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From “The Bridge, ” April, 2020
It’s hard for me to make sense of how I feel today. Writing this newsletter article has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. This is supposed to be the time where I tell you about all the wonderful things we have planned for Holy Week and Easter. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, those plans have been changed. A month ago, we had a full list of activities for the month of April. Now we are doing our best to celebrate Lent and Easter online. As a pastor, I’ve never experienced anything like this. Over the past few weeks Tim and I have had to rework our ministry to go online. Each week we find new ways to make your worship experience more meaningful. Our hope is that in our social distancing you can still feel the closeness of your church family. Even though the physical church building is closed, our ministry is alive and well.
So how do we move forward from here, especially during an important time such as Easter? What is the game plan? Will we still have Holy Week? What will Easter look like this year? Rest assured; we will have opportunities to worship together during this important time in our church year. Tim and I are planning Maundy Thursday and Good Friday online events. We will also try to think of special ways to broadcast our Palm/Passion Sunday and Easter Services. Our hope is that we can include the congregation on Sunday morning. This coming Sunday we are having three families from our congregation tape well wishes from their home to play during the passing of peace. We are also inviting others to read as liturgists. By recording our worship ahead of schedule, we will be able to include many participants from our congregation. We hope this brings a sense of normalcy during our time apart.
This year our Lent and Easter journey has opened our hearts to realities that often are overlooked. Our One Great Hour of Sharing offering is often seen as a donation to people a world away. When we consider that OGHS works to support needs to those suffering from natural disasters, the hungry, and the poor and the oppressed, your offering this year may help those closer to you than you think. In our offering we are reminded of our call as believers in Isaiah 58:6-9:
“Is not this the kind of
fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Your gifts and prayers are an expression of a living ministry working to support the needs of all God’s children. This is something we can do together in thanksgiving to God.
The fact is that Easter will be different this year. Yet, we hope that it will be just as meaningful as it always has. Easter cannot be taken from us. It is our gift from God. It is who we are. It is the symbol of the empty cross that gives us hope during times like these. Although we may seem far away from each other, the Spirit is holding us close, and we have an opportunity to worship and serve God in a new way that may touch new lives.
God Bless, Rev. Julie
Watch Suffolk Presbyterian Virtual here.
Rev. Julie recorded the uplifting homily and prayers from her home. The audio files are taken from a longer video produced by Tim and Kyle that is available on YouTube at
Homily audio file :
Prayers audio file:
By Rev. Julie Sterling
From The Bridge, March. 2020
One of my favorite hymns growing up in the church was the song “For the Beauty of the Earth.” I can still hear my brother and parents
sitting next to me in the pew singing their heart out. The tune brings me back to simpler times of youth and the words have a sweetness that
reflects the unending love of God. It is a song about creation that brings us to the first moments in our relationship with God. It takes us to the
beginning with God and the awesome wonder of the God’s hands putting the universe into motion. It is also a song about thanksgiving. Everything
around us, all creation is a gift from God and belongs to God.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. As I was preparing for my own faith walk during the Lenten season I came across the Lenten Study “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Leah D. Schade. Each year I try to expand my Lenten experience by focusing on something new. I believe that Lent is about “being present” with God and the world. What a better way to
walk the 40 day journey of Lent than with a hymn that celebrates the loving commitment God has for us and the interconnection we have with
all God’s creation.
The Lenten season is a time to put things in perspective. It is an opportunity for each of us to shift the way we normally live our life. In preparation for Easter we are challenged to pause from our everyday schedule and take time for God. One key way of doing this is by considering how we can be good stewards of ourown lives. This takes looking at the world with new eyes and considering the well being of all that God loves. It means changing our point ofview to work for the good of the community and not just our own needs. It is reminding ourselve each day of the journey that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that God is in all things.
This year our church will have many ways to walk the Lenten Journey. We will have the “Sanctuary for Lent 2020” devotion by Sam McGlothlin for you to use at home for personal daily reflection. We will also have the Lenten
study “Faithful Citizenship” from the Thoughtful Christian that you can read at your own leisure. I will have reflections via e mail and video post to
go along with this study. As always we will participate in the PCUSA “One Great Hour of Sharing” special offering. This will include an opportunity for you to share your loose change with our youth for their annual “Giving
Catalogue” mission project. Finally, the kids will be designing a butterfly/ bee garden on the church property. They will learn about the importance of environmental stewardship by planting flowers that support pollinators.
They will start some flowers by seed and bulb to plant . You will be invited later this spring to donate flowers to add to their project. I hope that as we take this journey together you will enjoy this time with God and with one another. I firmly believe these moments of pause give us essential insight that prepares us for extreme emotion of Holy Week and the glory of the Empty cross. My wish is that as we take this path together as community we will learn from one another and grow stronger as a faith community. I also hope that our joint Lenten discipline will do something good for the larger Suffolk community. For isn’t the greatest way to honor God is to honor his creation! Let us take this journey together to say thankyou to God by
giving back to all he holds so dear.
Brothers and sisters, may the peace of God be with you these next 40 days. Be forever reminded in all God’s blessings and that your time with God these next few weeks is a “gift of thankful praise.”