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A Lenten Journey

When you start to climb a mountain, you fill your pack with as much water and food as you can carry, you add a few essentials and set off on your adventure. As the hike progresses you go through different phases—excitement, curiosity, determination, regret, despair, hopefulness, exhaustion, resolve, and finally exuberance. When you complete your hike your pack is almost empty and notably lighter than at the beginning of the day.  Lent is like this kind of journey, winding and long and the road ahead is not always clear. But when you go through it and stick with it—all your confessions, prayers, sacrifices, and acts of service mean that you will arrive at Easter morning with a much lighter pack than when you started.  Less guilt ridden, less burdened by worries, less doubtful about your faith, and ready for surprise, ready for joy, ready for God. This is the goal for the Christian progressing from Ash Wednesday to Easter morning. 

Blessings to you on your Lenten journey.


A Lenten Prayer

A Lenten Prayer

Excuse our poor prayers Lord, for our throats are dry.
Our lives are a mix of sin and righteousness.
We follow you, but our hearts are broken–distracted by the cares of the world.
We hear your good news, and rejoice for a moment, but your promises seem so far away.
And yet, despite the seeming distance, we wait. We wait on the coming of our Lord.
May it be so.


“You are dust, and to dust you shall return…” – Genesis 3:19

On Ash Wednesday, GPC pastors gave “Ashes to Go” outside the church, with a simple sign, and a bowl of ashes. When people came by to receive ashes, we simply made the ashen sign on their foreheads, and reminded them that they ‘came from dust, and to dust they will return.’
For us pastors, to tell friend and stranger alike about their mortality and sin; and for people to go out of their way (even stopping their cars on the side of the road) to be told a message that few want to tell—that we are broken, and we are mortal, seems like an odd business to be in and an odd thing to want to receive.

Perhaps, though, there is a freedom in proclaiming our limits and failures, and wearing it as a badge on our heads. A freedom from the false notion that if we’re just a little more perfect, we’ll be happy and worthy. Instead, we find in the ashes of Lent our need to receive God’s grace over and over again, and the freedom to cease striving to be perfect, and instead strive to be faithful. And that is a gift that’s worth going out of your way for on a cold Wednesday in early March.


The Start of Lent

T.S. Eliot’s poem Ash Wednesday begins:

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn

Eliot wrestles with the process of conversion – turning towards God. He wrestles with what that turning means and entails and requires. Such are the annual wrestling’s of Lent – the season of conversion in preparation for the coming season of growth and resurrection. We have but a few short days before Lent begins and then the forty days are upon us. Like our musings ahead of the new year, now is our time to prepare for the turning. On Wednesday, you will be invited to begin Lent soberly and prayerfully. One of my favorite lines from Eliot’s poem: “Teach us to care and not to care.”  Maybe Lent is a time when we can try to care about matters of meaning and faith and compassion.  Maybe Lent is a time when we can strive to not care about matters of vanity and selfishness and folly. Let us begin now to prepare – prepare for the season – prepare for the turning – and prepare for the hope, which eventually will come.

Blessings to you and those you love,


Musical Journey through “Sent.”

On Sunday, our chronological exploration of sacred music will move us into the “Romantic” period of music. We’ll spend three Sundays, in France, Germany and England, respectively. One of the most important factors was the rise of individualism as composers sought to express something unique to their experience of the world—and not merely a well-executed piece of musical craftsmanship fitting into a Classical form. It’s an instinct I think we can recognize today, the desire to be heard, to say something unique and make an impact on the world. Most of the musical expressions of this period had their greatest manifestation on the concert stage, as the increasing length and size of the orchestras called on to play this music made its use impractical within the worship services. Nevertheless, there are great examples of musical Romanticism written for the church that beautifully express the seeking out of the divine.

There is something wonderful about being able to look back at art and literature and see the striving, the creativity, and the development of thought and craftsmanship. What a joy to join in with the generations of our fellow humans as we seek to give thanks to God for his beautiful presence in the world.


Theological Imagination

One of my goals this year is to help expand the “theological imagination” of the congregation. So far this includes redesigning the 3rd floor as a comprehensive children’s ministry facility; finding creative ways of using the worship service to educate and deepen our faith; and focusing the spring Christian Leadership Intensive on articulating theological reasons for what we do. In all of this, we will be called to get out of our social and theological comfort zones. Whether that is picking up the Bible for the first time or starting up a conversation with someone who is different from you, this “stretching” can take many forms. Relying on God, we are called to seek creative solutions to our problems, and to seek out new relationships and embrace change, confident that Christ our Rock will carry us through.  Our God is a God who “makes a way out of no way.” And Christ calls us to do the same. So as we finish our United. series and look forward to Sent., let us take this week to pause, breathe, and prepare ourselves for the glorious and challenging work God is calling us to.

Pastor Rachel

United in Christ

As you’re reading this, I am somewhere in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on my annual mountaineering trip. This is always a highlight of my year, and I know that I’ve mentioned it more than once in conversation! In fact, hiking and mountaineering are favorite pastimes for my wife and I. Whether in the cold of northern New England or the heat of the Grand Canyon. For both of us, being in the mountains is not just a getaway, but a time and place of renewal and rest.

Because of this, one of my favorite authors is John Muir. The Scottish son of a Presbyterian minister, he found his way out west and was an early prophet of the value of wild places and the outdoors. He was even instrumental in beginning the National Park system! While his theology wasn’t strictly orthodox Presbyterianism, he nonetheless brought a deep sense of the sacred to nature.

As we finish up our “United.” series, I am reminded of a favorite quote of his: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” In nature, Muir encountered the mutual intertwining of all things. In scripture and in our experiences, we likewise are reminded that all people and all creation is bound together, indivisibly, as one.

So let that be our unity, not that we are forced to “make nice” with others out of obligation, but because we are reminded that not one of us is truly able to separate ourselves from one another, but in fact we need each other, as the Body of Christ.


Our Annual Review

It is that time of year again when every company is sending out their year-end annual reports and shareholder information. Some of these present strong results and optimistic futures. Some of them use coded language for anxiety and uncertain futures. All of them try to project how things will go in the year ahead and offer a vision for the work they are undertaking. It feels strangely familiar as we send out our annual report and call the church together for its 239th annual meeting this Sunday.

This gathering is an opportunity to review our work and a chance to look ahead but more importantly it is a chance to give thanks to God. The Psalmist writes, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” We firmly believe that any growth or fruitful ministry we have done in the last year has come because of God’s blessing. We labor for the sake of the kingdom and give praise to God when those labors appear to not be in vain. Our annual report reflects much labor and good works done in the name of God’s Son. We have had a remarkable year of growth, vision, and faithful ministry. Praise be to God!

It is a true honor and privilege to serve this congregation – to join together with you to build God’s house. Thank you for being a part of the body of Christ here in this place.



Hope for Us All

This Sunday, we’ll read 1 Corinthians 13:11, the most famous of wedding versus, which reads:
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Far be it from me to disagree with the Holy Book, but I must have missed the road sign along my life’s journey that directed me to the bin where I put away my “childish things”—and I don’t think I’m the only one who did.

On Sunday, during our journey through musical history, we’ll experience the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In the 1984 Oscar winning film Amadeus, Mozart is portrayed as a troubled, immature, sometimes even obscene genius. While the movie takes liberties, as movies do, his personal letters, full at times with cringe-worthy language and bathroom humor, show some truth in this portrayal. There is a kind of divine perfection in his compositions that leaves no doubt about his extraordinary gifts, and at the same time, he was very human.

All of us have our goodness and our badness woven into the whole that is us; our impurities mixed freely with our purity. Thankfully, miraculously even, God is more than capable of distilling something beautiful from the mess that is us. It happened for Mozart so there is hope for me, there is hope for you.


A Pastoral Note During the Federal Government Shutdown

Grace and Peace,

We know that many of you in our congregation are faithful public servants, contract workers, and others who have dedicated your lives in service to your country. We understand that the extended partial shutdown has put undue stress on people who are forced to stay at home, or who continue to serve our country without pay.

We want to thank our federal employees for their commitment to serve the people of this country with enthusiasm, creativity, and hard work. We also want to be of service to you during this moment of uncertainty, particularly for those who are furloughed.

Beginning Wednesday, January 23 at 10 a.m., and Wednesdays for the duration of the shutdown, all are welcome to join the pastors for a weekly Bible study with coffee, pastries, and prayer at the church. This will be a way to put your time to good use, and to hold one another and our country in prayer.

We also know that many are facing stress, anxiety, and financial difficulties.Your pastors always have an open door for counseling. We also ask that you reach out if you are facing acute financial difficulty. As with all pastoral concerns, your needs will be kept confidential.

Finally, if you are just looking to make good use of your time off, we have plenty of volunteer and service work for you! Just give us a call.

Together, we are committed to serving our region, and we pray for an end to this shutdown through compassion, compromise, and unity. Join us as we unite in prayer to God.

Lord, you are sovereign over all nations and people, guiding our steps and deliberations for your glory, and for the service of your people. We pray that a spirit of wisdom would come upon those in power, and that your hand would guide them for a just and quick end to this shutdown. We pray especially for those who work with the federal government who are directly affected – help us to join together to aid those in need. We also lift up all those whose futures seem uncertain because of this impasse, and we pray that the end of this shutdown might be a beginning for reconciliation. We pray these things not by our own power, but by the power of your Spirit that dwells with and within us. Amen.


Pastors Camille, Rachel, and Chris