R.I.P. – Rev. Lauren Kay Shock

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Former JLP pastor Rev. Lauren Kay Shock passed away on Tuesday, August 16th. Kay and Jim served at Jewel Lake Parish from 2001 to 2010. After serving at JLP, Kay served interim positions at Soldotna, Seward, and Moose Pass until 2013.

A memorial service in Grove, Oklahoma will be held at 11 am, Tuesday, August 23. Please keep her husband, Jim, her children, her grandchildren, and all of those she touched in your prayers in their mourning. If you would like to send a card to the family, please phone or email the JLP office for the address. A full obituary and guestbook is available online.

For those who follow godly paths
will rest in peace when they die.

—Isaiah 52:7

Nepal Relief

By now, you’ve heard about the devastating earthquake in Nepal this past weekend, but this firsthand account by a Nepalese church planter might give you additional perspective:

Most of the people hit by this tragedy in Nepal are Hindu. They blame their gods whenever disaster hits, and they will do the same again. The Hindu gods are untouched by suffering. By contrast, Jesus draws near and sympathizes with those who weep, because he knows human suffering and human tears.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) are among the many faith-based agencies offering assistance to people in Nepal.

If you’d like to contribute to UMCOR or PDA relief efforts, here’s how:

  • Give to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450. Your gifts to UMCOR International Disaster Response make it possible for UMCOR to respond quickly to emergency situations through our local and international partners.
  • Give: Financial support for relief efforts can be designated to DR999999 with reference to Nepal. Gifts can be made online, by phone (800) 872-3283 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (EST), or checks can be mailed to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburg, PA 15264-3700.

Update: more information is available from World Vision (another way you can support relief efforts).

One Great Hour of Sharing

Some people have asked why we didn’t receive an offering as part of the One Great Hour of Sharing back during March, and if we still plan to do so.

The answers are “by accident” and “yes.”

The Evangelism and Mission committee has been doing some really great planning this year. We have any number of ways to be part of the great things that God is doing in our neighborhood, our community, state, and around the world, and in the excitement about that planning, we simply overlooked One Great Hour of Sharing.

One Great Hour of Sharing goes back to the work that Protestant churches did during and immediately after World War 2 for relief and reconstruction. Both the PC(USA) and UMC participate in the One Great Hour of Sharing. Jewel Lake Parish divides the OGHS offering equally between the two denominational programs.

So on the principle that some things are “better late than never,” we will receive the offering during worship on May 3 and (as is our practice) send half of the total received to each of the two denominational programs.

Congregations Dying and Rising

In his own blog, Bishop Grant recently brought my attention to a blog post entitled “A Growing Church is a Dying Church.”

I liked what the blog post said about the role of the pastor:

What then can your pastor do? She can make your board meetings longer with prayer and Bible study. She can mess with your sense of familiarity by changing the order of worship and the arrangement of the sanctuary. She can play those strange new songs and forget about your favorite old hymns. She can keep on playing those crusty old hymns instead of that hot new contemporary praise music. She can bug you incessantly about more frequent celebration of Communion. …

and:

What can she do to grow your church? Nothing. There’s nothing your pastor can do to make your church grow. She can’t save your church. Your church already has a Savior and it’s not her. She can push you. She can open doors. She can present you with opportunities. It’s up to you to take advantage of them.

But the greater point was that churches often look for numerical growth and a prolonged lifespan, which isn’t very Christian. More bodies, sometimes, is precisely what God refuses to provide. And as for length of days: we of all people should not be afraid of death like those who have no hope. Resurrection can’t happen until there’s been a death.

My only quibble with the article — not, I think, with its main thrust, but with its wording — was that it conflated two ideas: transformation and resurrection. Resurrection includes transformation, but not all transformation is resurrection. (Consider the transfigured Jesus and the risen Lord. Consider the Peter of Luke 5 and the Peter of Acts 4. He’s been transformed, but neither one is the Peter we will know in the age to come. Or the Paul of Acts 7–8 and Acts 21. He’s been transformed, but not yet resurrected.)

In the case of a local congregation, what the pastor is trying to orchestrate (midwife?) is transformation, not resurrection. The congregation may resist that transformation. It may prefer to die with dignity than to contextualize the gospel for neighbors who don’t look or sound or behave like the people who paid for the organ or put in that stained glass.

What happens when a congregation dies? Sometimes, our church buildings are recycled as restaurants, or even homes and condos. But sometimes they are resurrected for new worshipping communities, like when the small foreign-language Pentecostal congregation buys the old First Mainline Protestant church downtown. May God bless them and give them a fruitful ministry.

I can’t criticize those few survivors hanging on in First Mainline. They’re tired and dizzied by the way the culture has changed under their feet and overwhelmed by the new demographics of their community. I can understand why they might be ready to go home to be with the Lord, just like Paul.

But life is a gift from God, and we are called to make good use of the time we have been given. Paul himself says it: “if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me.”

So let’s let God take care of resurrection, and in the meantime, apply ourselves to the work — and it is work — of being transformed so we can be agents of transformation.

(This article is cross-posted from Pastor Luke’s blog.)