Posts in Cover
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
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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.  

 

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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.

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!

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 AbidingPresence.net under the "Learn" menu (tap "Registration"), or you can go directly to AbidingPresence.net/SundaySchool.

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 AbidingPresence.net/music, come find me after church or email me at dave@abidingpresence.net. Looking forward to a great year of worshiping our amazing God with our hearts, hands, and voices!

Dave

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. 

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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: nami-northernvirginia.akaraisin.com/AnnualWalk19/AP. 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 abidingpresence.net/mentalhealth. Together, we can make a big difference and support each other and our neighbors in Christ’s love! 

Peace,
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! 

 

What a Week!

What a week at Abiding Presence! Our senior high work trip team of 17 headed south to Savannah, Georgia for a week of home repairs while our confirmation camp team of nine headed to the mountains of Maryland for a week at Mar-Lu-Ridge. Their experiences have been plentiful!

Our confirmands joined a group of 60 confirmands from various churches spread across Maryland and Virginia. They hiked, zip lined, learned about what difference Jesus makes in the world, sang, worshiped and bonded together. They got all of the fun of church camp with a bit of confirmation thrown in there, too.

Our senior high youth split into three teams to serve low income homeowners in Savannah. One team built a fence and two others replaced roofs. As one of our Senior High on the work trip said, “I feel like helping this lady with her roof helps us connect with God, being in God’s creation, a mirror of God.” They also worshiped with the hundreds of others at the work camp and opened their eyes to the many ways God is at work in the world, even in places like Krispy Kreme Donuts.

None of this would be possible without our amazing volunteers and staff. The Senior High Work Team was led by volunteer youth advisers Phil, Craig and Breanna. When you see these three, please stop and say, "Thank You" on behalf of our faith family.

Our Confirmation Camp team was led by Mr. Jon, our Youth and Family Minister. Having been with the group on Monday, I can assure you that their experience was as great as it was because Mr. Jon was there. Mr. Jon has jumped right into our congregation to form relationships with our students, help them navigate situations and engage in faith formation.

When you see our students, please stop them and ask them what their week has been like. Let them tell you stories about donuts and songs about black socks. Listen to what brought them joy and how they overcame the obstacles that they faced. I am proud of our students for stepping outside of their comfort zone and encounter God in new ways this past week.

To you, the church, I want to say, “Thank You,” to you, too. Neither of these experiences would have been possible without you. Financial contributions were made by the congregation in order to invest in these experiences for our students. The congregation also has invested in our new Youth and Family Minister staff position to ensure that these experiences aren’t just summer highlights, but continue to be relevant into the year as our students come together to learn, serve and build relationships. Thank you! I cannot wait to see what comes next for our students and for our congregation.

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"Sort-Of" Farewell and Godspeed to Sara Dyson, Children & Family Minister
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This weekend we will bid "sort-of" Farewell and Godspeed to Sara Dyson, our Children & Family Minister for the past five years. While Sara is stepping down from her position on staff, she and her family will remain active members of Abiding Presence. So, we will send her off  "sort-of" with our prayers and blessings as she steps down from the staff. Then we will welcome her back into her role of being an active Abiding Presence member. 

When Sara stepped into the position of Children's Minister five years ago, it was a 10 hour a week position that was relatively easy to work around her desire to be a stay-at-home mom. Under Sara's leadership, our children's ministry has grown significantly. Sara increased the number of Sunday School classes, added new family ministry opportunities and welcomed many new children and families to the life of our congregation. The 4-5-6 youth group became a reality along with reshaping Wednesday Night Gathering to include our senior high youth as teachers of our elementary schoolers. Just two weeks ago, Sara's leadership envisioned a two session Vacation Bible School that allowed us to welcome more kids into VBS than ever before. 

Along with all of this growth in ministry has come an increase in the number of hours of the Children & Family Minister position. This past January the position went to 30 hours a week. As Sara lived into it, she realized that it no longer worked with being the stay-at-home mom she has always felt called to be. We honor and respect her first calling to being a mom and look forward to the ways she will continue to help shape our church as a faithful member.

I am grateful for Sara's leadership, enthusiasm and flexibility. She has poured her time and energy into making Abiding Presence the vibrant, active and family friendly congregation it is today. She is a gifted teacher to our children and mentor to our youth. While she will be missed on the staff, we are glad to have her and family remain part of the Abiding Presence family. 

Please join me this weekend in thanking Sara for five years of well done and faithful ministry as our Children & Family Minister. We'll be celebrating with cake between services and a send off during both of the Sunday morning services. 

Mental Health Ministry Grant

Earlier this year, our Mental Health Team partnered with NAMI-Northern Virginia, a local mental health organization, to submit a grant proposal to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to expand our mental health ministry. I have exciting news, Abiding Presence has been awarded a $10,000 grant by the ELCA for our mental health ministry plan!  

The grant will allow our Mental Health Team to continue to make a difference by working with NAMI-Northern Virginia to do the following:  1. hire a part-time family support partner to work on-site with families navigating the mental health system; 2. offer a support class for family members of those mental illness at Abiding Presence and 3. Offer more events and training to educate, support and raise awareness in our community. These funds allow us to be able to offer childcare so that more people are able to attend and access these vital programs and resources.  

Our Mental Health Team has been engaged for the past three years in a ministry of welcome, accompaniment and hope for persons with mental illness and their loved ones. Our Mental Health Ministry has brought healing and hope and has changed lives. With this grant, we’ll be able to expand our partnership with NAMI-Northern Virginia and offer more events, trainings, classes and support in our congregation and community.  

Over 50 churches submitted proposals to the ELCA and Abiding Presence is one of the 25 churches chosen to receive funding.  We are grateful for this amazing opportunity to continue changing lives and bringing hope in our community! Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks and contact Pastor Heidi or a member of the mental health team if you’d like to learn more or get involved! 

Log College Project
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As many of you have hopefully heard, Abiding Presence is one of 12 churches in the country who have been chosen to be part of Princeton Seminary’s Log College Project Community of Practice. The Log College Project is focused on innovating the church’s ministry with youth in ways that build new ministries that take theology and young people seriously. This past week seven of us from Abiding Presence had the chance to spend five days on the campus of Princeton Seminary learning, dreaming and discerning with the other 12 churches.

Our intergenerational Design Team ranged from a rising 9th grader to retired members of our congregation (and several of us in between as well). We participated in workshops, worshiped, ate ice cream and talked—a LOT—about what we heard God calling us to do to address the problem of the amount of stress and anxiety facing our high school students today.

The picture below is our team on our last night receiving our grant check for $15,000. Now, however, comes the hard work! We are equipped, excited and enthusiastic about innovating our ministry in a way that creates both physical and relational space for youth experience God’s love and find their purpose as God’s hands and feet in the world.

I would ask that you please start praying specifically for our Log College Project ministry as it begins to unfold. If you want to hear more about what we’re up to, anyone from our Design Team would love the chance to talk with you. We’re also looking for some more amazing adults who feel called to come alongside youth to serve as mentors and conversation partners. If God might be nudging you in this direction, please let us know.

We are a Faith Family, Together

Here at Abiding Presence we talk a lot about being a “faith family.” One of the core values we discerned together this past spring captures that idea with the phrase, “At Abiding Presence we are a faith family, together.” But what exactly does that mean? Last weekend, I saw it in action at, of all places, the pool.           

My daughter is on swim team this summer, which means we spend a lot of our time at the pool. While we were parading into a pool with the rest of our swim team for an away meet last week, one of our church kids from the other team came running up to me to say hello. We stopped and chatted for a moment. I had no idea they are swimming at this particular pool. We enjoyed a bit of friendly banter back and forth about our teams, both of which have sharks as our mascot.  

When the time came to swim, however, our church family cheered my daughter on just as enthusiastically as if she had been on their team. She got out of the pool to a big high five from the dad who was serving as a timer from the other team. I switched my allegiance, too, cheering appropriately for the opposing team when our church kids were swimming.

When we got back in the car after the meet my daughter said to me, “Who were those people? Were they from church?” “Yes,” I said, as I went on to explain who they were. In her mind, people who she doesn’t know who do things like that are – of course – from church. They are part of our “faith family.”

Being a faith family is not just something we do at church. It is a way of being together out in the world. It is the joy of raising kids together, cheering on the opposing team because they are our team, too, stopping to say hello to one another in the grocery store and just doing life together. Being a family of faith means that we don’t have to go it alone in the world. We follow Jesus together in the sanctuary and in our daily lives.

So, when you see me at the next swim meet, come say hello so I can switch my allegiance at the appropriate moment. When you spot someone from church out in the world – walking through the pentagon, standing in the slug line, at the grocery store or shopping at the mall – stop and say hello. “Don’t you go to Abiding Presence,” is a great opening line. Be a faith family, together.

And, if you happen to need some family support, don’t hesitate to reach out. We cannot always see people’s needs, but we have a big family that is ready to offer support anytime. Just say the word and someone will be there.

 

Update from our Dominican Republic Mission Team

Here’s an update from David Chavez, Music & Worship Minister, and our Abiding Presence Mission Team serving in the Dominican Republic this week:

We arrived on schedule on Saturday and were delighted to see JC, our mission team leader, and Eliezer, his colleague and a second translator, at the airport. Both JC and Eliezer worked with our team last year, so it was like being greeted by old friends.

Pastor Mede met us at the hotel and shared eloquent greetings for us and our entire church. Every time he speaks about us, whether to us directly, to kids and adults at the bateys (company housing/mini-villages for sugarcane workers), or to the mission trip staff, he expresses appreciation for us leaving our families and homes and spending the time and money to embody the love of God. He talks about how the people we often encounter, many of whom are poor Haitian immigrants, may feel forgotten or may not always directly see the love of God embodied. Pastor Mede also expressed that unlike some other well-intentioned mission groups, the Abiding Presence team is offers actual practical help to him with our donations, presence, work and skillsets.

We twice visited Batey 28, which it turns out is pretty near the batey we have visited previous years. On the second day, we spent the morning doing sports ministry with the children and youth in the batey. Wow, that sun is powerful and hot! In the afternoon, we led a Vacation Bible School program, partially in the mud, but everyone had an amazing time.

During Vacation Bible School, we shared about how God cares for each one of us. We performed a couple puppet skits about God's love for everyone and God hearing our prayers, and everyone made a "God’s eye" craft, which were meant to remind the kids that God is always with them. We told the Bible story of Jesus calming the storm and taught that we do not have to be afraid since God is always with us.  

Everyone worked hard, adjusted, improvised, adjusted again with changes in schedule and location and resources, which is often how it goes on a mission trip. Craig, Breanna and I played live music and many of the kids got interested in my small "piano" (the little melodica which you play with air like a harmonica except with small piano keys). I taught some of them a bit of how to play Amazing Grace using only the black keys. A few of the older boys (probably middle teenage years) shared with us a very cool rap song they had written about going to church on Sunday and following/trusting God "cien por ciento!" which means, "One hundred percent!". The next two days were filled with construction at the new church site, and music ministry, and more than I can possibly fill in here!

Though many of the socioeconomic problems persist in Batey 28, they have a major and striking difference from Batey Bermejo. In this batey they have permanent running water at a central location, which is carried by pipes put in by the company, and purified with filters put in by Pastor Mede's church. It was amazing to see the difference that it made in the community to have this basic need met.

Life Together at Abiding Presence

As hopefully you have heard by now, we are getting ready for Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Abiding Presence. VBS is a week of fun, faith, friends and learning about God’s love. Recently, however, concerns have been raised with Group Publishing’s Roar VBS curriculum, especially in regards to racial and cultural insensitivities. Sara Dyson, our Children and Family Minister, our VBS Director and I have spent the past few weeks wrestling with these matters and discerning how to move forward.

While the publisher has recently released revisions to the curriculum, we still do not feel comfortable using it. Therefore, we have made the decision to switch to a different VBS curriculum. One of our core values at Abiding Presence is “All are Welcome,” which helps us to create an environment where we can share the message that God loves each and every one of us. We believe that the new VBS curriculum we have chosen, To Mars and Beyond, will encompass our core value beautifully. 

For those of you who have already signed up to participate or volunteer, there are no changes that you need to make at this time. We’re looking forward to a great week when we launch VBS on July 8.

I want to make sure that the congregation is aware of our position on the curriculum and the switch that we have made. As always, we seek to be a faith community that creates a positive and loving environment for everyone. Being this kind of welcoming community takes intentional work.

One of the quotes on my office wall attributed to Martin Luther says, “We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it...” Together, may we keep growing toward what God is calling us to do and be as the people of God at Abiding Presence.

If you have any questions or want to talk further about VBS curriculum, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

A Story, an Update and a New Opportunity

Happy Summer! As we head into summer, let me share with you a story, an update and a new opportunity.

First, the story...Ben, my husband, and I were sitting around the other night when he said to me, “Did you see that someone on the Living In Burke Facebook page is looking for a church?” Ben knows that I regular watch pages like this for people who are looking for churches. It is a great way to get the word out about Abiding Presence and invite the community to come check us out. Before I could even open the app on my phone, though, Ben followed up, “Oh, never mind! Your people already covered it.” Sure enough, there were multiple posts from all of you sharing your experiences at Abiding Presence and inviting this person to come join us.

In this season of moves and transitions, there will be many people looking for a church. They could be your friends, new neighbors, new coworkers or random people you don’t know on social media. I encourage you to be talking about Abiding Presence and inviting people to come see what we are all about. Why? It’s not just because we have something special happening in our faith family (although, I think we do!). Even more importantly, it is because others are searching. They are actively seeking a place to connect, to grow in faith and to hear the good news of God’s love for all people. When we offer an invitation we are helping them to find that community for which they are searching.

Second, the update...as you have hopefully heard by now we have two open positions for which we are hiring - a Children & Family Minister and a Youth & Family Minister. I have been actively working my contacts, learning how to us LinkedIn (come connect with me there!) and talking to various people in the children and youth ministry world. Thanks to all of you who have helped to spread the word about the positions. I’ve had initial phone conversations with nine people, most of whom will now be moving on to first round video conference interviews with our interview teams. The hope is to have the positions hired in the next six weeks and for people to begin in the positions on September 1. Please be actively praying for the people who God is preparing to join our ministry team.

Finally, a new opportunity. This fall we will launch our fifth year of MOPS, our midweek ministry to moms and children ages birth through kindergarten. New this year, we will be adding a Moms Next group, geared toward moms of 1st grade and older kids and teens. This will allow us to expand the ministry to all moms in our congregation and community. If you are interested in participating in MOPS or Moms Next, there is more information and registration on our website.

Last, but certainly not least, thank you! Thank you for all the ways you support ministry at Abiding Presence. You are the church! What we are able to do as a faith family is only possible because of your involvement. I am grateful for the privilege of being your pastor!

Worship Schedule this Weekend
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Special Worship Schedule for Weekend of June 1/2

Sunday, June 2

10:15 a.m. Outdoor Worship Service and Picnic
5:30 p.m. Contemplative Worship Service

Saturday, June 1

6:00 p.m. Vespers Service with Holy Communion

A few notes about Sunday’s outdoor service and picnic:

If you’ve never been to the outdoor service and picnic, it’s one of the favorite services of the year! Please plan to bring lawn/camping chairs if you have them. We’ll have folding chairs available if you don’t.

NEW THIS YEAR - Please bring a pop-up tent if you have one, too. Most of the church’s pop-up tents been well used over the years and are no longer functional. It would be great to have a few families bring theirs to help provide shade for everyone during the service.

Summer Memories
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Some of my favorite summer memories as a child revolve around Vacation Bible School (VBS) in my home congregation. My mother, who spent several years as the volunteer VBS Director, always used to say that VBS happened on the hottest week of the summer. My home congregation wasn't air conditioned when I was growing up and the 2nd story classrooms of the education building got miserably hot. There were crafts and songs, games and snacks and, of course, Bible Stories, too. What I remember most about VBS, though, were the teenagers. 

Our VBS program involved a couple of hundred kids and a lot of middle school and high school teen helpers. They were old enough to be able to help with scissors, glue and glitter. At the same time, they weren't old enough to be moms and dads, which made them really cool. They ran around with us outside as we played games and laughed with us during snack. The teen helpers brought the "fun" to the week of Vacation Bible School (not that the adults weren't fun, too...but...well...they were adults). 

For years I waited until I was old enough to be one of those cool teen helpers. When I finally was, I came to love VBS even more. There was something incredibly special about that week and the relationships that were established. 

Now that I'm a pastor, I still love VBS. I say that it is the most exhausting and wonderful week of the church year. Nothing compares to it! And, it takes a whole church to make it happen. It takes amazing teens who are willing to wake up early (and stay late) to connect with the kids. It takes adults who are able to rearrange their schedules to come teach and/or lead groups of children around.

We've started the VBS countdown at Abiding Presence and would love to have you join us! If you are interested in helping, please be in touch with Sara Dyson, Children and Family Minister. Then you can be part of the fun, too!

Confirmation Sunday at Abiding Presence

A Note about Worship this Weekend:
Saturday at 6:00 p.m. & Sunday at 8:45 a.m. - Regular Services (60 minutes)
Sunday at 11:00 a.m. - Confirmation Service (2 hours)

Please plan accordingly as our confirmation service will be much longer than a usual Abiding Presence service.

It’s confirmation weekend at Abiding Presence! This Sunday at the 11:00 a.m. service 15 of our young people will affirm the promises made for them at their baptisms and we will pray for the Holy Spirit to be stirred up in them to confirm their faith. It is one more joyful, Spirit-filled opportunity to witness how God is at work in the lives of our young people.

What I remember about my own confirmation experience are relationships that I made during the two years of my life I spent in confirmation classes. There were a group of four of us who became the best of friends, hanging out at youth choir and confirmation each Tuesday night and during Sunday School on Sunday morning. In the midst of the trials of the rest of my middle school friendships, those three girls became the friends that I could count on not matter what.

Confirmation was also the time that my relationship with my pastors developed into something beyond just a hello in the handshake line on Sunday mornings. My pastors came to really know me and, in turn, I came to know them. They became people who I felt I could talk when I needed a listening ear and they became my trusted adult as I navigated tough decisions into high school and beyond.

Finally, confirmation was the time in which my relationship with God started to mean something. It was in the midst of my first year of confirmation that I heard the call to be a pastor. I often joke that I felt called to be a pastor before I even knew what a pastor did all day. Regardless, that call to the ministry was loud, clear and nurtured within me throughout those confirmation years.

As I prepare to now be the pastor who gets to lay her hands on our youth’s head as they are confirmed this weekend, I am filled with awe at this amazing group of young people. They are a fun, faithful and passionate bunch who don’t shy away from asking hard questions. I pray that the time that they have spent in confirmation may be as formative to their lives as it once was to mine.

This year we’re doing something new with confirmation. Each of our confirmation youth will receive sponsors – members of the congregation – who will invest in their young person is his/her post-confirmation life. During the confirmation service, the congregation will be asked, “People of God, do you promise to support these sisters and brothers and pray for them in their life in Christ?” The entire congregation will make the promise, responding, “We do, and we ask God to help and guide us.” We want to make sure, though, that each confirmand has two adults in the congregation (outside of their parents, pastors, confirmation mentors, senior high youth advisers and church staff) who are on board to actively fulfill this promise specifically for them. I believe that congregation sponsors have the potential of making a huge difference in the lives of our youth post-confirmation as they experience the care and support of the Abiding Presence faith family in tangible ways.

Thank you to our congregation sponsors and to all of you who will help us to support and pray for our confirmands in their life in Christ.

Reflecting on Mother's Day

As the calendar turns to  Mother's Day this weekend, we know that each person has varied experiences and emotions. For some, this is a day of great rejoicing. For others, this is a day of grief to great to be captured by words. Borrowing the words from Amy Young (http://messymiddle.com), we want to acknowledge the wide spectrum of mothering. 

 To those who gave birth this year to their first child - we celebrate with you.

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you.

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you.

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away - we mourn with you.

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and

disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you.

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you.

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you.

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you.

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience.

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of

motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst.

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be.

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths.

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren – yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you.

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you.

To those who placed children up for adoption –  we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart.

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising – we anticipate with you.

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.