.S.S. Pueblo was captured by the North Koreans. In April, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. In June Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. With August came the tumultuous Democrat National Convention in my home town with a mayor telling the police “Shoot to kill!” With November came the election of Richard Nixon to the Presidency of the United States. Through it all, anti-war demonstrations and riots. And besides, that dreadful year would never end. 1969 could never be rung in, because Guy Lombardo had died, and what is New Year’s Eve without his orchestra playing “Auld Lang Syne”?

Out Of My Mind – June 2020

I write this on May 12, a couple of days before my first anniversary as your interim, and I’m astonished how things have changed in the course of 12 short months. Perhaps, more accurately, the last three short months. Let me try to review this last year a bit, and then offer some conjectures about the future.

Out Of My Mind – May 2020

In times of tumult, we want to encourage each other, and to pray with and for each other, even if we cannot be together physically. As suggested earlier: write, e-mail, phone other members of the church and please contact me in need. Stay in touch.

Out Of My Mind – March 2020

I write this the day before our second retreat, so any observations about that gathering will of necessity be expressed at board and committee meetings directly.

I’ve never cared much for the month of March. It’s neither winter nor spring. It’s mostly marked by cold dampness and mud. If somehow we could send March to Siberia, everyone would win: we wouldn’t miss it, they wouldn’t notice it and they have an extra 31 days. I guess that’s why I’m not in charge of weather or calendars.

Out Of My Mind – February 2020

As I write this, the church has not held its Annual Meeting, so any comments on that will have to be shared at board and committee meetings directly. Some very positive things have been afoot leading up to the meeting, which is all good.

Now to February. Beside all our regular activities, there are two matters in the life of FCBC taking place in February, and I want to point them out, asking you to mark your calendars.

Out of My Mind – January 2020

Twenty-twenty? Is it possible. Of course, all year long, we’re going to be hearing all kinds of corny pun and jokes about “seeing clearly” etc., etc. “Oh oh! Look look! 2020.”

A new year always brings with it hopes and expectations for each of and as a church.

One hope we have as a church is that God will continue to guide the Search Committee in the process they have begun to seek a new settled pastor. We should be praying for them as constantly as we can. The Bible tells us to “Pray without ceasing,” and that principle should be foremost in our hearts and minds as we make this journey with the committee.

Out Of My Mind – Christmas 2019

No doubt this is the busiest time of year inside the church and out. What with preparations for Christmas, shopping, family gatherings, and other activities, it’s easy to forget WHO we are celebrating. The baby in the manger is easy to overlook, and that it too bad. How can we keep Jesus’ birth front and center in our minds and hearts this time of year? Here are a few suggestions coming right out of our church calendar.