Thursday, January 28, 2010

Good Shepherd Update Thursday January 28th, 2010

Dear Good Shepherd,

Good Afternoon...hope all is well...there is a lot to cover this week so please read carefully.

The following is an article (the first of a series) Anne and I wrote for and published at Stand Firm detailing the story of the last year. If you were not at Good Shepherd during this time, this should bring you up to date....

Leaving Home part 1
Thursday January 8th, 2009 was a frigid day. I was working from home, watching the kids while Anne went out for coffee with a friend. At 3pm, exactly, I received an email from our lawyer entitled "Adverse Decision from the Judge". I opened it and read...

"Here is the adverse decision from the judge on your case which was decided and filed earlier today. Please note the line on page 7 of the decision that “the Diocese is entitled to immediate possession thereof.” Based on this language, you do need to worry about a sheriff coming to your church door to change the locks to keep you and all of your people out..."

Not good.

It's not that we'd been expecting a win--we really didn't know what to expect--but we'd prayed from the very beginning that God would let us stay in our home and let Good Shepherd remain where she'd always been.


The old church building spring, 2008

In 2008, while the lawsuit raged, Good Shepherd grew and expanded significantly. We'd finally begun to have some impact in the neighborhood, drawing people to church through our soup kitchen and block parties. Our weekly bible studies were packed with new people and we were, shockingly to us, beginning to draw an increasing number of students from BU. We were still very small by objective standards--90 or so on average--but we'd been much much smaller. When I arrived at Good Shepherd in 2002, there were less than 50 people in the pews on any given Sunday. It had been a bumpy ride but by January 2009 Good Shepherd was healthier, younger, larger than she'd been in decades--and she was slowly, steadily, growing.

We hoped that this growth was, perhaps, a sign that God wanted us to stay where we were. We knew intellectually that losing was a very good possibility but while the potential for leaving was real, we hadn't truly considered what losing would mean for us nor had we anticipated the emotional impact of it.

Anne got home about half-an hour later. As soon as she walked through the door, I told her, "We lost." We stood there for a moment and then I let her read the email.

We decided to tell the kids right away. The boys were both dressed as Spiderman (Aedan the Good Spiderman, Rowan the Bad One) as they often are. Emma had on an enormous princess dress. Gwendolyn had on a ballerina tutu was twirling around and around. We sat on the stairs and told them that we were going to have to move. Like all resiliant and clever children, they took it in stride. Only Emma really cried. They were as prepared as we were for this news--they'd been praying for months that God would change the bishop's heart and we could keep our home.

Because the court order indicated that the diocese could take immediate possession we didn't really have time to mourn and weep. We felt we needed to start packing that moment. (Two days later we would recieve an offer from the diocese--they would allow us to stay in the church and the rectory for two months in exchange for a rent of over $2000.00 per month. We did not accept this offer) but we didn't really begin packing the house until the following Monday.

Our first job, starting Friday morning, was to pack up our offices at church and especially to gather our personal belongings, most especially our books, from all parts of the building (amazing how books wander all over the place).

The court order specified that everything owned by Good Shepherd now belonged to the Diocese of Central New York. We could remove our own personal stuff, but all of the things that had been a part and parcel of our community life for more than a century had to stay.

The 10th of January was a gray frozen day. The church was full of people coming to find their stuff or just to sit in the sanctuary, wander through the building, stand in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking about what to do next.

Parishioners arrive the gray Friday morning after everyone learned of our loss


The press arrived later in the day for interviews and to shoot footage of our departure

The image that stands out most in my memory of that day is that of one of our more stoic men standing in front of a plaque bearing his father's name, tracing the inscription with his finger. It would have to stay.



We took these parting images as the day waned and we were coming closer to a final goodbye

We also prepared for our final service of worship in that place. Which brings up a critical point--we didn't know where we would be the following Sunday. Much of the preparation for worship on Sunday the 12th of January was discussing options for Sunday the 19th. Was so and so's living room big enough to accommodate 90 people at one time? What about the church on such and such street that has a gym? Would they let us rent it? Would anyone be able to figure out where it is? What about Sunday School? What about adult Christian Ed? What about bible studies...we have five of them every week. And what about the soup kitchen, the Shepherd's Bowl? Next Thursday forty to fifty hungry people would make the trek from all parts of the city in horribly cold conditions hoping for and expecting the usual warm meal only to find a dark empty building. How would we feed them? Where would we feed them? How would they know where to go?

Meanwhile, we'd put the house completely on hold through the weekend. We didn't clean or pack or do anything while we tried to deal with worship and location issues. We didn't have time to think about where we'd live next until we'd sorted out where the church would be going.

Friday afternoon I called Pastor Hollinger of Conklin Ave. Baptist Church. Before I could say anything more than 'Hello Pastor' he asked where we were worshiping the next week and offered his sanctuary.

It turned out that our worship services were held at the same time as theirs. So, wanting to keep as many things as close to the same as possible, I started to gratefully waffle and back out. Pastor Hollinger pressed me and then offered up his gym instead--a heated gym with chairs, a table that could be used as an altar, and a huge kitchen so we could have the coffee hour and lunch. Oh, and classrooms for Sunday school.

Micah captured this photo while I was on the phone with pastor Hollinger

One day out and God had already provided a warm place to worship indefinitely. Now we'd at least be able to announce that services would go on as normal.

Before this the vestry estimated that we would be without our own space for at least a year and that during that time we should expect a 20 to 30 percent loss in attendance and membership. We were running at about 90 per Sunday at that point. We counted, optimistically, on about 60 to 70 stalwarts sticking with us the whole time.

As usual, we had visitors that Sunday morning. Two of them, a young couple, even ended up coming to the rectory during the week to help us pack and eventually they joined the church.

After Communion and the blessing, we stripped the altar, deconsecrated it, emptied the ambry (yes we had one), and blew out the tabernacle candle. Somehow the ash from the censor spilled out in a smear across the altar steps. The congregation left in silence.

Photos taken during the last service at Good Shepherd

Monday began the herculean work of packing up 6 years worth of stuff in the rectory. We never managed to sort through and rid ourselves of toys or anything in the time we lived in that house. It was always on the back burner, 'We really need to have a garage sale!' we would say every spring. But we never did. And, we'd been in the midst of post Christmas homeschooling when we got the news, which means we home school first and clean second. So when 10am rolled around on Monday morning and 4 people showed up to help pack, they began that work in less than ideal circumstances.

Everyday someone different took the kids away to play or do school. Parishioners would just show up when they had a free hour during the day and fill boxes. The head of the altar guild took all our laundry every day for two weeks and brought it back clean, ironed and folded. The pillars of the church, besides supplying endless boxes, carefully and methodically packed all the china and breakables. One man alone powered through the attic in one day, labeling boxes, carrying them down and stacking them for easy moving. Our two youth ministers (the former and the present) tackled the horror that was the basement. Every day and into the night late the people of Good Shepherd packed us up, box by box, book by book, toy by toy, amazed at the array of unrelenting knick knacks we possessed.

When we started packing Monday, as I said before, it was with no aim in view. We had no idea where we'd go. I imagined we would have to put everything in storage and find an apartment somewhere. We packed that whole day in a fog of unknowing. The children, thankfully, had no curiosity about what would happen next because I had nothing to tell them.

I wish Anne and I could say that we faithfully trusted and believed that God would provide a place for us to stay and that our minds were perfectly at peace...but that would be a lie. I was certain that it was God's plan for us to face the worst. I'm quite an unfaithful pessimist about these things. There seem to be two life plans for Christians...the abundance/blessing plan and the death/suffering plan. I assume I am on the death and suffering plan--that God is crouching behind a corner waiting for things to go well in order to take everything away so that I can learn to trust in him alone. That's a terribly sinful and unfaithful way to think--I know that--and not at all true about God but for some reason that's where my mind goes when things seem to be taking a turn for the worst.

At the very least, my attitude and what happened over the next weeks and months next seriously undercuts the (whacked out) idea that God waits around for us to gin up "faith" meaning "positive thoughts" before he provides. There was no "naming" and "claiming" happening in the Kennedy household.

Tuesday mid-morning the phone rang. It was Msgr. Meaghar, former priest of St. Andrew's Catholic Church now priest in charge of the merged parish of Sts. John and Andrew.

In November of 2008, the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse merged two large Binghamton parishes, St John the Evangelist and St. Andrew's Catholic Church. The people and priest of St. Andrew's were told to close their property and merge with St John's which is located on Livingston street a block south of Good Shepherd's location (which was on the Corner of Conklin and Livingston).

The former St. Andrew's Catholic Church was only about a mile and a half down Conklin from Good Shepherd. Prior to the merger, before they had to leave their property behind, St. Andrew's had been packed out every Sunday, filling their parking lot of more than 100 spaces, filling their Sanctuary which seats 400 (twice a Sunday), and filling their school building with Sunday School children. Before he had to move into St. John's rectory, the priest at St. Andrew's, Msgr Meaghar, lived in a relatively new four bedroom three bath rectory settled in the shadow of the St. Andrew's sanctuary. When the two parishes merged St. Andrew's property (rectory, sanctuary, school building, parking lot and storage facility) was left vacant.

That Tuesday morning, Msgr. Meaghar read in the Press and Sun that we lost our case and heard, I suppose from one of his parishioners who lived nearby, that we were moving out of the rectory.

When I answered the phone, I assumed, because he is a gracious and kind man, that he was calling to offer his condolences.

"I was wondering"," he said, "do you and your family have a place to go?"

Not catching on, I did my duty despite my pessimism and mumbled and stammered on in pious tones about God providing.

"Well" he said, "We're basically moved out of our rectory at St. Andrew's. Would you like to move in?"

I don't know why I didn't see it coming but I didn't and for a few seconds I couldn't think of anything to say. Did he know what he was offering? Was he aware of what it would mean for the St. Andrew's rectory for my entire family to move in even for a week? We had four kids. Does he know that? I finally managed to say, "Well, we have a lot of stuff."

"That's ok," he said, "you can stay as long as you need to and we'll figure out the details later." Before I could say a proper thank you, he'd arranged to hand off the key Wednesday afternoon.

The former St. Andrew's rectory

So, by the grace of God, the generosity of neighboring churches and pastors, and the extraordinary efforts of the congregation, we were out of the church and house within a week. Far from jamming ourselves into a tiny apartment and worshiping in someone's living room, we were settled seamlessly into a four bedroom three bathroom house with an enormous basement already set up to accommodate meetings and we had a large heated gym for worship. Vestry, meetings, bible studies, worship...nothing came to a halt or even paused.

That first Sunday we worshiped in the gym at Conklin Ave. Meanwhile, Msgr. Meaghar opened up the Sts John and Andrew's parish kitchen and hall to the Soup Kitchen so, that Thursday, no meals were missed.

We were out of the old house by Friday. In fact, we slept in the new house Thursday night for the first time and made the final trips Friday and a little into Saturday. Thursday and Friday Anne stayed at the new house and tried to unpack essentials so that we could be clothed and in our right minds by Sunday.

And so ends the first week and part one of this series.

International Feast: THIS Sunday January 31st is Good Shepherd's second annual International Feast Day. The meal will take place immediately following the 10:30 service. We'd like to have many cuisines represented (and already lots have been taken) so please sign up to prepare your favorite international dish. (Sign up sheet and suggestions are downstairs in the Parish Hall.) I've already claimed Indian so you can't have that one.This is a great opportunity to invite your friends.

Question and Answer: Hearing God's Voice--how do you know what God wants you to do?


A parishioner dealing with an important career decision asked that question recently. Here's my answer:

Knowing God's will when making a decision is not always easy, but here are some general questions to ask yourself and things to do that I find helpful in discerning what God would have me do.

1. In prayer, share your desire with God, and commit do what he desires first and foremost even if it means not doing what you planned to do.

2. Be sure that what you hope to do is consistent with God's revealed will in scripture. Would changing careers, for example, mean that you forego any higher calling or responsibility God has given you? Would it require you to do or act in a way that is inconsistent with the principles and purposes God sets out for his people in the bible?

3. Ask God to make the matter plain to you by either 1. opening doors in the direction you would like to go or 2. giving you a clear discernable answer in the form of closed doors, impossible progress, or just a very clear sense in your heart that you should not proceed.

4. Listen and attend carefully to the four primary means through which God communicates to his people: Scripture, Prayer, Church (sermons, class, fellowship), Circumstances...to see whether God gives you any guidance through them

5. If you have asked God to guide you with a willingness to do what he wants you do do, see nothing in scripture contrary to your plans, have listened to and attended the four primary ways God speaks to his people, and circumstances have left the way open to proceed...the do it with joy and peace


I generally find that even when I make the wrong decision...if I have faithfully sought his will and followed the steps above that God graciously blesses what I have done.


Two things that I need to mention:

1. Inviting non-believers to know Jesus (or just come to church). Two Sundays ago we learned that the vast majority of the people who come to Good Shepherd have friends or family members who are not believers in Jesus Christ. So, question, How long has it been since you've invited anyone to church? Have you ever prayed that God would give you an opportunity to share your faith with a specific person? Ask God to help you and then do it.


2. Parents...God is the highest priority for children--higher than football, soccer, basketball and even school. All these things may help children to succeed for the 70 or so years they are alive...but what kind of life will they have if they do not have Jesus? And when their lives come to an end 70 or 80 years from now, what will soccer practice mean? Nothing.

You are God's primary instrument for sharing the gospel with your children and teaching them about Jesus and his word.


"1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, promised you.
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. " (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)


Believing parents who let their children "decide" whether they want to attend church so as not to "force their values on them"...turn Jesus into just one more consumer item for their kids to taste and approve/disapprove. Do we make our kids go to school? Why? Because we value education. Why would we value Jesus any less?

As important as church is, when it comes to raising believing children, everything starts at home. Church, Sunday school and youth group should merely confirm, strengthen and supplement what parents teach and model daily at home. God gave us children for the purpose of teaching them about him. It is an amazing privelege and responsibility. Are we fulfilling it?


Choir Practice THIS Thursday at 7pm: The Good Shepherd Choir will be gathering for the first rehearsal with Tim Wetherbee this THURSDAY (tonight), January 28 at 7:00 pm in the choir loft. If you are planning to join this ministry or want more information, please contact Tim so he can have enough materials for everyone. He can be reached by phone at 748-3577 or by email at timvaweth@juno.com or just speak to him after the 10:30 Service.


Shepherd's Bowl: Shepherd's Bowl is carrying on as usual tonight at 5:30.


The Bible For Beginners: Everyone is welcome to the beginner's level Bible Study after the Shepherd at 6:30pm.


Help for Haiti: Thank you for your generous offering last Sunday. In one service we collected over $1000.00 which will go to Compassion International. This was just one offering, there will be more. You can continue to to contribute by making a note at the bottom of your check.


Men's Bible Study and Breakfast: Brian and Tom are cooking--The men's breakfast and bible study meets every Friday morning at 6:30am. We are currently working our way through 2nd Samuel. All men are welcome.


Womens' Bible Study: There will be Women's Bible Study this Saturday at 10:00am led by Carmen. All women are invited.


Phone at the church (reminder): We have, thanks to Chris Jones, managed to recover the old church phone number 723-8032...which is great considering the fact that that number is still printed in old phone books and internet searches. For the remainder of the year, we'll keep both numbers 773-4810 and 723-8032 (which will be activated tomorrow). The rectory (my house) number has changed. You can no longer reach my family at 773-4810. That is now solely a church number. I will send the house number out as soon as I find out what it is.


Systematic Theology: Will meet this Saturday at 3:30pm We'll be discussing the Trinity again this week and in particular some of the historical errors that have led to a great deal of confusion in the church and beyond. Hope to see you there.


ACW: The Next ACW meeting is February 13 at 11:00.


Vacation Bible School: I was just told this week that it is our turn to host VBS this summer...which is, I think, going to be a great way to do outreach. If you are going to be here this Summer and are interested in volunteering to help, please let Mary Foote know.


Why didn't God Stop the Earthquake? Many of you have asked me variations on the following question: Why didn't God stop the earthquake in Haiti. I've done my best to address these question in a video you can watch here:
http://binghamtongoodshepherd.blogspot.com/2010/01/why-didnt-god-stop-earthquake.html



Last Sunday's sermon: Here is the video of Sunday's sermon: What to Expect from Leaders in the Church. God has made those who trust in his Son Jesus Christ, children of the light. How now should we live?



This week's Sermon: This week we'll continue discussing 1st Thessalonians 5:12-13, and lay out the biblical expectations for leaders in the church and how we can test whether or not we are being led well.

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines: This week we'll talk about the Spiritual discipline of Prayer.


Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper- There is a sign-up sheet downstairs in the Parish Hall. There is a great variety of tasks. Please volunteer to help with this outreach event. We need you !!



Palm Branches- Please bring your palms from last Palm Sunday to church next Sunday (February 7th) and next (February 14th). These will be burned at the close of the Shrove Tuesday Event in preparation for Ash Wednesday.

Applesauce- After Women's Bible Study and ACW meeting on February 13th, we will be making applesauce for the Shrove Tuesday Supper. Please come with a bag (or two) of apples and plastic containers. All are encouraged to bring applesauce made at home as well.



Youth Ministry is a call to community (by Ife): God calls youths and adults alike to be members of His body, the Church. Because this is true, the support and lived example of the surrounding faith community (the local Church) is essential. This means that youth ministry cannot be in the periphery of church life and relationships, and it is not just the responsibility of the Youth pastor, or parent to be involved in their lives. We are called to live in community and the Gospel resonates more in the life of a young adult when it is seen lived out and modeled. So, I encourage you get to know a young person from our youth ministry, pray for them in your daily time of prayer, encourage and affirm their commitments in service within the church (acolyting, nursery, etc). Most importantly, model to them in your relationships and interactions with them how to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.


Youth Group is meeting at the usual time.
Senior High: Sunday 6 - 7:30p
Junior High: Monday 6:30 - 8:00p

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Anglican Relief and Development Fund Reports on Haiti Work



January 22, 2010

Anglicans have donated more than $70,000 through the Anglican Relief and Development Fund to support immediate relief in Haiti in the first week following the earthquake that struck the impoverished island nation on January 12.
According to Nancy Norton, executive director of Anglican Relief and Development Fund, the organization is partnering with World Relief, a large and well established evangelical Christian relief agency.  Working with World Relief ensures that these donations have an immediate positive effect in Haiti, where current estimates are that more than 200,000 have died and more than a million people are without shelter in the aftermath of the earthquake.
World Relief has had a long presence in Haiti, empowering the local church with health, economic and social development projects.  World Relief'sDisaster Response team is providing urgent medical care to hundreds of injured people at the Kings Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's devastated capital.  They have also set up feeding centers in partnership with local churches, providing thousands of hot meals to hungry earthquake survivors.  Volunteers from local Haitian churches are operating the centers.  World Relief can feed a person two meals a day - lunch and dinner - for less than $2.  It costs approximately $375 to feed 200 people rice and beans at lunch and milk porridge for dinner.
"Thank you to everyone who contributed through Anglican Relief and Development to help in Haiti.  The generosity of our donors has been overwhelming.  This financial outpouring will allow us to not only assist in immediate relief work, but also to be part of the rebuilding process through development projects in Haiti later this year.  The needs in this terribly damaged nation will continue," said Norton.
Donations for our continued work there can be made online at www.anglicanaid.net or by sending a check to the Anglican Relief and Development Fund at:

ARDF
PO Box 3830
Pittsburgh, PA 15230-3830

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good Shepherd Update Thursday January 21st, 2010

Dear Good Shepherd,


Thank you to everyone who stayed after the 10:30am service for the Annual meeting last Sunday. I know it was a long day especially give the playoff games that started at 1pm. I really appreciate your dedication to the mission of Good Shepherd.


If you attended services then you might remember the talk by Hilgrove Delancy regarding Haiti. He mentioned a number aid services and organizations to help the people of Haiti. In particular he mentioned Compassion International as a worthy Christian charitable organization that has a history of good work in Haiti.


This Sunday we'll be taking a special collection for the people of Haiti. This money will be collected and the whole amount given to Compassion International so please pray and think about how much you would like to contribute.


Choir Practice Next Thursday at 7pm: The Good Shepherd Choir will be gathering for the first rehearsal with Tim Wetherbee NEXT THURSDAY, January 28 at 7:00 pm in the choir loft. If you are planning to join this ministry or want more information, please contact Tim so he can have enough materials for everyone. He can be reached by phone at 748-3577 or by email at timvaweth@juno.com or just speak to him after the 10:30 Service.

Shepherd's Bowl: Shepherd's Bowl is carrying on as usual tonight at 5:30. Everyone is welcome to the beginner's level Bible Study after at 6:30pm.

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast:
  Bob Shaller is cooking.
The men's breakfast and bible study meets every Friday morning at 6:30am. We are currently working our way through 2nd Samuel. All men are welcome. 


New/potential/interested Member Classes: As promised, I'll be leading new member (and potential/interested member) class beginning Saturday February 7th at 2:30pm and continuing for three weeks for a total of four classes. Among other things we'll discuss:
Anglican Christianity
Anglican polity: Bishops, priests and deacons
Parish programs and ministries
The mission of Good Shepherd
The Constitution and Governance of the church. 


I'[ll be contacting new members and potential people about this in the coming weeks...

Womens' Bible Study
:
There will be Women's Bible Study this Saturday at 10:00am led by Carmen. All women are invited.

Acolyte practice this Sunday after the 10:30am service. Some of us, not all, have gotten a little sloppy lately, so it's important that everyone make the practice. I promise not to keep you for more than an hour.



Spiritual Discipline Resources: Two Spiritual Disciplines resources I've referenced during Christian ed that I definitely recommend:




1. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster


2. Christian Hedonism (an article by Pastor John Piper)

Phone at the church: We have, thanks to Chris Jones, managed to recover the old church phone number 723-8032...which is great considering the fact that that number is still printed in old phone books and internet searches. For the remainder of the year, we'll keep both numbers 773-4810 and 723-8032 (which will be activated tomorrow). The rectory (my house) number has changed. You can no longer reach my family at 773-4810. That is now solely a church number.  I will send the house number out as soon as I find out what it is. 


Matt's number: My home number is 607-621-9944: Please do not call on church business on Mondays or after 6 unless it is an emergency.

Systematic Theology: Will meet this Saturday at 3:30pm We'll be, finally, starting a discussion of the Doctrine of the Trinity. The first task will be to define the concept and ground the concept in the Old and New Testaments. Hope to see you there.



Is the Bible Boring?

International Feast: Sunday January 31st is Good Shepherd's second annual International Feast Day. The meal will take place immediately following the 10:30 service. We'd like to have many cuisines represented (and already lots have been taken) so please sign up to prepare your favorite international dish. (Sign up sheet and suggestions are downstairs in the Parish Hall.) I've already claimed Indian so you can't have that one.

Good Shepherd T-Shirts/Aprons: Various styles of t-shirts and aprons with our church logo will be ordered within the next few weeks if there is enough interest. Prices range from $8 to $12 . Colors are maroon with white lettering, white with maroon lettering, and grey with maroon lettering. In case of need, a donation will be sufficient.

Vacation Bible School: I was just told this week that it is our turn to host VBS this summer...which is, I think, going to be a great way to do outreach. If you are going to be here this Summer and are interested in volunteering to help, please let Mary Foote know.


Congratulations to Mark Dreher and Chris Jones: who were elected last week to serve on Vestry. Most of you know Chris Jones. He is our former treasurer

Last Sunday's sermon: Here is the video of Sunday's sermon: Staying Spiritually Sober. God has made those who trust in his Son Jesus Christ, children of the light. How now should we live?



This week's Sermon:  This week we'll dig into 1st Thessalonians 5:12-15 and talk about those God appoints as leaders in a congregation and the way congregations can avoid division, fighting and enjoy the peace of God.   



12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 

Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines: This week we'll talk about the Spiritual discipline of meditation.

Youth Group Update: Youth Group
Senior High - Sunday 6-7:30p
Junior High - Monday 6:30-8:00p

What does it mean that Jesus is God, that everything was created through Him and for Him?
One of the implications is that only God could have saved us from sin, so if Jesus was just "a great man" then His death on the cross could not save us.

This week we'll be talking about Christ's incarnation, which means Christ became human.
Hope to see you at youth group.

In Christ
Matt

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How Will They Hear Without a Preacher?

....from here


"The withering of preaching is not uniform in all congregations and denominations. Evangelicals were most enthusiastic about preaching, while others registered less appreciation for the preached Word. Interestingly, Gledhill reports that "Baptists and Catholics were also more enthusiastic about the Bible being mentioned in sermons than were Anglicans and Methodists."

The Anglicans also expressed a desire to be entertained, rather then educated. The Rev. Kate Bruce, Fellow in Preaching and Communication at the CODEC center, said that "in a culture which values entertainment and likes stand-up, over a quarter [of respondents] said they want preaching to be entertaining, too."


Well, they will have to be quick about the entertainment. Many Anglicans indicated that they wanted the sermon to be less than ten minutes long. As Gledhill remarks, they might be willing to allow up to twenty minutes "if there was no 'waffle.'"


Perhaps the biggest question raised by the report is why so many British churchgoers (96.6%) said they "look forward" to the sermon. Ruth Gledhill comments:


In their report the Durham researchers admit to puzzlement that so many people looked forward to the sermons, and confess that more work was needed to find out why.


The report questions whether people look forward to the sermon so much for the content, the engagement, the entertainment, the theology or simply that it gives them time to switch off.


Time to switch off? According to the report, Britain has only 3.6 million "regular churchgoers" out of a population of over 60 million. That is, only about five percent of Britons even attend church services on any regular basis. Evidently, many of those who do attend "look forward" to a very short message from a preacher that entertains them.

England, of course, is the nation that once gave us preachers the likes of Charles Simeon, Charles Spurgeon, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Now, with the rare and blessed exception of some faithful evangelical churches, preaching has fallen on desperate times.

Some observers of British life now estimate that in any given week Muslim attendance at mosques outnumbers Christian attendance at churches. That means that there are probably now in Britain more people who listen to imams than to preachers.

This raises an interesting question: Is the marginalization of biblical preaching in so many churches a cause or a result of the nation's retreat from Christianity? In truth, it must be both cause and effect. In any event, there is no hope for a recovery of biblical Christianity without a preceding recovery of biblical preaching. That means preaching that is expository, textual, evangelistic, and doctrinal. In other words, preaching that will take a lot longer than ten minutes and will not masquerade as a form of entertainment"...more

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Matt Chandler Update

I wrote about Matt Chandler in last week's Update. Matt is married and in his thirties with three young children. He is the head pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in the country, The Village Church, in northern Texas. He collapsed on Thanksgiving day and has been diagnosed with brain cancer. He is currently beginning a regimen of radiation and chemo. Here's a video update. Matt's providing the entire Church with a model of how to suffer well as a believer in Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ife in the News


Here's a great article about Ife that was posted in the national website for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship:


Ife Ojetayo actively participated in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Binghamton University in New York from fall 2000 until spring 2004. While attending college, Ife was a small group leader and the InterVarsity chapter president for two years.
Throughout many retreats and training sessions, includingExpedition and Basileia, the regional camp for campuses in New York and New Jersey, Ife grew in his love for God and the world. He attended Urbana 2003 as a participant to explore the possibility of full-time ministry.
Ife returned home to Long Island after he graduated. When he returned to Binghamton University for graduate classes, Carrie Moorhead, InterVarsity staff at Binghamton University, suggested he pursue ministry as a career. Having grown up in Nigeria until he was 12, Ife was looking for a career in international affairs. But was not certain if that was the right career to pursue.
Carrie invited Ife to church with her....read more here
Ife is, among many other things, Good Shepherd's Youth Minister...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Good Shepherd Update Thursday January 14th, 2010


Dear Good Shepherd, 


This Sunday is our annual meeting. It is also the one year mark in this new property God has provided for us. Last Sunday was one year to the day that we celebrated our final Sunday in the old church building. This Sunday will be one year to the day that we met at the Conklin Avenue Baptist gym. Next Sunday will be the one year mark here at 356 Conklin Avenue.



It is a time for thanksgiving and for reflection.

God brought us out of circumstances and difficulties that, according to practical earthly expectations, should have destroyed us. But God preserved us. He not only preserved us, he opened the floodgates and blessed us in every way. 



Jesus told a parable about a king who, preparing for a journey, gave three servants varying amounts of money to use in the king's absence. When the king left, the first two servants took the money, invested it, and doubled what he had given them. The last servant horded the king's money and buried it in a hole because he was afraid of losing it. When the king returned, he rewarded the two servants who took risks and invested all that the king had left them by giving them entire cities to rule but he punished the servant who carefully horded out of fear and took the little that he had been given away. (Matt 25:14-30)



Jesus did not tell this parable to teach people how to get rich. The parable is not about money in particular but about all the resources that God provides--everything we have--money, time, skill, power, life... We are his servants. He has given us all of these things for a purpose--to use them, to invest them, for his glory, the expansion of his kingdom, the proclamation of his gospel, the feeding of the poor, and the healing of the sick.



Churches die every day in the United States. In Revelation 2-3 we're told that when a congregation chooses its own way rather than to follow the mission laid out by Christ, Jesus  "removes its lampstand". The Spirit is quenched or removed. Why? Because the church exists as God's chosen vehicle to reconcile the world to himself through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ and when a church does not do that it ceases to function as the church. It dies.

On the other hand, it is simply impossible to outgive God. The more God blesses a church, the more a church is called to pour that blessing out into the world. God continues to fill, we continue to pour. We take his talents and invest them in the expansion of his kingdom, he pours more into our lap. That is God's economy.

We are at a pivotal moment at Good Shepherd. What has God called us to do as a body here? Are we ready to fulfill that call? Are we ready to take what God has given us and invest all of it in the building of his kingdom?  I think we are. I know we are. God has been preparing us for the present moment for a long time. The question is whether we are willing.

New Music Director: Tim Wetherbee starts this Sunday at the 10:30am as our new music director. He is a truly gifted musician and leader. Please be here to welcome him to Good Shepherd and celebrate his first Sunday as director.

A Message from Tim: The Good Shepherd Choir will be gathering for the first rehearsal with Tim Wetherbee on Thursday, January 28 at 7:00 pm in the choir loft. If you are planning to join this ministry or want more information, please contact Tim so he can have enough materials for everyone. He can be reached by phone at 748-3577 or by email at timvaweth@juno.com or just speak to him after the 10:30 Service.


Is Good Shepherd a Healthy Church? What are churches supposed to do? Alister Begg preaches a great series on what a church should be and do...I wish every person who comes to Good Shepherd would make time to listen to this:

The Four Marks of a Healthy Church part A:
http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/Truth_for_Life/archives.asp?bcd=2010-1-12

Part B:
http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/Truth_for_Life/archives.asp?bcd=2010-1-13

Shepherd's Bowl: Shepherd's Bowl is carrying on as usual tonight at 5:30. Everyone is welcome to the Bible Study after at 6:30

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast:  Charles Hadley is cooking.

Womens' Bible Study
:
There will be Women's Bible Study this Saturday at 10:00am led by Carmen.

Haiti: By now most of you have heard about the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday. If you have not, here is an article describing the horrible conditions in the aftermath.

Please pray for the people of Haiti.

For right now, if you would like to help tangibly with relief efforts, the Anglican Relief and Development fund is now accepting donations to bring relief supplies to people there.

This Sunday during announcements Hilgrove Delancy, who used to live in Haiti and will share some information with us about the people there, the living conditions, and what we can do to help.

Phone at the church: We have, thanks to Chris Jones, managed to recover the old church phone number 723-8032...which is great considering the fact that that number is still printed in old phone books and internet searches. For the remainder of the year, we'll keep both numbers 773-4810 and 723-8032 (which will be activated tomorrow). The rectory (my house) number has changed. You can no longer reach my family at 773-4810. That is now solely a church number.  I will send the house number out as soon as I find out what it is.

Systematic Theology: Will meet this Saturday at 3:30am for the new year. We'll be discussing the following attributes: Holiness, Righteousness, Peace, Jealousy and Wrath. Next Saturday, we'll start a discussion of the Trinity.

Annual Meeting and Vestry Elections
: The annual meeting will take place THIS Sunday January 17th AFTER the 10:30am service. I would have liked to do it between services, but there is just too much business to discuss. So far we have two new candidates for vestry: Mark Dreher and Chris Jones. Candidates may be nominated from the floor. Eligible candidates will conform to the standards articulated in Titus 1:5-8, assent by signature to the principles articulated in Good Shepherd's summary of faith and the Jerusalem Declaration, be regular attenders and members (attending every Sunday you are in town), participants in at least one bible study or class per week, committed to one ministry or service in the church, and tithing or working toward a tithe. We'll post profiles of candidates in this week's bulletin (hopefully)

The 2010 Budget:
The vestry met last night to review and approve the budget for 2010. Creating a budget was a difficult task given it had to basically be created whole-cloth. Brendan Houser (our treasurer) and John Chaney (our Junior Warden) presented the budget they crafted last night. I should have an executive summary to send to you this week before the meeting on Sunday. I did not know this last Sunday, but the new constitution only provides for a vestry approval of the budget, not a congregational vote. But we need your input and hope for your support so I will call for a discussion of and vote of support or non-support from the congregation during the meeting so that the vestry can know the mind of the body before we finalize the budget plan for the year.

Help with Children During the Annual Meeting: Anne is looking for creative and willing adults to help supervise children during the annual meeting. In the past the children have all played in the nursery and basically kept quiet. This year the nursery is too small and there are too many children. If someone has some suitable movies or games and the means to set them up, please let Anne know.

International Feast
: Sunday January 31st is Good Shepherd's second annual International Feast Day. The meal take place immediately following the 10:30 service. We'd like to have many cuisines represented so please sign up to prepare your favorite international dish. (Sign up sheet and suggestions are downstairs in the Parish Hall.)

Last Sunday's sermon: Here is the video of Sunday's sermon: Staying Spiritually Sober. God has made those who trust in his Son Jesus Christ, children of the light. How now should we live?


This week's Sermon:  Since it's annual meeting time, we'll be discussing the purpose of the church and the mission of the church.

Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines: This week we will finish our introduction to spiritual disciplines and move into a discussion of a specific type of discipline.


In Christ
Matt

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti

By now most of you have heard about the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti yesterday. If you have not, here is an article describing the horrible conditions in the aftermath.

Please pray for the people of Haiti.

If you would like to help tangibly with relief efforts, the Anglican Relief and Development fund is now accepting donations to bring relief supplies to people there.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sermon: Staying Spiritually Sober

The first minute intro to this sermon has been clipped off for some reason, but its basically review from last Sunday...

The text for this sermon is 1st Thessalonians 5:5-11

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Good Shepherd Update Thursday January 7th, 2010


Dear Good Shepherd,

Good Afternoon, there are a number of important items in this week's update so please read carefully.

Epiphany: The season of Christmas lasts 12 days followed by Epiphany--January 6. The word "epiphany" means appearing or revealing...God the Son "appeared" was made manifest at his birth. The good news that God has come to save his people was proclaimed first by angels to shepherds. But God also revealed it in the heavens through the great light or the star that drew the magi from the east to worship Jesus.

Epiphany is traditionally the day set aside to remember the coming of the magi. Through their visit, God made his Son known not just as the Savior of the Jewish people, but as the Savior and Lord of all the earth and of all the peoples of the earth.

The color for Epiphany is white on the first Sunday of Epiphany, to mark the feast, and then green--I'm not sure why--and it lasts until Lent which begins on February 17, Ash Wednesday.

Potluck and Undecorating:
There will be a potluck lunch after the 10:30am service this Sunday so bring a plate of something to pass around and a good appetite. Also, since its Epiphany--and Christmas is over, we'll be taking down the Christmas decorations so, once you've had your fill of food, you can work off all those calories by climbing up and down ladders to take down the greens. If you're not good on a ladder there are plenty of other jobs.

Kris Kindle: Traditionally the members of Good Shepherd have exchanged names in Advent and spent the Holy Season of Christmas praying for one another and exchanging small gifts on the Feast of Epiphany (the Sunday after January 6). This year, with the current rate of growth and the upheaval of moving, we determined not to exchange names. If anyone would like to make a small donation to add to the money being sent to the Anglican Church in Kewinda in honor of this fine tradition, it would be much appreciated.

The Purpose of Suffering:
Matt Chandler is in his 30's. He is married and has three young children. He's pastor of "The Village" church in North Texas, one of the fastest growing churches in the country. He is, in my opinion, one of the best young preachers of the day. On Thanksgiving Day he suffered a seizure and collapsed. He was diagnosed with a malignant, slow growing, brain tumor. His surgeons removed a good deal of it but they could not remove all of it. The prognosis, should God decide not to intervene, is not good.  John Piper was asked to come speak to Matt's congregation two Sunday's ago. The sermon he preached (listen here) is one of the best on the purpose of human suffering I have heard. It is long, 54 minutes, but it is worth it not only to listen but to pull out your bibles and follow him along.

Shepherd's Bowl: Shepherd's Bowl is carrying on as usual tonight at 5:30. Everyone is welcome to the Bible Study after at 6:30

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast:  Joe Barham is cooking.

Womens' Bible Study
:
There will be Women's Bible Study this Saturday at 10:00am led by Carmen.

ACW Meeting at 11am Saturday: From Pat Chaney: All women of the Church are invited. We need to make some decisions about
1. Clam Chowder/ Bake Sale around Easter
2. What outreach?  Keep for ACK or...?  I think it would be good to continue to help ACK!  
3. Last year, we had a No-Bake Sale and we did raise about $300.  That would be the easiest!  
Finally, 4.  if someone would like to volunteer to learn how to prepare the media/ads from Cookie, then we could make the decisions Jan?Feb!

Phone at the church: The phone number for the church 773-4810 has also been, up until now, the phone number for the rectory. That is changing. From now on my personal number will not be 773-4810. As soon as I get the new number I'll let you know.

Systematic Theology: starts up again this Saturday at 3:30am for the new year. We'll be discussing the following attributes: God's love, mercy, grace, and patience.

Annual Meeting and Vestry Elections
: The annual meeting will take place on Sunday January 17th. So far we have 2 new candidates for vestry. Eligible candidates will conform to the standards articulated in Titus 1:5-8, assent by signature to the principles articulated in Good Shepherd's summary of faith and the Jerusalem Declaration, be regular attenders and members (attending every Sunday you are in town), participants in at least one bible study or class per week, committed to one ministry or service in the church, and tithing or working toward a tithe. We'll post profiles of candidates in this week's bulletin (hopefully)

THIS SUNDAY: According to our constitution, any amendment resolutions must be announced in advance. So between services this Sunday, I'll be introducing the three resolutions we'll be voting on this coming Sunday. The first will increase the number of people on vestry from 6 to 8. The second will change the membership expectations for voting members of the church and the third will, if approved, restore the voting rights I used to have on vestry under our old constitution (we didn't notice they were not given in the present one). In any, case I will not spend the entire time, but I will take some time during adult ed to introduce these resolutions, so please be there to hear about them.

Help with Children During the Annual Meeting: Anne is looking for creative and willing adults to help supervise children during the annual meeting. In the past the children have all played in the nursery and basically kept quiet. This year the nursery is too small and there are too many children. If someone has some suitable movies or games and the means to set them up, please let Anne know.

Tim Wetherbee:
will start as Music Director on Sunday the 17th of January. We're so thankful to God for bringing Tim here. He will be contacting members of the choir and will start up practices sometime after his first day.

Welcome Back International Potluck
: On Sunday January 31st, we will all enjoy a international potluck  feast. This will take place immediately following the 10:30 service. We would like to have many cuisines represented so please sign up to prepare your favorite international dish. (Sign up sheet and suggestions are downstairs in the Parish Hall.)

Ballad of Matthew's Begats CD:
Great job learning that difficult song! Please return borrowed CDs to Carmen so that we have them for next year.

Three notes from Cookie:
Pledge Envelopes: There are several books of envelopes left to be picked up. I would like to remind everyone to look for one with their name on it and put it to good use.

Financial giving reports for tax filing: All financial reports or "Statements of Contributions" for Income Tax purposes are at the church ready to be picked up. Please find yours in the front of the church on the table.

Duty Rosters: Also on the table near the Altar is the new Duty Roster for January and February. There is one there with your name on it. Please remember that if you are unable to fulfill your obligation to serve, it is your responsibility to find someone who can fill in for you.


Mission (I am reprinting this because I want as many people to read it as possible): We do not plan to sit about on our laurels this year. God did not put us here and give us all this stuff so that we could be comfy and cozy. There is a lot to do...lost people and people in great need around us. I will be appointing a Community outreach team to help us plan and direct our mission and ministry in this neighborhood. I have emailed a number of people and will continue to do so until the team is assembled. You'll hear more about this.

With that in mind, don't forget that Good Shepherd also has been working through some Yearly resolutions--goals that we articulated in the Fall. Many of them have already been met, but here they are:


One year goals:


1. Attendance of 200 by next Pentecost: We're getting about 115-120 regularly (which is a huge blessing considering that we were at 80-90 this time last year) but if everyone who comes to GS on a regular basis were to attend all at the same time, we'd have about 130-135. This is great, and we are still growing, but by God's grace we can do better. God uses his Church to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, just inviting a non-believing friend is an act of evangelism. But beyond that we are not just called to trust in Jesus, but to live lives that are shaped by him--to be his disciples. God not only uses the church to give sinners new birth, he also uses it to train them, to make them like himself. So just being in church, hearing the word of God read and preached, receiving the nourishment that comes through Communion and fellowship is an indispensable part of being a follower of Jesus Christ which is why we are commanded in Hebrews 10:32 not to neglect the gathering of believers.



2. 30 New believers by Pentecost: This is, of course, dependent upon God's grace--he alone makes the seeds of faith grow...but we are called to plant the seeds (1 Cor 3). We're not quite where we need to be on this score...there have been conversions and most likely some that we do not know about but not 30. It could be that we have not been as faithful in evangelism as we ought. We will need to redouble our efforts this Spring. Goals 1 and 2 both seek the same end...bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ and making disciples.



3. Shepherd's Bowl at Good Shepherd and Conklin Avenue: This is a met goal. Thanks be to God,  we've finally succeeded in reopening the Shepherd's Bowl at Good Shepherd. Think about it. A year ago, the Shepherd's Bowl was completely shut down due to our loss in the lawsuit. This year, the program has doubled to include not only a soup kitchen that runs out of our church, but also one that runs on Monday's out of Conklin Avenue Baptist. And instead of four teams of volunteers rotating each week, we now have five teams. Thanks be to God.

The Shepherd's Bowl is only one way that we can serve this community. With our new facilities and all the abundance that God has given us there are many many more ways...after school programs, clothing give-aways, a food pantry, financial aid programs...there are so many things we could do, so many ways that God can use us to serve this city and this neighborhood.


4. Prayer team established: we did have a prayer meeting every week but it does not seem to be taking off. Prayer is something that we really need to work on as a community...


5. Hospitality Ministry and New Member Program established: A number of people have taken on the ministry of hospitality this year. Every visitor generally (if no one falls through the cracks) receives a warm greeting, an invitation for coffee downstairs after the service, a guest bag containing various goodies, information about Jesus and about Good Shepherd, and a follow up letter during the week. The biggest concern at this point is not hospitality, but integration. We've welcomed close to 50 new people this year and with all of the confusion and chaos that comes with moving locations we've not yet had a new members class or really helped new people to become oriented to the church and the programs Good Shepherd offers...


6. Music Director hired with both skill and vision for Good Shepherd's Music ministry: Thanks be to God who through the the hard work of the worship committee, has called Tim Wetherbee to be our new Music Director. Tim will start on January 17th.


7. Youth and children Christian ed director (non-paid): We have a youth minister and lots of Sunday School teachers, but we do not have one person who's task it is to think through the children-yourh education program in a cohesive and holistic way. We do not yet have a vision for the entire program. Our goal is to find a person with just such a call.


8. Start identifying and discipling church leaders and planters: This year we've begun to give a number of young people with a call to ministry the opportunity to preach and lead in other ways at Good Shepherd. Ife Ojetayo, Katy McFadden, Matt Tuttle and others have and or will continue to test their call here.  God has trusted Good Shepherd with these young men and women and we must do our best to help them discern the direction in which God is calling them and give them the opportunity to hone and sharpen their gifts. We do this with at least a partial eye to raising up future church planters who can, in the next five years, plant another Anglican congregation in the Binghamton area.


9. Commit to help an impoverished church: this year we've raised over $1400.00--more than one year's rent--for the Anglican church in the Kwenda slum. Your support for these people has been overwhelming and generous. God protected and provided for us when we had no home. It is, I think, incumbent upon us to pass this graciousness on to other churches in need. Thank you.


10. Pay our tithe: Good Shepherd is a member church of the Anglican Church in North America and of the Missionary Diocese of New England. As a body we are called to tithe to the diocese. We have not yet done this but we are working toward it. The budget for 2010, sets aside 10 percent of our gross income for both a pledge to the diocese and mission outreach. At some point we should establish the 10% to go directly to the diocese and another percentage on top of that, at least 5%, for missionary purposes...in fact, that--tithing to your local church and five percent for mission giving--is the biblical model for our personal finances as well.


Those are the goals for the year ending at Pentecost...as you can see some of them have already been met. Others will require a great deal of work...but by God's grace we can do it.

Last Sunday's sermon:Here is the video of Sunday's sermon: Sons and Daughters of the Light. Many Christians live with a terribly false understanding of Christianity--that salvation consists in working really hard to do what Jesus says in order to make it to heaven and escape hell.

That is not the gospel.

In fact, Christ has already accomplished that work on our behalf...our call is to receive what he has done, trust him, and commit our lives to him. God has made us through trust in his Son, sons and daughters of the light. That is who we are and that identity, as divinely appointed/adopted children is the basis of our confidence--not ourselves or our work. We work because we are children of God--we do not work to earn that, we work because it has been given as a gracious gift. Here's the sermon:,
 you can watch it here.


This week's Sermon: Now that we've laid down the principle that works flow out of salvation rather than coming before it, we'll talk about the type of life that children of the Light are called to live as we wait for the coming of Jesus.

5You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:5-11)

Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines: So how is your prayer life? What about your personal bible study? Do you feel disconnected from God? In the next Sunday morning adult education series we'll discuss practices and disciplines that will help you to develop a deeper connection with God. This week we'll start just by talking about spiritual discipline in general...what it is and how it can help.


In Christ
Matt