Posts in Cover
The Great Three Days
A military chaplain washes the feet of members of the U.S. military. On Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus’ commandment to love one another. As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, we are called to follow his example as we humbly care for one another.  Photo Credit: ELCA Facebook Page

A military chaplain washes the feet of members of the U.S. military. On Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus’ commandment to love one another. As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, we are called to follow his example as we humbly care for one another. Photo Credit: ELCA Facebook Page

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.

Easter is Coming!

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.

Get Involved on Easter Sunday
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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.

Looking at our Core Values
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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.

Bridge-building through Music
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Last year, one of my (Dave’s) proudest moments as your Music & Worship Minister was helping lead Vacation Bible School crew of 4th-6th graders as they put on a sing-along-puppetry show for residents in the memory care unit of our local Sunrise senior living community. I was inspired, not just because this group of young people did a great job and comported themselves admirably (which they did!) but also because they did so out in the community, beyond our walls. I saw Christ in how they made music with and for folks outside their usual church family, and in the joy written on the faces of the residents.

One of my big-picture music/arts/worship ministry goals is to share more with those outside the four walls of our sanctuary. By this time next year, each of our primary music ensembles will have a new established tradition: at least once every year, we will either play/sing outside the walls of our building, or we will host a music event designed to welcome the community.

This Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m., a quintet of instrumentalists (Craig Fraedrich, Mike Dyson, Natalie Franke, Breanna Gromicko, and myself) will represent Abiding Presence at an interfaith concert in Annandale, and you're all invited! (Tap here for address and directions.) The theme of the concert is "Love Thy Neighbor," and will also include performances by Jewish, Buddhist, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Latter-day Saints ensembles. While we may not share the same beliefs and theology with everyone in attendance, we can certainly affirm a common commitment to loving one another.

My hope and prayer is that the music we make at Abiding Presence grows more and more into a bridge-building, Jesus-like-welcoming, connection-forming ministry. I see music-making as a vital way for us to break through the barriers that keep us from fully loving our neighbors. If you have ideas for ways you would like to help extend our music & arts ministries out into the community, please come and talk to me! You can find me after church, or email me (dave@abidingpresence.net). And even if you can't make it Sunday evening, please pray for our musicians and our community; may all grow to love more like the God who loved us first.

CoverDavid ChavezMusic
Final Words
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We all know crucifixion is painful. It’s hard to even think about it without cringing in pain. Yet it wasn’t until I got to reading Adam Hamilton’s Last Words that I realized the implications of crucifixion on speaking. Hamilton explains that in order to speak from the cross, Jesus would have had “to pull himself up by the nails in order to expand the diaphragm to speak.” The pain he must have gone through to speak gives his final words great impact. They are words for us to take to heart as we think about what it means to be followers of Christ today.

If you haven’t already signed up, I invite you to join one of our small groups this Lent that will look at Jesus’ final words together. The small groups will run for five weeks beginning this coming week. If you’ve never participated in a small group or a Bible Study before, don’t worry! You’ll be in good company of people who are giving it a try for the first time. There’s no required preparation. You can read along chapter-by-chapter in the book if you would like. If not, you’ll still easily be able to jump into the discussion. If you’ve been looking for that “next step” in getting to know people at Abiding Presence and/or growing in your relationship with Jesus, the midweek Lenten small group experience would be perfect.

On Ash Wednesday we heard the invitation to the Disciplines of Lent - repentance, prayer, fasting and works of love. I encourage you to be intentional in your response to the invitation to add these disciplines into your life for the next six weeks in intentional ways. Joining a small group - even if it takes you a little outside of your comfort area - might be a great place to start!

All Are Welcome

Every Sunday Pastor Heidi or I stand behind the altar at the time of Holy Communion and offer the invitation, “This is the Lord’s Table and all are welcome here.” Most Sundays when I am behind the altar, you hear me say it twice so that I am book-ending the instructions on how to receive Holy Communion. Why? Because I want to make sure you don’t miss the message. I want to give it a minute to sink in so you realize that “all” means you. It also means those who you might not realize are welcome alongside you at the Lord’s Table.

Here at Abiding Presence, “all” really does mean all...everyone...no exception. Why? Because the communion table isn’t our table. When you get down to it, Abiding Presence isn’t really our church either. It’s Jesus’. It’s Jesus’ communion table and Abiding Presence is Jesus’ church. When we look at Jesus’ witness - his life, death and ministry - we see that the kingdom of God has come near for the sake of the world that God’s so loves. God’s desire is for everyone to believe in Jesus - everyone, without exception. In Jesus, God’s kingdom came near for you and for me, the faith and the not so faithful, the people we agree with and the people we don’t, the people we love and the people we strongly dislike (note: I didn’t use the word “hate”…remember last week’s sermon?). We are not the gatekeepers of the kingdom of God. That’s a position far over our heads best left to God alone! Instead, we are inviters to and proclaimers of the good news of Jesus, which is good news that God wants all people to hear. Our Lutheran proclamation that “all are welcome” is good news that needs to be shared.

I hope this week that you will take a few moments to prayerfully consider who in your life needs to hear the good news of Jesus. Who do you know that needs to hear that God’s love is for them? How might God be calling you to be an inviter to and proclaimer of that good news that Jesus came for them, too? Think about it. Prayer about it. Act on it. There’s a world out there that God loves and God wants to hear the good news of Jesus and we are the hands, feet and voice God has to proclaim it.

Body Builder Faith

What is faith? How would you describe your faith in one sentence? What difference does your faith make? These are some of the questions I posed to our pre-confirmation 6th graders this past Wednesday night as we sat in my office talking together. “This is getting deep!” one of them said to me as we wrestled with the idea of faith together. Indeed, faith can sometimes seem like one of those deep conversation topics that is hard to grasp.

In the biblical book of Hebrews, faith is described as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (11:1).” I encourage you to commit this verse to memory, highlight it in your Bible and recite it often. It’s short, sweet and to the point. Faith is both hope in God’s promises for the future and conviction, or trust, in all of God’s works that we cannot see.

The pre-confirmation youth and I talked about how God gives us all the faith we need. We don’t have to go out searching for faith. We don’t have to worry about if we have enough. God is the giver of faith and God always provides. This conviction that God has and will give us faith is something in which we can take comfort.

But, that’s not all! Faith is like a muscle. We all have it, but only some of us exercise it. When we exercise our faith, it gets stronger. We can feel it in a more pronounced way. It becomes visible to others. Faith becomes something we think about and engage with through the exercise of worship, prayer, scripture reading, service and life together in Christian community.

As I’m passionately discussing exercising faith with our 6th graders, one of them looks up at me and says, “So, basically, pastors are body builders.” Immediately, there was lots of laughter from all of us! But, it is not just pastors who are called to be body builders, it is all of us in this faith community who are called to exercise our faith and coach others along in exercising their faith, too.

I continue to be amazed by the faith of our young people and the ways that God is working in and through them. I’m thankful for all of the teens and adults in our congregation who are serving as body builders of the faith to help our children learn how to exercise their faith muscle. I hope you will prayerfully consider how God might be calling you, too, to get involved in body building in our faith community.

How Much is One Ton of Food?

The calendar has now turned to February, which means that it is time for us to get to work stocking the ECHO food pantry. While we support ECHO’s work and collect for their food pantry throughout the year, February is the month when Abiding Presence takes responsibility for ensuring there is plenty of non-perishable food, toiletries and household products on hand to meet the needs of our neighbors. Stocking the ECHO food pantry is February is a longstanding Abiding Presence tradition. It is also more important than ever as the needs of our neighbors increase.

So, what can you do? Bring food, toiletries and household products each and every time you come to church this month. When you’re at the grocery store stocking your pantry, replacing your shampoo or picking up laundry detergent - buy double and bring one set to church for ECHO. If you’re grabbing cans from your pantry, make sure they haven’t expired. If you have children or grandchildren, take them with you to the store to help shop and then bring the items to the donation bins at the church. It’s a great way to instill a sense of service from a young age.

Our goal is big - ONE TON of food, toiletries and household products! The fact that February is the shortest month of the year doesn’t deter us from setting a big goal. We know that working together we can meet the needs of our neighbors and ensure that the ECHO food pantry is well stocked.

Supporting Each Other and the Community
Nadia and I took advantage of the nice weather one afternoon this past week to scooter together around the neighborhood on our scooters. She was only a little bit faster than I was up the hill!

Nadia and I took advantage of the nice weather one afternoon this past week to scooter together around the neighborhood on our scooters. She was only a little bit faster than I was up the hill!

As some of you may have heard, I had some minor post-holiday foot surgery to take care of an old injury that flared up and wouldn’t heal on its own. At this point, I’m well on the way to recovery with the minor inconvenience of not getting around quite as easily as I normally do. I’m back in the office and leading worship and looking forward to seeing all of you.

While I’m always grateful to be part of our amazing faith family, I’m especially grateful in times like these. Having so many offers for help from people who I knew I could call on was invaluable. Thank you!

Here at Abiding Presence, we’re always looking for ways to support each other and the community. We’re excited to be launching a new support group this month for parents and caregivers of children with ADHD that is affiliated with CHADD, a national ADHD organization. The first meeting will be Thursday, January 24 at 7:00 p.m. and is open to people in the church and community. The support group was the idea of one of our members who was looking to connect with other parents of children with ADHD. Abiding Presence was happy to help provide encouragement and resources to make the group a reality.

Our Parents of Teens Group will also resume meeting this month on Wednesday, January 23 at 7:00 p.m. This group is facilitated by a licensed social worker from the community who comes in to provide conversation and guidance for parents raising teenagers. We also host a monthly Metal Health Family Support Group facilitated by a pastoral counselor.

If you have an idea for a way that we can better support one another and you’re willing to help take a lead in making it happen, please reach out to me. The church and I are here to provide encouragement and resources. I’d love to see a relaunch of our meal ministry to provide meals to members of the congregation who may be recovering, grieving or welcoming a new family member. I also know there are plenty of other support groups that might be helpful for us to launch or community groups with which we can connect. There are lots of possibilities, we just need people with a bit of time and passion.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! How are those New Year’s resolutions going? I admit, I haven’t been perfectly adhering to my resolutions to eat healthier, exercise more, and finally use that Rosetta Stone software I bought to learn German!

But resolutions, even if they’re not perfectly kept, are worthwhile in helping us think about how we are living our lives and if our lifestyles really serve our well-being. I invite you to consider some resolutions to tend to your spiritual well-being this new year. Perhaps it’s by setting your alarm clock 5 minutes earlier so you can spend a few minutes talking to God to start your day.  Or by downloading an app on your phone with devotions that you can read or listen to: Pray as You Go or Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals are two that I use every day. Or perhaps you can download a bible app and read a chapter or two a day…I have a Year-long Daily Bible Reading Plan I can share if you’re interested!

I encourage you to consider some of these more spiritual resolutions, not because God requires us to be perfect or because we’re trying to level up and unlock saintly status. I invite you to consider some of these practices so that you may grow in relationship with God: trusting in God’s love and will for our lives instead of operating out of our own insecurities, fear and desire for control.

God doesn’t ask perfection, just our presence. Consider what you can let go of so you can be less frantic and more present with God and those around you. Be present in 2019 with the God who loves you beyond all understanding, in your daily life and also with the Body of Christ here at Abiding Presence. Life and faith are not a solo journey; abide and be present with us as we walk the way of Christ together. Jesus didn’t walk alone; neither do we. Thanks be to God!

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What if...

Like some of you, I’m in the frantic stages of shopping, wrapping decorating and preparing for Christmas. I envy those of you who have had your gifts wrapped and under the tree for weeks. Right now, I wish I was you! I may have started listening to Christmas carols in mid-November, but I didn’t get wrapping until just this past week.

In the midst of all of the preparations as both a pastor and a mom, we had not one but two families with whom we have worked throughout the year approach us to help provide Christmas gifts for their children. Many thanks to all of you who jumped in to help in the midst of your own family preparations! As a church family, we were able to provide gifts for nine children in two families in addition to all of the toys we collected for ECHO’s Christmas shop.

Working with these two families, I’m mindful of the needs of our neighbors for resources. We have amazing social ministry organizations in our community such as ECHO, the Lamb Center, the Shepherd Center and others, too, who support families and seniors throughout the year. But…those organizations cannot possibly meet all the needs of our all neighbors on their own.

As we prepare to head into the new year, one of the things I ear God calling us to do is to find more opportunities to provide resources to those in our faith family and to our neighbors through our community center, especially in regards to health and wellness. The possibilities for us are endless! A parish nurse, a social worker, trained volunteers from the congregation who are willing to help our “walk in" neighbors get connected to social services. What if we had trusted therapists on site and provided childcare for parents during their appointments? What if we expanded the support groups we offer to provide one for caregivers and/or a grief support group? What if…?

I invite you to start dreaming, praying and listening to God about how we as a church can continue to best provide for the needs of our faith family and our neighbors. Come the new year, I’d love to share a cup of coffee and hear your ideas. We have such an amazing congregation, that the possibilities of how we might expand our ministries really are endless. So, if you have some time and/or some passion, start dreaming and praying!

Latte, Light and Luke
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Early this past Monday morning, before anyone else was in the building, I took my latte into the sanctuary, lit the first candle on the advent wreath and began reading the gospel of Luke. Reading through the familiar story of my favorite gospel once again, I found myself drawn into the story with eager anticipation. It is a reminder that Christ’s birth doesn’t come at the end of the story. As I keep preaching, “God isn’t done with us or our world.” Reading through Luke’s gospel in preparation for Christmas reminds me of that truth.

In the midst of this busy time of year, I invite you to join me in the Advent discipline of preparing for Christ’s birth by reading through the entire Gospel of Luke between now and Christmas morning. At 24 chapters, it makes for an easy one-chapter-a-day kind of a read. If you’re starting now, there is plenty of time to catch up in the one-a-day reading. You can also just take an hour sometime and sit down and read the whole thing from beginning to end. If you would like to bring your latte over, you can light the advent wreath and read in our beautiful sanctuary. (You’ll find a candle lighter tucked inside of the pulpit. Just be sure to blow the candle out when you are done, please.) It doesn’t matter where, how or when you do it, just make a commitment to do so sometime between now and Christmas morning.

As people of faith, this is a time of actively waiting, watching and preparing for Christ to come again. Reading through the Gospel of Luke is one way to engage in it this Advent season. See what surprises you as you read through the gospel story. Listen to what God is speaking into your life right now.

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Christ is Coming...Again!


I love Advent! It is my favorite season of the entire church year. It is a time of watching and waiting, preparing and hoping. Together, we cling to God’s promise that Christ will come again. Advent is the season in which we recognize that God will have the last word over the mess of creation and the muck of our lives. These four weeks before Christmas are filled with promise and hope for our futures. Advent is my most wonderful time of the year! 

During my pre-pastor and early-pastor days, I was an advent purest. I thought Christmas carols shouldn’t be sung until the Christmas Eve service, decorations should wait until as long as possible to be put up and that there should be a clear distinction between the four weeks of Advent and the 12 days of Christmas.

But then, something happened. I started looking around and realizing that we (the church) were missing out on a huge opportunity! Our culture was spending the whole month of December (and November and most of October, too) teaching people the meaning of Christmas - bargain shopping, snowmen, decorations, cookies, songs about jingle bells - and the church was relatively silent.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good cyber Monday sale like everyone else. Christmas cookies, jingle bells and Santa Claus are all part of my family’s celebrations, but they aren’t the meaning of Christmas. They aren’t why we celebrate.

I’ll confess that this year I started listening to Christmas music in mid-November. I still love Advent. I continue to cling to this season of promise and hope that assures us that God is not yet done with us or our world. Christ is coming…again! Thank goodness! It is abundantly clear that the world as it is today is not the world God would have it to be.

BUT, I also believe the church needs to reclaim its role of teaching about the meaning of Christmas. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. This is a powerful and important message that the world needs to hear…now!

So, starting this week we’ll slip a Christmas carol or two into our worship. We’ll begin looking at not only the promises of Advent, but the promises of Christmas, too, through the eyes of people like Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary.

Indeed, Christ is coming…again! The babe born in Bethlehem was the beginning, not the end, of God’s kingdom coming near. As people of faith, we live in the tension of this in-between time when Christ has come and when Christ will come again. We are Advent people. We are Christmas people. We are God’s people who trust that God has come, God is here and God is not yet done.

From our Senior Pastor and Council President

WOW! You never cease to amaze us. Thank you for the faithful, generous and inspiring financial commitments you have made for 2019. It was an amazing weekend last weekend celebrating what God is doing in our midst.

So far, 136 households have offered commitments for the coming year. We reached the $5,000 challenge gift goal of 75 new/increased commitments by Celebration Weekend last weekend AND the $2,000 challenge gift goal of 50 additional commitments by Thanksgiving. That’s an additional $7,000 for our ministry this coming year. Thank you to all of you who have committed to helping make our vision a reality in 2019. There’s still time, though, for those of you who have not yet submitted your commitments to do so.

We promised in last week’s e-news that there was news coming about a big step we are taking right now toward our 2019 vision. Now, we’re ready to share that news!

We have hired Katy Moran as Interim Senior High Youth Director. We have been dreaming about and praying for a Senior High Youth Director for several years. When Pastor Keseley met Katy at a synod meeting, she immediately recognized her as having the gifts and skills of the kind of person for whom we have been praying. While we weren’t in any kind of formal search process to hire a Senior High Youth Director, the church council decided to embrace this “Holy Spirit moment” and bring Katy on board through May.

Katy comes to us as a member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Herndon and a 2018 graduate of Longwood College. She started college with plans to become a special education teacher and then heard the call to ordained ministry. She will start her Master of Divinity at United Lutheran Seminary in the fall of 2019. Katy has spent the past five summers on the staff of Lutheridge Camp in North Carolina. She is well trained and equipped to bring all of the faith and fun of Lutheran summer camp to our youth ministry. Katy will work alongside our existing youth ministry team “Making Firm the Foundation” in preparation for our Log College Project grant project that will launch next fall.

Katy will start with us Sunday, December 2 and will be present at both worship services and the Abiding Table that morning. Please take a moment to introduce yourself and welcome her to Abiding Presence when you see her. We’re thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit that has connected us with Katy and for the opportunity to bring her on board for this school year.   

We say this often, but we continue to feel like it is an exciting time to be the church here at Abiding Presence. Thank you for all the ways you are helping to grow and shape our ministry for the sake of the world.

Blessings,

Rev. Meredith Keseley
Senior Pastor

Steve Lucky
Council President

This Weekend is Celebration Weekend!

You are an amazing group of people! Our congregation never ceases to surprise me. Watching the Holy Spirit work in and through you is a tremendous blessing. Looking ahead to 2019, I can honestly say that I am as excited as ever to take get to work Making Firm the Foundation at Abiding Presence. Thank you for ALL the ways you come together to be the church to make ministry happen. This weekend we are going to celebrate!

As of this moment, we have 105 households who have offered financial commitments for 2019. A big thank you to all of you! Of those 105 commitments, 81 represent new or increased commitments. I am thrilled to share that we not only met, but also surpassed our goal of receiving 75 new/increased commitments by this weekend. This means we will receive a $5,000 one-time challenge gift from a family in the congregation. What a blessing!

But, that’s not all. When it looked like we were closing in our first challenge gift goal, another family came forward to offer a second challenge in order to help emphasize just how much every single commitment – regardless of size – matters in our faith community. We currently need only 29 more households to offer their commitments prior to Thanksgiving in order to receive a second challenge gift of $2,000. If you haven’t yet submitted your commitment, please help us meet this goal. You can submit it online or we will have commitment cards available at worship this weekend that can be placed in the offering plate.

This weekend we are going to celebrate…and get to work making our vision a reality as we seek to together be the church for the sake of God’s world. We will be blessing quilts made by members of the congregation to be sent to Lutheran World Relief and then distributed to people around the world in need. Our Log College Project Design Team will be commissioned at the 8:45 a.m. service as we get to work re-imagining our ministry to and with senior high youth. All of our pre-confirmation kids who have baptismal anniversaries in November will be recognized and blessed. We’ll gather around one of Michael’s home-cooked breakfasts at the Abiding Table for faithful conversation. Our Sunday School kids will gather in their classes for another week of learning. This week’s gospel text and sermon will help us think about our response as disciples of Christ to the brokenness of the world. Then, in the afternoon, we will gather for the CROP Walk with other faith communities in our area to stomp our hunger. It’s going to be quite a weekend. I hope you will both be at church and be the church.  

Oh, and that’s not all…the church council and I have an exciting announcement to share about something your generosity is going to allow us to do right now to take a big step toward furthering our vision. We’ll be sharing the good news during the announcements at worship and follow it up with a congregational letter next week.

Thank you! Thank you for your commitment to being the church and for the privilege of serving as your Senior Pastor.

Life Changing Ministry...Literally!
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A couple of weeks ago I was teaching confirmation and I watched it “click” for one of our confirmation kids. I had a group of them standing around the baptismal font learning about what it means to be baptized children of God. We were talking about the promises God makes to us in the baptismal waters and suddenly the magnitude of these promises hit a particular kid. It clicked. Being a baptized child of God suddenly meant something and was relevant in a way it never had been before. I watched as if a weight suddenly came off this young person’s shoulders, a smile spread across their face and they exclaimed with sheer joy. It was amazing! In that moment, standing around the baptismal font, I took a moment to silently give thanks for the ways this particular faith community is changing lives…literally!

Around this same time, I asked one of our church members to do something particular to their professional background. The church had a specific need and I knew this person was the person to meet it. I also knew I was probably asking a lot. It wasn’t a quick hour or two and done kind of thing. When I checked back in with them about it, I was blown away to hear them say to me, “This project has been a blessing to me,” and then they went on to tell me how. In the midst of an unexpected turn in the conversation, I once again took a moment to silently give thanks for the ways this faith community is changing lives…literally!

Again, around this same time, someone walked into the church off the streets looking for assistance. I engaged in the usual conversation about grocery gift cards and our food pantry when the person said, “I know this is a church, but I have this problem…” At this point we sat down and they shared their story. I was able to speak a word of God’s love into their story where they had previously heard judgement and condemnation from the religious community. Sitting in that suddenly holy moment, again I silently gave thanks for this ways this faith community is changing lives…literally!

Week after week, I am privileged to see the impact Abiding Presence is making on people’s lives – both people in our congregation and people in our larger community. Thank you for the ways you make this life changing work possible through both your presence in our faith community and your financial support for our ministry.

This week we are asking you to please make a financial commitment to Abiding Presence for 2019. For those of you who have been around for a while, you will recognize this as our fall stewardship campaign. For those of you who are new to the church, this is the way we anticipate income for the coming year in order to responsibly set a budget for our ministry. We need to raise $60,000 in new income for 2019 to make our vision for ministry a reality. I hope you will join me in increasing your commitment to Abiding Presence for the coming year.

Additionally, this year we have a challenge grant of $5,000 that has been offered if we meet our goal of 75 new or increased commitments received by Celebration Weekend – next weekend! Please turn your commitment in online or on paper by this Sunday at noon. Next week our stewardship team will be calling households who have not yet turned in a commitment to invite them to be part of making our vision a reality.

Thank you for all of the ways that you are the church. Thank you for the ways you open yourselves up to be transformed in this community. Thank you for the ways you are being the hands, feet and voice of Christ to others in our faith community and beyond. We are the church together. As always, I am grateful for the privilege of being the church with you as your Senior Pastor!

Blessings,

Pastor Keseley  

All Saints Sunday

All Saints Sunday is one of my favorite Sundays (and Saturdays). I look forward to singing For All the Saints all year long. The reading of the names of those who have died this past year is one of the most sacred acts I am privileged to perform as your pastor. The image of the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us is one to which I personally cling in my faith life.

This year, we’re observing the Festival of All Saints a bit differently. Rather than scrolling the names of our loved ones who have died, we are creating a visual display around the altar. We will see a glimpse of the great cloud of witnesses that gathers with us each time we worship and celebrate the Lord’s Supper. There will be pictures and names of people who have passed away. It’s not too late for your loved one to be included! Simply bring a picture with you when you come to worship and place it on the display at that altar.

We will also read during worship the names of all of our loved ones who have died since the last Festival of All Saints. We will toll the bell for each person who has entered into the great cloud of witnesses this past year.

All Saints isn’t just a time of remembering those who have died, though. It is also a time of giving thanks for the living saints among us. We will begin our service around the font reading the names of all those who have been baptized since the last Festival of All Saints. We will celebrate these living saints who have been named and claimed as children of God and who are counted among God’s saints today.

Martin Luther understood all of us to be simultaneously saints and sinners. Saints, according to Luther’s understanding, aren’t perfect, miracle performing people. Instead, Luther defined saints as forgiven sinners. Luther is quoted as saying, “The saints are sinners, too, but they are forgiven and absolved.”

We are all saint…and sinners…and when we worship we are joined to the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. So let us come together to give thanks “For all the saints who from their labors rest,” the saints among us and the saints to come.