1. This Week in Worship: October 13–19, 2017

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    Here’s what’s happening in worship this week. Click on “more” for details about this week’s Church School classes.

    Worship Services

    Journey Worship | Sunday, at 8:45 am
    An interactive, energetic service for those seeking a fresh encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our theme this month is Tolerance. Pastor Randy will preach from James 3:1–13.

    Sanctuary Worship | Sunday, at 11 am
    Our largest service, with music from the Chancel Choir and an organ prelude prior to the service. Pastor Randy will preach from James 3:13–18, and his sermon will be titled “Living the Good Life.” The Renaissance City Choir will join us as our special musical guests as we celebrate Full Inclusion Sunday.

    Taizé Prayer Service | Wednesday, at 7 pm
    Led by the Rev. Mary Lynn Callahan, our hour-long Taizé service includes sung prayers; simple, beautiful music; a time of silence; spoken and silent prayers; and an opportunity for individual prayer and anointing. Stay afterward for Contemplative Prayer. If you’re unable to participate in person, join our live stream on your computer or mobile device.

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  2. Pastoral Message: October 2017

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    It is worth remembering that most of the things that rule our lives are things we cannot see. Scientists remind us that we are surrounded by magnetic fields, electric currents, radio waves, and the universal force of gravity, which are invisible yet omnipresent in this world. Psychologists point out that interior thoughts, passions, tastes, moods, morals, and decision-making processes also do their work invisibly within our human minds and souls. In so many ways, the invisible world governs the visible world like a shadow government, hidden out of sight within each of us individually and all of us collectively.

    Most unseen forces do their work in the present moment. Gravity causes the apple to fall right now. Electromagnetic waves move through us each moment, just as our minds constantly process ideas, thoughts, and emotions in real time. But it is worth noting that some invisible things are focused on the future. And the most important one in this category is the invisible power of hope.

    Hebrews 11:1 famously defines faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hope is a key component of faith. It is an assurance and conviction, a power and energy active within us as we look toward the horizon of what is yet to come. Hope energizes us now by allowing us to envision how things ought to be: if not right now, then in the immediate future. It is the invisible image of what we hope for our family and all of God’s creation—which even though unseen, gives us the clear idea of what needs to be done today for the sake of tomorrow.

    Christian hope is a powerful force. It is the spirit behind our upcoming mission-oriented worship services during the month of October. We hope for an end to racism, a spirit of reconciliation and welcome for people exiting the criminal justice system, legal safeguards for children and LGBTQ people of all ages, and a renewed commitment to being an inclusive society able to navigate the needs of citizens and immigrants alike. Our hopes allow us to compare what is against what should be, ever guided by the example of Christ and the leading of the Holy Spirit. And as scripture reassures us, faith, hope, and love all abide, therefore we trust the Lord as we walk by faith, if not by sight.

    Unseen powers are at work in your life. In your moments of prayer and quiet reflection, open yourself to the invisible, grace-filled activity of God. As you picture what you wish for yourself and those you love, shape your actions today around the mental image Christ has given you of what is to come. Let everything be done in a spirit of hope. For although it may be invisible, it is one of the strongest forces this world has ever seen!

  3. This Week in Worship: October 6–12, 2017

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    Here’s what’s happening in worship this week. Click on “more” for details about this week’s Church School classes.

    Worship Services

    Journey Worship | Sunday, at 8:45 am
    An interactive, energetic service for those seeking a fresh encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our theme this month is Tolerance. Pastor Patrice will preach from Acts 16:16–34.

    Sanctuary Worship | Sunday, at 11 am
    Our largest service, with music from the Chancel Choir and an organ prelude prior to the service. Pastor Randy will preach from Matthew 21:23–32, and his sermon will be titled “No More Mixed Messages.”

    Taizé Prayer Service | Wednesday, at 7 pm
    Led by the Rev. Mary Lynn Callahan, our hour-long Taizé service includes sung prayers; simple, beautiful music; a time of silence; spoken and silent prayers; and an opportunity for individual prayer and anointing. Stay afterward for Contemplative Prayer. If you’re unable to participate in person, join our live stream on your computer or mobile device.

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  4. This Week in Worship: September 29–October 5, 2017

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    Here’s what’s happening in worship this week. Click on “more” for details about this week’s Church School classes.

    Worship Services

    Journey Worship | Sunday, at 8:45 am
    An interactive, energetic service for those seeking a fresh encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our theme this month is Tolerance. Pastor Heather will preach from Galatians 3:23–29.

    Sanctuary Worship | Sunday, at 11 am
    Our largest service, with music from the Chancel Choir and an organ prelude prior to the service. The Rev. Dr. David Esterline will preach from Genesis 1:27,31; Revelation 7:9–12, and his sermon will be titled “Made in the Image of God.” We also will celebrate Communion on this World Communion Sunday, and the Peace and Global Witness Offering will be received, which supports local, mid-council, and global peacemaking efforts—every dollar is utilized to realize God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.

    Taizé Prayer Service | Wednesday, at 7 pm
    Led by the Rev. Mary Lynn Callahan, our hour-long Taizé service includes sung prayers; simple, beautiful music; a time of silence; spoken and silent prayers; and an opportunity for individual prayer and anointing. Stay afterward for Contemplative Prayer. If you’re unable to participate in person, join our live stream on your computer or mobile device.

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  5. This Week in Worship: September 22–28, 2017

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    Here’s what’s happening in worship this week.

    Worship Services

    Journey Worship | Sunday, at 8:45 am
    An interactive, energetic service for those seeking a fresh encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our theme this month is Convergence. Pastor Randy will preach from Matthew 20:1–16.

    Sanctuary Worship | Sunday, at 11 am
    Our largest service, with music from the Chancel Choir and an organ prelude prior to the service. Pastor Heather will preach from Exodus 16:2–15, and her sermon will be titled, “The Art of Complaining.”

    Taizé Prayer Service | Wednesday, at 7 pm
    Led by the Rev. Mary Lynn Callahan, our hour-long Taizé service includes sung prayers; simple, beautiful music; a time of silence; spoken and silent prayers; and an opportunity for individual prayer and anointing. Stay afterward for Contemplative Prayer. If you’re unable to participate in person, join our live stream on your computer or mobile device.

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  6. This Week in Worship: September 15–21, 2017

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    Here’s what’s happening in worship this week.

    Worship Services

    Journey Worship | Sunday, at 8:45 am
    An interactive, energetic service for those seeking a fresh encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our theme this month is Convergence. Pastor Heather will preach from Genesis 32:22–32.

    Sanctuary Worship | Sunday, at 11 am
    Our largest service, with music from the Chancel Choir and an organ prelude prior to the service. Pastor Randy will preach from Romans 14:1–12, and his sermon will be titled “Judging Judgments.” Consider bringing a friend as we celebrate Visitors’ Sunday. A sign language interpreter will be present.

    Taizé Prayer Service | Wednesday, at 7 pm
    Led by the Rev. Mary Lynn Callahan, our hour-long Taizé service includes sung prayers; simple, beautiful music; a time of silence; spoken and silent prayers; and an opportunity for individual prayer and anointing. Stay afterward for Contemplative Prayer. If you’re unable to participate in person, join our live stream on your computer or mobile device.

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  7. Karl Jacob Sellner Singer-Songwriter Scholarship

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    The Karl Jacob Sellner Singer-Songwriter Scholarship provides one teen singer-songwriter from the Pittsburgh area private music instruction in voice and guitar; the opportunity to develop songs, collaborate with our house band; record and perform. It honors the memory of Karl Jacob Sellner and ensures that his  love of music will live on through the beautiful voices and songs created by Hope Academy students for many years to come.

    Here is a link to an online application for the Karl Sellner Singer-Songwriter Scholarship. The deadline is October 15, 2017.

    Please join us for the Karl Sellner Memorial Benefit Concert on SUN Sept 24 from 5 to 8 pm.

    ABOUT KARL JACOB SELLNER
    From an early age, Karl Jacob Sellner was simply captivated by his grandfather John Alden’s music, foreshadowing his life-long love of the performing arts.  This passion was nurtured by his family and by his many experiences as a student of Hope Academy. As a teen and young adult, Karl became an accomplished guitar player and lyricist.  As with his love of music, Karl found the other things he cared about early in life, including his wife Shelby and his calling to join the US Army to serve, like his grandfather had during WWII.  Like so many gifted musicians before him, Karl’s light was also shadowed by bi-polar disorder. On, September 11, 2016 Karl’s pain was too much and he ended his life.  The support of the Hope Academy community was treasured by his parents and 6 siblings during this time of grief and together they channeled this sadness into the Karl Jacob Sellner Memorial Fund for Hope Academy.  This fund honors his memory and ensures that his  love of music will live on through the beautiful voices, playing of various instruments, dance and acting of children for many years to come.

  8. This Week in Worship: September 8–14, 2017

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    Here’s what’s happening in worship this week. This Sunday, September 10, the Christian Education Committee also invites you to a light breakfast in the McKelvy Room, beginning at 9:30 am, as we celebrate Rally Day.

    Worship Services

    Journey Worship | Sunday, at 8:45 am
    An interactive, energetic service for those seeking a fresh encounter with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our theme this month is Convergence. Pastor Patrice will preach from Genesis 7:1–16.

    Sanctuary Worship | Sunday, at 11 am
    Our largest service, with music from the Chancel Choir and an organ prelude prior to the service. Pastor Randy will preach from Matthew 18:15–22, and his sermon will be titled “Relentless Reconciliation.”

    Taizé Prayer Service | Wednesday, at 7 pm
    Led by the Rev. Mary Lynn Callahan, our hour-long Taizé service includes sung prayers; simple, beautiful music; a time of silence; spoken and silent prayers; and an opportunity for individual prayer and anointing. Stay afterward for Contemplative Prayer. If you’re unable to participate in person, join our live stream on your computer or mobile device.

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  9. Mission Malawi

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    By the Rev. Patrice Fowler-Searcy

    A delegation of eight from the Pittsburgh Presbytery Malawi Partnership, including me, departed from Dulles Airport in D.C. on July 11. A day later, we met up at Addis Ababa Airport in Ethiopia to continue our journey with Abusa (Pastor) Joseph and Elder Ngang from South Sudan. Arriving in Chileka Airport in Malawi on July 12, we were met with singing and dancing, as well as welcoming arms by our brothers and sisters from various CCAP churches—but most prominently by members of ELPC’s sister church, Balaka CCAP! My bags were whisked away, flowers were thrust into my hands, and thus began my two weeks in Malawi.

    The beauty and majesty of Malawi is only eclipsed by the love, faithfulness, and hospitality of the people and specifically the members of Balaka CCAP. At first, the members of the congregation didn’t quite know what to make of me. But after breaking bread, worshiping together, traveling to a prayer house in the “country,” attending weekly worship at the Railway Zone, and worshiping with the older women of Mvano on Saturday, I felt and was treated like a long-lost daughter who had returned home. The warm hospitality I received in the homes of the three families where I stayed—as well as those who opened their homes and hosted dinners and gatherings—was beyond compare.

    I also witnessed the poverty and need of many traveling to a village close to the border Mozambique with staff from the Sue Ryder Foundation. We traveled there to check on and administer medication to people who suffer from asthma, cerebral palsy, and other physical disabilities. I was saddened and alarmed as the physical therapist on the team tried to manipulate the arms and legs of a four-year-old child—no larger than the average American two-year-old—thinking she suffered from a form of physical disability, only to realize she was unable to sit or stand on her own as a result of severe malnutrition. My heart broke.

    There is so much to share, but time and space didn’t allow. However, I will share that the people of Malawi are filled with the Spirit of God, they worship and are joyful in spite of their difficulties, and they welcome strangers and missionaries with open arms. God is truly at work in that country where so many have so little.

    I learned a lot from them in my two weeks there, and pray that the lessons I learned will continue to renew and transform me and my faith daily. Ambuye alemekezeke! Praise be to you, God!

  10. Pastoral Message: September 2017

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    At a recent family gathering, I witnessed a seven year old grandson sidle up to his grandmother and ask, as nonchalantly as is possible for a seven year old, “Nana, how old do you think you’ll be when you die?” Tucked around that question were obviously a host of other questions, but for the moment something was asked that appeared only to request a straightforward, numerical answer. The grandmother, though, wisely replied, “Oh, my dear, I hope I will be a very old person before my body grows tired and I finally die.” Some negotiations then followed her answer (“Like maybe 100?” “Well, sometimes living is very hard when you’re 100 years old. But a lot older than now.”) and then the boy ran off. At the very least, he was reassured that someone he loved wasn’t leaving or dying or abandoning him any time soon.

    Most questions are attempts to get answers to other questions left unspoken. “How old will you be when you die?” is an attempt to understand what it means to grow old and die, and what it means to live today if tomorrow those we love are no longer with us. A seven-year old boy may not be able to articulate a fear of being abandoned by loved ones or put into words an existential dread of dying. So he asks about things he does understand—numbers, simple math, today’s age minus a future terminal age—in order to get an answer to the secondary question of “how long will we be together?”

    Questions about God and Christian faith are quite similar to my grand-nephew’s question posed to his grandmother. People will ask, “Who is God?” and “How does Jesus answer prayers?” and their questions appear to request fairly straightforward, descriptive answers. But there are always secondary questions lurking nearby, hoping to be answered at the same time. For example, secondary faith questions could be “Is the world trustworthy?” or “Do things happen blindly or is there an order to the universe?” That is why, instead of talking about God, Jesus, or prayers, a wise response is to try and address some of the unspoken, secondary questions. You can ask the questioner, “Tell me what you believe in, what you trust, what comforts you when you’re afraid or facing a hard decision.” The responses to those questions are like open doors that lead to deeper conversations, where eventually things like God and Jesus and eternity and love can be discussed together.

    Jesus was regularly asked “who are you?” to which he seldom, if ever, gave a direct answer. Instead, he responded by healing those who were wounded or telling a parable about the kingdom of God. Through those secondary responses, disciples then and now come to understand the answer to the primary questions. That is why we still study those responses and read those parables, even as we pray and worship and call out to the God who is wondrous, loving, eternal and mysterious.

    A new season is now beginning at ELPC. The coming weeks will have Christian Education classes for all ages, ministry information tables at the Church Life Sampler, and fellowship opportunities at the picnic. All of these are great opportunities for you to reach out and invite others to join with us. And all of them are prime opportunities to talk about secondary questions—deeper questions about faith, love, trust and grace. That’s the important stuff on people’s minds—maybe yours as well. So, come join us!

    –Randy Bush