Messages from the Pastor

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First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor, Michigan

Roots Down, Branches Out

 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Dear Members and Friends of the First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor,

I hope and pray each and every one of you is healthy and well!

The Session of the First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor (FPC BH) met last night on Zoom, a videoconferencing application.  Seeing our Sessions’ faces on the screen was bittersweet, as we felt the joy of our fellowship along with the sadness of our separation during this COVID-19 pandemic.  Together we sought God’s guidance as leaders of our congregation.  This is our report of the decisions we discerned.

Worship is still happening every Sunday.  We will continue to meet on Facebook Live and on the FirstPresbh.org website at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings, until the State of Michigan’s Stay-at-Home order is lifted.  After that, the Session will determine when and how we will start in-person services of worship again.

Our virtual service of worship will continued to be focused on scripture, sermon, and prayer.  We are planning to add recordings of the First Presbyterian Choir several times each month.  On the first Sunday of each month, we will share the Sacrament of Communion, and we encourage you to participate in the bread and cup at home.  When you do partake at home, please send us a message on the screen, so we can estimate how many people joined in.

Pastoral care continues. Understandably, the work of the Pastor Nominating Committee has been slowed down by the pandemic.  The Session has asked me to extend my pastoral services through August 2020, if necessary, and I have joyfully accepted.  As Transitional Pastor, I continue to connect with the church members and friends of First Presbyterian through phone calls, texts, and emails.  Please feel free to contact me anytime you need or want to do so.  My cell phone number and email address is can be found in the two most recent FPC BH Church Directories.

Our finances are solvent.  The Session is happy to report that for now we have the money in the bank to continue the ministry of the church.  Some of you have been able to continue your support as before, and those gifts are helping to make our ministry possible.  We understand that others are finding that giving to the church is more difficult in this time of layoffs and closures.  Either way, God bless you, and we are here for you.  If you are able to continue your gift or pledge, you may mail checks to the church’s mailing address:

The First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor;  PO Box 186;  Benton Harbor, MI  49023.

You are in my daily thoughts and prayers.  My hope is that during this time of less busyness and more solitude that we would all draw closer to God.  And while we may feel anxious, we can be comforted by remembering God’s promise to us in Romans 8: 38-39:  “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Grace and Peace,

Scott Paul-Bonham,

Transitional Pastor and Moderator of the Session

FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF BENTON HARBOR  475 Green Avenue * P.O. Box 186 * Benton Harbor, MI  49023

Pandemic Reflections

Transitional Pastor Scott Paul-Bonham

April 1, 2020 (Note:  This offering contains no jokes.)

First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor (FPC BH)

            Since this COVID 19 pandemic began, I have become a Facebook user.  I created an account because we use Facebook Live for our virtual worship on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m., and I wanted to have my own page.  I have never used Facebook much before, because as a Federal Prison Chaplain, I did not want an easy way for inmates’ families or former inmates to track me down out in the world.  So I am new to Facebook.  I don’t know how to use it well.  I only have 250 friends.  Still, I have learned a lot about what constructive things people are doing during this “stay-at-home” social-distancing quarantine.  Since this quarantine may last for one, two, three, or four more months, depending upon a person’s age and health-risk status, I think it is appropriate to reflect upon the proper use of time.  The Greek language is helpful in this regard, for it has two words for “time.”  One Greek word is “Chronos” from which we get words like chronology, chronometer, etc.  It is “clock and calendar” time – seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc.  We are learning that facing a pandemic with a “Chronos” perspective can be very daunting indeed.  The Greeks had another word for time, namely “Kairos.”  “Kairos” is about the opportune time or the fullness of time, as in Galatians 4:4 – 5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”  The question I would like us to consider together is how to make this stay-at-home quarantine Kairos time instead of Chronos time.

            Now, we must acknowledge that a number of us are still working for pay or as volunteers.  Our medically trained members may never have been working harder in their lives.  May God bless them and keep them safe!  Many people are working from home, using every communication tool available to them to stay connected and keep things going.  Some volunteers are continuing to serve on boards, as are First Presbyterian’s Trustees and its Elders on Session.  Yet many of us are spending a lot more time at home without the usual distractions.  Has there ever been a time in the television era when there was not some live sporting event to watch?  I doubt it.  Spending six to eight hours a day watching the news, which I confess I have done on occasion, is just not healthy for mind or body, for soul or spirit.  Reading is wonderful, of course.  Others are doing projects they just normally never have time to get around to, from cleaning out refrigerators, pantries, basements, and garages to organizing photos, either physical pictures into albums or virtual directories in computers.  Some are getting more creative in cooking.  I know some families are picking a different cuisine style ever day of the week – for example, Tex-Mex, Asian, Italian, French, Southern USA, Vegetarian, Carnivoran, etc.  Others are planting gardens, or at least prepping their gardens.  I rejoice to hear that some with sewing skills are trying their hands at face masks  (I would like a green and white one, please.)  Hand-making greeting cards could be a blessed and creative undertaking.  One woman is making dryer balls out of 100% wool yarn.  I am sure there are innumerably more practical, artistic, and service-minded ideas on Facebook for turning pandemic at-home time into an opportune time for personal growth and enrichment.

            aaron-burden-TNlHf4m4gpI-unsplashYet, as the Transitional Pastor of FPC BH, I want to ask you to seriously consider a Kairos activity that will bless you and others, too.  I ask you to read one Psalm each day.  (Take a couple of days for the long ones like Psalm 118.)  Read the Psalm, think about the feelings, stories, and thoughts those scriptural words elicit in you, and write your reflections down on paper or into your computer.  Write this reflection for someone specific, for your child or grandchild, for your sibling or spouse, for your friend or pastor.  Note:  Many of the Psalms are laments.  Lament is the state of the world we are living in – we lament, adamantly hate, what we and the world are going through right now, and we really want God to do something about it, like yesterday.  You don’t have to be a good or polished writer.  So few people are.  Yet, write your Psalmic reflection, and share it with the one for whom you have written it via email or letter.  I promise you, the gesture will bless them, and in the process, you will be blessed, and that is Kairos time at its best.

Grace and Peace,

Scott Paul-Bonham