Do you remember January? Though it was only six months ago, it seems like light years. We say “January” and it feels like we are evoking a mythical time and place. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for me to recall January. So much of it seems lost in a fog that blurs memories of what defined “normal” or “ordinary”. Dropping my kids off at school, meeting a friend for coffee, casually chatting around my neighbor’s kitchen island, visiting relatives across the state, worshipping as a community of faith—was that real?
It was in January that I interviewed for the position of sabbatical pastor. I don’t remember what I wore that day. I don’t remember who sat around the table. I don’t remember the questions I answered and asked. I do remember thinking it would be an encouraging and formative ministry experience for me and for the congregation. The Spirit moved me to pray and open my heart to a summer of ministry with First Pres.
When I accepted the call to serve in Pastor Craig’s absence, I looked forward to meeting all of you, to greeting you every Sunday, to singing God’s praise in the sanctuary together, to enjoying sweet fellowship made even sweeter with coffee and donuts, to joining hands with you in prayer, to meals and walks in beautiful downtown Coeur d’Alene, to equipping and encouraging the amazing staff, to gathering in spaces to learn and lead. My vision for our season of ministry together was glowing and beautiful.
Like so many visions we’ve had during the past few months, my vision shattered. I still haven’t met so many of you; we haven’t joined hands to pray; we haven’t lifted our voices to sing; we haven’t enjoyed one cup of coffee or one (truthfully, two) donuts; we haven’t been able to smile or laugh together. I grieve all that we’ve lost and I pray someday the Spirit will bring us back together.
Even as my vision for our ministry together shattered, God opened my eyes to discover beauty in the brokenness. The compassion, wisdom, and grace I encountered every time I met with the session reassured me of God’s faithful presence. The creativity, dedication, and adaptability of the staff revealed the work of the Spirit in and through them. Your generous giving to the mission and ministry of First Pres served as an anchor in storms of uncertainty. Your willingness to worship together in virtual spaces cultivated hope by reminding me that we worship a God who isn’t bound by buildings. Over and over, I witnessed Love1st being lived out in ways none of us anticipated. Together, we navigated uncharted waters—streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans—while not losing sight of our call to love God, one another, and our neighbors. I believe with all my heart God will continue to use First Pres to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ in authentic and innovative ways.
As my time as your sabbatical pastor comes to a close, I want to share a blessing with you. It is written by Jan Richardson, one of my favorite artists and authors. I imagine us speaking this blessing to one another as we begin to walk the next path God has for us.
In His Name, Pastor Jennie
Rev. Jennie Barber
This Day We Say Grateful
A Sending Blessing by Jan Richardson
It is a strange thing to be so bound and so released all in the same moment, to feel the heart open wide and wider still even as it turns to take its leave. On this day, let us say this is simply the way love moves in its ceaseless spiraling, turning us toward one another, then sending us into what waits for us with arms open wide to us in welcome and in hope.
On this day, in this place where you have poured yourself out, where you have been emptied and filled and emptied again, may you be aware more than ever of what your heart has opened to here, what it has tended and welcomed here, where it has broken in love and in grief, where it has given and received blessing in the unfathomable mystery that moves us, undoes us, and remakes us finally for joy.
This day may you know this joy in full measure.
This day may you know this blessing that gathers you in and sends you forth but will not forget you.
O hear us as this day we say grace; this day we say grateful; this day we say blessing; this day we release you in God’s keeping and hold you in gladness and love.
I was given the chance to write the blog for this week because it is such a great opportunity to say goodbye. With two new sons in the last year (my baby-boy Holden and my foster son Maxx), my family is growing, and I felt it was time for me to grow, too. I will always feel grateful to the church, because the time I have spent here has provided me with opportunities to learn. Now I can use those new skills to build a new future for my family.
It's been about three years since I started working for the 1st Presbyterian community as your custodian. Looking back at the time I've spent here, I feel proud at what I've helped accomplish. It's been three years of remodels, repairs, and events that mean a lot to me.
In many ways, I've spent more of the last three years than anyone else with the building that holds our sanctuary. If I have any advice to give, it's that this church is a thing to cherish. The story of this community is more than a hundred years long and full of so much service and care. I've been so blessed to have the perspective to see that history in the building itself!
I want to thank everyone that helped me be a part of the staff and made my time here full of wonderful memories. There is so much to look forward to as this church grows. I hope the next person to serve in my custodial position gets to feel a part of it like I have felt a part of the First Presbyterian community.
It will be sad for me to hand over the keys, literally and figuratively, and close this chapter in my service to Christ. I loved my time here and will miss working for you all.
I like to multi-task. I can focus on a task and be aware of something else like music or the news on television, running in the background. Last week the news was sharing stories on summer camp and what it will/could/should look like this summer. It brought back such good memories!
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and for many summers attended Mt. Cross Lutheran Bible Camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains. What a blast! I have nothing but lovely memories of swimming, hiking, amazing camp food (it was! Or maybe we were just ravenous with all the activities and fresh air?), campfires, singing, crafts and of course, friends.
This summer, our entire congregation has an opportunity to spend time at our own camp: Lutherhaven. Carley has worked tirelessly with the staff at Lutherhaven to provide a wonderful camp experience for all of us: not just kiddos and families! There are so many opportunities for fellowship and fun that this is an experience you won’t want to miss!
Our camp runs from August 11th through the 13th. Carley has created an easy-to-use registration form that you’ll find here. Once completed, Carley will contact you to work out details since there are multiple experience options that she can review with you.
Did you attend summer camp? If you think about that time, what memories bubble up? Peace. Quiet. Serenity. Do any of these feelings come to mind? I hope so!
Especially in these very odd times we’re living in, in remembering, think on this:
Psalm 77:11-14 “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. 12 I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. 13 Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? 14 You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.”
Question: Did you know that David addressed over 50 of his Psalms to "The Choir Director"? Yep, it's true. David was passionate about music, specifically music used to glorify God and to lead worship. What does this have to do with 1st Presbyterian Church, Coeur d'Alene?
Years ago I learned a lesson. When things don't go as planned, be patient. God may specifically be at work! Most of my life things happened pretty much like my play book said they would. Cause and effect. Do this, and this happens. Don't do that, and that won't happen. I expected the expected. The "system" usually worked. But then, God began to show me that sometimes He isn't predictable at all. In fact, most of the time He is not predictable. The obvious is not obvious. The clear becomes muddled.
The patriarchs and prophets knew this. God showed them time and again that His plans are not our plans. His playbook is different. His clock doesn't have four quarters like it is supposed to have.
I accepted a new job a few weeks ago. A job at a great church in downtown Coeur d'Alene. A job doing what I love to do! Church music is my passion. Conducting singers, instrumentalists, and bell choirs...there is nothing more fulfilling and exciting to me than this. This is all part of God's plan! But then the Coronavirus hit. Six months ago, no one could have imagined the destruction, loss of income, and death it would cause. Places of worship are closed. Choirs aren't singing. Everything is topsy-turvy. A conductor without choirs to conduct is a sad sight indeed.
But God is great. His thoughts are not our thoughts. This game is not at all going as planned. But He has a plan for us at 1st Pres. Specifically, God has a plan for our music program and our choirs. It may be a while before it becomes clear to us, but God is in charge. Our chancel choir and bell choir will sing and ring again. Stay tuned and see what He has in mind for us. May the peace of Christ always be with you!