Communion of Saints

jellenkc : October 22, 2015 12:22 pm : pastors-blog

As we approach Pledge Dedication Sunday and look toward November and All Saints’ Day, I came across a question in the Heidelberg Catechism that made a connection between these two Sundays that I had never before noticed.

Question 55: What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?

Answer: First, that all and every one, who believes, being members of Christ, are in common, partakers of him, and of all his riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.

So what does this mean? It means that we believe that all who professes Christ past and present are part of the body of believers. That we are indeed surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) from ages past. We honor and give thanks for those who have gone before us and we give thanks for the work of God done through them.

Then I took note of the second part. That each of us must share our gifts to enrich the church and in so doing, we share in the gifts of Christ. I think about this in the context of pledge dedication this Sunday. How have we benefited from the saints of Southminster? In what ways has the communion of saints formed who and what we are today?

I give thanks for their work and their gifts that has granted us a beautiful space in which to worship, the legacy of a strong youth program, the long standing work of Presbyterian Women, the history of a strong music ministry, and events like Journey to Bethlehem. We have been the recipients of their work, their gifts of time, talent and treasure. How do we contribute to this legacy? What will we work to strengthen or create and leave as our legacy to future generations at Southminster?

I invite you to prayerfully consider the legacy you help create. In what ways will your participation through you time, talent and treasure at Southminster and in the Kingdom of God add to what God is doing in the world? Join me in giving thanks for all the saints who have gone before us and seeking ways to be of God’s work in the here and now.

Grace, Mercy and Peace,


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Where My Treasure Is, There My Heart Will Be…

jellenkc : October 22, 2015 12:15 pm : pastors-blog

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where most and rust consume
and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break
in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
–Matthew 6:21

Many of you know that we have been engaged in a Stewardship consultation this year with our good friend Bill Cordaro who has helped us in the past with the funding of needed changes in our facility. One of the first things Bill did was to have your Stewardship team read a short meditation by my seminary teacher, Henri Nouwen, entitled A Spirituality of Fundraising.

I suspect, if you are like me, a quick reaction might be: I don’t really think of spirituality and fundraising in the same phrase. We all know the old jokes about the once a year time when the church comes around, hat in hand, asking everyone for money. We have worked really hard this year to challenge ourselves to think anew about the ministry of stewardship. We have worked to make this vital part of our overall ministry not just something we focus on for three weeks in October, but a part of our ministry for which we are asking God’s guidance and inspiration year round.

I like the way Father Nouwen characterized the ministry of stewardship:

…brings together needs and resources to meet those needs and shows
us new directions and opportunities for our mission. Even small acts
of generosity can grow into something far beyond what we could ever
ask or imagine.

This is what our ministry of stewardship is all about. Identifying the needs of the work to which Christ has called us—mission to our local community and the world, enriching ourselves and our children through education, engaging one another in moving and relevant worship of God, and reaching out to our neighbors with the good news of Jesus Christ—and providing resources to meet those needs. As our Stewardship Minutes for Mission have shown throughout this year, those resources are comprised of our sharing of our financial blessing, our willingness to offer our precious time, and our gifting the church’s ministry with our skills and abilities.

Our worship services during this year’s Stewardship Emphasis invite all of us to transform the way we think about ministry, mission, money and our faith community…to consider the ministry of stewardship a vital part of our spirituality, our relationship with God, and not something which should be viewed as a burden or a chore or an unwelcome obligation which we grudgingly fulfill.

I hope we will all make a special effort to gather as a church family for our Stewardship Celebration dinner on October 11th. We will be able to see the broad scope of our ministry and mission during the ministry fair and have a chance for some honest and fruitful dialogue about questions and concerns that emerged in our Stewardship Survey. Mark your calendars now! I look forward to seeing you.

Grace and Peace,


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Returning Reflections

jellenkc : June 30, 2015 11:28 am : pastors-blog

The youth and their adult sponsors have just returned from a week’s adventure in Pawhuska, Oklahoma for our annual mission trip.  This year’s trip did not take us far from home in distance, but it was much different than our home here in Prairie Village, Kansas.  Pawhuska is a town of 3500 people in northern Oklahoma and part of the Osage Nation.  There is a high Native American population, but it is a town and not a reservation.   What we discovered is a small town of generational poverty.  The Osage tribe has money because of the oil and mineral rights of the land, but the people of the town do not.

We were one of five churches traveling with Youthworks to Pawhuska last week.  Upon arrival all the groups were split up into work crews and work crews were sent to different assignments throughout the week.  One group worked at the high school, moving desks, pulling up carpet, and painting.  Another spent the mornings at an elementary summer school and the afternoons at the local nursing home.  Two other groups spent two days doing work projects for local citizens and around the community and two days helping with an afternoon kid’s camp.

We discovered a very different life from what we know in Johnson County.  Children who tested boundaries, but really wanted to be noticed and valued for who they are.  A town that has lost pride and the new maintenance director for the district wanting to restore that by partnering with youthworks to repaint and freshen up the high school.  A community familiar with groups coming in the summer and thankful for their presence and their labor.

It was a challenging trip both theologically and personally not just for me but for most of the group.  It was different from other trips the group has taken in the past, but it is one I think we all walked away having learned something new about ourselves and our faith.  I invite you to read the blog posts from several of the youth about the trip and talk to the youth and adults who went.  We are all grateful to Southminster for the continuing support of the youth group and of the mission trips each year.  It is thanks to this congregation that the annual mission trip happens and allows the youth to have these experiences each summer.


Grace, Mercy and Peace,


Youth Blog Site –


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A New Hymnal for a New Day

jellenkc : May 27, 2015 11:56 am : pastors-blog

The new Presbyterian Hymnal, buy Pregabalin er online Glory to God, has arrived here at the church.  After study and review, the Worship Committee recommended and Session approved obtaining this new worship resource for Southminster.  Please know of my deep gratitude for everyone who helped us defray the costs of obtaining the new hymnal by gifting us with one or more of them in memory of or in honor of someone special in your life.  We received 219 of the needed 300 copies of the new hymnal as gifts from you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Our goal is to have the new hymnals in our pews in the chapel and sanctuary by the first Sunday in June.  This will give us the summer to familiarize ourselves with some of the new material and the new method of organizing the hymnal.  Transitions in hymnals always come with some mixed feelings.  I include myself among those who have them!  We are familiar with the “blue” hymnal as previous generations were familiar with older hymnals they grew up with.  The copyright of our blue hymnal is listed as 1990…so it has been the main liturgical resource for hymnody for us for 25 years.

One of the great things about the new hymnal is that it incorporates significantly more hymns than our present hymnbook.  Our “blue” hymnbook has 605 entries.  The Glory to God hymnal has 853 entries!  This includes some old favorites that were not in the blue hymnal as well as a diverse collection of newer, more contemporary hymnody for our use.  We will be seeking to introduce some of this new material in a balanced way over the summer months.

Another addition to the new hymnal is the incorporation of a number of printed worship resources that were not in our present hymnal.  The only worship aids in the blue book were the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer.  The new hymnal includes these three as well as the Ten Commandments, Jesus’ summary of the Law, and the complete text of the Brief Statement of Faith from the PC(USA) Book of Confessions.  There are also complete service of worship outlines, including ones for Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, and Evening Prayer.

Glory to God is also organized differently.  Instead of following the cycle of liturgical seasons, it is organized around the Trinity, with Advent and Christmas hymns, Lent and Easter hymns under the Jesus Christ section.  Your staff, as the chief planners of worship, will be going through a learning curve to orient ourselves to this new way of organizing the hymnal.

What a joyful thing it is for me to come together with you in worship week in and week out and sing the faith through the use of hymns.  This ancient tradition of the both the Jewish and Christian faith is an important way in which we proclaim the Word together.  The Introduction to Glory to God says this:  “…we desire that Glory to God  will serve as an instrument of God’s grace.”

The Introduction also says this:

Maxalt generic This we know:

We know this hymnal will change lives.

We know this hymnal will inspire the church.

We know these songs will enliven worship in powerful ways.

We know the familiar songs will sing anew.

We know the new songs will speak the truth.


I look forward to singing the faith with you using this new resource in our worship life!


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Change = Risk + Opportunity

jellenkc : April 24, 2015 3:50 pm : pastors-blog

I once read in a PC(USA) Women’s Bible Study that the Chinese character for change was a combination of the characters that represented both risk and opportunity.  Southminster has been in a time of change.  In September of 2013, after 8 years of faithful service in our midst, Chad Herring resigned his call as our Associate Pastor to take a call as Pastor of the John Knox Kirk Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, MO.  This marked the end of an extraordinarily long period of relative staff stability at Southminster.

We went through a period of reflection and dialogue about our ministry needs and staffing model.  The result of that process was an overwhelming affirmation of the two-pastor model and a desire to seek a new Associate Pastor.  We proceeded, in good Presbyterian fashion, to do two things:  1) appoint an Interim Associate Search Committee (APNC) to help fill our needs in the transition period; and 2) elect an Associate Pastor Nominating Committee to engage in the arduous process of seeking a new called, installed Associate Pastor.  Faithful members of our congregation stepped forward to undertake both of those tasks.

In March of 2014, our interim search committee brought forth the name of Karen A. Wagner, a candidate for ordained ministry in the PC(USA) who had recently relocated to Kansas City as their choice for our interim Associate Pastor.  Karen’s resume and work experience matched very closely the attributes and skills that had been identified in our previous dialogue sessions.  After a period of discernment and concurrence by our Session, Karen began her work among us as Interim Associate during Holy Week, 2014, and she was ordained to the office of teaching elder by Heartland Presbytery.

The APNC you elected is an extraordinary group of people!  They engaged in an extensive and disciplined process that included developing a Ministry Information Form for our congregation, reviewing over 50 resumes, engaging in a dozen or so telephone or Skype interviews, and conducting multiple face to face interviews with potential candidates.  That they were able to do all of this and come to a unanimous decision about their report to the congregation in a period of 18 or so months is “lightning fast” in PresbySpeak!

Karen A. Wagner was one of their applicants.  At the end of their exhaustive process, they were unanimous in their prayerful discernment that the Holy Spirit was leading us to call Karen as our Associate Pastor.  This was ratified in a unanimous congregational vote on March 29th, Palm Sunday, to make Karen Wagner our Associate Pastor-Elect.  On Tuesday of this week, at a meeting of Heartland Presbytery held in our own sanctuary, our higher governing body concurred in our discernment and approved Karen A. Wagner as the next called and installed Associate Pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church.

In the change that we have been through over these last 18 months, there has been both risk and opportunity.  In my own prayerful judgment, risk has led us to great opportunity.  On Sunday, May 17th, Heartland Presbytery will conduct a service of installation for the Rev. Karen A. Wagner as the Associate Pastor of Southminster.  I hope you will join me in giving thanks to God for this new opportunity in our life of faith together at Southminster Presbyterian Church.

Grace & Peace,


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