Tonight we enter into the Great Three Days as we take our final steps with Jesus to the cross and the grave. We know that Easter is coming, but first we enter into this most holy time of preparation. These are the holiest days of the year for those of us who follow Jesus.
I’m looking forward to journeying with you through these Great Three Days again this year. There are lots of opportunities for worship, so please take advantage of them! There are three services on Good Friday - 12:00 noon, 6:45 p.m. (Children’s Service) and 7:45 p.m. On Easter Sunday we will again worship at three services - 8:30, 10:00 and 11:15 a.m. (note that none of them are at our regular service times!). If you are able, please take advantage of the overflow parking at the Burke School and shuttle bus on Easter Sunday. If you cannot do the overflow parking, don’t worry. Come anyway! We’ll have spot waiting for you in the church parking lot.
When we say, “All are Welcome” at Abiding Presence, we really do mean all. So, bring your friends, your neighbors, the people you love and the people who may drive you a little crazy, too. Come! It’s going to be a great celebration on Easter Sunday as we proclaim with joy, “Christ is Risen!” Christ’s resurrection is good news for everyone!
But first…first come these next three days. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing in these coming days, I encourage you to pause. Sit. Breath. Pray. Read the story of Christ’s Passion (John 18:1-19:42). Be still and experience the holiness in the midst of all the ordinary around us. I promise, the joy of Easter will be much greater if you first take time to first journey to the cross and to the grave.
From there, either take our shuttle bus (runs from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) to/from the church building, or just walk on the sidewalk and cross Lee Chapel Road at the 7-Eleven (see dotted line on this map). We have hired an off-duty police officer to ensure everyone can safely cross Lee Chapel Road.
For a reason I have long since forgotten, I mentioned the word “Alleluia” at one of our recent family meals. “Mom,” my daughter immediately scolded me, “You cannot say that. That’s a sin.” I tried to make the theological point of why it probably wasn’t nearly as much of a sin as she thought, but I quickly realized this was not a battle I was going to win. She had been taught that Lent meant giving up the word “Alleluia” everywhere, all the time, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday without exception. My violation equated to a sin, without exception.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve missed “alleluia.” I’ve missed the joy it brings. By this point in the season of Lent, I’m ready to be done. Especially with Easter falling so late in April this month, I’m just ready to move on. Can’t we hurry this Lenten journey up already? Yet, the church year will keep us in Lent for two more weeks. Two more weeks of trudging along to get to the cross. We’re close, but we’re not there yet.
For many of us, this is probably a good thing for there is still Lenten work around the disciplines of Lent to be done. How have you been engaging the disciplines of repentance, fasting, prayer and works of love? What have you done fully? What do you still need time to be able to do? What aspects of the disciplines do you need to engage in order to be ready for the joy of alleluia on Easter morning? Think about it. Pray about it. Act on it. There’s still time! You don’t have to be ready for Easter yet.
Here in the church, we’re far from ready! We still need many of you to sign up to help make Easter morning possible. So, if you will be here Easter Sunday, please plan to lend a hand to enable the celebration.
Children ages 3 (and potty trained) through rising 5th grade are invited to join us for a week of fun and faith at Vacation Bible School. New this year! There are two sessions - morning or afternoon - from which you can choose. Registration is open!
"Journey to Easter" is an event for ages preschool through 6th grade. Participants grouped together with like-ages will walk through the events leading up to Jesus' death and resurrection through crafts, snacks, and games. There will be a preschool group, kindergarten group, 1st-3rd grade group, and 4th-6th grade group all running independently, but at the same time. A parent must accompany preschoolers and kindergartners. Please sign up here. Contact Sara Dyson, Children and Family Minister, with any questions.
As Abiding Presence continues our Lenten journey, we’re also in full planning mode for Easter Sunday…and…we need your help! In order to make Easter Sunday the festive, joyful and smooth-running morning of worship we want it to be, we need lots and lots and lots of members of our faith volunteer to get involved. Here are a few of the options of what you can do:
· Sing with the adult choir. Even if you don’t usually sing with the choir, you can join them for Holy Week and Easter. More information, including the practice schedule, is available here or by talking with David Chavez, Music and Worship Minister.
· Be a worship assistant. We need greeters, ushers, readers, assisting ministers, communion assistants, acolytes and crucifers for all three services. In fact, we need 63 worship assistants across our three services! Children are welcomed and encouraged to serve with a parent. Email Alissa Salamone, Volunteer Worship Coordinator, if you can help and what service you plan to attend.
· Host the petting zoo. There are two shifts 9:30-10:30 and 10:30-11:30 for which we need hosts out on the lawn to welcome people to the petting zoo and hand out hand sanitizer. Sign up here.
· Serve on the parking team. We need people in the parking lot at Abiding Presence to create a safe environment as they direct traffic, maximize parking and welcome people to the church. Sign up here.
· Host the offsite parking. We have secured offsite parking at the Burke School, but we need people there throughout the morning to welcome people and direct them to the church. Sign up here.
· Host the crosswalk. An off duty police officer will be at the intersection of Lee Chapel Rd and Britford Drive to facilitate safe crossing of the street and turning. We need volunteers to take shifts helping to host the crosswalk to support the work of the officer by asking people to wait to cross until the designated time. Sign up here.
Even if you don't normally participate in our adult choir, you are invited to be part of it for Holy Week and Easter. The choir will be singing on Palm/Passion Sunday (April 14) at the 11:00 AM service, Maundy Thursday (April 18) at the 7:45 PM service, Good Friday (April 19) at the 7:45 PM service, and Easter Sunday (April 21) at the 10:00 AM and 11:15 AM services!
All adults and high school youth are welcome to sing. Middle school youth can sing, too, with the Music and Worship Minister’s permission. Rehearsals (with snacks afterward!) to participate in choir for Holy Week are on:
Tuesday, April 9, 7:30-9:00 PM
Tuesday, April 16, 7:30-9:00 PM
Saturday, April 20, 10:00-11:30 AM
Sheet music and part-by-part practice tracks (for learning the individual voice parts even if you don't read music!) are available at AbidingPresence.net/music starting April 1. Questions? Talk to David Chavez, Music and Worship Minister, after church or email him.
Thank you so much for the generous support of our service ministries thus far this Lent!
During this season of Lent, we are “Abiding in Burke” as we continue to support and learn about our local service ministry partners. Each week we will collect a different item as a “work of love,” one of the disciplines of Lent. This weekend we will be collecting cans of fruit (14.5 - 20 oz. size) in the narthex to support the Abiding Presence Food Pantry & Neighborhood Food Pantry. One of our church members who is active with our food pantry ministries will be with us at the Abiding Table on Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. to share a bit about their ministry, how we are currently engaged in supporting it and how you can get involved.
Connecting People to Christ through Community is the mission we share at Abiding Presence. It is our way of life as the people of God in this place. This mission is how we follow Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples. (You can read Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20.) We live it out every day as we open our doors to enable connections to form among our neighbors with one another, the Abiding Presence community and Christ.
Last weekend the Church Council and I invited you to help us think about our core values as a congregation. As part of our year of “Making Firm the Foundation,” we want to intentionally think about what the core values are that will shape our discernment around ministry, staffing and facility planning. We distributed in worship as survey of 16 possible core values and asked the congregation to mark what they see as the top three core values for Abiding Presence. Three core values rose clearly to the top:
· All Are Welcome
· Family Centered (both “We are a Family” and “Bring Your Family”)
· We are God’s Hands and Feet in the World
Coming out far above any others, All Are Welcome was lifted up by nearly 70% of those who responded as one of their top core values. When we say “all are welcome” at Abiding Presence, we really do mean all. No matter who you are, what your background or what your current situation might be, you are welcome in this community of faith. We invite you to get connected with the church, build relationships with other followers of Jesus and grow in your faith. We want you to invite others, knowing that they will be welcomed, too.
Family Centered is who we are at Abiding Presence, both in the way we operate as a faith family and in the way we create a community where families of all different shapes and sizes are welcome. We are an intergenerational church where people of all ages are valued, engaged in ministry and seen as integral to the life of our community. Ministry with children, youth and families are one of our congregation’s strengths. Our worship seeks to provide an environment where families experience grace as they teach their children how to worship. (As a side note, I think “Family Centered” needs a bit of wordsmithing to wrap everything it means into a catchy phrase, so I would love to hear your ideas of better phrases to capture what this core value means.)
Our faith community understands our calling to be that We are God’s Hands and Feet in the World. This is a common phrase we use around Abiding Presence as we seek to serve God and God’s people. As the body of Christ in the world today, we are often the only hands God has to minister to a person or situation. Our feet might be the ones God is nudging to go to provide care. This year we are focusing on “every member serves” as a way to live out this core value across our congregation.
While these three core values hit the top of our quick survey in worship last weekend, I think there is another core value out there in our community that the survey didn’t quite capture. One of the things I will be working on in the coming weeks is how to best articulate it. So, stay tuned!
For those of you who participated in the survey last weekend, thank you! For those of you who didn’t have the chance, don’t worry! There will be more opportunities in the coming weeks to be part of the discernment as we together look to the future and go about the work of “Making Firm the Foundation” of Abiding Presence. I’m excited to see how the Holy Spirit will stir within us as the people of God in this place.