Faith Food Bank

By Gloria Pascoe

I would like to introduce you to Faith Food Bank located in Williamston, South Carolina.  Faith Food Bank is a non-profit 501c3 organization that has been proudly serving our local community since 2007. We started out in the basement of Faith Presbyterian Church, but quickly outgrew that space and now have a building across the street from the church. Our distribution days are Monday and Tuesday every week, and every third Saturday of the month. We serve an average of 772 individuals per month, which consist of 271 families. In 2019 we served 9264 individuals, made up of 3254 families. The shelves of Faith Food Bank are stocked by purchasing food from Second Harvest of Metrolina, and weekly donations of fresh produce and bakery items from Bi-lo in Pelzer. Once a year we receive donations from, a US Postal food drive, the Food Lion Feeds program, and the local Palmetto High School food drive. Volunteers staff our food bank and distribute food to those in need.

We are truly blessed to be able to serve our community and our goal is to continue feeding all individuals that walk through our doors. There are numerous ways individuals or businesses can help. Donation may be sent directly to PO Box 38, Williamston, SC. 29697 and use www.Smile.Amazon.com by selecting Faith Food Bank (Williamston, SC) as your charity. We will soon be accepting donations on our Facebook page. Thank you for your interest in Faith Food Bank. If you have any questions, please contact me at  864-518-1477.

-Gloria Pascoe is an Elder at Faith Presbyterian in Williamson SC

The Faith Food Bank is at 308 William St, Williamston SC
www.faithfoodbank.org
The Faith Food Bank receives a portion of Foothills Presbytery’s 2 Cents a Meal Program

More than Chocolate: Giving Up Fear

by Julie Schaaf

Isaiah 43:1
Mark 4:35-41

Many of you have heard me speak of my Lenten practice of drawing the name of a person out of a bag each morning and praying very intentionally for them all day long.  I usually text the person first thing and ask if they have any special requests.  One day this week, I drew the name of a fellow pastor and her reply really gave me a lump in my throat.  I won’t mention her name because the prayer requests are confidential, but this is what she asked: “Please pray for my ability to share with parents of our youth the questions their young people asked last night about the state of our world and their fears and desires to stop violence and prejudice.”

What thoughtful young people she must have in her church.  And I think they articulated the fears that many of us have.  Fear is prevalent in our individual lives, and in our corporate lives in the communities, schools, and even churches in which we live and work.  And if the state of the world is not enough to scare us, there are plenty of other things that bring anxiety to our lives.  Fear of disapproval, rejection, failure, illness, losing one’s jobs, money problems, isolation, aging – the list could go on and on.

And so we might stop and wonder if being in a boat on a lake in the middle of a storm is worthy of the terror that the disciples exhibited but let’s take a closer look at their circumstances.  Jesus is with his disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  Mark tells us earlier in the chapter that so many people had started to follow them that he got into the boat, went out into the lake and preached there.  All day, his pulpit had been the very boat.  Finally, at the end of the day, exhausted from preaching and teaching and sharing parables with everyone, Jesus told the disciples to move away from the shore and fell into a much-needed sleep.

But as it often happened on the Sea of Galilee, a great storm came up out of nowhere.  The Greek word used is actually “whirlwind”, conjuring up all sorts of pictures of violence and turbulence in my mind.  I can all but see the winds causing the lake to foam all around them, jumping up high like angry monsters waving their whitecapped fists.  And what started out as a simple time of rest, away from the growing crowds, became an evening of fear and tumultuous emotions as the terrified disciples woke Jesus up and said, “Don’t you care what is happening?”

As modern Christians who know that Jesus proceeded to calm the seas with his voice, it is sometimes easy to criticize the disciples and wonder, like Jesus did, why they don’t have more faith.  But let’s look at it this way – basically what you have is a community of believers in Jesus Christ, who, in the guise of disciples, are challenged to trust Jesus more.  And when their faith in his presence was really tested, they cried out, “Don’t you care?”  Sound like anyone you know?

Well, it should.  Because everyone here has been in such a storm, EVEN if you’ve NEVER been in a boat!  You are rowing along, headed for the finish line when all of the sudden, out of the blue – the test comes back positive.  Your daughter gets divorced.  The car won’t start, the baby is sick, you drop your cell phone in the bathtub, or there is a traffic jam on the interstate.

Whether it is a disaster of great proportions or a seemingly insignificant bump in the road, an unexpected storm will bring to us the SAME emotions that the disciples experienced in the boat.  Fear, terror, feelings of abandonment.  The good news is that the reaction of Jesus can calm OUR storms the same way he did the storm on the Sea of Galilee as we seek to give up fear.

You see, this story helps us answer questions that will strengthen our faith.  And when you get right down to it, faith is the opposite of fear.  The question that the disciples ask is this:  Who is this Jesus?  They are seeing first hand that Jesus has command over the created world.  By calming the storm, Jesus does something that is normally reserved for God.  This is so startling that it causes the disciples to pose the question, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  And in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus seems so intent on keeping his identity a secret, it is an important step in setting his closest friends on the path to discovery.

But that is not the same question that we have, because we already know that Jesus was present at the creation of the world.  It stands to reason that he has dominion over that which he made.  So in our quest to give up fear, a more important question is “Who is Jesus in my life”?  Does Jesus have authority over the chaos that you and I face?  Do we seek his wisdom through prayer and Scripture and truly being modern day disciples who are surrounded daily by those with like minds?

And if we can answer “yes” truthfully to all of those questions, then why would we fear?  Well, maybe it is because this story sheds light on the Divine side of Jesus and we need to have the human side, the “God walking around with skin on” Jesus, when we are afraid.

Minster Reynolds Price tells of an 87-year-old woman who wrote to him about one of those moments when she needed the human Jesus in her life.  She was facing a time of difficulty as she was going through exhausting medical tests in preparation for surgery.  One day she had a kind of vision.  “I went out along the Galilee hills and came to a crowd gathered around a man, and I stood on the outskirts intending to listen.  In my vision, I could see that the man is God.  But he looked over the crowd at me and then said, ‘What do you want?’  And I said, ‘Could you send someone to come with me and help me stand up after the tests because I can’t manage alone?’   The man thought for a moment and then said, ‘How would it be if I came?'”  (1)

This is so relevant because when you think of it, Jesus does not say that there is nothing to fear.  He simply says, “DO NOT BE AFRAID”.  Jesus knows that we live in a fearful world full of fallen people who will do terrible things.  In fact, it is probably wise to have a certain amount of fear.  No, Jesus says that fear does not have the last word when we confront it with God by our side.

This is precisely what God has done in Jesus Christ.  Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.  God has come to us in our suffering and pain, in our struggle to be human, in our fear and anxiety, and in our doubt and uncertainty.  Jesus put off deity and put on humanity.  He became one of us–one with us–one for us.  That is why the prophet Isaiah shares the promise of God, “Do not fear, I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name, you are mine.”  When we belong to God, when we know that God walks with us in every storm in life, we can give up fear.

But perhaps an even more important question for Jesus’ disciples then and now is this: “Have you invited Jesus to come into the storms in your life?”  The disciples did.  They said, “Wake up – don’t you care what is happening?”  Yet even after they invited him in, they were a little hesitant to allow him to ride out the storm with them.  Their invitation was somewhat half-hearted.

I say this because, after they witnessed the miracle of Jesus calming the storm, Mark tells us that the disciples were filled with great awe.  But the word “awe” in Greek can also be translated as “fear”.  This means that, even when they began to suspect that Jesus was God himself, they were still afraid.  The idea that God was with them so closely scared them almost as much as God not being with them.

And maybe it is because real miracles upset people!  We see this throughout Scripture in the Pharisees reactions to Jesus’ healing or when the townspeople were so afraid after witnessing a miracle that they begged Jesus to leave their neighborhood.  (Matthew 8:34) You can bet there were some folks who were upset when Lazarus climbed up out of the tomb after four days of being dead because it is not what we expect.  Miracles force us all to come face-to-face with the power of God, the mystery of God, and we all know that we tend to fear anything that we cannot explain.

One of my favorite ministers and story tellers is Fred Craddock.  He tells the about a pastor he knew who went to visit one of his parishioners in the hospital. The woman was suffering from a terminal disease, and the pastor went to visit her knowing that, at the end of that visit, he would pray one of those prayers that acknowledges the desperation of the situation.  A prayer that puts it out there on the table that not much is going to change.  A prayer to help the woman and her family move towards acceptance.

As a minister, I knew what kind of prayer he was speaking of, as I have prayed them often.  They are honest and pastorally sensitive, and often they are the only appropriate kinds of prayers to pray.  They go something like this. “Oh God, we thank you that you are with us in every circumstance, even this one.  And so we simply ask that you give us the courage to accept your will for our future, whatever that will is.  Now we place ourselves, with trust, in your all-knowing hands.”

The pastor went there prepared to pray that kind of prayer, as Craddock tells the story. But the woman prevailed upon him to beg God to heal her.  And so, against his better judgment, he prayed a different kind of prayer altogether.  He prayed fervently, even while he understood what a long-shot that prayer was.  And then when that prayer was over, he left that room.

But a few days later he was back for another visit.  The woman was sitting up in the bed. The tubes had been removed, and the curtains were open. She said to him, “You won’t believe what has happened.  The doctors noticed some changes the other day, and called for more x-rays, and they have told me that they can no longer see any sign of a tumor!  I’m going home tomorrow.”  The pastor said later, “When I got out to the parking lot, I looked up into the skies and said, ‘Don’t ever do that to me again!”‘

Friends, it was fear of the unexplainable, the mystery surrounding Jesus that led to his death on the cross.  But we know that his death, which seemed like the worst day in the history of humanity, proved to be the greatest gift for all people and for all time because it is God’s gift of Eternal life to each one here.  So rather than choosing to live in fear because it is what we are used to, because it is understandable, even predictable, this story in the boat begs us to invite Jesus into the storms of life so that God can turn our fear into grace.

There is a contemporary Christian song that explains what I am trying to say better than I can.  Listen to some of the words.  “Sometimes He calms the storm with a whispered ‘Peace, be still’.  He can settle any sea but it doesn’t mean He will.  Sometimes He holds us close and lets the wind and waves go wild.  Sometimes He calms the storm.  Other times He calms His child.”

Friends, the prevailing thought in this story is that no matter what kind of fears we are faced with, when we know who Jesus is in our lives and invite him to enter into our storms, that God will either calm the storm or calm our fears.  He has called us each by name and we are His.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

-Julie Schaaf is the Minister at Nazareth Presbyterian in Moore, SC


This sermon was published in a book of Lenten Sermons entitled:  More Than Chocolate, Lenten Sermons that Matter.  While it was written as a sermon for Lent in 2018, it’s message is appropriate for today.

  • Reynolds Price, Letter to a Man in a Fire, Simon & Schuster, NY, NY, 1999, 30-31

 

Immersed in the Mystery of Christ’s Presence

By Terri Price

Eight weeks.  Two months.  A ridiculous length of time, in church life.  An inane amount of time to “be church” and be apart.

I was nearing the end of my seminary time when I enrolled in a class titled “Vision of Ministry” led by then dean of the school and theology professor Tom Currie.  He assembled an array of Presbyterian pastors who shared stories of their time in ministry.  One gentleman told of his ouster from a rural South Carolina congregation when, during the 1960s, he spoke out in favor of equal rights.  Another told of the political contrasts among his college-town congregation of professors, natives, and students.  The one woman in the bunch told how, whenever she moved to a new church, she dedicated time to visiting every household in the church.  I thought that was a great idea.

But right now, I can’t even visit sweet little Martha lying in her bed in skilled nursing at the Presbyterian home.

Tom often told us that ministry was a strange and wonderful endeavor.  I’m not sure even he ever pictured ministry during a pandemic.  I’m not sure any of my professors – or my current colleagues in ministry – ever conceived of a time when ministry would take place “virtually” – by laptop and cell phone, video stream and letter.  Virtual worship.  It’s been strange, to be sure.  But also wonderful, beautiful, and joyful.

In an essay in his little book, The Joy of Ministry, Tom reminds us of Karl Barth’s thoughts on worship.  “The joy of Sunday worship comes, Barth thinks, … from the gift of the day itself, the way it interrupts our lives with its claims and so in its strangeness calls us ‘to the great interruption of the everyday world by Easter Day.  The meaning of Sunday freedom is joy, the celebrating of a feast.’”[1]

Yes, this time has been strange.  Social distancing and virtual worship.  Pastoral care by phone call and text rather than ministry of presence and “being with.”  But while our ruling elders and I grappled with how to do ministry virtually, our folks showed us how with their love and care and support.  Even as we’ve mourned the space between us that has hampered our hugs and smiles, our laughter and tears, we’ve celebrated the continued faithfulness of our flock.  There have been the checks that have come in faithfully by mail and bank draft.  A note from our oldest member, 95-year-old Carolyn, who shared her love for the community as she wrote, “One of the things I’m missing the most these days is being able to go to church on Sundays and being with my church family.”  The text from another member who noted that she has saved my telephone devotions so she can listen to them again and again.  The response to news that we had extended our closing, “I feel better from just reading your message. This is so frightening and my prayers are for all to stay calm and focus on how wonderful it will be when this all passes.”

We shouldn’t have been surprised, really.  Virtual, from the same Latin root as the word virtue, means “being such in essence or effect.”  Our virtual worship is worship – is in its essence the spiritual home of the followers of Christ.  Immersed in the mystery of his presence even when we cannot see him, we have immersed ourselves in worship in a new ways, in loving care for one another in new ways, in careful devotion and study in new ways.  And we’ve found joy.

Certainly, when we can gather once again in our sanctuaries, we will know joy at being in the presence of the faithful.  But perhaps this time has been good for us – good for us to learn that our communities are not bound by the walls of the church or even the reach of human arms spread wide in welcome.  Our communities will thrive because of the faithful presence of the risen Christ in our midst, even when we are apart.

Thanks be to God!

-Terri is the Pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church, in Powdersville, SC.


[1] Thomas W. Currie III, The Joy of Ministry, 13

Resilience

By Jason Moore

Late one summer afternoon when I was still a teenager, I heard a long, low rumble of thunder.  Within minutes, the sky had darkened like a bruise with streaks of lightning dancing over the tobacco fields.  I was standing in my bedroom looking through the blinds with the whole room suddenly flashed a brilliant blue.  The crash of thunder a split second later coupled with the scent of burning wood removed all doubt—lightning had struck a tall cedar tree not twenty yards from my bedroom window.

When the storm passed, I walked outside to survey the damage.  Lightning had pealed the bark all the way down one side of the tree and vaporized the grass around it.  The top was still smoking, and the air smelled like a Christmas candle.  Within a day or two, the tree had lost most of its color.  Soon it was dropping entire limbs, with not a trace of green on them.

That was over twenty years ago now.  Funny thing though—that tree is still there.  It’s still very much alive.  Of course, it bears the scars.  It never looked the same after that.  How could it?  But it continued to grow; it continued to survive.  By some accounts, it may even be thriving, in its own peculiar lop-sided way.

For some reason, I’ve been thinking about that tree a lot lately.  Maybe it was the combination of the thunderstorm the other night and those cedar boards I came across when I was cleaning out the garage.  But whatever the source, it seems like a parable for our church during these times.  This has been a–dare I use the word–traumatic experience for many.  There’s really been nothing quite like it in our lifetime.  And after any traumatic experience, there comes the realization that life will never be the same.  Not because life has fundamentally changed, but because we have.  There is a new awareness of our frailty; gone is the illusion that we can control and master the world around us.  For some, this new sense of vulnerability can become crippling.  When this happens, you end up with some version of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).  But that is not the only option.  As retired Marine general James Mattis is quick to point out, there is also such a thing as “post-traumatic growth.”

I do not know why two Marines can experience the same event in combat and one overcomes it and the other does not.  Nor do I know why one tree is reduced to firewood after a lightning strike and the other grows another thirty years.  I am not an expert on any of these things.  Yet I do believe that, as people made in the image of God, we can choose how we will respond to the current crisis.  We can choose to be resilient.

Perhaps that sounds odd, even arrogant.  But hear me out.  What if resilience isn’t some God-given talent but actually a skill that can be cultivated?  What if, through practice, we can become more resilient?

According to author, and former Navy Seal Eric Greitens, resilience is a virtue that can be learned (indeed it cannot happen any other way).  Just as courage is learned by overcoming fear and compassion is learned by offering forgiveness, so resilience is learned as we overcome difficulty and trials.  There is an important difference, however.  Whereas courage and compassion can be displayed in a moment, “the fruits of resilience grow slowly. Because of this, we learn best about resilience not when we focus on dramatic moments, but when we take in the whole arc of our lives…To endure pain and then turn that pain into wisdom, or to endure hardship and grow through that hardship, takes time.”[1]

Yet the resilience we acquire is not simply so that we can endure, as if survival was the goal.  What happens to us becomes a part of who we are.  That means we must find healthy ways to integrate these hard experiences into our lives.[2]  In other words, the goal is to grow–to thrive.

I won’t speak for you, but when this is all said and done, I don’t want things to go back to “normal.”  Yes, I want us to gather in person for worship.  Yes, I want my children to go back to school in the fall.  Yes, I want to watch college football and the World Series and enjoy meals inside our favorite restaurants.  But I want to do all these things with a new perspective.  I want to have a deeper appreciation for what it means to gather as a community of faith.  I want a deeper understanding of the daily contributions made by those in the medical field and service industries.  I want a closer connection with the people who live in my physical neighborhood—many of whom I’ve only recently met.  And most especially, I want a deeper love and adoration for our Sovereign God who sustains us through this and every crisis.

-Jason is the Pastor at Second Presbyterian in Spartanburg, SC.

[1] Eric Greitens, Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Boston: Mariner Books, 2016), 29.

[2] Ibid., 23.

Call to Prayer

By Beth Templeton

There have many calls to prayer during this time of crisis for individuals, our community, our city, our state, our nation, and our world.  Turning to God is certainly appropriate all the time. Prayer is an essential part of faith life. But I sometimes wonder if our prayers deepen or cheapen our trust. When there is a call to prayer at a certain time on a certain day, does a piece of us believe that if enough people pray, if we say the right words, if we praise God, if we offer easy phrases, then this COVID 19 will go away? Do we question God when our prayers do not seem to work their magic?  Do we begin to wonder if there IS a God and if that God truly cares?

We can honestly lament our situation and call out to God with our complaints and fears. We can join with the person who wrote more than two thousand years ago: “Why have you forgotten me” Why must I walk around mournfully?” (Psalm 42: 9)  Or another: “Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble…” (Psalm 25: 17-18)  We can complain and lament, while giving our heart to the promise that nothing separates us from the love of God, not death, not life, not rulers, not things present, not things to come.

“The Seed,” a Poem by Beth. Click on the image to open a pdf version.

The prophets of old proclaimed that God did not want our worship rituals. God cared more about how we lived, how we interacted with others, and how we cared. C. S. Lewis wrote that this kind of living is not a bargain related to keeping rules and regulations but about the choices we make. Lewis says, “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.”

The choices we make now as well as when this crisis abates lead either to “joy, peace, knowledge, and power… [or] madness, horror, idiocy, rage, and impotence.“  (Mere Christianity) We choose how we will live in trust.

Let’s make our prayers authentic and honest. Let’s share with God who we really are during such times as these. Let’s give to God our hearts and then trust that that is enough.

We are coming into the Easter season with the amazing proclamation that God loves us. God took on some of the worst that humans can do to humans. Jesus cried out that he would prefer not to go through what was ahead. Jesus himself felt abandoned. And yet…yet…yet… out of all the pain, God hollered out loud: hate, violence, and death do not win. My love wins. My beautiful, steadfast, compassionate, powerful love wins. And nothing can overcome it.

During times such as these, does our faith deepen or weaken?

 


*Beth Templeton is Founder and CEO of Our Eyes Were Opened, Inc. is a public speaker, Presbyterian Church USA minister, and writer.

Be Not Afraid

PDA Releases Pandemic Guide

By Mari Graham Evans| Presbyterian News Service

Common-sense tips for congregations and individuals during the coronavirus outbreak

LOUISVILLE — In light of the global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, more commonly known as the coronavirus, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has released a “Preparedness for Pandemics” guide for congregations.

The guide contains valuable, common-sense tips on what congregations and individuals can do to keep themselves safe in the midst of a “severe infectious disease outbreak.”…

READ FULL ARTICLE

God is Coaxing Us Into a New Decade

Greetings my friends,

God is coaxing us into a new decade! So, as we finish up week six, I can’t let another day go by without saying thank you for the opportunity to be your new Presbytery Leader and Stated Clerk. I am humbled and so honored to be in this presbytery and work along each and every one of you. I am grateful for the faithful renovation work of the last six years, and the spirit infused in the new way we live out our mission in this presbytery.

As we look toward the future of our mission and ministry together, we still have quite a few challenges before us. If you take a snapshot of every congregation in the presbytery and create a “challenge list,” there will be some common themes, and there will be some items unique to each context. I believe that the renovation and re-build process of the last six years prepared us to face those challenges. We were able to take some intentional time rumbling with the realities of Christendom, get above the fray, and are now well-poised to face the future.

So, the question is, “How do we continue to do the work we need to do to stay faithful to our polity and heritage as we adapt to new realities?”

Here are some hopeful initiatives on the horizon:

Faithful Innovation: The challenges facing the church are deeper than just institutional decline. We live in a culture where not even belief in God is assumed—let alone Jesus, let alone church participation. How might the Holy Spirit be calling us to communicate the gospel in such a context? How can we continue to develop peer-learning opportunities to create strong pastoral and church leadership?

Legacy Project: As we give thanks for the gifts we have inherited from the Great Cloud of Witnesses of the church, we ask the questions, “In this new era, what gifts do we (our communities of faith) want to hand down to our children? How can presbytery partner with churches as they assess their strengths/challenges and plan for their future?”

I am excited to share more about the nuts and bolts of these new initiatives over the next months. In the meantime, please feel free to ask questions of me, our staff, and presbytery leaders. We look forward to the ways we can all join in this work together.

I find it noteworthy that today is Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin (both in 1809), and Lydia Marie Child’s (1802) birthdays. We all know the many ways Lincoln and Darwin informed culture and change, but I imagine not many of us know much about Lydia Child. She is best known for her Thanksgiving Children’s poem, “Over the River and Through the Woods.” She was also a prolific writer and activist. She challenged white supremacy, fought for an end to slavery and supported women’s Native American rights. She used her writing to crusade for truth and justice.

Next week we have our first Presbytery meeting of the year. We will gather to rejoice in worship, commemorate Black History Month, do the business of presbytery, and welcome special guests from agencies and organizations doing good work in our state, synod, and in the broader church. As we center ourselves in God’s word and wisdom, I invite us to ask ourselves how we can use our ministry connections to crusade for truth and justice?

Grateful in Christ,

 

 

 

Debbie G. Foster
Presbytery Leader and Stated Clerk

Remembering Sabbath II