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Wednesday, October 23 from 6:45-7:30 p.m.

Join us at Abiding Presence for our annual Trunk-or-Treat event. There’s all the fun of Halloween in a safe environment. All are welcome!

Trunks are needed for this event. If you can bring a trunk, please email Michelle Galdames-Henry, Children & Family Minister. We recommend approximately 300 pieces of candy/treats.

There will be no Wednesday Night Gathering Dinner or activities on this night. We will have our regular Wednesday Night Gathering Dinner and schedule on October 30.

We See People as Christ Sees Them

This past spring our church council and staff, along with input from the congregation, discerned how to put our core values as a faith family into words. The result was the following core value statement:

 At Abiding Presence:

All Are Welcome
We are a Faith Family, Together
We are God's Hands and Feet in the World
We See People as Christ Sees Them

 In my weekly newsletter messages this month, I have been exploring what each of these core values mean. This week I want us to take a look at “We See People as Christ Sees Them.” This value encompasses the idea that we both see other people as Christ sees them AND that we come to see ourselves as Christ sees us, too. They are two sides of the same coin of looking at people through the lens of Christ rather than the lens of the world.

First, let’s talk about how we see others through the lens of Christ. We know how Jesus sees people. The Bible is filled with stories of Jesus not only   noticing those who were on the margins, but also stopping to engage with them. He touched people who were considered to be unclean. He welcomed at his table those who were shunned. Over and over again, Jesus widens the  circle of who is included in the kingdom of God. No one is unworthy of Jesus’ time, attention and love.

When we look at others through the lens of Christ, we see not their sin, faults or mistakes, but instead we see that they are beloved in God’s eyes. We may not like them or their behavior. But, we are called to see them and treat them as  fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, beloved by God. That’s what we try to do here at Abiding Presence, whether the person is a fellow church member, one of our weekday community center guests or someone in the community in need of help.

I’ll be honest, some days this is harder than others. When telemarketers call the church, the last thing I want to do when I pick up the phone is to treat them as a beloved child of God. When someone throws a brick through the church    windows like happened this summer, it is really hard to stop and see them as Christ sees them. When I get cut off in traffic or hurtful by someone’s words, my go-to lens is not Christ’s. It takes practice, lots of it, to see  people first and foremost as Christ sees them.

To see others through the lens of Christ is not enough, however. We also come to see ourselves through that same lens. In my sermon last weekend I preached about being   defined by our identity as beloved children of God instead of the successes or failures the world tells us matter. As I preached last weekend, I need the voice of this faith family and of the God we proclaim to be the loudest voice in my life and in the lives of my children.

I wholeheartedly believe that this core value in our faith community has the possibility of changing our lives and the lives of others with the good news of God’s love. It’s a different way of being in the world. It is the way of Jesus. While it is far from easy, it is important.

Fall Festival
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Saturday, October 19 from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

We invite everyone in the community to join us for a fun filled afternoon of FREE food, games, live music, haunted houses, bouncy house, pumpkin paining, balloon artist, face painting and much more!

If you are able to lend a hand and help, please sign up on the board in the narthex, via SignUpGenius or email Pastor Heidi.

We are a Faith Family, Together

This weekend we have the privilege of welcoming new members into our faith family. To our new members we say, “Welcome! We are glad that you are here.” We are the vibrant, Spirit-filled church we are because of new people like you who come into our midst.  

Welcoming new members is a great  opportunity for all of us to remember who we are as God’s people here at Abiding Presence. As some of you might recall, this past spring the church council and I invited the congregation to help us identify our core values. Core values serve as guiding principles that shape our life together. They reflect how we understand our call to be the Body of Christ in this time and place. 

 At Abiding Presence:

All Are Welcome
We are a Faith Family, Together
We are God's Hands and Feet in the World
We See People as Christ Sees Them

Today, I want to focus on what it means to live out our value of “We are a Faith Family Together.” As I look at it, there is a lot packed into this one phrase!

As a congregation, we place a high   priority on supporting families, especially parents/caregivers and children/teens. Our worship environment is one that offers grace to adults as they teach children how to worship. We invest with time, finances and staff in our growing children, youth and family ministries. We envision new ways to connect with students, such as the Sunday night Youth Group ministry we launched this fall. We want to be a church where families/children/teens are fully integrated into all aspects of our life and ministry.

Families at Abiding Presence come in all different shapes and sizes. At any given worship service and throughout the week you will find families who are nuclear, extended, biological, adopted, blended, separated, LGTBQIA+, interfaith and not-so-sure-about-faith. Our definition of “family” is as broad as the beautiful diversity of families in our congregation and the community in which we live.

Faith Family
More than just wanting to support   families, though, we understand the church to be family. You will often here me teach, preach, write and talk using the phrase “faith family” to describe the church.

All that said, when we talk about family, we realize that it isn’t a word that creates a sense of warmth and       acceptance for everyone. For those whose prior family and/or church experiences have been less than   positive, we grieve with you and want this faith family to be a place where you find hope.

At Abiding Presence, we live life together. It’s not perfect. Often times our life together is messy. Some days it involves a lot of forgiveness, grace, patience and strength. Many days, it offers great joy. We seek to be faith family that is real and authentic as we do life together.

We are a Faith Family, Together
I am grateful for each one of you and your place in this faith family. It is my privilege to walk with you in the holy space of being one of your pastors, raise my children alongside you and do life together with you.

Stewarding God’s Creation

I have been reminded recently of the opening  words of the ELCA social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice,”  which say:

Christian concern for the environment is shaped by the Word of God spoken in creation, the Love of God hanging on a cross, the Breath of God daily renewing the face of the earth. We of the ELCA are deeply concerned about the environment, locally and globally, as members of this church and as members of society...we know care for the earth to be a profoundly spiritual matter.

We worship a God who is the creator of heaven and earth. This means that as people of faith and followers of Jesus, care for the earth is a spiritual matter. One of the ways we live out our faith and live in relationship with our Creator God is in the way we steward the earth. 

So, what does this mean? First and foremost, it means that I have sinned and fallen short in my care for the earth in ways too numerous to count. Maybe you have, too. I am mindful that there is much that I have done and left undone when it comes to being a good steward of God’s creation. 

Second, it means that the church has something to say to the world about what it means to care for God’s  creation. As people of faith, caring for the earth is something about which we can and should speak out.

Third, understanding that our care for the earth is connected to our lives as   followers of Jesus, we as the faith family of Abiding Presence have the chance to model what it looks like to be good stewards of God’s creation. I hope we can begin to have conversations around what this might mean moving forward. If you would like to be part of the discussion, please let me know.

As we seek to better steward God’s  creation, we are trying a few things this weekend in order to reduce the amount of paper we use in worship. These changes are experiments to see what might work (or not work) as we seek to care for the earth. I welcome your feedback as to how they go.

Here’s what we are trying:

· Having one prayer request sheet in the back of the sanctuary instead of stuffing individual sheets in each bulletin. (Reduction of 150 pieces of paper/weekend)

· Offering a small number of reusable worship outlines at the 8:45 a.m. service instead of printing a worship folder for each  person. (Reduction of 130 pieces of paper/weekend)

· Creating a worship folder for Saturdays that can be used for a few weeks in a row. (Reduction of 500 pieces of paper/month)

I look forward to continuing the  conversation as a faith family about what it means to be good stewards of God’s creation here at Abiding Presence and out in the world.

Family Support Partners Now Available at Abiding Presence!
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As part of our ELCA mental health grant, Family Support Partners from NAMI-Northern Virginia are now available to meet with parents at Abiding Presence! Family support partners work with parents in the congregation and community who have a child with mental or behavioral challenges in order to provide resources and support.

Family Support Partners are trained parents and caregivers who use their personal experiences to help other youth and families build on their strengths, navigate services, develop supports and find hope. Family Support Partners understand first-hand the challenges families may experience because they have navigated mental health/behavioral health/substance use systems with their own child. They have been trained to support other families and can help you and your family:

• Identify and use your strengths

• Express your family’s voice and choice

• Connect with effective community supports, services and treatment options

• Better understand and navigate services and benefits

• Feel supported

• Understand your rights

• Develop self-advocacy skills and find time for self-care

• Find hope!

Family Support Partners are available at Abiding Presence on a walk-in basis at the following times:

Tuesdays, 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Thursdays, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Family Support Partner services are confidential and open to all in the community.

Contact Pastor Heidi with any questions or for more information!

Pet Blessing Service

Sunday, September 29 at 4:00 p.m.

Plan to bring your pets to our annual Pet Blessing service. Animals of all shapes and sizes (including stuffed animals!) are invited to this brief, pet and child-friendly service held outside in the fenced area. We will give thanks to God for our pets and enjoy a snack, both for the humans and the pets.

Meredith KeseleyWorship
Wednesday Night Dinner & Gathering

Beginning Wednesday, September 25

We’re serving up burrito bowls for dinner, so come join us. There’s something for everyone on Wednesday Nights! Dinner is served at 6:00 p.m. and a freewill donation is collected.

Schedule for this Wednesday

 5:00-6:00 p.m.  -Youth Music Rehearsal for 6th-12th grades (sanctuary)

5:15-6:00 p.m. -Puppet Practice for 4th-12th graders (Bailey Hall)

6:00-6:45 p.m. -Dinner (Bailey Hall)

6:45-7:45 p.m.- Adult Small Group (Bailey Hall) 

- Games with Mr. Jon for 6th-12th graders (Rooms 2-4)

6:45-7:15 p.m. -Elementary School Circles for K-5th (Rooms 5, 6 & 9)

- Preschool Choir (Room 1)

7:00-8:30 p.m.- ESL Class (Room 8)

7:20-7:50 p.m. - Elementary Choir Sectional for K-2nd (Room 1)

- Elementary Choir Sectional for 3rd-5th (Sanctuary)

- Preschool Circle (Room 6)

 Our professionally staffed nursery is open from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Parents must remain in the building while children are in the nursery.


ENewsMeredith KeseleyFamilies
When All Else Fails

Some days go better than others. We know that, right? Still, when those “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” days come (like the title of the beloved children’s book), we struggle. We wonder what went wrong. We replay the day over in our heads analyzing what we might have done differently. Sometimes, we even get angry at God.

I spent this past week immersed in the prophet Hosea in preparation for this weekend’s sermon. If anyone was going to be able to claim he had a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” day, Hosea was the one. His story is one of love, heartbreak and frustration.

You probably could have gone to Sunday School every Sunday for your entire life and never heard of Hosea. He is referred to as one of the “minor prophets” found in the Old Testament. The biblical book of Hosea is short and to the point. If you have a minute this week, dig out your bible and give it a read (or just click on this link and read it online).

The prophet Hosea didn’t just tell the people of God’s great love for them, he felt it. His own story mirrored God’s story of falling in love with the people, having them  stray and then desiring them to come back with his whole being. Hosea proclaims to us a God whose desire to be in relationship with us is greater than anything else in all of creation. When all else fails, God is still there reaching out to us, drawing us in and calling us beloved. There is no bad day that can be so bad that God still will not be there calling us back.

Sunday Nights at Abiding Presence

Last weekend many of you got to be part of our kick off Sunday as we began a new year of ministry.  We launched our largest Sunday School program ever with 12    classes for children ages infants/toddlers through senior high and 100 adults in Bailey Hall for the Abiding Table. We had to pull out a few extra chairs at the 8:45 a.m. worship service and at the Abiding Table to make sure that everyone had a seat, which is always a good problem to have. (Don’t worry, we’ll always have a seat waiting for you when you arrive!) Every available space in our facility was in use.

What many of you might not have had the chance to see was what happened Sunday night when 40 7th—12th graders and 13 adults came back to church to launch our new Youth Group ministry. I had no clue what to expect when I pulled into the parking lot with a carload full of Chipotle. I hoped that there would be a few people gathering. I was shocked to find the parking lot filled and students      literally pouring out of cars. It was amazing!

Youth Group is a chance for our students to hang out, play games, engage in a worship experience, eat dinner and spend time in small groups talking about faith and life. Already, there are many powerful stories coming out of this ministry. It is an example of how we are living out are calling Connecting People to Christ through Community.  


Who Taught You About Jesus?

As we kick off a new year of Sunday School this weekend, I cannot help but think back about my own Sunday School days. Some of my Sunday School teachers were more memorable than others, but they all seemed to have the patience of a saint. One, in particular, still stands out to me all these years later.

Mr Anderson was my Senior High Sunday School teacher. His qualifications for the position were that he loved Jesus, and he  allowed himself to get arm-twisted into saying yes when asked. Of course, at the time, most of us high schoolers were less than enthusiastic about Mr. Anderson’s willingness to teach us. We were a tough class! 

Yet, Sunday after Sunday, Mr. Anderson kept showing up. He kept talking to us about Jesus. More importantly, he kept showing us God’s love even when we were a pretty unlovable bunch.

When I graduated high school, Mr.  Anderson sent me a graduation card. I still remember how shocked I was to open the mail and find that he had sent me a card. It was then I realized how much he cared about all of us teenagers.

As I look around at Abiding Presence, I am grateful for all of the people in our church who are    stepping into Mr. Anderson’s shoes for our children and youth. We have an amazing faith family, and I am grateful that my family and I get to be part of it.

Fall Kick Off Sunday
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Sunday, September 8

Come join us as we kick off the fall and a new year of Sunday School. Our regular worship schedule resumes with services on Sundays at 8:45 and 11:00 a.m. as well as Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. Sunday School Liftoff, a 10 minute opening with songs, puppets and prayers, takes place in Bailey Hall at 9:50 a.m. Sunday School for children and youth ages 3 (and potty trained) through 12th grade takes place in age appropriate classes from 10:00-10:45 a.m. Click here for more details about classes.

Our new Infant, Toddler & Parent/Caregiver Sunday School class is geared towards birth through 3 year old kids and parents/caregivers meets in the nursery after Liftoff from 10:00-10:45 a.m. There is an age appropriate (and brief) lesson followed by time for kids to plan and parents/caregivers to connect with one another.

The Abiding Table is our adult Sunday School class that meets in Bailey Hall from 10:00-10:45 a.m. Adults get to enjoy breakfast, coffee, and faithful conversation about the day’s topic.

Meredith KeseleyWorship, Children
Join a Fall Small Group

Failure. Having Enough Money.  Having Enough for Retirement. Being Alone. Aging. Terrorism. Death. The Future. These are all fears we struggle with in our daily lives. Join us this fall for five weeks in small groups as we learn to live beyond our fear and trust in God in the midst of troubled times using the book Unafraid. Small groups are hosted by members of Abiding Presence at their homes, out in the community, or at the church. A book and videos will guide our discussions about how we live with courage and hope in the midst of fear and uncertainty. Sign up, try it out and invite God into your lives while we grow in relationship with God and each other, connecting to Christ through community. Sign up here.

ENewsMeredith KeseleyAdults
Mental Health Grant Update
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As I shared in July, Abiding Presence was awarded a $10,000 grant by the ELCA for a 6 month mental health ministry partnership with NAMI-Northern Virginia. As we implement our proposal, here’s a few quick updates on our goals and how we are using the grant to change lives and bring hope to our community!

Goal #1: Hire a part-time NAMI family support partner to work on-site 10 hours a week with families in navigating the mental health system. Update: We are working with NAMI to have a family support partner in place by September 15 at Abiding Presence. The family support partner will work with families in the congregation and community to provide resources and support. The grant will help support the salary of the family support partner.

Goal #2: Offer a support class for family members of those with a mental health condition at Abiding Presence. Update: We are coordinating a workshop called “Children with Challenging Behaviors” for parents. The workshop will cover handling behavioral challenges in children, regardless of a mental health diagnosis. We have 8 people from the AP Mental Health Team willing to be trained to offer the 1 day course. We are also working with NAMI to offer a “Family to Family” course in January 2020 for family members of those with a mental health condition. Grant resources will offset the costs of food and childcare for these workshops and classes.

Goal #3: Offer more events and trainings to educate, support and raise awareness in our community. Update: We are hosting a Mental Health First Aid Training for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers of Youth at Abiding Presence on Saturday, October 26th from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. We are also co-hosting a screening of “Angst,” a 1 hour documentary on anxiety in youth, on Tuesday, November 18th at 7:00 p.m. The movie is an engaging and helpful explanation of youth anxiety and how it can be managed and treated. Following the viewing, there will be a panel discussion with mental health and community experts, who will answer questions and offer resources. Grants funds will allow us to offer food as well as childcare for these events.

Stay tuned for more information and contact me or a member of the mental health team if you’d like to learn more or get involved!

Sunday School Registration
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Registration is up and ready for our fast approaching Sunday School kickoff on September 8th! Please click here for the form, or follow the link below. We are asking all parents to register their children at their earliest convenience, and we will have forms available at church on Sunday as well. Please contact Michelle Galdames-Henry, Children and Family Minister with any questions or comments. We can’t wait to see you all!

Backpack Blessing

Help new and returning students start the school year with confidence by joining us at our annual backpack blessing! Backpacks will be blessed at every service the weekend of August 24-25. Bring along backpacks, briefcases, purses, etc. to receive a blessing from our pastors as the new year begins! We look forward to seeing you.

  • Saturday, August 24 at 6:00

  • Sunday, August 25 at 8:45 and 10:15

A Message from our Music & Worship Minister

I was inspired by the middle school and high school youth of our church as they returned from two different trips this summer; both groups were immediately eager to share with me and with all of us the music they learned! Some of the songs were new to me, some were songs we sing regularly, and some songs I hadn't heard for many years. Whether it was familiar or new music, hearing our youth sing and play these songs with the energy and enthusiasm of their shared camp experiences was infectious. Senior high youth who had served in home repair ministry in Savannah, Georgia eagerly accepted my invitation to help lead our congregation in worship on August 4, and they did a fantastic job. Soon, we'll have a group of confirmation camp youth share some of the music they sang in worship as well.

Let's never forget to appreciate the youth and adults who volunteer their time and talents to help lead us in worship week after week. Take a moment to mentally imagine yourself in the position of getting up in front of people and making music for the Lord--it takes courage! I love seeing the way our church treats our young people, not as the church of tomorrow but as the church of today. And, our young people have responded accordingly; they inspire me when they bravely choose to try playing their musical instrument or singing into a microphone in front of a hundred people for the very first time. What this tells me is that God's spirit is moving in our community, and we are receptive to that spirit when we build a community where people of all ages feel safe and loved enough to take the risk of stepping out in faith.

As always, the doors to participation are wide open! Our youth music rehearsals this year consolidate to one rehearsal from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays starting on September 11. This rehearsal will now encompass both Youth Band and Youth Choir, and will often now include more sectionals and more personalized instruction. To that end, I'm in the process of seeking a few more adult volunteers with musical experience who would be able to help me lead these sectionals. If you're interested (even if you can only be there some weeks), please get in touch! If your youth is ready to sign up to participate, you can register using the same form in which you sign up your students for Sunday School and Wednesday night activities. You'll find the registration form at under the "Learn" menu (tap "Registration"), or you can go directly to

Our adult choir rehearsals (open to all adults and high school youth, and to middle school youth who have obtained my permission) are on Tuesdays from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. starting on September 10. There is no audition, and it's a fun and multi-generational group... and we have snacks!

There are lots of other ways to be involved as well, including praise band, tech team, brass and orchestral music, and lots of organizing and behind-the-scenes work. For more information on how to serve God and our church through music and the arts, visit, come find me after church or email me at Looking forward to a great year of worshiping our amazing God with our hearts, hands, and voices!


A Message from our Pastor for Discipleship

After spending some time away on vacation, it is good to be back! I am extremely excited to be planning for some fantastic ministries and events this fall, including those we are implementing as part of the mental health ministry grant we just received from the ELCA. As I shared last month, that grant will allow us to more closely partner with NAMI-Northern Virginia, a local mental health organization, to make some amazing resources and events possible in our community in the coming months. 


NAMI-Northern Virginia has been our partner in mental health ministry since we began it three years ago. Our Mental Health Team is supporting them by participating in their annual walk on Saturday, September 21. We invite you to join us for a fun morning of music, activities and contests at the Tyson’s Corner Center on the Plaza and a great opportunity to help raise mental health awareness and funds for education, support, and advocacy in Northern Virginia! Plus, the Mental Health Team will have Duck Donuts and hot coffee waiting for you!

Sign up to walk with the Mental Health Team on the sign-up board in the narthex or online at: Our mental health ministry is changing lives and offering hope to so many in our community; we invite you to be a part! Consider walking with us on September 21 as well as attending a mental health team meeting (3rd Mondays at 7:00 p.m.) or joining our new mental health book club (1st Wednesdays at 5:00 p.m. starting October 2). Details are at Together, we can make a big difference and support each other and our neighbors in Christ’s love! 

Pastor Heidi

Gearing Up for Sunday School

I want to start by saying a huge thank you to you all for welcoming Jon and me so quickly into your church, families, and community! I have loved getting to meet so many of you and look forward to getting to know more of you as the school year starts up. 

As we look forward to the upcoming school year, we also anticipate the beginning of Sunday school. I am so excited to coordinate this year’s Sunday morning classes. We will be starting up September 8th with puppets, songs, crafts, and Bible stories ready to enjoy. 

This year, we have so many students that we hope to have separate classes for every grade. We have been so richly blessed with lots of little hearts and minds to pour into, but in order to fulfill our big goals, we need a handful more Sunday school teachers. You don’t need any former experience, just a desire to let kids know that they are loved by their Creator. If you have questions or would like to get involved, please reach out to me. I would love to chat with you more about my dreams for our already thriving children’s ministry! 


7th-12th Grade Youth Group Information Night

Wednesday, July 31 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Mr. Jon, our new Youth & Family Minister, is excited to meet all of our 7th-12th grade youth and families. We will be grilling burgers and hot dogs while Mr. Jon talks to parents and students about the new youth ministry program. Bring your 7-12th graders, a side dish or dessert, and that is all that you’ll need. The night will start at 6pm and end around 8pm. Feel free to email Jon with any questions or to RSVP. Look forward to seeing you there!

Meredith KeseleyYouth