Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lent 2017

Lent 2017

Wednesday, March 1 6 pm Ash Wednesday Worship 

Wednesday, March 8, 15, 22, 29, April5 6 pm Bible Study 

Sunday, April 9 10:30am Palm Sunday/Jerusalem Festival 

Thursday, April 13 7:30 pm Maundy Thursday Worship 

Friday, April 14 3 pm Good Friday Community Worship 

Saturday, April 15 5pm Youth-Led Easter Vigil 

Sunday, April 16 8:30, 10:30 am Resurrection of the Lord!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Christmas Alternative Giving Program

The Mission Committee would like to thank the St. Mark congregation for its tremendous support of the worthy causes offered in the annual Christmas Alternative Giving Program. Final results are in and indicate a total of $13,050 donated, which represents a record amount based on more than 10 years of historical data. In addition, over 60 separate families contributed this year.

The Mission Committee was fortunate to have individuals from three of the recipient organizations come in December to deliver a “minute for mission,” outlining their organization’s focus areas (Marion Medical Mission, Nicaragua Community Partnership, and Presbyterian Children’s Home & Services). Information on the other organizations was shared with the congregation in the narthex and in the bulletin in December.

 Funds are being disbursed to the receiving organizations in January, with a broad breakdown of total designated giving as follows: $375 Mission Co-Worker Support $2,985 Nicaragua Community Partnership – Plan Grande Scholarship Support $2,560 Medical Benevolence Foundation $1,415 MPP / Haiti $2,135 Marion Medical Mission $3,580 Presbyterian Children’s Homes & Services

Again, thank you so much for your generous support in the work to help those in most need in our community and around the world.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Worship Prayers for Feb. 19

PRAYER IN PREPARTION:  God of Jesus, Light of the World:  Give to us this day the ears to hear your living Word, the hearts to trust its saving power, and the courage to respond with our prayers, our praise, and our lives.  Through Christ, to whom, with you and the Spirit, one Holy God, be honor and praise, now and forever.  Amen.

Come together, people of faith!
         We come together to worship our Lord.
Come together, people of faith!
         We come with our songs and stories.  We bring our doubts and our dreams.
         We carry in our stumbles and struggles, our successes and strengths.
Let our gathering be filled with the Spirit!
         A Spirit that comforts and consoles,
A Spirit that challenges and changes us,
         A Spirit that does not quit on us.
Come together, people of faith!
         We are here, O God, to be with you!

God, you placed us in the world to be its salt.  We are afraid of committing ourselves, afraid of being stained by the world.  We do not want to hear what “they” might have to say, and our salt dissolves as if in water.  Forgive us, Jesus.

God, you placed us in the world to be its light.  We are afraid of the shadows, afraid of poverty.  We do not want to know other people’s struggles, and our light slowly fades away.  Forgive us, Jesus.

God, you placed us in the world to live in community.  Thus, you taught us to love, to share in life, to struggle for bread and justice, your truth incarnate in our lives.  Amen.

SCRIPTURE READING                                                                                                              Matthew 5:13-16

Saturday, February 25, 2017

13th Annual Circle Of Concern Charity Golf Tournament

Due to Flooding, this has been postponed. NEW DATE, JUNE 26 The Circle Of Concern Charity Golf Tournament has been rescheduled and will take place on Monday, June 26 at Aberdeen Golf Club! All other information regarding the tournament will remain the same. So there is still time to register to play. Pick up a registration brochure at the Welcome Center.
13th Annual Circle Of Concern Charity Golf Tournament
When:  Monday, May 8, 2017

Where:  Aberdeen Golf Club, Eureka, Missouri 63025

Why: Reducing hunger and poverty in West St. Louis County.

NEEDED:  Players, Sponsors, Donations and Volunteers
Sold out last year and looking to do so again.  Get your registration in early.
Stay tuned as more blog entries will provide information on this rewarding charity event in the weeks and months to come.  All proceeds go to Circle Of Concern Food Pantry. 

Click here to go to the 
Circle of Concern Web Page

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Daily Prayer February 24


Ruth 3:1-18; 2 Corinthians 4:1-12; Matthew 5:38-48

You, O Lord, are full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and rich in kindness.

God our creator, you made all things in your wisdom, and in your love you save us. We pray for the whole creation. Overthrow evil powers, right what is wrong, feed and satisfy those who thirst for justice, so that all your children may freely enjoy the earth you have made, and joyfully sing your praises. Take all our doubts and uncertainties, O God, and fill us with such faith that we may be confident of your love and loyal in the service of him who died and yet lives for us, Jesus Christ the Lord. Merciful God, you bear the pain of the world. Look with compassion on those who are sick; cheer them by your word, and bring healing as a sign of your grace. God of comfort, stand with those who sorrow; that they may be sure that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, shall separate them from your love. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

As God's own, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, and patience, forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, and crown all these things with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Ly Family

"The Ly family (Chinese/Vietnamese refugees) arrived in St. Louis Jan. 25, 1980 after many months of planning by the Refugee Committee.  Bao, Cuc and their three children Hanh, Minh and Duc, lived at first with the Bob Schultz family.  Bob, Mimi, Kathryn, Kristin and Karen not only provided them shelter, but also a supporting relationship which helped them adjust to their American lifestyle.

After eight months, Bao and Cuc assumed the custodial duties at St. Mark; and a little later, Bao had work as a tailor,  In the fall of 1980, the children were enrolled in Westridge, Selvidge and Claymont Nursery School; the family had a car and an apartment.

The people of St. Mark gave generously of household goods, time, caring and concern, but, the Ly family has also given generously.  First Bao and then Minh worked with Cuc to keep our church clean for seven years.  Their industry, determination, and courage have been an inspiration to all of us.  As Bob and Mimi wrote in a tribute to them: "To all they have touched, they have left such joy.  For coming to St. Mark, Ly famly, we thank you."

From the 1992 History of St. Mark "A Celebration of St. Mark Presbyterian 30 Years"

Update:  The Ly family moved to South County where Bao opened a tailor shop.  Hanh, Duc and Bao still live in South St. Louis County.  Sadly, Minh and Cuc have passed away.  Hanh has 4 children and Duc has one son.

Monday, February 20, 2017

BRO Layette Drive

During the month of February, Presbyterian Women are sponsoring a Layette Drive for BRO. Last
year BRO distributed over 500 complete layette sets to mothers of newborns who are recommended by social workers in the St. Louis area.

 Requested items include baby quilts (40 inches by 50 inches), receiving blankets, sleepers, gowns, bibs, onesies, jackets or sweatshirts, and sweater sets with caps and booties or socks. Also needed are rattles and small toys for children under the age of 1 year. For those who like to knit or sew, patterns will be available. A playpen will be set up in the narthex to receive donations.

 For additional information, contact Louise Grothe.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Worship Prayers

PRAYER IN PREPARTION:  God of blessing, you call us to be one with you and your creation in love, faithfulness, and truth.  Help us to carry out the vows we make:  to adore you with our whole heart, to live in mutual support of one another, and to love as if your reign has fully come.  Amen

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.  Jesus proclaims, “You are the light of the world.”
         Thanks be to God!

Holy God, we confess that we bow down before other gods; We have turned our hearts away from you.  Our worship of work and devotion to consumerism disorders our love of you and each other.  Forgive us, God, and mend what is broken, that we may be one with you.  Amen.

SCRIPTURE READING                                                                                             Deuteronomy 30:15-20

PROFESSION OF FAITH - The Apostles' Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended to the dead.  On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Daily Prayer

SATURDAY February 18

God is love, and those who abide in love, abide in God, and God abides in them.
Isaiah 66:1-6; 1 Timothy 6:(1-5) 6-21; Mark 12:35-44

Eternal God, we praise you for your mighty love given in Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and the new life we have received by his resurrection. We thank you for the presence of Christ in our weakness and suffering, the ministry of Word and Sacrament, all who work to help and heal, sacrifices made for our benefit, opportunities for our generous giving. God of grace, let our concern for others reflect Christ's self-giving love, not only in our prayers, but also in our practice. We pray for those subjected to tyranny and oppression, wounded and injured people, those who face death, those who may be our enemies. Eternal God, your love is stronger than death, and your passion more fierce than the grave. We rejoice in the lives of those whom you have drawn into your eternal embrace. Keep us in joyful communion with them until we join the saints of every people and nation, gathered before your throne in ceaseless praise. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Leonard Wu Family

"Our custodial staff has consisted of many individuals, two professional cleaning services . . . . We
appreciate the many hours of service all of these individuals have contributed in making St. Mark the church it is today.

Two families have had a unique relationship to the St. Mark Congregation---Leonard and Jane Wu  and Bao and Cuc Ly (next week we will feature the Ly Family)

To prepare Leonard for his ministry in Taiwan, the Wu family lived in St. Louis while he attended Covenant Seminary and Webster College.  From 1973-1976, Leonard and his wife, Jane, served as custodians at St. Mark.  The St. Mark congregation provided an extended family for the Wu family.  They made many friends and received many gifts during their stay in St. Louis.  Their two daughters, Grace and Irene, were born here.

St. Mark continued to support the Wu family in their missionary and pastoral work, when they returned to Taiwan.  Leonard became Dean of Student Affairs at Christ College in Taipei, Taiwan."

From " A Celebration of St. Mark Presbyterian Church 30 Years"

Update:  Leonard Wu later became a dealer in Chinese Antiquities living in Taiwan.  His wife Jane brought Irene and Grace back to the United States where they went to Parkway Central High School. Jane continues to spend 6 months here and 6 months in Taiwan.  Grace attended Kansas University where she majored in Graphic Arts.  She is currently living in Chesterfield, MO.  Irene attended Washington University where she majored in Fashion Design.  She is currently living in New York City.

If anyone has any special memories of the Wu and Ly Families, please contact Jaclyn Morgan

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Go-Getters Valentine

 The Go-getters had a Valentine's Party on Feb. 14 with good food, good friends, good fun.

Please join us March 14---contact the Church Office (636-394-2233), J. Graves or S. Tharp for more information.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Quimby Pipe Organ

Feb. 19 after the 10:30 Service, Marsha Medley will be introducing us to our Quimby Organ.  The following was written up for the newsletter several years ago about our acquisition of the organ.

"On Nov. 15, 1993, three Ryder Trucks pulled up to the church, bringing our new 25 rank pipe organ, made by Quimby Pipe Organs, Inc., Warrensburg, Mo.  this brings to reality a dream of th Schwehr-Hann families, a dream that St. Mark Church should have a very fine organ.

The late Marie Schwehr-Hann provided the gift that made this possible, drawing on the vision of her brother, the late William Schwehr, with very supportive encouragement from his wife Caroline Schwehr.  Bill long reflected his interest in worship at St. Mark.  He served very effectively as Head Usher and as chairman of the Worship Committee during his term as an elder.

A pipe organ is custom designed for its location.  The greater amount of the sound comes out of the top of the pipes.  Given the shape of our sanctuary ceiling, the sound  will mix into a pleasant blend, as it bounces off our hexagonal ceiling.

Our organ has 1454 pipes, according to Quimby Vice-President, Richard Miller.  The pipes that are less than four fee in length are an alloy of tin and lead.  The larger pipes are zinc, and there are some wooden pipes.

The research of our St. Mark Organ Committee revealed that Quimby Pipe Organs has emerged as one of the finer organ manufacturers in the nation, and they are here in Missouri.  As this Newsletter goes to press, Mike Quimby, President of the company, and Kevin Kissinger, company Organist, are in the final steps of installation, that is (1) voicing-making the pipes play properly, (2) tuning-setting the pitch, and (3) finishing-making the pipes sound right in the acoustical setting of our Sanctuary.

The organ will first be used in worship Dec. 5, 1993 at 9:00 and 10:30 AM.  An Introductory Recital will be given that afternoon at 3:00 PM by Mr. Kevin Kissinger.  Refreshments will follow.  The congregation and the public are invited.

The Dedicatory Recital will be Feb. 13, 1994 at 4:00 PM with organist Mr. Ronald Arnatt of Boston, formerly of St. Louis.

St. Mark Church is richly blessed to have such a gift.  Let's give thanks."

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Worship Prayers Feb. 5

PRAYER IN PREPARTION:  Son of God, you walk on the waters of turmoil to meet us in the midst of your purposed journey for our lives.  Help us to recognize your presence, remember your promise, rely on your power, and receive your peace through every storm.  Amen


This is God’s world!  To us is given a vision of nations and races,
lands and people, joined together in love.
         Praise be to God, the Creator, in whose image we are created.
We come to celebrate and renew that vision, opening ourselves to the one
who is its source and its living fire.
         We affirm in Christ that we can be, and are, one world and one family,
         working together to manifest God’s rule in the lives of all people!

Lord Jesus, we call upon you.  Save us!  We are intimidated by our circumstances, distracted from our purposes, drowning in doubts and fears.  We are presumptuous about your will, belittling others and magnifying ourselves.  We envy the blessings of others, secretly despising their dreams.  We have hardened our hearts to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, feeding ourselves in front of the injustice that holds them captive.
Lord Jesus, who searches our hearts, lift us from sin and help us to walk with you in faith, humility, and sisterly love.  Amen

SCRIPTURE READING                                                                                                                     Psalm 46

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Daily Prayer Saturday Feb. 11

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. I was dead and behold I am alive forever and ever. Because I live, you also will live.

Isaiah 61:10-62:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; Mark 10:46-52

O God of grace, you have given us new and living hope in Jesus Christ. We thank you that by dying Christ destroyed the power of death, and by rising from the grave opened the way to eternal life. Help us to know that because he lives, we shall live also; and that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come shall be able to separate us from your love in Christ Jesus our Lord. By your power, great God, our Lord Jesus healed the sick and gave new hope to the hopeless. Though we cannot command or possess your power, we pray for those who want to be healed. Mend their wounds, soothe fevered brows, and make broken people whole again. Help us to welcome every healing as a sign that, though death is against us, you are for us, and have promised renewed and risen life in Jesus Christ the Lord. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lenten Midweek Study

The Gospels are filled with stories, actions, parables, miracles, commandments, declarations, imperatives, and incidents from the dramatic life of Jesus. But they are also filled with the questions Jesus asked: 307 questions, as a matter of fact. Jesus has a question for everyone he meets, for every occasion, for every experience. Most of Jesus’ questions were never answered. Indeed, most of them have been deliberately ignored. Two thousand years after Jesus first appeared, these questions still await our answers.

Join us on Wednesday nights during Lent, beginning on March 8, at 6:00 pm, in Fellowship Hall as Pastor Jim leads a Bible study based on the book The Questions of Jesus: Challenging Ourselves to Discover Life’s Great Answers.

Each week we will study several of Jesus’ questions grouped under a particular theme, reflecting on its context, its meaning for Jesus, and its meaning for us today. It is not necessary to read the book or to be a biblical scholar to participate – the only necessities are a curious mind and an open heart. Sitting with the questions of Jesus may lead us to a renewed interest in the Scriptures and the story of Jesus. But even more, it may lead the way to a deeper understanding of the meaning of our lives and our relationship with God.

If you would like to share your reflections on this study for this blog, please contact Jaclyn Morgan.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Angel Street Cafe Donations

As a result of the most successful 2016 Boutique and Angel Street CafĂ©, St. Mark Presbyterian Women has donated $1,800 to BRO, $1,890 to Mound Ridge, $360 to Regional Girls’ Shelter of Mid-America, $1,080 to Circle of Concern, $200 St. Mark Children’s ministries, $270 St. Mark Fellowship, $1,620 St. Mark Youth Ministries. This totals $7,220. 

Thank you St. Mark for making this happen!

A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Worship Prayers from January 29

PRAYER IN PREPARTION:  O God, Jesus announced the nearness of your kingdom and called disciples to be fishers of women and men.  Illumine our minds, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as Scripture is read and your Word proclaimed our eyes may see your kingdom, and our ears may hear the call of Jesus, so that our lives may bear witness to the good news of your kingdom come near.  Amen.

As he walked by a lake, Jesus called folks to follow him.
         And immediately, they left their work and went with him.
As Jesus journeys through our lives, he asks us to follow him.
         In this moment, we have the chance to leave the past behind,
         and pursue him into God’s future.
As Jesus wanders in our world, he invites others to join him.
         We would join Jesus in this ministry without delay!

Holy God, you are our light and our salvation.  You invite us to live in the strength of your presence.  In Christ, you call us to lives of bold purpose, daring to love, and deep abiding joy.  Yet we turn from your grace.  We hide in the shadows of our fear.  We run from your Spirit.  Forgive us, O God.  Rescue us from our fear.  Call us again, that we may hear your voice and follow where you lead.  Bless us that we may serve you faithfully with boldness and delight.

SCRIPTURE READING                                                                                                   Matthew 4:12-23, p. 3

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Daily Prayer for February 4


Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Isaiah 56:1-8; Galatians 5:25-6:10; Mark 9:14-29

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation. You have given us the light of day that we might see your wonders in all we say and do; you give us the gentle darkness of the night that we might rest from our burdens and be refreshed in body and spirit. How great is your love, Lord God, how wide is your mercy! Never let us board up the narrow gate that leads to life with rules or doctrines that you dismiss; but give us a Spirit to welcome all people with affection, so that your church may never exclude secret friends of yours, who are included in the love of Jesus Christ, who came to save us all. Almighty God, by the love of Jesus Christ you draw people to faith, and welcome them into the church family. May we show your joy by embracing new brothers and sisters, who with us believe and with us will work to serve you. Keep us close together in your Spirit, breaking bread in faith and love, one with Jesus Christ our Lord and Master. (Add your prayers.) Amen.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

(Opening sentences, prayers, and blessings are from the Book of Common Worship. Readings are from the daily lectionary in Daily Prayer. Both are published by Westminster/John Knox Press.)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Feasting on the Word

Feasting on the WORD! – led by Pastor Susan
Sundays 9:30 AM – Fellowship Hall
Join the discussion! Join us on Sunday mornings to study the Revised Common Lectionary. Click the links below for each scripture reading
February 5 Matthew 5:13-20 Seasoning and Shining
February 12 Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Choose Life! 
February 19 Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 Wholly Holy 
February 26 Matthew 17:1-9 Who Is Jesus?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Souper/Pie Cookoff

Souper/Pie Cookoff

February 12 following the 10:30 service, is our Annual Souper/Pie Cookoff! Here's your chance St. Mark Chefs to show off those awesome soup & pie recipes.

Bring your favorite soup in a crockpot or 2 of your favorite pies for tasting by your fellow St. Mark judges. A beautiful prize will be awarded to the best soup and pie in this competition. AND...to make it more interesting, decorate your table! All paper products along with drinks will be furnished by the Fellowship Committee. 

The cost for tasting will be $4.00 for soup and pie. There will also be hotdogs with chips available for $1.00.

A table for Chef Signups will be set up in the Narthex. Sign up soon! This is a great family event, so please join us.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

State of the Church by Rev. Jim Poinsett Part 2

St. Mark Presbyterian Church Congregational Meeting January 29, 2017

Click here for Part 1 (If this is too small to read on your email, click on the link and go to the web-site)

Today, I would like to share with you what I see as the most pressing interim tasks I believe we still need to accomplish, or at least work on, in the time before St. Mark’s next installed Pastor arrives. These tasks are large and small, simple and wideranging, practical as well as theological, easily accomplished and the work of a lifetime. In short, there’s something for everyone!

The interim tasks I will be addressing with you in the coming months include Governance Structure, Bylaws and Operational Reform, and Conversing About Difficult Subjects.

The first interim task I want us to focus on today is that of leadership. Churches that want to thrive in the 21st Century, churches that want to exist 15 or 20 years from now, need leaders. In a Presbyterian church, this means a session that provides bold and decisive leadership, rather than safe and sufficient management. This means moving from “management board” governance to “leadership board” governance.

This Leadership Board versus Management Board distinction in important. Ten, twenty, or even fifty years ago, when churches were filled with people, and church programs were full, and there were always enough volunteers, the session could function in a way that they only needed to keep things stable and functioning. They only needed to focus on keeping programs going pretty much the same year to year; on finding slots for all the volunteers; on keeping things from failing on their watch.

But fast forward to the present, and what a church, what all of us, need from a session is very different. These days people are attending in fewer numbers, and for the most part congregants are older; programs that thrived for decades no longer draw as much interest; visitors are fewer, attendance patterns have changed dramatically because people’s lives have changed in all sorts of unexpected ways. The church active out in the world in the name of Jesus, instead of active only within its walls, are what those who are looking for a church today are most interested in. Look, nobody is at fault; no one is to blame. Change is change. It’s always happening at a ceaseless pace. How we respond to that change as a church community is the key to our faithfulness, and ultimately to our survival.

To respond in the ways we need to respond as a church, St. Mark needs to be led by a strong leadership board, the session along with the deacons, made up of spiritual leaders, led by the Holy Spirit, who are seeking to keep the church relevant and faithful to God’s unfolding future. They need to focus on “big picture” and “far ranging ideas” for mission and ministry, and our collective faithful service to the Gospel. Most of the church boards I have worked with over the years I have been a pastor have been stuck in a management pattern from the past: of making every little five dollar decision that comes along; of staying firmly entrenched in the weeds of minor issues; of playing it safe, so things don’t fail on their watch. St. Mark is not different. Now hear me clearly, this observation is not a reflection on the people who are serving at present, or who have served over the years. They are good and faithful people, carrying on the job that was handed to them, that is expected of them – of managing this place. But our session, and deacons, need to be making $1000 and $10000 decisions – dealing with big and bold ideas about where God is calling us individually and all together into God’s future.

Leadership Boards pray, engage the congregation in conversation, listen carefully, pray some more, and make bold and decisive big picture, long-term decisions. Leadership Boards are: smaller; intentionally work in partnership with the pastor, utilizing her or his specialized education, experience, and spiritual insight; engaged in continual learning about the needs of the larger community in which the church exists, and how the church can and should address such needs; and are supported by staff members and a lean volunteer structure that tend to the management needs of the congregation (physical plant, functions like the preschool, programmatic aspects like worship, education, and fellowship).

The second task I will be focusing on in my remaining time with you is Bylaw and Operational Reform. The current bylaws are not sufficient for the nimble operating of a 21st Century congregation. We have begun to address some of those insufficiencies by giving the Board of Deacons and the Session more flexibility in the number of members required to serve. The Deacons were addressed at the September 2016 congregational meeting, and you just acted upon the change for the Session. This will allow both boards more flexibility and agility in how they function, and allow them to focus more on bold, big picture ideas and decisions.

One of things that I have noticed in my time here is the absence of an Operations Manual that supplies guidance on proper procedures for church life. Without a functioning Operations Manual, there are no clear lines of authority, no way of prioritizing church functions and activities, and no process for vetting, evaluating, and aligning ideas with the vision for ministry and ministry goals as determined by the Session. The absence of an Operations Manual creates a climate of constant misunderstanding and/or disagreement, which tends to keep the congregation in silos, or paralyzed, or frozen in place, and easily allows the loudest voices of individuals or small groups to control the agenda of the entire congregation. My goal is to provide the incoming installed pastor with a completed Operations Manual.

The third area I believe needs some attention in the coming months is how we have conversations about difficult subjects. Nearly all Christian congregations in our country are experiencing pressures these days, as fewer people attend church, as attendance and giving patterns shift. Fewer resources, financial, human, or otherwise, mean that hard choices about priorities continually have to be made. I believe there is hopeful work to be done for better connecting the essential functions of the church to the spiritual needs and actual schedules of today’s members and friends of the congregation. As grateful as we are for our fond memories of how worship and church programs happened in a former day, those memories and approaches may need to be left in the past to which they belong. They may not work in the present circumstances, and we only frustrate ourselves when we try to make them fit. Further, no one should expect that things will remain exactly the same with the arrival of a new installed pastor.

I think it is important and possible to learn how to have these difficult conversations without harming each other and the church we love. Graceful, appreciative conversations can take place, and they must be intentional. The information gathered in completing the Mission Study Report gave us an opportunity to practice how we talk about challenging aspects, as we explored the gifts and strengths, passions and dreams of this congregation. In the Spring of 2016, the Personnel Committee conducted staff reviews for the first time in recent history to get a sense of how well staff is functioning. And as mentioned previously, the elders are studying ways to become more effective in balancing the energies required to pursue the new things God is calling St. Mark to do while maintaining church life and ensuring all programs produce positive results. All of these initiatives assist in providing more transparency and accountability, while also giving the congregation an objective to framework within which to structure our conversations about challenging subjects.

Keeping a congregation focused on the vision for ministry it believes in and thinks achievable is an ongoing challenge. I am committed to facilitating these important conversations in my remaining time: I believe it will be helpful in paving the way for a new pastor to succeed and this congregation to flourish in its next season of ministry. There are always many good ideas and programs that a church can pursue. A thoughtful way to maintain vision and focus is to ask the question “so that?” for every mission, activity, program the congregation currently engages in, or would like to engage in. Does a particular mission, activity, program fit within the vision for ministry and ministry goals as determined by the Session functioning as a leadership board on behalf of the congregation? What good ideas need to be kept and faithfully pursued? What good ideas must be saved for another time because they don’t fit the current vision? Here’s a question we can all practice on: St. Mark exists in the 21st Century, so that . . . ?

Finally, I want to say how grateful I am for the creative, faithful, and energetic St. Mark staff – Rev. Susan Hayes, Katie Sternberger, Ellen Hynes, Marsha Medley, Lynne Dauve, Doreen Manhal, Carol Pfiel, Judy Young, and Lisa Marsh. They are storehouses of valuable knowledge, and committed to helping St. Mark be the best it can be. I also appreciate the leadership of our Board of Deacons and of the Session. And thank you, to all of you, for the continuing welcome afforded me, and the willingness to listen to me seriously, and engaging me in faithful conversation about where this particular congregation is being called into God’s future. It is a privilege to serve you.

Indeed, 2017 promises to be an exciting year for our church and for our lives. All of these remaining interim tasks are based on the premise that our God calls us in Jesus Christ to be people on the go, rather than people stuck in place. That our God calls to be friendly and caring, rather than dogmatic and uncompromising. That our God calls us to be active in making a difference for others, rather than just making ourselves comfortable.

The idea of being on the go, people in motion, people seeking and moving toward God’s future was reflected in our scripture from worship this morning. In our Gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus is calling disciples. As he calls to individuals – Simon and Andrew, James and John – Jesus doesn’t woo them with wild promises. Jesus says two words, “Follow me.” And off go the first disciples, following Jesus on an adventure, a faith journey. A journey that is far from simple, and filled with uncertainty, and always on the go.

Movement and adaptation, embracing change and forever seeking new possibilities, are the expectations and the job requirements for being God’s people and being Jesus’ disciples. To follow and be on the way and be focused on others are what people of faith are all about. And this life in motion for others – this journey of faith – is what you and I are to be about as well.

“Follow me,” says Jesus. Follow me and be people, and be a church that is always . . . always in motion.

What will our answer be?