Fellow Followers of the Way

jellenkc : April 27, 2018 4:56 pm : pastors-blog

This time of the year, I frequently hear the youth comment about how busy they are.  I remember when I was teaching, that this time of year felt like a downhill sprint to the end of the school year.  April and May seem to just get busier and busier.  This month, I have felt busier and busier.


As we near the close of Pastor Jeff’s first month of sabbatical, I have found that the extra meetings I attend and the addition of more preaching and teaching and visiting have left me tired.  While I have enjoyed the new opportunities, I have also discovered a need to attend to self-care more diligently.


I am drawn back to the book, The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish author and scholar who taught Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Published in 1951, The Sabbath speaks to the Jewish understanding of God’s commandment to keep the 7th day of the week holy.  Heschel speaks to human desire to have more within the material world, but often it is at the sacrificial of time, which is at the heart of our existence.


“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space.  Six days a week we
live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to
holiness in time.  It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in
time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of
creation to the creation of the world.”


Heschel calls us to remember to live into our being and not our doing.  Seeking to commune with the mystery of the divine by taking time to encounter the holy. He talks of humanity needing to realize that the world was brought into being without our help, creation is not dependent on us.  However, we are dependent on the Creator, the one who called us all into being.  Sabbath is the way we stop and seek to care for our relationship to God.


As we enter what seems to be a season of perpetual and often frantic busy-ness, I invite us all to seek time of Sabbath, of holy rest.  Find a day, or an afternoon or even an hour that you can stop and breathe in the wonder and the mystery of God.  Find time that you can be. A time where you can be defined as a child of God and not by the task at hand.


Grace, Mercy, and Peace,


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The Sacred Journey through Holy Week

jellenkc : March 23, 2018 5:06 pm : pastors-blog

Maxalt generic  

                           The church does not pretend, as it were, that it does not know what will happen

                           with the crucified Jesus.  It does not sorrow or mourn over the Lord as if the

                           church itself were not the very creation which has been produced from his wounded

                           side and from the depths of his tomb.  All through the services the victory of Christ

                          is contemplated and the resurrection is proclaimed.

–Thomas Hopko


                       Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and

                      be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after

                      three days rise again.  He said all this quite openly.

–Mark 8:31-32


As Jesus began to re-define for his disciples the meaning of Messiah, the Christ, he taught them about the suffering road that would lead to salvation and new creation buy Pregabalin er online and he spoke about the mystery of the resurrection from the dead that would follow.  The disciples could not hear and receive the message about the resurrection from the dead because they were too horrified and offended by the message of the cross.  Peter rebuked Jesus after being taught about how God was acting through Christ to bring salvation and new life into the world.  Jesus understood that, through Peter, the voice of the tempter, the deceiver, was speaking to him once again.


As we walk the last days of our Lenten journey together, we move from the ironic triumphant strains of Palm Sunday, to the table of the last supper and the sacrament of bread and cup, to the agonized prayer to take the cup away in the garden of Gethsemane, to the intensity of the betrayal, denial, arrest, and trial of the Lord.  Finally we come face to face with the unimaginable suffering of Jesus on the cross.  All through this journey, we are cognizant of the wounds and brokenness of the world in our own time and place, of the sufferings of so many of God’s children in our world.  We see anew that the cross proclaims God’s entering into the suffering of the world, even unto mortal death.


But we do not behold the Savior on the cross, or contemplate the sufferings of so many in our present time as people without hope and in despair.  We do so as people of the resurrection faith, as Easter people.  And so we ask the Holy Spirit for the courage and the fortitude to contemplate the cruelty and suffering of the cross, to confront the cruelty and sufferings of our present time, but we do so with great hope, joy even, knowing that God has overcome the ultimate power of sin, evil, and death in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Like the disciples on Easter morning, we struggle to understand and believe the great mystery of the resurrection, even as we ask God to empower us to be a part of the continual birthing of the new creation that resurrection began.  I look forward to walking the sacred journey of Holy Week with you once again.

Grace and Peace,



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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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