---Grace Notes

 
One of my main tasks as the Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Moorestown is assuming the role of a spy. As I stand beside our people in worship and service I am constantly watching for signs of God’s grace at work here. In this sense, I’m a spy for grace. Very often, we’re the last ones to see what God has done in us. We can’t always see the change or notice the growth, though others can. I deeply believe that God is at work in faithful and loving ways in our lives. I’m looking for and pointing out every sign I see. Grace Notes is a public record of sorts. It’s a weekly field report that I write to celebrate all that God is doing here in this great congregation.
 
– Pastor Stuart Spencer –
 
 
 
 

“Welcome Change” WAY 15

WAY 15.   WELCOME CHANGE. Be curious about new ideas, perspectives, and approaches. Get excited by the possibilities that change can bring. What worked in the past won’t always work in the future, for God is doing new things.
– Mark 2: 22; Revelation 21:6, 2 Corinthians 5:17
 
LET’S BE HONEST. We hate change. I do. I used to listen to my favorite music from a website called Groove Shark. I loved it. I had it figured out and I could access all my favorite tunes. Then Groove Shark got into legal trouble with all the music artists on their sites. I got an email that coldly informed me that Groove Shark was no more because the Groove Shark guys were going to jail for a while. Bye-bye Groove Shark! Hello, Spotify. I didn’t like this new music source simply because it wasn’t Groove Shark.
 
Church people hate change: Don’t mess with my worship times. Don’t fool with my favorite hymns. And most of all, don’t sit in my pew.
I’m grateful that this Way sits right in the middle of our Twenty-Five Ways because God loves change and I believe He’s rubbing His hands in glee because He has a lot of changes in store for you and for us.
 
Let me offer three important guidelines to help us as God brings us change that I learned from the book, Canoeing the Mountains by Fuller Seminary’s Tod Bolsinger.
 
First, some things must never change. “What are the key elements of our theology, tradition, ministry practices and organizational culture that must be maintained at all costs because to lose them would be to lose our identity?” Be careful as you think through the matters that Bolsinger declares must never change. There aren’t many items on the list.
 
Second, what should be discarded? What can we stop doing or let die so we can free resources and energy for new forms of ministry [and mission]? Remember this: people [including you] don’t resist change. They resist loss. With change and something new comes loss and letting go. Loss is what makes change hard.
 
Third, what needs to be tried here? What kinds of experiments should we attempt? Today, we’re going to have to try and fail in order to grow and change. “What essential part of the church’s identity and mission needs to be adapted to a new day, environment or opportunity? How can the church keep doing the things it is called to do, but in a way that resonates, connects, serves and challenges people who wouldn’t otherwise pay it any attention?
 
The promise of change is bound up in God’s certain promise: Behold, I am making all things new!
 
Stuart Spencer

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“Grow Faith” WAY #14

WAY #14. GROW FAITH. Take advantage of every chance you have to form your faith—through small groups, classes, and personal study. Be a disciple and look to learn from those who know more of the Bible and Christian life than you do, then look for opportunities to share what you’ve gained with someone else.
 
I STILL REMEMBER what Pastor Meyers said in 1979 when he invited me to join First Presbyterian Church — “In the church we study and learn together.” He said this to correct my misguided notion that the church is a place for “accomplished” Christians. That was the encouragement I needed as I had many questions to be answered about the Bible, Christianity and the Christian faith.
 
Way #14 encourages us to “take advantage of every chance you have to form your faith through small groups, classes, and personal study.” Throughout the years, various small groups have helped me to learn who God is, what the Bible says, to grow in faith and live out what I learned. There is great value in small groups in addition to large group gatherings. Small groups help to build close friendships and a support system to minister to each other. They provide a safe place to share our experiences and needs as well as to pray freely for each other. As a result of regular meetings, people become accountable to each other, speak the truth, express care, and feel comfortable to participate in deeper discussions.
 
In small groups we are encouraged to grow spiritually, deepen our faith, develop our greater connection to the body of Christ, the Church, and to become his disciples to go out and “share what you’ve gained with someone else (Way #14).” In Jesus’ early ministry he appointed twelve disciples to form a “small group,” a group to build a special teacher student relationship, so that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach the gospel. (Mark 3:13-14)
 
I encourage you to join one of the many small groups our church offers so you can find kindred spirits, meet your needs and grow in faith to become Christ’s disciple. Sign ups are open on the church web site www.fpcmoorestown.org!
 
Rumi Sinunu

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‘Open Doors for Others to Lead’ WAY #13

WAY #13 OPEN DOORS FOR OTHERS TO LEAD. Encourage others to step into leadership by sharing responsibilities and mentoring. Let go of the jobs you’ve always done, and allow new leaders to emerge. Remember that our youth and young adults are not the future but are vitally important to our present.
 
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
 
I have been blessed to have parents who believed that their children be given an opportunity to lead. I have been member of the church since I joined in high school, a long time ago! I have seen and been involved in many aspects of church life, but I did not have to wait until I was in middle age or older to have the opportunity to serve on the many boards of this church. A session member reminded me that my Dad was always encouraging session to have the younger generation serve. In my other life, coaching and officiating, I have involved high school students in the youth field hockey program as coaches. As an official, I have been mentored throughout my career and now mentor the new officials.
 
Lately I have tried to encourage the Nominating Committee to look for younger members for the many boards. So, if asked, please consider answering yes. You will have the opportunity to meet different members of the congregation, and you will learn so much about the rich history of our church and help First Pres continue to be inter-generational. Allow God to lead you to serve. Also, encourage your friends and neighbors to get involved on a committee as an ad hoc member. Let the chair of the committee know you would like to serve; most committees can use additional volunteers willing to learn and put in the time. It doesn’t take a lot of time and your life will continue to be blessed. When the Nominating Committee asks the congregation to nominate people for the boards of the church, get to know the younger and new members of the congregation, inquire and encourage them to serve and then nominate and mentor them.
 
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” (I Timothy 4:12)
 
I have served on the boards of many organizations over the years, and each board has greatly enriched my life and taught me so much. At the time, I did not see God’s hand in these opportunities, but looking back He was guiding my path, as He always does, by surrounding me with strong men and women of Christian faith. In closing, I hope I can encourage all of us to embrace and support those that are just starting out on boards and committees here at the church and give them the same opportunities that I was given many years ago. I pray we will continue to look to the next generation to carry the torch.
 
Trustee President Ginny Weber

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“Own Our Church” WAY #12

12. OWN OUR CHURCH. The work of the church isn’t defined by pastors and staff alone; it comes from each member actively participating in the life of Jesus Christ. Claim ownership of FPCM’s mission, programs, and property. Each is an expression of how God is working among us! Support others. Be informed. Volunteer for a new role. Live like you’re the church — because you are! “The work of the church isn’t defined by pastors and staff alone…Live like you’re the church, because you are.”
 
This excerpt from our FPC WAYS booklet is true for involvement in a church and many other organizations. As a college freshman, I joined a fraternity. After pledging, I chose to be a “Social Member”, coming to the house periodically and going to parties and dances. I was friendly with the brothers and pledges, but didn’t get to know any of them very well. I participated in one “work day”, and came to business meetings, but I really wasn’t in touch with house issues. I was a good Social Member, but not a “great” brother.
 
In my second year, I moved into the house and was immediately immersed in the life of my fraternity, helping brothers move in, redecorating my room, and supporting the Rush Committee. I ate, slept, studied, played intramural sports and (yes) partied with my brothers. I loved being a brother and called the chapter house my home. I was an active member, but not yet an Owner.
 
Later, I became Pledge Chairman – responsible for both rushing and training our “newbies.” While in this post for two semesters, I developed a deep relationship with our 30 new members. As an officer, I was involved in planning and executing house maintenance, social events, intramural sports, and community service programs. By the end of that year, I felt a strong level of commitment to my brothers and pride our activities. I had come to OWN our fraternity.
 
My experience at IBM was similar, where, as a trainee, I would ask “Why do YOU (meaning the IBM company) do that? After a year, I asked “Why do WE do that? It was a subtle change of the phrase, but it reflected that, I had become an Owner of IBM (one of 300,000). My church life has followed this familiar path, as I transitioned from a new member to an active member (helping the church leaders), to taking ownership for some part of church life as a Deacon, Trustee, and finally Elder.
 
Taking ownership for these organizations has meant making a larger commitment of time to work with, and for, the other members. Being an Owner has helped me better serve the organization, and get more satisfaction from my involvement. So, in the final analysis, Ownership is its Own reward. As brothers and sisters in Christ I hope you will Own Your Church and receive the rewards I have.
 
Elder Paul Grossmann

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“Make Others at Home Here” WAY 11

WAY #11: MAKE OTHERS AT HOME HERE.
Warmly welcome newcomers and visitors. Offer your name with a smile. Reach out and greet the person you don’t know after worship, during Coffee Hour, in Youth Group or Sunday school. Show a genuine interest in others. “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ welcomed you, for the Glory of God.” – Romans 15: 7
 
DEACONS ARE TRUE servants of the church, here to make sure others are taken care of is at the heart of who we are. This can be done in small ways: a simple greeting as you enter church. Or, by actually welcoming families into our church for a full week through IHN. We host different families 6 times a year and take care of all matters, large and small, during their stay. That could be simple fellowship, making a meal to share, or providing transportation if needed. We do what we can to make sure they feel at home.
 
We also take the welcoming spirit outside of our church walls. If home is where the heart is, we bring that heart to others via “food baskets” for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We are blessed to be able to deliver 12 bags of groceries to local families during these Holidays.
 
On occasion we have the opportunity to make a difference for a congregant, or someone tied to our church in some way. These instances are truly gratifying. If you are aware of someone who is in need of being “welcomed,” please let us know how we can help. If you would like to help, Deacon’s Sunday will be November 17th and we would welcome any support.
Matt Moxhay, Deacons Moderator

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“Join Hands’ WAY #10

WAY 10: JOIN HANDS Work as a team. Collaborate with each other, our professional staff, our lay leaders, and our congregants to find the best solutions. Collaboration lightens the load, generates better ideas than individuals working alone, and unleashes the gifts God has given us all. (Ecclesiastes 4:9;   Proverbs 27:17)
 
THIS SUMMER, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Salyersville, Kentucky with the Moorestown chapter of the Appalachia Service Project (ASP). I had been wanting to go on a missions trip for years, but with four kids, an overworked husband and a lively household to run, I could never seem to break away. When my son Christian decided to go on ASP this past summer, I knew my time had come to “jump in” and “join hands.” If I waited for life to quiet down, I was never going anywhere!
 
So, on July 21 in the wee hours of the morning, I drove one of the 15 vans full of sleepy-eyed kids on a 10-hour journey to Southeastern Kentucky. Over 100 Moorestown High School students and several adult chaperones came together to serve the poverty stricken people of Salyersville. Each morning before we left for our work sites, we “joined hands”… literally … in prayer. We prayed for the families we were serving and for the grace and wisdom to know how to best help them. Then we piled back into the vans, tool boxes in tow, to again “join hands” and as a team consulted, collaborated and planned the day at our sites.
 
I was not expecting what happened next … There is an unspoken power in God’s people “joining hands”, an intangible bonding and connecting that happens when we work together towards a common goal to serve each other. Virtual strangers, united in prayer and bound by faith, become FAMILY connected by the power of a shared experience. The Holy Spirit was alive and moving among us. By the end of the week, my team and I had not only renovated a bathroom and a laundry room, but we extended our family circles to include each other and the beautiful Kentucky family that welcomed us into their home. I cried when we left Salyersville (not a shock to those who know me!) overwhelmed with gratitude to be part of such a wonderful program.
 
Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to JUMP IN and JOIN HANDS! Matthew 18:20 tells us, “For where two or more are gathered together in MY name, I am there in the midst of them.” There are so many ways, big and small, to jump in to this vibrant FPC community… DO IT TODAY! Don’t wait for life to quiet down. The Holy Spirit moves easily through chaos …
 
Elder Tamara Trzeciak

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“Pray First and Pray Again” WAY #9

#9: PRAY FIRST AND PRAY AGAIN.
 
Ask first for God’s guidance and blessing in everything you do. Through prayer, ask for wisdom and for God’s will to be done. Pray for others as well, that God’s love and blessing would be revealed to them in good times and in bad.
Scriptures: Proverbs 3: 5-6; Matthew 6: 10; Ephesians 6: 18
 
 
There are many ways to pray. You can follow a prescribed order, like ACTS:
A – Adoration – tell God how much he means to you
C – Confession – name your sins
T – Thanksgiving – tell God how he has blessed you
S – Supplication – pray for the needs of others
 
Prayer, talking with God, can happen at any time, in any place. I find that the red light turns faster when I use the time to pray The Lord’s Prayer. If I am annoyed by another driver I try to pray for them, asking that they get where they need to go safely. It calms me down. When I have trouble sleeping I often pray the alphabet – asking God to bless the person or place that comes to mind as I work my way through the ABCs. Lately I have used the same format to name my blessings. I toss and turn less, letting God take over my thoughts. A simple “thank you” at the beginning of a meal is a great appetizer!
 
Several years ago I heard about PUSH – pray until something happens. I prayed for years about something, and finally was blessed with understanding. I am learning to trust Him, and lean on Him when I am worried or disappointed. Sometimes the answer to my prayer is getting a different attitude. I find I worry less when, instead of telling God what I want, I put an issue in His hands, and ask for guidance and patience. A joy shared is multiplied, a worry shared is halved. Talk to God. He is a great listener!
 
Jane Murphy

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“Jump In” WAY #8

#8: JUMP IN. Life is full of unexpected problems and needs, large and small. Pay attention to moments when God calls you to action, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary the situation may be. See “disruptions” as invitations to share Christ’s love. Write a note. Visit the sick or the grieving. Share a meal.Scriptures: Micah 6: 8; James 2: 14-17; 1 John 3: 18
 
Jump In!!! Where have you jumped in or seen others jump in? I have been blessed by being involved in two projects here at First Pres where I’ve seen many Jump In.
 
Celebration of Faith Weekend – Just over a year ago our church held a weekend to understand and celebrate our faith. What started as a small nucleus of eager committed participants soon expanded into seven committees and over a hundred volunteers. All Jumping In. We had visitors from around the country come and speak to us in small groups, over meals and during services. Members hosted these visitors in their homes, held Saturday coffees, organized two dinners, a luncheon for women and one for men, and a Friday and Saturday worship service. The preparation that went into these events by the committees and volunteers was tremendous, driven by prayer and God’s hand. A joyous and meaningful weekend attended by hundreds took place due to volunteers and attendees whose faith and enthusiasm never wavered – all willing to Jump In.
 
Live Streaming – A few years ago I chaired the church’s Technology Committee when it was decided to live stream our Sunday services so that anyone anywhere in the world could view them. There was no budget and it was technically complex. Live Streaming happened, but only because many Jumped In. We needed a camera – our IT person Jumped In and donated it. We needed fiber optics – a committee member Jumped In and got two companies to donate and install what we needed. They Jumped In nudged by God. One obstacle though was that the wiring needed to go under the Sanctuary in the crawl space. Dan Wonneberger said he would do it; that is, he not only Jumped In, he jumped under (the Sanctuary). That’s how we ended up with Live Streaming – all willing to Jump In.
 
From 1 John 3:18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions…
 
Sunday, September 8th, is our Fall Kickoff Sunday; classes start, we return to regular service times, we present Bibles, commission our teachers and enjoy a Front Yard Fellowship BBQ after church. Jump In!
 
Elder Hank Heidler

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“Forgive… Again” and “Celebrate the Unity, Savor Diversity”

#6: FORGIVE . . . AGAIN. Just as God forgives us, heal relationships by extending forgiveness with grace and generosity. Forgive everyone everything.
Start by praying for those you resent or hate. Ask for every blessing you would want for the one you’re struggling to forgive.
FORGIVENESS is not an easy practice, but it is such a healthy and necessary one. When was the last time you sat down, took a few deep breaths, and asked God to reveal a source of hurt or bitterness in your life? Where do you need freedom or hope in your life?
 
When we’re sick, we want freedom from painful symptoms, so we visit the doctor’s office, hoping they’ll prescribe a quick, short-term solution. But forgiveness does more than treat our symptoms; it goes straight to the root cause of our pain and heals us in deeper ways. Giving and receiving Christ’s forgiveness is life-changing because it frees us from everything that gets in the way of our calling to LOVE. Gone are our exhausting days of bitterness, anger, entitlement and resentment. Now, finally, we can live for Christ instead of being consumed by an invisible disease.
 
Forgiveness doesn’t prove who was right and who was wrong, nor does it prove that someone is more moral or religious than the next person. Rather, it is a bit like waking up in a jail cell of our own making and realizing that, all along, we’ve had the key to freedom in our pocket. Thanks be to God. – Kelly LePenske
 
 
 
#7. KEEP THE UNITY, SAVOR DIVERSITY. Thank God that, like parts of the human body, we’re not all the same. Be open to learn from others, regardless of their age, background, experience, or tenure with our church. We make better decisions and grow as people when we consider multiple perspectives. Listen with curiosity to others and consider how to use their ideas.
 
UNITY AND DIVERSITY are not opposites, but often they can feel like them. The easy way is for those who are similar to be unified and for those who are different to let their differences of opinion or lifestyle separate them.
 
We, though, are called to a harder yet more fruitful way. When we look to Keep the Unity and Savor Diversity, we begin to draw different viewpoints and people groups to the same table and into the same community. We are united by one faith in one Lord, empowered by one Spirit, and enlivened by one hope. Do not let our differences divide us, but savor a different viewpoint united under one Lord. – Dan Wonneberger

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“Always Encourage and Celebrate” WAY #4 – “Assume Positive Intent” WAY #5

WAY #4. ALWAYS ENCOURAGE AND CELEBRATE (July 28–August 4). Show gratitude and appreciation by regularly acknowledging the good works you see everywhere. Look for signs of spiritual growth and maturity among our members and staff. When you see it, point it out and rejoice. Pass on good reports that you hear about others. (1 Thessalonians 1: 3, 4)
 
No matter who it comes from, criticism doesn’t feel good, and recent studies are finding that it doesn’t do a lot of good, either. Psychologists at Stony Brook University found that when children receive frequent criticism from their parents, they’re more likely to develop anxiety, depression and social withdrawal that may last a lifetime. As people filled with the love and hope of Jesus Christ, we’re called to pour love and hope into everyone we meet. A kind word has immense power on a personal and communal level. It’s as refreshing as a cool glass of water on a sweltering summer day. Encouragement breathes new hope, life and grace into everyone, which helps all of us thrive.
 
WAY #5. ASSUME POSITIVE INTENT (August 4–11). Decide to trust that other members are being fair, honest and concerned for the well-being of our church. Set aside your own judgements and preconceived notions. Surrender the urge to criticize and judge—it doesn’t help. (Matthew 7: 1)
 
There’s a lot that goes on beneath the surface of a single human being. We’re all messy, broken and complex, but guess what––God’s not in the business of writing people off. And neither is the church! The Bible is filled with story after story where God calls on unexpected (and even unlikable) characters to lead, serve and transform communities.
Assuming positive intent means taking off your glasses of judgment and letting God hand you a new pair. Warning: you may notice a sudden change in your vision. You’re no longer focused on others’ annoyances or weaknesses. Instead, you recognize something compelling in everyone, and you wonder if it’s been there all along. It’s God’s divine image. It’s the revelation of Colossians 3:11: “Christ is all, and is in all.”
 
Maybe it’s hard to see potential in others because you don’t see it in yourself. Maybe it’s time to exchange your old glasses for God’s prescription of grace.
 

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“Listen Generously – WAY #3”

WAY #3. LISTEN GENEROUSLY. Be quick to listen and do so with your undivided attention. Minimize the distractions and let go of the need to agree or disagree. Suspend your judgment and be curious to know more rather than jumping to conclusions. Above all, listen to understand. (James 1: 19, 20)
 
Listen generously . . . or else! I’ve come to believe that as I stop listening I’m probably going to start hurting. I’m more likely to lose my composure when I’m not listening. I’m far more inclined to say a wrong or stupid thing when I’m not listening. I’m certainly in a great position to say or do something I regret.
 
Listen generously . . .and watch the healing flow! When I’m listening well to Leslie or my sons, we’re always in a better place as a family. My best listening happens when I’m face-to-face with the other—no phones, no laptops, no newspapers and no TV between us. Listening draws me into the one I love. There are few better gifts to give than generous listening.
 
Stuart H. Spencer, Pastor

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“Speak the Truth with Love – Way 2”

WAY #2: SPEAK THE TRUTH WITH LOVE
 
.Speak honestly and directly in a way that clearly reflects love and support for one another. Be courageous enough to say what needs to be said, even when it’s difficult. Address issues directly with those who are involved or affected; speak to, not about, others. (Ephesians 4: 15)
 
The best speech is direct speech. Follow straight lines with one an-other. This Way sets us on the Point A to Point B road to others. No detours to talk about the one you need to address. No turning the other way to avoidthe tough conversations. We’re learning at FPCM to be direct and straight with each other. You know why we are? It’s easier, that’s why. I’ve found that when I put off what needs to be said that I end up carrying a bur-den that I don’t need to shoulder. The longer I carry it the heavier it becomes. By speaking the truth with love I’m really living love; and living love is lighter by far. Please think: what do I need to say? Say it straight with love.

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