Archive for January, 2016

Cliff Hanger

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Luke 4:16-30
January 31, 2016
Steve Hammond

I want you to listen to today’s story from Luke 4. Don’t read along, just listen. Note any impressions, words and images that stick with you, questions you have, or thoughts the story raises. Imagine what it was like to be one of the people in the synagogue that day, one of the townsfolk, the disciples, the leader of the synagogue, or Jesus. There is paper in the pew if you want to write anything down, or create some kind of visual image.

Let me tell you what struck me, then we will get to you. That thing about “every eye in the place was on him,” caught my attention. They were scrutinizing him, trying to figure him out. He was the hometown boy coming back. Before the whole crowd went crazy some were praising him, “surprised at how well he spoke.” That’s interesting. Why did it catch them by surprise? Their response, “but wait isn’t that just Joseph’s kid,” seems to indicate that during his growing up years, Jesus hadn’t done anything to distinguish himself in his hometown.

He was, though, coming back, evidently, with a bit of a reputation. They had heard the stories and rumors from Capernaum. Luke doesn’t say what Jesus exactly had done in Capernaum, just that before coming back home news about Jesus had spread through the countryside, where “he taught in their meeting places to everyone’s acclaim and pleasure.”

So the hometown boy was back and they were watching him. Nobody stayed home from synagogue that day. And, at first, it seemed like it was going to be a warm welcome. “God’s Spirit is on me; God has chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act.”

These folk were the poor who were always being confronted by the tax collectors for more of the little they had to support the Roman occupation. They were the ones who had been in Rome’s prisons, burdened and battered physically and metaphorically by Rome. They were ready to be free.

They understood something about the message of Jesus that many still don’t understand to this day. If what Jesus said is good news to the poor what does it sound like to the poor? That’s where we have to start with Jesus, with good news not to the comfortable and cared for, not to those not in prison, or those not battered by the political and religious and economic systems of this world, but by those who are.

They were all watching him. Trying to figure him out. But then they got mad. So mad, in fact, that they wanted to throw him off a cliff. What happened?

The good news, it turns out, isn’t just for a select few. Jesus started talking about Elisha and Elijah. But the stories he mentioned were not about God’s love and care for the people of Israel, but for the Gentiles, including a Gentile woman no less. They liked the idea of God setting people free, helping the victims of Rome and who or whatever was burdening and battering people. But not everybody. Just them. And it was so important that it was just them that they were ready to throw Jesus over a cliff for suggesting God’s love stretched to others.

That seems kind of extreme and hard to believe that people would really want to kill Jesus for claiming God loves everybody. But have you listened to any Presidential debates lately? Seen any of the ads? You can’t help but notice the anger that is being expressed at the notion that God could love anyone more than God loves us, however you define us.

You read a lot about love in John’s gospel. At one point, it’s in John 14, we read this. 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?”23-24 “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world…” “God has chosen me to announce recovery of sight to the blind…”

You know, there is just something about goodness and kindness. It seems so basic, like it should be so easy. But we’ve made it hard. But Jesus comes along and reminds us that we can be kind to each other. We can be good to each other. And goodness and kindness will save us.

We are going to sing another hymn, then I will finish up, and then hear what struck you about this story. The Gift of Love on page 526. Think about the passage this song is based on in 1 Corinthians not in the context of a wedding, where we usually hear it, or even as a series of bumper stickers about the kind of love we are called to. But think about Syrian refugees, Black Lives Matter, the political discourse going on in this and other countries, the growing economic disparity in this country and world, the people, including even still in this country, who lives and livelihood are threatened because of their gender and sexual orientation, the so many places and ways that people are imprisoned, burdened and battered, and oppressed in this world. But also think about the ways love is being demonstrated, the people who are reaching across the borders, tearing down the walls, calling us to something better in this world.

“Every eye in the place was on him.” In 1 Corinthians 12, right before this passage that we just sang, the Apostle Paul writes about the church being the Body of Christ, being the presence of Jesus in this world. I don’t think it was an accident in his mind to follow our call to be the Body of Christ with the love chapter. It’s time that every eye in the place is upon us. Are we going to be that presence of Jesus that gets under people’s skins? Is the message of God’s inclusive love, the kindness and goodness we are called to going to be such a part of us as the body of Christ, that people are going to want to drag us to the edge of the cliff? And how are we going to walk through the crowd when that happens?

What did you hear in this story?

And the Future of the Church Is…?

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Matthew 11:28-29
Amos 5:16-17,21-24
Hebrews 12:1-3,12-13
January 24, 2016
Mary Hammond

The winds are blowing fiercely across this nation, and I am not speaking about the ecology of Climate Change in this regard. I am thinking about the climate in which followers of Jesus find themselves within our country. With her permission, let me quote some personal reflections of Ellen Broadwell, in response to questions I posed to the church googlegroup this week in preparation for worship today.

“There is so much going on with the ‘big C Church’ right now that I see the American Church going in the direction of the European Church (slowly disappearing). The evangelicals are so tangled up with the right wing of politics and have allowed themselves to be manipulated by cynical politicians, that our children, for the most part, no longer see [the church] as the hopeful answer to life’s important questions. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. American evangelicals tell us to hate the LGBTQ community, that an unborn child’s life is more important than the life of its mother, that the poor are responsible for their poverty and don’t deserve any relief, refugees are not welcome in this country of immigrants. For the most part, our children are looking at the Church and finding it hypocritical at best, and at worst, evil. I am so disgusted with the American Church right now. If politicians refuse to pander to right wing evangelicals, the Church can lose its facade, go underground, and regain its soul.”

Pastors these days often huddle together and converse about the future of the American church. Prospective clergy are warned in seminary not to expect positions after graduation that both pay off their student loans and provide adequate support to sustain themselves. They are told that the church of tomorrow will not look like that of today, and, as future leaders, they are on the cusp of this radical change. In fact, we are also on the cusp of this change.

In one recent conversation Steve and I had with ministerial colleagues, a young pastor commented, “I’m not into all this hand-wringing about the ‘future of the Church.’ What will the American church look like down the road? It will look like ‘the Church.’ The Church will not disappear, but it will just look a lot more like the church of the first three centuries than of the last several hundred years.”

I think this is what Ellen is getting at in her comments. Rapid transitions require much of us, and it is critical to reflect together on some of the characteristics we need as a congregation to face such challenges. The decades before us truly cry out for the Church to embrace a calling to be a Place of Refuge, Resistance, and Resilience. While not exhaustive, these “three ‘R’s’” provide valuable guidance for moving forward.

Let’s begin with “a Place of Refuge.” How many of you here today have found PCC to be such a place, either when you first arrived or through some personal crisis or transition? There is no need for a show of hands, but is there anyone here who would like to share briefly about that experience and what it meant to you? [Two people shared personal testimonies, one about first visiting the church, the other about a time of family crisis].

There are a lot of people that feel a need to flee from the Church, from its institutional largess, exclusive practices and policies, legalistic mores, distorted theologies, and even mean-spirited individuals. But what about fleeing to the church, discovering in its midst a community of love, hope, and trust–a People who laugh together and cry together, who seek to practice compassion and justice in the wider world? We never know who might be looking for refuge, or when. We do not know when we ourselves might need it, until something happens. To foster a Place of Refuge speaks to those beyond the congregation about who we try to be for one another, who Jesus is among us, and who we seek to become in the world.

Secondly, what does it mean to be a Place of Resistance? Such a community seeks to live as both a sign and witness to the Reign of God, a counter-sign among the Kingdoms and Empires of the Earth. Steve often reminds us that the primary purpose of prophecy is not so much to predict the future as to contradict the present. And there is a lot of present to contradict. Our mass media culture spews hatred and division everywhere. Further, it too often paints both Christianity and Evangelicalism with one broad, intolerant brush. This does disservice to many other Christians and self-described Evangelicals who distinguish themselves from fundamentalists.

Any Church serious about becoming a Place of Resistance must insist on being tethered to both the Way and ways of Jesus. To me, these are the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Hearts must focus on a vision of the entire Community of Creation living in harmony and shalom–with God, one another, ourselves, and the earth.

Finally, what are the fruits of Resilience? As we reflect on this 150th Anniversary of the church, I am so struck by the tenacity and perseverance of our forebears. In 1866, a small group of people formed a new congregation. They mustered up the financial means to construct a church meeting house. A half a century later, Oberlin College purchased the land, razed the building, and offered the congregation the location where the current building now stands. I often wonder what those meetings were like, as the congregation–people like you and me–made those momentous decisions to sell the property.

During the 1920’s, another period of massive cultural transition, the church faced a huge fundamentalist-modernist split. Those were the days of the Scopes Monkey Trial, Darwinism, heated theological debates about teaching creationism vs. evolution. Many folks left the church; a remnant stayed. Another fundamentalist-modernist split occurred in the 1940’s. During the 1960’s, the congregation boldly retained an activist pastor who was fired from a second local church he pastored at the same time. At issue was Rev. Michael Morse’s strident opposition to the Vietnam War.

Fifteen years of retired part-time clergy served the church from 1964-79. The community dwindled to “eleven people plus Jesus,” as Moderator Bob Thomas described it. The church contemplated closing its doors, but before that happened, Bob had a vision. He convinced the other members to make one last effort to remain together. The church secured two years of financial assistance from the Ohio Baptist Convention and hired Steve Hammond fresh out of seminary as a full-time pastor. If the congregation was not completely self-supporting after those two years, then it would in fact close. Nearly 37 years later, here we are today. Thanks be to God!

The fruits of resilience are all over this 150 year history, even amid times of conflict, uncertainty, and rapid social change. Let’s not sugar coat the story. Real people struggled, embraced risks, and took stands. They faced challenges by accepting the need to change. The congregation grew and contracted, grew again and contracted again, yet continued to stay the course.

To offer a haven of Refuge, Resistance, and Resilience is a calling, not just for PCC, but for the wider Church in our country and world. The United States has never been a Christian nation. Who can honestly describe this country at any time as a Christian nation, when it has been built out of the ravages of colonization and slavery, on the backs of flesh and blood human beings? Such myopia is frightening, deadly amnesia. Today’s Church must be filled with a community of Truth-tellers. As the Psalmist attests, we “sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land,” from a place of exile.

Challenging, exciting, and perilous days are before us. And you know what? The Church is often at its best in times such as these. Amen.

Signs and Wonder(ing)s

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

John 2
January 17, 2016
Steve Hammond

At the end of the 20th chapter of John’s Gospel we read this. 30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.”

Theologians and Biblical scholars have noted seven signs in particular that they claim John is referring to. As Professor Merrill Tenney wrote…The author [of John’s Gospel] states explicitly that the purpose of his writing is expressed through these signs and that he has selected seven from a much larger number known to him as the core of the discussion of Jesus’ words and works. They may be understood as the divine endorsement of His authority (2:18, 23), or as illustrations of the varied nature of His word (4:54; 20:30). Or

The first of the seven signs to make the list, Jesus turning the water into wine is, to me, by far the oddest. (The walking on water thing comes in second for me, but that’s another sermon). And Jesus walking on water, unlike the story of the wedding at Cana, makes it into the other gospels. Turning the water into wine is not only the first sign of John’s seven, but the first thing Jesus in John’s Gospel does in his public ministry.

We talk about signs and wonders, but for me this is more signs and wonderings. I just don’t get it. Turning water into wine seems to me more like what they used to call a parlor trick. Parlor tricks, though, are meant to delight and amuse the other folk in the parlor. But most of the people at the wedding didn’t notice what was going on. Rather than attributing this as something miraculous Jesus had done, they complemented the groom for holding the best wine to last. The only people other than Jesus and his mother who knew what actually happened were the newly called disciples and the slaves who were working the banquet. Though I guess the groom must have known that wherever this wine came from, he didn’t have anything to do with it.

What did the disciples and slaves see? This is where it gets really fascinating. Remember where Jesus got the water? The water came from the big stone pots the people used for the ritual washings of their hands. These cleansing rituals were central to the way folk practiced their religion. You didn’t want to be touched by someone whose hands had not been thoroughly washed according to the religious rituals. If that happened, you would be rendered unclean. You would have to leave the party and could not reenter polite company until you went through all the regulations to make yourself clean again.

Jesus asked for the water that was used to wash off all the dirt and debris and, ultimately, the grime of any unrighteousness those hands had been involved in, and turned that water into wine. It would be like filling the bathtub with water and deciding to turn it into wine after you took a bath. I can’t imagine what the reactions of the slaves must have been. How could they have kept straight faces as they watched folk drink this bathwater wine? If those folk had realized they were drinking wine that had come from the water in those pots, they would have gone running from that place. The whole ideas of those jars of water was to ensure their ritual cleanness. But all that dirt and grime and disgusting stuff, instead of being washed off of them, they drank it. And they thought it was great, the finest wine there was. The talk in the kitchen must have been really interesting. And I imagine it gave Jesus a bit of a chuckle.

Such an odd story, this first sign that John says reveals Jesus to us. And speaking of wonderings, you might be wondering what any of this has to do with Martin Luther King, Jr. Stay with me, though, because there is something else rather odd going on in this story, or more precisely right after this story that might help us make that connection.

In the other three gospels, that story of Jesus cleansing the Temple and driving out the money changers takes place right after what we now call Palm Sunday, at the end of his life and ministry. But in John’s story it comes right at the beginning of his ministry. After he does that there is, of course, a big conflict with the religious establishment where Jesus argues that God is doing something greater than what the Temple is all about, and it is focused on Jesus. Then we get this very near the end of the second chapter of John, not the last verse, but more on that later. “During the time he was in Jerusalem, those days of the Passover Feast, many people noticed the signs he was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him.”

So this thing of Jesus cleansing the Temple is called a sign in John’s Gospel, but it isn’t counted as one of The Signs that the theologians and Biblical scholars talk about. That was curious, so I thought I had better look a bit closer at things. Maybe it’s a different Greek word. No, it’s the same word. What do the commentators say? What I found in the New Interpreter’s Commentary was pretty much the consensus. “In 2:11, the miracle at Cana is called a sign, but the Evangelist also notes that Jesus manifested his glory in this sign. It is the manifestation of glory, not simply the sign itself, that leads to the disciples’ faith. In 2:23 there is no indication that the people see the glory to which Jesus’ signs point.”

Really? I think Martin Luther King, Jr. found plenty of glory in Jesus as Jesus confronted the religious and political powers that oppressed so many who were poor and outsiders. I have no trouble arguing that Martin Luther King, Jr. would even say that that kind of sign is much more important than turning water into wine and delivers a more important testimony to who Jesus is.

Martin Luther King, Jr. encountered lots of opposition from the church during his own life and ministry. And it just wasn’t white churches. There were plenty of Black churches, too, especially in the beginning, who thought he should be preaching more about Jesus turning water into wine than overturning the tables in the Temple. Just deal with the spiritual stuff the real signs of who Jesus is, not all the political stuff that’s just going to get everybody upset.

He couldn’t do that, though. Perhaps he was like the writer of John’s Gospel who saw lots of signs, so many they couldn’t all be written down. And when they allowed Rev. King to say that challenging racism and discrimination might be something we could learn from all those signs, they wanted him to stop there. That stuff about war and poverty was taking it too far. What did following Jesus have to do with any of that?

That’s the choice that’s always there for us. Let’s just notice the signs we are looking for or the ones that make us more comfortable. Some want all the miracles, water into wine stuff. Those are the real signs. Some just want the cleaning out the Temple and keep away from all that miracle stuff. But maybe that’s why John had both of these signs at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. Every year I lament the way people have tended to erase the religious roots of Rev. King’s activism. They can’t see what his belief and trust in Jesus had to do with any of that. But it was core to him.

I mentioned that there was still another verse to look at in the second chapter of John’s gospel. Remember how we read about the people seeing the signs and entrusting themselves to Jesus. Here is what comes next. “But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them.” Again, this is all so odd. You would think that Jesus was glad to have all these followers. It seems like this story should have a more upbeat ending. There are all these signs that are pointing out that Jesus has come to us from God. People are seeing those signs and trusting their lives to him. Jesus, though, is real skeptical.

If you look at the history of the church maybe that skepticism is well placed. But maybe it is as simple as Jesus is also looking for signs. We can say all we want about how much we love Jesus, but is it all water into wine stuff? But I think there were some pretty good signs from Martin Luther King, Jr. that there are folk who do get what Jesus is about.

Today’s story was from the Lectionary. It isn’t, obviously, a story that you quickly relate to Rev. King. But, hopefully, I’ve at least gotten us thinking about the story and Dr. King. Another Lectionary passage for this week is from 1 Corinthians 12. We aren’t going to read that today, but it’s all about the different gifts we bring to what the Apostle Paul calls the Body of Christ. What he means by that is how the church makes Jesus known in this world, how we become the feet, the hands, the heart, the presence of Jesus in our world. That letter from a Birmingham jail to the church leaders in Birmingham was Rev. King’s plea for the church to be the body of Christ. He was looking for signs that were pretty hard to find. And it seems to me that since we are the Body of Christ, that there need to be signs from us. Signs that point to the power of God at work in us. Signs that are more than parlor tricks, but signs that reveal the glory of Jesus Christ. More signs than anybody could ever write about.

Reflections on the 100th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the building where Peace Community Church meets

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

The cornerstone for our building was laid on January 1, 1916. We celebrated that event this week at PCC. Kristen Bredenbeck Mayer shared some thoughts during worship and other folk sent some of their reflections about the place of this building in the life of our church. This year is also the 150th anniversary of when the congregation was founded. Throughout the year we will be remembering and celebrating both of these anniversaries.

Anniversary Memories by Kristen Bredenbeck Mayer

When I think of my memories of this building I do not immediately think of the building—at least not the physical building. I certainly could. I could marvel at all the care and love people show this place—a testament to the sacredness of place. I remember people cleaning, organizing, painting, putting in new countertops, sealing the coal room roof…..and most recently cleaning out the balcony!

What I remember most, though, is not the building but what happens here. When Steve first asked the question: “What are our memories of the building?” three experiences came to mind.The first remembrance was my first visit here for Sunday Worship. Caleb was 3 years old. I can remember sitting right over there and just soaking up the music, the words, the place…. The word that comes to mind is authentic. I experienced an authentic worship where people could be themselves. You’ve heard it said how people wear masks as they go about their lives—even in churches. But what I felt on that first Sunday was that there were no masks here. I could be myself

The second memory is when we opened our church to the community right after the 9/11 attacks. I remember just looking around and seeing people from all parts of the community come together to morn, to find solace, to search for hope.. .. .. This reminds me that PCC is a gathering place for the community, where everyone is welcome—a place where people know we care about peace and justice.

The third experience happens occasionally. It happened the other week. I was sitting in church, girding myself for the week ahead—enjoying this little time apart from what is going on in my life
and I hear a siren. Our church is a sidewalk church—we sit right upon the sidewalk –we don’t have a large green lawn separating our building from the street. We can hear the police cars, the sirens, the ambulances—the sounds of life happening. When I hear an ambulance, my prayers turn to the noises outside. Every time this happens it strikes me that this is how is should be—the church is not removed from the world, from the sirens and ambulances, but amongst the world, as a witness to a better way and as a community of people who happen to gather in this sacred space seeking to make an impact by our worship, by our lives, by our actions in the world outside these walls.

From Julie Hanson Reiswig (OC ‘82)
When I imagine the “First Baptist Church” building, I think foremost of community.

Jeff rushed me to church one spring evening in 1981 to get to Family Meal in the church basement. I couldn’t understand why he was so keen on getting there in a hurry, until we arrived to find a surprise (for me) wedding shower! Church members and students had conspired to throw us a party before we married that summer. One of our gifts was a green and white flowered metal recipe box that I still cherish – remember when we used to write recipes on index cards?? As I flip through the cards now, I can see the faces of some of our church mothers: Wilma McDole, Mary Caroniti, Enid Buckland, Juanita Brown… The first card, titled “Lesson for a Bride” greets me every time I open the box. It’s a typewritten poem from Mae Chesbro:

There was a young bride
Who wanted to please
She used lots of wine
And very rare cheese;
She served rattlesnake meat
And octopus stew;
She was always searching
For something quite new.
Her spouse ate and drank
Right down to the dregs,
Then ran off with a gal
Who cooked ham and eggs!

The recipes that fill the box are like little love notes from a congregation that held us in our new relationship, and I like to think of it as a symbol of the glue that has held us together for 34 years! That and the love and care from Steve and Mary, our ADULT role models who were ten years older. Steve’s recipe contribution was for “Pretty Nutritious Oatmeal Cookies”, a handwritten card with a final instruction of “Then take some to your pastor.”

Good community-building advice!

From Julie Reuning-Scherer (OC ‘92)
So much of my experience of FBC/Peace Church had nothing to do with the building. Of course it was the EXCO Class, small group discussions, worship, prayers from the congregation, times at the Hammond house, retreats. So I will save my stories for the 150th Congregational Anniversary!

Debbie Hughes, ABCRGR pastor:
In 1866, Lucy Read Anthony bought the house at 17 Madison [in Rochester, NY] that would be the homebase for Susan B. Anthony and Mary S. Anthony, two of her daughters, for the rest of their lives. Of course, there were significant connections between the reformers of Oberlin, OH, and Rochester, NY. Congratulations on this 150th and Centennial Anniversary years!

Caite Weymann McKinney (OC ‘82)
That organ is gorgeous! Wasn’t there in my time, though…that was a dim and dingy choir lot.

Rachel Ramirez-Hammond (pastors’ daughter)
Sooo many memories in that basement!!!!

Jane Millikan (OC ‘82)
I remember doing nursery for Women’s Study Group and trying to keep Grace from falling asleep so she would nap at home. I remember the Sunday School kids giving Mary Meadows a surprise birthday party in the basement. It was my job to get her there while keeping it secret.

Carrie Broadwell Tkach (OC ‘06)
I have a wonderful picture of my bridesmaids and me getting dressed for the wedding in the church basement, surrounded by the Ark and other kid paraphernalia. The two owls on the wall looked utterly shocked by what was happening in their domain.

Anna Ernst (OC ‘10) a bit late!! Kept meaning to do this and forgetting!
PCC was a safe haven for me during college. Whenever I got too overwhelmed with homework or college romance or whatever, PCC was where I could come and just be myself and yet STILL feel encouraged in that call to bring about the good and just kingdom of God on earth. If it weren’t for Steve Hammond, I might not have applied to Lutheran Volunteer Corps and wouldn’t have begun going down the path toward ordained ministry that I am on right now. Mary Hammond’s cookie bakes and comforting walks and words of prayer nourished me as well, particularly during tough times such as when my grandfather died in the spring of 2009.

One specific happy memory I have at PCC is sleeping in Noah’s ark in the nursery during a lock-in. Linden Cady ’09 and Ethan Draeger ’09 were there too. It was folks like Al Carroll ’58 and Judy Riggle and many more who inspired me with their constant presence at weekly peace vigils and persistence in matters such as developing the Peace and Conflict Studies academic program at Oberlin.

Other happy more recent memories include coming back to Oberlin post-graduation for Heather Kirkconnell’s (OC ‘11) senior organ recital in the sanctuary, and giving a message in the same sanctuary at her joyful wedding to Jacob Farnsworth in the summer of 2014.

My family and I are forever grateful for the safe haven and inspirational, encouraging community that PCC was and is. PCC scattered I may now be, but PCC is always in my heart.

Glenn Loafmann:
Some memorable moments in no particular order.

1.) I have a picture I can’t find of a worship service downstairs, where Roger is helping Jonathan follow along in the hymnal.

2.) Personal memorable moment: I think June 24 2012 may be the best sermon I ever preached. It satisfied me the most, anyway. Thanks for letting me do that, and thanks especially to Mary Meadows for the first meeting/planning session, which got me started on a new track for approaching the preparation of the sermon (and she had a different lectionary, which gave me the text I used – the baptism of John story).

3.) Yvonne

4.) Memorable moment inside the church outside the church: the “disfellowship” meeting in Norwalk, when/where I first perceived/understood how very powerful consensus decision-making is.

This is from LeDayne Polaski on behalf of the staff and board of BPFNA-Bautista por la Paz
To The Congregation of Peace Community Church:

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and your sister peace–loving, justice-seeking congregations throughout the continent, I send you greetings as you celebrate 100 years of being rooted in one place.

I celebrate with you not just because you’ve been able to stay in one spot (though I could argue that in our rootless society, that is impressive in itself) – but because you have remained rooted in and responsive to that place even as it has grown and changed over time. That is well worth celebrating!

In my mind’s eye, I can see many people coming in those doors. I see them finding a faith they thought they had lost, finding a welcome they had never known, finding a cause worth fighting for, finding support and love through hard times, finding a place to celebrate their joys, finding a group that will be with them through their failures and their successes – finding community again and again and again. I think too of members of the community who would never describe themselves as people of faith coming in those doors and being surprised to find an unexpected group of Christians – Christians who are thinking, loving, welcoming, questioning. I think of people coming to find a little help to make it through and being touched by the loving way in which their needs were met. When I think of all those hundreds of people coming through those doors for 100 years and of all they found inside and all they took with them when they walked back out, I am in awe. I hope you are too!

May your celebration of this milestone be rich and full, brimming with a strong sense of God’s continued presence, strength, and grace. May your journey forward be blessed with a lasting sense of God’s calling through joy and challenge, hope and pain. May God be real for you all in days of triumph, days of struggle, and all the ordinary days in between. Through it all, may you serve as bearers of peace – to one another and to our aching world.

Know that we share your celebration and joy – as we will share your path forward as together we seek to follow the Prince of Peace.

Peace and Grace,

This is from Judy Riggle

Of more than 14 years, I value more than the following:

The precious gift others have made sharing their life struggles and celebrations, making it possible to support them in meaningful ways

Inspiration for finding new ways to serve God

Seeing the power of consensus in action

Observing the powerful influence Steve and Mary have had on a succession of college students

The comfort in being able to to share the struggles and celebrations of our lives and those of our dear ones

The hugs, and place to celebrate son Troy’s life after he committed suicide

The place to make new close Family