Monday, July 3, 2017

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column + New Sermon Series

July 2017: "A Primer for General Assembly"

Dear Church,

I will again be absent from the pulpit on Sunday, July 9, and from the office between July 10-13, as I travel to Indianapolis, Indiana--where the Disciples of Christ denomination is headquartered--to represent First Christian Church of Longview at our denomination's biannual General Assembly. What does that entail? A number of things--

The Assembly will be voting on a new General Minister and President to lead our denomination for the next six years, since our current GMP, Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, is term-limited. Rev. Terri Hord Owens, the Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Divinity School, has been nomiated to replace Pastor Sharon. I can say from personal experience, having had a prospective student interview with Pastor Terri when I was applying to seminaries almost a decade ago, that she is thoughtful, deliberate, and exceptionally intelligent. And if confirmed by the General Assembly, she will be--to my knowledge--the first black woman ever to lead a mainline Protestant denomination.

The Assembly will be voting on a series of other business resolutions, including exhorting the denomination and its congregations, in the spirit of God's charge to Adam to keep the earth in Genesis, to reduce our carbon footprint and to, in the spirit of the law given to Moses in Leviticus 19, to work towards being a more immigrant-welcoming church.

There are multiple continuing education opportunities at the General Assembly. I'll be sitting in on a couple of different classes to continue honing skills that my specialization within my Doctor of Ministry program at Seattle University might not otherwise touch much upon.

The need for connection and spreading good news is imperative--we are a geographically isolated congregation within both our region (as there are no other Disciples congregations within a 30-mile radius of us) and our denomination (which is most heavily concentrated in the Midwest, Texas, and Appalachia). Being able to testify to the good that we do, and to how the Holy Spirit is continuing to move in our congregation, is something that I consider to be an important task at General Assembly.

The chance to worship! I'll get to see cutting-edge preaching, music, design, and worship leadership from across the denomination. Ours is a diverse tradition that embodies a number of different liturgical styles, and getting to see how other pastors and leaders are doing worship often gives me something to bring back here as well.

And on a personal level, it will be a joyous time for me to be able to catch up with friends and colleagues from seminary, from my hometown of Kansas City, and from elsewhere even as I am there to do the work of the church. It is something that only comes around once every two years, and I will appreciate being able to attend and participate once again as a representative of LVFCC.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

New sermon series: "Heroes, not Kings: The Days of Israel's Judges"

July is going to be a bit of a back-and-forth month from the pulpit--I'll be here, then away, then here, then away, and then, finally here to stay for a good long while! I'll be absent on July 9 as I represent First Christian Church of Longview at the 2017 General Assembly of our denomination, but you'll be in good hands that Sunday--Charlotte "Char" Mace, who is a seminarian in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is an active member at Longview First Presbyterian. I've gotten the chance to get to know Char a bit, and I believe that she will bring a great word for you on Sunday morning in my absence.

During my Sundays preaching, though, we'll begin a new sermon series for the summer months on several of Israel's judges. The judges were popular heroes who ruled Israel in between the time of Moses and the time of the kings like Saul, David, and Solomon. The judges were quite varied in terms of their personalities, strengths, and flaws, and their stories are often incredibly compelling, whether in triumph or in sadness. We'll begin the series this month with passages about three different judges: Ehud, Deborah, and Gideon, and I'm looking forward to getting to share a little bit about their life and deeds with all of you!

Summer 2017: “Heroes, not Kings: The Days of Israel’s Judges”

July 2: “The Southpaw: Ehud,” Judges 3:12-23
July 9: General Assembly
July 16: “The Wife of Lappidoth: Deborah,” Judges 4:1-10
July 23: “The Arguer with Ba’al: Gideon,” Judges 6:25-33
July 30: “The Cautionary Tale: Abimelech,” Judges 9:7-21
August 6: “The Sacrifice: Jephthah’s Daughter,” Judges 11:29-40
August 13: “The Nazirite: Samson, Part I,” Judges 15:1-11
August 20: “The Nazirite: Samson, Part II,” Judges 15:12-20
August 27: “The Nazirite: Samson, Part III,” Judges 16:23-31
September 3: “The Final Judge: Samuel,” 1 Samuel 8:1-9

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