A community church in North Andover, Massachusetts

Open Door

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Out Of My Mind – November News

I write this on October 9, so some of the following will be guesses, educated or otherwise. A few matters are already happening or have already happened, so I’ll start with them.

The biggest news in our church since our last Open Door newsletter is the election of officers by the Pastoral Search Committee. They are planning their first regular meeting on Wednesday, October 16, so please keep that date and meeting in prayer.

Their deliberations for the entire process will be guided by a sort of manual created to help churches seek and find settled pastors. So, again please pray that God will give the committee members the insights they’ll need to work together for the church.

Out Of My Mind – New Beginnings

The biggest news in the life of our church recently is the election of our Pastoral Search Committee.

It was interesting to see First-Calvary at work striving to perceive the Holy Spirit’s direction through the election process. Some expressed concern that it seemed a bit heated at times, but we want to remember that as Baptists we believe that the Holy Spirit often speaks most clearly in the struggle.

I want to specifically thank the Nominating Committee for their diligence and hard work in identifying seven members who said they would serve, if elected, and the Moderator who ran the meeting coolly and carefully. Also thanks to all the members and friends who were there and let their voices be heard.

Searching for a new settled pastor needs to be thorough and deliberate. The committee will need the ideas and thoughts of all our members and friends as they go forward. Most of all, they will need our prayers of support and encouragement. There is a sense that God has chosen them to steer the future of this church, so our prayers for them are also for First-Calvary.

Out Of My Mind – The New Church Year

It has been a summer of getting to know each other, travel, worship and planning. It has been my pleasure to serve as your interim part time pastor since last May, and now, with autumn almost upon us, I’ll have the opportunity to serve you full time, beginning Sept. 1.

I write this at the end of the first full week of August, so some plans are still to be made, but there are other ministries which are definitely in the works, with only specific times and places need to be set.

The Deacons have asked that the weekly Bible study be continued, and I look forward to leading that, if the participants approve. Choir will be starting up this month. The different groups in the church will be beginning their fall schedules. Look in the Open Door newsletter and in the Sunday bulletins for times, dates and locations.

Out Of My Mind

How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

Psalm 133:1

First, I just want to say “Hello.” It’s a joy to be with the people of First-Calvary Baptist Church as together we begin this significant time of transition.

That’s All Folks

Th-th-th-that’s all folks

Rev. Dr. Porky Pig

Well, as my time as pastor of First-Calvary Baptist Church comes to an end, perhaps Porky Pig’s concluding words at the end of each Hanna-Barbera cartoon segment involving such characters as Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Elmer Fudd et. al., seem appropriate. Or not.

Winds of Change

The winds of change are always blowing
And every time I try to stay
The winds of change continue blowing
And they just carry me away

The above referenced song was made relatively famous when recorded and sung by Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson in 1984. The song was about all the women they had ever dated!

But the chorus says a bit about life, how the “winds of change” move us to surprising places.