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Journey to Bethlehem By: Rev. Will Scott

Are you travelling for Christmas this year? Or did you just get home from a Thanksgiving trip? Maybe it’s appropriate that we travel so much this time of year remembering, as we do, Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem, racing against time to find a safe place to welcome baby Jesus.

In the coming season of Advent we are waiting for Jesus, too. Each day of the calendar is like another step towards the manger: another step towards feasts with family; another step towards gifts of love; another step towards the announcement of angels: “I bring you good tidings of great joy.”  The season has its share of detours—a monthlong cavalcade of parties and obligations, office functions and community events. But, in the end, all roads lead to Bethlehem.

The journey is not unlike a labyrinth. It’s like a maze with twists and turns, but always returning to the right way, and always ending up in the center. In Christian history, the labyrinth was a way that cathedrals could offer pilgrimages for people—journeys with God—even though many could not travel far away. The labyrinth symbolizes that we are all on such a pilgrimage.

This is how we would like to represent our Advent journey this year. Our liturgical arts team has created a labyrinth to help guide our prayers and preparations for Christmas. We hope you will join us on Sunday, December 2 at 5:00 PM in the fellowship hall. There we’ll enjoy food and fellowship, and then an opportunity to explore the labyrinth, led by the Rev. Julie Johnson, a spiritual director with extensive training in the spirituality of labyrinths. The labyrinth will be available for use in the sanctuary during the week; but with special resources available on Tuesday evenings in December. Come find the center of our journey as we prepare for God’s gift to us in Jesus.

Peace,

 

 

 

Will

Journey to Bethlehem By: Rev. Will Scott2020-09-08T16:05:18-05:00

Call to Stewardship By: Jeane Jones

It was a beautiful autumn afternoon and Fran Lewis and I had been to visit Anne Farrow, who by that time had needed to move to The Gardens of Royal Oaks. We three chatted about many good things regarding the church and neighborhood.  When time came to leave, Anne’s parting question tugged at me, “Isn’t there something over here we can do to help?”

Moved by her bright and generous spirit despite her serious illness and advancing years, I went straight home and to the web page of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, the helping arm of our denomination, and there was the answer to Anne’s question – a project called
“Gift of the Heart” Hygiene Kits.  The kits would be collected and sent to areas where disaster strikes, much like we’ve recently witnessed with Southeastern hurricanes and California wildfires.

We began to talk up this project first in our Congregational Care Team and with the director of The Gardens, Tammy Caldwell.  All seemed to think it was a good idea.  Soon we had volunteers who helped gather the supplies of hand towels and wash cloths, soap, toothbrushes, combs, nail clippers and the gallon zip lock bags to contain them.  With Tammy’s help, the hospital and The Gardens provided the band aids and toothpaste.

It was soon evident that this simple project was a win-win-win.  It was certainly helping those disaster victims who were literally in need of a fresh beginning.  It was giving meaning to the elderly who helped pack and it was providing delightful interaction between our church’s volunteers and the Gardens’ residents.   One of the biggest perks for us from the church is hearing the ladies, and occasional gentleman,  say things like, “It feels so good to be doing something to help somebody else.”, “We really enjoy having something meaningful to do.”, and a personal favorite, “We just love having you young girls come help us.”

Among the other blessings that have resulted from this very small project is that our youth group was inspired to pack kits here at church.  Once a national company donated items.   Discounts have been given us on supplies and, as reserved Presbyterians, we’ve “accidentally” witnessed in Dalton stores,  as employees always want to know what we’re doing with all those combs!  Now, almost three years later, we’ve packed over 1,000 kits of hope-in-a-zip-lock-bag.

Projects like this pop up and new ones will come along over the years.  So whether you’re helping Roger with cooking for Camp Aim, Alice with reading at Blue Ridge School, packing hygiene kits or something YOU are feeling called to begin, the important thing is for us ALL to always be asking as Anne did, “Isn’t there something WE can do to help?”

Jeane Jones

Call to Stewardship By: Jeane Jones2020-09-08T16:05:18-05:00

Call to Stewardship By: Alice Ensley

Author Neil Gaiman states, “A book is a dream you hold in your hand.” As parents, we all know the power and value of reading to our children to open their eyes to the larger world, to build a love of language and literacy, and to lay a foundation of a future as a reader and writer.  But what if you don’t have books in your home?  What if your parents work while you are home from school?  What if you are learning a new language? That is the case for many of our students at Blue Ridge School.

Blue Ridge School serves 651 kindergarten through fifth grade students.  100% of these students qualify as economically disadvantaged and 33% are English Language Learners. This year 17 students at Blue Ridge are new to our country.

Three years ago, our mission team felt called to invest our time and resources in local projects that would promote literacy and help reduce the adverse effects of poverty.  We decided to create a partnership with Blue Ridge School.  We began a Book of the Month club with the goals of instilling a love of literacy, creating a classroom collection of quality children’s literature, and building relationships with the students and staff. We began reading to kindergarten classrooms once a month.  That year we served approximately 100 students and donated 10 books to each classroom for a total of 50 books.  We also helped with a Valentine’s Day Party for each classroom and some of our volunteers even went on field trips with the students.

The next year we added more classrooms and more volunteers to serve both kindergarten and first grade. In our third year, we have expanded our program to include all kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms. This would not have been possible without your support and our core of volunteers, which has expanded to include members of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church and other community members.

Reading a book a month doesn’t seem like much, but sometimes it is the small, deliberate acts that have the biggest impact.  When we enter Blue Ridge School, we are greet by smiles, hugs, and hellos from the 300 students that we serve. 15 teachers look forward to our visits so they can share the work their students are doing and also have a small break in their busy day, and the classroom libraries are growing…including 300 books donated by our church!

3 years, 300 students, 300 books and 300 dreams.

Thank you for your support of this project and please join us anytime for what will certainly be your favorite hour of the month!

Alice Ensley

Call to Stewardship By: Alice Ensley2020-09-08T16:05:18-05:00

Call to Stewardship By: Roger Rollins

The Family Support Council and Camp AIM are based on the belief that all children … all children … have the right to be valued, and the right to live in a safe, healthy environment where they can grow into their human potential.

For us, and probably almost all the people that we know, that doesn’t sound like that big of an ASK.  We take it for granted that we will keep our children safe … that we will protect them from … in the words of our sacrament of baptism … “the perils of childhood”.

When these childhood perils tragically include sexual abuse, that victimized child will most certainly carry that experience for life.  The way that burden is carried can make the difference toward a successful life.

So, that’s where the FSC and Camp AIM come in, and it’s why this church is such an ardent supporter.

Camp AIM stands for Adventures in ME.  It’s a 2-week therapeutic day camp where kids from kindergarten age through high school come together and interact with peer victims and trained counselors and teachers.  Each day, in their group sessions these kids work on self-esteem, strategies for keeping themselves safe, and … for me, this is the most heart-wrenching … learning to trust again, and finding the courage to believe that it was not their fault.

The FSC was formed in 1980.  Over the years, various programs under the FSC umbrella have grown to the point where now each year it serves over 16,000 individuals.  Camp AIM was started in 1992, and now serves about 40 kids each summer, plus or minus.  Peggy started our family’s support over 20 years ago.  About 6 years ago, when I heard about the poor quality of the food provided to the Camp, the decision was easy.  I knew I couldn’t fix the kids, but I could fix food for them.

So, our participation as a church has grown to the point where we now prepare and serve both breakfast and lunch for both weeks.  In total, we contribute well over 100 hours of service each year.  The Mission Committee now provides the money to buy the food, and about 25 of you, my dear friends, give of your time and talent to pick up, prepare and serve healthy meals to these beautiful kids.

The Camp is always the first 2 full weeks in June.  Some time in late April or early May, I’ll begin communicating with everyone who is on my volunteer roster.  Huge thanks and gratitude to everyone that I’ve had the privilege of working with over the past few years, and a big invitation to any of you who can help during next year’s Camp.  I don’t ever want to NOT do Camp AIM.  There’s a bit of work to it.  But, it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do.  Mark your calendars, and consider joining us this year.

Roger Rollins

Call to Stewardship By: Roger Rollins2020-09-08T16:05:19-05:00
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