Pastor and Session Update

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”

The above are the words of the Apostle Paul written to the church in Philippi in the first century A.D. (Phil. 1:3).

I’m borrowing and applying them as a message from me to you. I really do thank my God in all my remembrance of you! And for the time being, I have to settle (for the most part) for “remembering,” since it’s been weeks since I’ve actually seen most of you in person. But rest assured. I’m confident of the day when we’ll be able to say, along with the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said to me, `Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Psalm 122:1). Oh what a day that will be! Amen??

Until then…

The Session held a called meeting by teleconference this past Wednesday evening. We wanted you to know what was discussed and decided. The following are a list of actions taken. (Most of what you read below in the bullet point section was taken directly from the minutes of our meeting.)

  • Approved continuing to suspend all regular, in-person church activities, including Pioneer Clubs, Sunday School, Men’s Bible Study, Worship team practice, and Home Fellowship Groups, committee events and meetings, at least through April 30, and potentially beyond, in response to the health emergency in the community.
  • Approved conducting Adult Bible teaching, Home Fellowships Groups, and Youth Group in an online format through Zoom, pending instructor availability; additionally, Sunday Worship services will continue to be streamed online through 04/30, and potentially beyond, in response to the health emergency in the community.
  • Approved calling for a congregational-wide day of prayer and fasting to occur on Saturday, April 11, 2020, in response to the worldwide crisis.
  • Note: Teaching Elders Waltermyer and Amaismeier will continue to provide weekday video devotionals via the church’s YouTube channel.
  • Note: The Session will continue making it a point to communicate with shepherding groups over the next several weeks.

The Session and Board of Deacons plan to hold a joint teleconference meeting on Wednesday evening, April 15.

Details regarding the Day of Prayer will be sent out to the congregation from Pastor Phil.

Sadly, we will not be holding our Easter Sunrise Service this year. However, the live streamed service on Easter Sunday will feature hymns and a message focusing on our Savior’s glorious resurrection.
You are encouraged to call our elders and/or deacons if you have a particular need, would like prayer, want to share about a need someone else you know has, or if you just need to talk.

The Apostle Paul knew what is what like to be socially distant from the church in Thessalonica. In Paul’s first letter to that congregation, he expressed his concern over how the believers were doing, since he had been separated from them for such a long time. When he finally got news (Internet connections were quite slow then!), he wrote to them. In the following passage (I Thess. 3:6-10), I have italicized and bolded the portions I can especially identify with:

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you— for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

We all long to see one another again. Let’s uphold one another in prayer, especially that by God’s grace, we would stand fast in the Lord.

Grace and peace to you all!

Pastor Don

March 20 Update from Session on COVID-19 and WPCA

Click here for Updated Statement from WPCA Session (April 4)

The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace,
Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

It seems like peace would be the last thing we’d all be experiencing right now. And certainly, the Bible isn’t talking about having our head in the sand, nor being oblivious to the suffering all around; God is sympathetic with our apprehensions and fears of the unknown.

However, there is a correlation between trusting in the Lord and our state of mind. Remember, what we read in Isaiah above is a promise from God. And He always keeps His promises.

The elders of WPCA struggle just like you do with experiencing any level of peace at this time. That being said, we strive to trust God, and we are attempting to be instruments of Christ’s peace to you, His flock, during this time of trial.

To that end, the Session met Wednesday evening (March 18) for two hours (remotely, via teleconference) and have decided the following.

  1. Sunday worship services will be conducted and offered online only for 3/22 and 3/29 (and possibly beyond, depending on the state of the present health emergency). The service will be live-streamed at 10:30 a.m. both Sundays and also available for viewing later. (More details to come on how to access the live stream.)  Only a very small number of people (probably five or less) will be at the church building. Therefore, to be clear, the service will not be open to the public or to the church family at large, in an effort to help contain the coronavirus. If you were on the schedule for nursery, Scripture reading, prayer, greeting, counters, etc., you are relieved of your duties through at least March 29th.

    However, we hope in our video streaming to have as “normal” of a full service as possible, with hymns, readings, etc., in place so that we can still have the opportunity to worship together, even if it is only virtually.

    At this point, we’re planning on providing an on-line version of the bulletin, so that you can more easily follow along during the service.
  2. All weekly activities are suspended through at least March 31stThis includes Sunday School, Home Fellowship Groups, all Bible studies, worship team practice, etc. Pioneer Clubs is now finished meeting completely for the spring season.
  3. The Missions Dinner previously scheduled for Sunday evening, March 29th, has been postponed indefinitely.
  4. In an effort to help stay connected, Pastor Don and Pastor Phil will live stream a devotional/prayer time every weekday, Monday through Friday (Don, M/W/F, and Phil, Tue/Thu). Please feel free to email prayer requests to us. We look forward to connecting with everyone, and spreading God’s grace and hope around. Details on how to access this live stream will be made available to you shortly. (My “techy” son is in the process of assisting his admittedly “un-techy” father in getting this up and running!)
  5. Shepherding/elder phone calls — In an additional effort to stay connected and to provide prayer/soul care and support, Don, Phil, Cory, and Warren have committed to calling each member/regular attender over the next two weeks, to check in, see how you’re doing, and to pray with and for you. 
  6. Tithes and offerings – The Session reminds you that though regular services are suspended for the moment, we all have a continuing responsibility to give financially (as the Lord enables you). You can send your checks to:
    Washington Presbyterian Church
    P.O. Box 1367
    Washington, PA 15301
    We’re also looking seriously at an on-line giving option, which would be surcharge free. Additionally, we plan on continuing to provide weekly updates as to the previous week’s giving total.

These are extraordinary times in which we live. But we have an extraordinary Savior.

Allow me to close with the lyrics to the hymn “Peace, Perfect Peace.” Each brief stanza is structured with a question and answer. Each time the question asks if perfect peace is even possible. And each and every time, a wonderful answer is given. (The 5th stanza is my favorite, in view of our present circumstances.)

May this hymn bless you, as it has me.

Peace, Perfect Peace

  1. Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin? The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.
  2. Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed? To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
  3. Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round? On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.
  4. Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away? In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.
  5. Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown? Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.
  6. Peace, perfect peace, death shad’wing us and ours? Jesus has vanquished death and all its pow’rs.
  7. It is enough: earth’s struggles soon shall cease, And Jesus calls us to Heav’n’s perfect peace.

May God bless and keep us all during this time of being apart from one another. I look forward to the day when we all gather together again for our first corporate worship service (real, not virtual!) after the bulk of the crisis has passed. What a day that will be!

And “now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!”  (2 Thess. 3:16)

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Session Statement on COVID-19 and WPCA

Please note: An updated statement from the WPCA Session can be found here.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

Greetings, Washington Presbyterian Church Family! As you all know, our world has been gripped by the threat of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the threat is no longer “over there”, but has now showed up in our own neck of the woods.

However, as the passage above proclaims, the spirit God has given us as Christians is not one of fear. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and in Christ, we’re loved perfectly.

For the foreseeable future, we plan to continue to gather for Worship services. However, other plans will change, at least in the short run. (Below, you’ll see specific actions that our congregation is both recommending and taking.)

With respect to how our church responds, we the Session ask you, along with us, to be gracious in how we think and act during this time. Some feel as though the issues surrounding the pandemic are being somewhat hyped. Others believe not enough is being done. Philippians 2:4 reminds us “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” In other words, we’re not to only consider our own perspectives, but also to be considerate for the views and concerns of others—even when they differ from our own.

And of course, we’re not only to be mindful of the concerns of others, but at this time, their actual health and well-being. People are getting sick, and some are dying. Yes, thankfully the numbers are relatively low for now, but none of us knows the eventual outcome and potential spread of the disease. Christians have historically been the people to step forward and show kindness and concern during times of plague and pestilence. This time should not be different.

Though a person may not be greatly concerned about contracting the disease him or herself, that is not the only consideration. We can be carriers of the virus and not know it. If not careful, we could unknowingly pass it on to one of our seniors, resulting in a very serious cases of the virus, or worse. Additionally, we should want to do everything we can to slow down the advance of this virus so populations at large can be spared from widespread outbreaks. Proverbs 22:3 reminds us “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffers for it.”

As of Friday (3/13) an adult in Washington County was diagnosed as the first presumed positive case of the virus in western Pennsylvania. Unless that person was living as a monk somewhere in isolation, we all know that others have very likely been exposed as well.

COVID-19 is here in our home county.

Yes, the Bible teaches God is in control, and praise His Name that He is! However, the same Bible teaches us that we are responsible, and must act responsibly, loving our neighbors by our actions and decisions.

In light of all this, our church invites everyone to consider the following steps, as we seek to be led by wisdom and love, rather than driven by fear.

General Steps:

  1. Seek medical attention if you have any symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, per the CDC. These symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Click here for more information.
  2. If you or your child have any type of illness with a fever, please refrain from coming to church until the fever has resolved and you’ve contacted medical professionals.
  3. Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water and/or use hand sanitizer when hand washing is not an option.
  4. Be especially careful around those particularly susceptible to this virus, specifically the elderly and immune-compromised individuals (people with chronic illnesses, people undergoing cancer treatment, etc.).

The following are the steps and action the Session is taking and recommending:

  1. We will be holding our 10:30 a.m. worship service on Sunday, March 15th.
  2. We will not have nursery available for at least this coming Sunday.
  3. We will not be holding Sunday School on Sunday, March 15th.
  4. We are cancelling all other weekly ministries for at least the upcoming week, including Transitions Healthcare Bible Study, Pioneer Clubs, Youth Bible Study, Men’s Bible Study, and Worship Team practice. Regarding Home Fellowship Groups, we will leave that decision to each individual group.
  5. We ask that each person refrain from handshaking, hugs, etc.
  6. Offering: In order to minimize touching common surfaces, we will not pass the plate to receive the offering. Instead, we will have offering plates positioned by the sanctuary exits, so that you may give at the conclusion of the service.
  7. Small bottles of hand sanitizer have been placed in the pews throughout the sanctuary. We strongly encourage making use of them.
  8. If you for any reason feel uncomfortable with attending worship, you of course can stay home. If you would like to livestream a worship service, Pastor Don recommends Providence Presbyterian Church in York PA. Go to yorkpca.org, scroll down and click where it says “Worship online with us on Sunday mornings at 8:30 or 10:30 by clicking here.” That will take you to a page listing the order of service. On that page you will click “Please visit our YouTube channel to access our live stream.” (Another recommended option is Willow Creek PCA church in Winter Springs, FL. Their service begins at 10:45 am. Just go to willowcreekchurch.org and you’ll see on their first page a place that says “Watch on Facebook”. Click that tab. Willow Creek’s pastor is Kevin Labby, who is a former pastor of our sister congregation in Murrysville.)
  9. After this Sunday, and sometime during the upcoming week, we will reevaluate our plans going forward, and communicate those plans with you, the congregation.

Finally, some spiritual counsel

Trust and don’t be anxious. When everything and everyone around us attempt to steal our confidence in God, keep trusting his goodness and power to make all things work together for our good and his glory.

Pray for healing physically and spiritually. God can use this illness to make his power known in amazing ways, and prayer is vital to that. So let’s pray that people will be healed from both COVID-19 and spiritual blindness.

Stay in the word. The Enemy would love for Christ’s followers to check news feeds more than their Bibles. In particular, read the Psalms for wisdom, guidance, and adoration in times of distress.

Love your neighbor. People around you might be incredibly anxious and fearful, and people around you might even get sick with COVID-19. A Christian’s unshakable joy that overflows into love for neighbors is a powerful witness. It is also a way that God can bring healing. Make specific efforts to love your neighbor well during this time.

Thank you for taking the time to prayerfully consider these things. As you know, these types of illnesses (and their accompanying fears) are part of this fallen, groaning creation, and God is using them to make his name great among the nations. To God alone be the Glory!

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Video Overview of Psalms

If you were in the adult Sunday school class yesterday, you heard Zack recommend an overview video on the Psalms by The Bible Project. This organization has produced many high-quality video introductions to books and topics of the Bible. Here’s the overview of Psalms.

If you’re the sort of person who prepares for Sunday school, you might consider watching this video and reading some of the first psalms in the book.