The Gift of a Sabbatical

jellenkc : February 23, 2018 4:43 pm : pastors-blog

At the Annual Meeting of the congregation in January of 2015, upon recommendation of the Session, you voted to offer me the gift of a second sabbatical from my regular duties at Southminster Presbyterian Church.  Here is the language that was written into my terms of call at that meeting:


After an additional seven years of service since his previous

sabbatical, the pastor will be eligible to take a three month personal

development leave (sabbatical) for the purpose of more concentrated

or comprehensive study than the two week annual study leave affords. 

The sabbatical will be arranged by mutual agreement of the pastor and

the session for a time of least disruption in the life of the church.  During

the sabbatical calendar year, the annual study leave will be waived. 

Regular vacation time, however, will remain intact.


At the February Session meeting, the Session approved my request to take this sabbatical beginning on April 2, 2018.  I will return to my regular duties on Thursday, July 5, 2018.  The Personnel Committee is exploring ways to provide Pastor Karen with some additional support during my time away.  Further word about that will be coming as we are able to make specific plans.  Thank you very much for this gift of time to rest and engage in more concentrated study and reflection on our ministry and my role as pastor.


As the terms of call indicate, I will be engaging in some concentrated reading and reflection in two main areas during the sabbatical time frame.


Liturgy and Worship


My plan is to explore ideas related to preaching, liturgical planning, and worship by reading three challenging texts:


An Introduction to Visual Culture – Nicholas Mirzioeff

Good Taste. Bad Taste, and Christian Taste: Aesthetics in

Religious Life – Frank Burch Brown

Sacramental Poetics at the Dawn of Secularism – Regina Schwartz


I am also going to utilize a book by Marcia McFee


Think like a Filmmaker: Sensory Rich Worship Design


Church Dynamics and Congregational Transformation


I am still developing a reading list for this area.  It will also include time to try to get better at new technologies – the use of video as well as new marketing software.  I also plan to continue to explore new ideas in the area of the ministry of stewardship.


Thank you for this time away from regular pastoral duty.  I look forward to returning refreshed and with new ideas for my leadership in our common ministry.

Grace and Peace


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Mexico Mission – Living Waters for the World A New Installation!

jellenkc : January 26, 2018 4:25 pm : pastors-blog

We have made great progress toward making our goal of a second Living Waters for the World water purification system installation a reality.  I am glad to be able to share with you some of these details and ask you to join me in praying for a successful conclusion to this important mission initiative.


  • We are grateful that Central Presbyterian Church continues to be our partner in this mission endeavor. Southminster and Central will be sharing equally in the cost of making a new water installation a reality.  Central is also contributing members of their congregation to the leadership team and the installation team.


  • We are sending a team of three for training at the LWFW Clean Water University at Camp Hopewell outside of Oxford, MS, on April 17-21. The team members and their training assignments are:  Erin Barger (Central Pres.) for the education track; Jesse Miguel for the technical track; and Jeff Clayton for the Administrative track.  Once the team has been trained, we will begin to assemble a team for the actual installation trip and share the training with them.


  • Our partner in Mexico is the Emanuel Presbyterian Church in Cardenas, Tabasco, MX. This will be the first time we will be working in the state of Tabasco, which is adjacent to Chiapas, the location of our last installation.  We are planning to send a small group to visit the church, meet with the leadership there, survey the installation site, and visit an already existing system that is located not too far away.  Jeff Clayton, Andy Haun, and Erin Barger from Central Presbyterian will be members of this advance team.  This trip is planned for late February or March.


  • Because of the analysis of the water in this region of Mexico, this installation calls for the addition of a “reverse-osmosis” process in addition to the standard system. The installation is more complicated and more expensive.


  • Our goal is to negotiate a date for the installation trip when we meet with the leadership of the Emanuel Church this spring. Pending that conversation, we are anticipating an installation trip in the fall of this year!


Our first installation at the Berea Seminary in Palenque in Chiapas continues to operate well and serves that institution and the area Presbyterian membership with clean, safe drinking water.  We look forward to bringing a similar “quality of life” benefit to the community located in Cardenas.  If you would like more information about this exciting mission initiative, please contact Jeff Clayton or Andy Haun.  Your generous support of Global Mission line item through your pledges and gifts makes this life-giving mission outreach possible.

Grace and Peace,


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Gratitude: A Community of Love, Compassion, and Forgiveness

jellenkc : November 17, 2017 4:50 pm : pastors-blog

As we near the season of Thanksgiving, I am reflecting on what I am grateful for about this community of faith called Southminster Presbyterian Church that we share together.  There are many gifts that flow out of our common ministry for which I am regularly grateful:

* A vital and longstanding commitment to mission outreach into our local community and the wider world that touches so many lives.  I am grateful for our mission partners and the hard but life-giving work they do among the suffering and hurting in our local community.  I am grateful for mission partnerships that bind us to the global church, for the Fletcher’s in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Wehmeyer’s in southern Mexico, the community at Berea Seminary in Chiapas, Mexico, the Maya Quiche Presbytery of Guatemala and the Twake Village in Kenya.  I am grateful for the time and dedication of members to IHN, Crossline Food Kitchen, and other hands-on mission partnerships.


* I am grateful for beautiful and life-giving worship—for prayer and song and Word and proclamation.


* I am grateful that our physical space is a regular gathering place for the building of community in our neighborhood.


All this and so much more.  But most of all I am grateful for the living, breathing community itself.  Wendell Berry wrote these words about a faith community in his novel, Jayber Crow:


My vision of the gathered church—what I saw was the community imperfect and irresolute

but held together by the frayed and always fraying, incomplete and yet ever-holding bonds

of the various sorts of affection…If you could go back into the story of any person you would

find somebody who loved them.  It was a community always disappointed in itself, disappointing

its members, always trying to contain its divisions, and gentle in its meanness, always failing

yet always preserving a sort of will toward goodwill.  I knew that, in the midst of all the

ignorance and error, this was a membership; it was a membership of this place, of no other

place on earth.  My vision gathered the community as it never has been and never will be

gathered in this world of time, for the community must always be marred by members who

are indifferent to it or against it, who are nonetheless its members and maybe essential to it.

And yet I saw them all as somehow perfected, beyond time, by one another’s love compassion,

and forgiveness, as it is said we may be perfect by grace.


Let us claim this grace…that we are part of a community marked by imperfections and errors, stumbling and hesitations…and yet somehow because of the persistence of love, compassion, and grace among us…all of us…those we know well and those who just walked in through the doors…we all experience a foretaste of the perfect love of God that comes through Jesus Christ.

Grace & Peace



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Fellow Followers of the Way:

jellenkc : October 20, 2017 5:24 pm : pastors-blog

Thanks to the Christian Education committee, several members of Southminster are spending a Year with the Bible. Each day there are two or three chapters of an Old Testament text and a chapter of a New Testament text or a Psalm. In the month of October, we are reading the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah focuses on the relationship between the people and God. He points out to them that true religion is a matter of the heart. Jeremiah believed that even the exile in Babylon could be used by God to change the hearts of the people.

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). And a few chapters later, the people return and God makes a new covenant with the people of Israel. God is a God of hope and of promise.

As we are about to begin our Stewardship season, I am reminded that God has plans for us. Plans for our individual lives as well as a plan for our life together as Southminster Presbyterian Church. There is energy around the church. The choir is growing, Club456 is meeting twice a month because the kids wanted to meet more often, we have had new members joining throughout the year and there are new ideas coming from many different places and people. God is on the move and we continue seeking to follow where we are called.

I invite you to join us as we seek to serve God together. Financial pledges are important as they maintain the building and keep lights on so we are able to be a part of the IHN network and we are able to once again offer Journey to Bethlehem to the wider community. Pledges help provide for worship and Christian Education so that we all have opportunities to grow our faith. However, we also need people who invest time and talent. We have dedicated volunteers with our children and youth, those who offer their voices in the choir or as liturgists, people who staff the AV booth and others who visit our shut ins.

Stewardship is a way we can all check in with how we are involved in the life of the congregation and how we are engaged in the bringing about of God’s Kingdom. In what ways are you engaged in ministry at Southminster? What areas would you like to be more involved in? Are there new things you would like to try or new ideas that you would like to see? Let us all join together to seek after God who is moving in our midst, for God has plans for us all.

Grace and Peace,


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Peace and Global Witness Offering, World Communion Sunday October 1st

jellenkc : September 22, 2017 4:49 pm : pastors-blog

In the early 1980’s, as the Cold War between the former Soviet Union and the United States reached perhaps its highest level since the Cuban missile crisis, the Peacemaking ministry of the Presbyterian Church (USA) was born, along with the Peacemaking Offering.  As with many initiatives at the General Assembly level, this major emphasis was a response to grassroots concern and action around peacemaking ministry already happening with faithful Presbyterians living out their commitments to justice and peace in their congregations and communities.  Congregations were invited to consider and sign a “Commitment to Peacemaking” as a way of emphasizing seeking peace as a central theme of the biblical witness to our faith.

The emphasis was truly on shalom, wholeness and fullness of life in all of its aspects.  The vision was comprehensive—peacemaking within the self; our families, churches, and communities; our nation, and the world.  Later, a focus on peacemaking with the earth and creation was also recognized.  The Peacemaking Offering was conceived as a way to provide funding for various initiatives at all of these levels for a ministry of peacemaking.  The offering was focused on World Communion Sunday, a day in which we celebrate the worldwide body of Christ in all of its vast and beautiful diversity, and God’s love, presence, and action in all parts of creation.

Southminster receives the Peace and Global Witness Offering each year on World Communion Sunday.  The receipts from the offering are distributed as follows—25% remains with the local congregation for a ministry of its own choosing; 25% goes to the middle councils—Presbytery and Synod—for the same purpose; and 50% goes the General Assembly to be used nationally and globally.

Each year your Session deliberates about how the 25% that remains with our congregation should be used.  For the last several years, our share has gone to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to support their refugee work in war-torn Iraq and Afhganistan.  In previous years, we have contributed our share to SafeHome here in our own community to help address domestic violence.  These are only two of the many ways your Session has used our share of your gifts over the years.

This year your Session has approved sending our share of the Peace and Global Witness Offering to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to support their efforts to address the desperate situation in the country of South Sudan in eastern Africa.  A relatively new country, South Sudan has experienced war and conflict since its earliest days of independence.  Today famine threatens millions of lives as the conflict continues.  Although our denomination has had to withdraw our in-county missionary personnel for safety reasons, we are working through our partners the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan to address famine and the displacement of people from their communities due to violence.

Please consider a generous gift the Peace and Global Witness Offering on World Communion      Sunday, October 1st!

Grace and Peace, Jeff

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American Sing and Ice Cream Social – June 25 @ 5 PM

Community Singing Enjoy an hour of singing with neighbors and friends, followed by an ice cream social and time of fellowship. A fun and meaningful way to begin your celebration of our nation’s birthday! American National Songs American Hymns and African-American Spirituals Folksongs Broadway Show Tunes No admission charge. Invite

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Musical Event: Igea Strata – Agony and Ecstasy

An Exploration of the Delights and Torment of Love Sunday, May 21 at 3:00 PM in the Southminster sanctuary Exploring love’s delights and torments, Ignea Strata presents a varied concert including early French chansons by Guillaume de Machaut, Gilles Binchois, and Jean Guyot; settings from the Song of Solomon by Heinrich Isaacand

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Southminster March Lenten Schedule

March 1, 5-6:45 PM     Pancake Supper: Pancakes will be provided by 2 Guys and a Grill.  ($6 for adults, $4 for 6th grade and under, $15 maximum per family.)  During the Pancake Dinner there will be fun, family-friendly activities reflecting Shrove Tuesday/Carnival/Mardi Gras traditions, including a Pancake Race, King’s Cakes,

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Directory Sign Up

Sign up for your directory photos today! Use the link below to select your February photo date.  More information to come! Link to Lifetouch Online Scheduling  

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Community Sing – November 20

“Let All Things Now Living a Song of Thanksgiving . . .” Everyone is invited to A COMMUNITY SING – Sunday, November 20 at 5 p.m. in the Sanctuary. Enjoy an hour of singing old favorites and new treasures, along with several of the traditional songs of Thanksgiving. Singing together

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Sing for Christmas

All who love the beautiful music of the Advent and Christmas seasons are invited to join in the beautiful singing. Our Chancel Choir is eager to welcome short-term singers! The schedule is very flexible – no one is required to sing every service or rehearsal; busy schedules are easily accommodated.

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