Please Welcome to Our Ministry Staff Joshua G. Hearn, Director of Music/Organist

jellenkc : July 19, 2019 11:32 am : pastors-blog, Uncategorized

              After months of diligent and careful work, your Director of Music Search Committee was able to reach unanimous consensus to recommend to the Session Joshua Hearn as our new Director of Music/Organist.  The Session met on Sunday, July 14th and unanimously approved the terms of employment recommended by the Search Committee.  As your Pastor and Head of Staff, I am delighted to welcome Joshua Hearn to our ministry staff beginning August 1, 2019.

Joshua graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Illinois with a concentration in Organ Performance, and additional study in choral conducting and repertoire.  He was awarded a Master of Music degree from the University of Kansas with a concentration in Church Music, studying with Dr. Michael Bauer in organ, conducting, church music, and arts ministry.  He also studied with additional faculty in organ improvisation, children’s choirs, and voice.  Joshua is an Associate of the American Guild of Organists and has held positions of leadership in various local chapters.

Joshua has held previous positions similar to ours, doing both choral direction and performance on organ and piano, in other congregations for over ten years.  His experience as an organist/accompanist spans over 20 years.  We have been graced with his excellent performance on both organ and piano during this interim period and we now look forward to experiencing the full breadth of his skills. We were impressed with Joshua’s overall sense of the way that music ministry contributes to the spiritual vitality of congregational life.  In addition, his interest and experience in a broader arts ministry and in children’s and youth ensembles is exciting as we look to the future.  Joshua also has strong skills in computers, desktop publishing, and web/social media technologies.

Please join me in saying a word of gratitude to our Director of Music Search Committee:  Larry McDonald, chair; Pam Nitsche, David Reid, Charles Singleton (Personnel Rep.), Madeline Dasch, Wendi Levitt, and Annehara Tatschl.  They engaged in a very thorough, careful, and thoughtful discernment process on our behalf with an impressive group of applicants for our position.

Joshua will be with us in worship for the next two Sundays before he begins his work as our new Director of Music/Organist on August 1st.  I hope that you will join me in offering a warm welcome to Joshua to our community of faith here at Southminster Presbyterian Church.  We look forward to a bright new chapter in the long tradition of excellence in music ministry God has blessed us with as a community of faith.

Grace and Peace,


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Preludes, Postludes, and Spiritual Worship of God

jellenkc : July 1, 2019 4:55 pm : pastors-blog

              One of the principal goals of the liturgical planning your professional staff engages in week after week is a sense of theological and spiritual unity in the worship experience—all of the elements of our worship contributing to a prayerful hearing of the Word of God so that we may respond to it with our very lives.  I have been fortunate during my tenure as pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church to have colleagues who shared this vision and who came well-prepared and with energy and imagination to this planning process.  Music plays a vital role in any worship service that expresses this theological and spiritual unity.

Hymns and anthems are obvious contributors to our goal.  They are chosen with care.  We want to sing the hymnbook…to explore the full range of possibilities in choral music…but to do so in a way that contributes to the overall theme and purpose of the worship service, never simply performance for performance sake.  My prayer is that you have been able to experience this commitment to theological and spiritual unity in your worship life at Southminster on a regular basis.

Perhaps less obvious to many is the way in which the music which accompanies our gathering and sending is also selected with care to give glory to God and contribute to the overall unity of the worship experience.  I speak specifically about the offering of a Prelude and a Postlude.  Here is the first thing that the “Directory for Worship” in our Book of Order says under a section entitled “Gathering:”

Worship begins as the people gather—greeting one another, praying in silence,

sharing announcements, or offering music to the glory of God.  The act of

assembling in Jesus’ name bears witness to the Church’s identity and mission

as Christ’s body in the world.


I see all of these things happening every Sunday.  People who may not have seen each other for a week or weeks greeting and speaking to one another with glad hearts.  Offering announcements as way of inviting the community into other aspects of our common life.  Quiet prayer being offered that God will open our hearts and spirits to the hearing of the Word.  Quite often these elements of gathering begin 15 or 20 minutes before the Call to Worship. 

The last thing that happens before we begin our time of community worship together is that our Organist-Accompanist offers a musical prelude.  What would happen if we considered this a time to cease conversation and turn attention to presence of the Holy Spirit among us?  Would we be impoverished by the loss of those 3 or 4 minutes of conversation?  Might we be spiritually blessed by giving attention to a thoughtfully chosen and lovingly prepared offering of beautiful music?

Even harder for us is the Sending part of our service—a stomach may be grumbling, a child may be restless, our calendar may be pressing in upon us.  It may already be 12:10 pm!  Yet a Postlude has been chosen and prepared with the same care as the Prelude.  On Pentecost Sunday, I stood beside a member of the congregation and listened to our organist play a stunning offering of J.S. Bach’s piece Kyrie, God the Holy Spirit on our magnificent Casavant organ, clearly chosen especially for the day.  There were maybe 5 or 6 people remaining in the sanctuary as the piece swelled to its inspiring conclusion.

I do not write this to impart a sense of shame.  There may be many good reasons why someone needs to leave as quickly as possible…even before the final hymn!  It would be wrong to demand compliance of anyone either to be attentive during the Prelude or to remain for the Postlude.  I am simply asking you to consider doing so whenever it is possible for you!

Grace and Peace,


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Multi-Sensory Worship

jellenkc : May 24, 2019 2:54 pm : pastors-blog

              Historically in American Protestantism, the worship experience has been largely an oral one.  We listen…to scripture read, to prayers offered, to a sermon proclaiming the Word.  We do some reading…and speaking as we share in unison prayer or in responsive readings.  Some people like to read the scripture while the liturgist is reading it.  The sacraments introduce a somewhat different sensory experience…with the tasting of bread and cup…or the visual sense of water being used in baptism.  But for the most part, traditional Protestant worship is mainly an oral experience.  We do a lot of listening.

One of the books I delved into during my 2018 sabbatical time is called Think Like a Filmmaker by Marcia McFee, one of the leading resource people in the nation for churches in what she calls “multi-sensory” worship. 

The church today has begun to reclaim the power of the arts and to practice them

in ever-more-complex ways.  This is not just the latest worship trend to entice

worshipers to church.  Underlying the embrace of multiple art forms—what I call

“sensory-rich” worship—as proclamation of the Word are some of the latest theories

in effective communication, learning styles, and the science of memory and formation.

“Unforgettable messages” are the result of taking our God-given diversity seriously,

especially as it pertains to the myriad ways our bodies experience the world, take in

and process information, and assimilate those messages into the fabric of our lives

and behavior.

We have experimented semi-regularly over the last 20 years with this concept, utilizing drama, mime, dance, diverse musical genres, choral and multi-voice reading, even painting within the context of morning worship.  Utilizing multiple sensory experiences takes planning and careful execution.  This means that we offer these experiences when we have a well-conceived idea and the proper time to plan for it.

Much has been written about the changes that have occurred as a result of the advent of the digital age—how we receive and process information, how ubiquitous screens and visual imagery have become in our lives, how younger people (digital natives) are having a completely different learning environment and experience than previous generations.  Much has also been written about how these changes are affecting the church and the experience of worship.

Your leadership has been working toward the possibility of a Capital Campaign for 2020-2022.  One of the principal components of this deliberation has been the installing of video projection technology in the sanctuary, giving us new opportunities to utilize visual imagery as part of the worship experience.  This technology is not inexpensive…and is something that needs to be done right.  As your pastor (even though I am kind of old!), I am convinced that Southminster needs to be able to utilize this technology as we look to the next decade or more in ministry together.  If you would like to speak further with me about this subject, I welcome the opportunity.  Meanwhile, stay tuned for more detailed information about the proposed Capital Campaign in the next two months.

Grace and Peace,


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A Grateful Heart

jellenkc : April 26, 2019 3:16 pm : pastors-blog

              It has been over two months since the sudden death of our brother in Christ and leader in ministry Mark Ball.  It was an unexpected and great tragedy for us as a community and this time of grieving has been a fragile time for me personally and for us as a community.  I was reflecting this morning on a passage from the Letter to the Colossians:

   As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion,

kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if

anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord

has forgiven you, so also you must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with

love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony,  And let the peace

of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.

And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and

admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing

psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 

In the midst of my personal grief, I have experienced so many of these spiritual gifts from members of this congregation—kindness, compassion, patience, forbearance, and love.  All of these have helped me heal and begin to see the future more clearly for the ministry of our church.  My hope and prayer is that you too have experienced these things from one another.

And, oh my goodness, I have felt gratitude in abundance.  I am grateful to the whole congregation for the spirit you continue to impart to our worship life and our ministry as a whole day by day and week by week.  I am grateful to the participants in our music ministry, so important to the vitality and beauty of our worship life, for even with heavy hearts they have continued to shine for us with the light of grace and love as they share their gifts.  I am grateful to the folks who agreed to serve on our Director of Music search committee, a task none of us wanted to have to engage in, for their willingness to do so with prayer, searching patiently for the discernment of the Holy Spirit about the way forward in our staffing of our music ministry.

Sometimes it is important to name names.  We have been blessed by the talents and gifts of our guest organist/accompanists Chris Leaver and Joshua Hearn…as well as by the willingness of Sean Tatschl and Stephanie Henry to share their gifts on piano and organ as well.  In the immediate aftermath of losing Mark, Stephanie Henry, Sean Tatschl, Larry Williams, and Marilyn Lake brought much needed guidance and comfort to us through the generous sharing of time and gifts…and we continue to benefit from their dedication to us weekly.  To all of the members of our ensembles—the Chancel Choir, the Bells of Peace, the Joyful Noise Singers and Ringer, Sing and Shout!—I offer my deep gratitude.  To other musicians who have contributed to our worship life, I am also grateful.  Please keep our Director of Music search committee regularly in your prayers—Larry McDonald, Annehara Tatschl, Madeline Dasch, Charles Singleton, Pam Nitsche, Dave Reid, and Wendi Levitt—as they continue their work on our behalf. 

Gratitude is a great balm for grief and the emotions that come from dwelling in a season of grief.  Let us continue to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. Thank you all!

Grace and Peace,


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Repentance, Forgiveness, and Grace: A Lenten Journey

jellenkc : March 28, 2019 10:53 am : pastors-blog

                           Picture, if you will, me.  I am walking on East 51st Street an hour ago and I decide

                           to construct and develop a really decorative, general-all purpose apology.  Not complicated.

                           just the words, “I am sorry,” said with a little style.

                           Sorry for what?

Anything.  For being late, early, stupid, asleep, silly, alive.  Well, y’know when you’re

walking down the street talking to yourself how sometimes you say a coupla words out

loud?  So I said, “I’m sorry,” and this fella, complete stranger, he looks up a second

and says, “That’s alright Mac,” and goes right on.  He automatically forgave me.  I


So I decided to test the whole thing out scientifically; I stayed right there on the corner of

51st and Lex for a while just saying “I’m sorry” to everybody that went by.  “Oh, I’m so

sorry, sir”…”I’m terribly sorry, madam”…”Say there miss, I’m sorry.”  Of course some

people just gave me a funny look, but Sandy, I swear, seventy-five percent of them forgave

me.  “Forget it, buddy”…”That’s ok, really.”  Two ladies forgave me in unison, one fella

forgave me from a passing car. And a guy forgave me for his dog.  “Poofer forgives the nice man,

don’t you, Poofer?”  Oh Sandy, it was fabulous.  I had tapped some vast reservoir.  Something

had happened in all of them for which they felt somebody should apologize.  If you went

up to people on the street and offered them money, they’d refuse it.  But everybody accepts

apology immediately.  It is the most negotiable currency.  I said to them, “I am sorry.”

And they were so generous, so kind…

Sandy I could run up on the roof right now and holler, “I am sorry,” and half a million

people would holler right back, “That’s ok, just see that you don’t do it again.”

–A Thousand Clowns, Herb Gardner, 1961

If repentance…the turning away from sin and back toward God…the turning away from hurts inflicted upon others, hurts suffered at the hands of others and back toward one another in community…lies at the heart of the Lenten journey, then the experience of forgiveness lies in the same place.  Apology offered, apology received…forgiveness received, forgiveness offered is regularly part of the warp and woof that makes up loving and faithful relationship with one another.  As Herb Gardner put it in the excerpt above, it is the most negotiable currency.

Forgiveness given and received is part of the gentle balm that soothes hurts, both large and small, in a church community as well.  As we move through this time together, let us reflect on the ways we need to repent…to forgive and be forgiven.  Then we will begin to understand the true meaning of grace.

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Journey to Bethlehem 2018

November 30th (6:00-8:00) PM and December 1st (5:00-8:00 PM) Come join us for a walk-through pageant that tells the story of Christ’s birth. We invite you to bring your family to our 34th performance of this free event which features seven scenes with live animals. Experience the story of wonder and

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