There is something so sweet about Christmas that I long to hold onto. I’ve found much needed hope in
the nativity scene tucked under my Christmas tree and the Christmas lights outside my living room
window provide a comfortable peace at the end of a long day. It is hard to believe that 2018 is almost at an end.
As we move forward to a new year, I worry. This past year has been long and difficult for many. I’ve
spent a great deal of time in prayer for our nation, for our community, and for friends and family I hold dear. I long to find the hope touches my soul when I view the Christ child in the manger. Even as I turn my focus to my joy and faith in God, I still wonder what the New Year will bring.
As a Pastor, and as a person of faith, I believe that God will provide blessings upon blessings. I know
this is the time where faith is important. Yet, it is not easy to look forward with hope and joy when most of us are tired, worried, and in some cases even a little broken.
This morning I come to God in prayer with the words I’ve lifted up most of this year:
God be with us in this time of need. Help us get past economic and political injustice. Help us to look
upon one another equally as brothers and sisters. Help us to work past our differences and end
violence. Above all else, help us to follow your path and live our lives guided by your love.
I believe that God is calling us today to look forward in hope and let go of the pain and hardship of the past year. Let us remember and learn from what we have experienced this past year and vow to do what we must to make our future better.
I take heart in the words of Philippians 3:13-14 as the moments count down to 2019:
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
May each one of you have a blessed New Year. May the gift of Jesus guide you in hope. May the Holy
Spirit surround you with peace and love. In closing, I share with you a Celtic prayer to start out
your day. In the Celtic spiritual tradition, each day is viewed as a new start with God. May you find hope and excitement this new day with God!
God, bless to me the new day,
Never vouchsafed to me before;
It is to bless Thine own presence
Thou hast given me this time, O God.
Bless Thou to me mine eye,
May mine eye bless all it sees
I will bless my neighbor,
May my neighbor bless me.
God, give me a clean heart,
Let me not from sight of Thine eye;
Bless to me my children and my wife,
And bless to me my means and my cattle.
A traditional Celtic prayer translated by Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912), compiler of oral
traditions in Scotland. Source: Academia
Rev. Julie Sterling
In the lead up to Christmas, many of us spend time in search of the perfect gift — the gift that communicates to friends and family how much we know and love them. We search our memories for indications of what gift might cause the faces of our loved ones to light up on Christmas morning. We scour the stores and shops, hoping to come across the thing that will communicate a depth that our words cannot.
Although we cannot give the perfect gift, we can give generously, knowing, as the New Testament letter of James says, “every generous act of giving … is from above.”
For those of us who gather in Advent expectation, we know that the only perfect gift ever given was the one we received in Jesus Christ. The Christmas Joy Offering celebrates the coming of Jesus Christ, the “perfect gift” from a gracious God.
Devoted and caring leaders have led many of us in the way of Christ. Church workers have shaped our faith and they have been God’s gifts among us. As we celebrate Christ’s coming, and think of the profound impact these individuals have had on us, the Christmas Joy Offering provides a way for us to offer a gift in response.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), through the Christmas Joy Offering, helps us respond to God’s gift with generous gifts supporting church leaders among us, retired, present and future, who have pointed us to God. For church workers in need of financial help, whether due to declining health or a catastrophic event, such as Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Christmas Joy provides for those needs through the Assistance Program of the Board of Pensions.
Even as we support our current and former church leaders, God is calling new leaders for our Church and world, through the ministry of Presbyterian-related schools and colleges equipping communities of color. For students receiving scholarships and support at Menaul and Presbyterian Pan American secondary schools, and Stillman College, a Historically Black College, the generosity of Presbyterians means a brighter future and enhanced opportunities to use their talents and skills to serve God, the Church and the world for years to come. When you give to the Christmas Joy Offering, you help sustain these promises and uplift our brothers and sisters in Christ by reducing their burdens and opening new paths of opportunity.
We can never match God’s perfect gift in Jesus, but through the Christmas Joy Offering, we can testify to who we have known God to be. Our perfect gift comes from above. Our gifts reflect our generous God. Our gifts support leaders in our Church and world — past, present and future.
From the Pastor, Rev. Julie Sterling
(Reprinted form the Nov. 2018 “The Bridge”)
Stewardship Sunday is just around the corner. Time to make plans and request
commitments for the coming year. As we prayerfully pull together our church budget for
2019, I wonder what blessings God has in store for our church. How will God warm our hearts
to new ministries? How will God call us torespond to our community? Most important,
how will God help us grow in faith and commitment as individuals as well as community. Active stewardship is more than just meeting the budget for the year. It is a response to the word of God. By giving back in faith and love, our perception of our place in this world changes. To quote Andrew Dhuse, “God’s will is not an itinerary, but an attitude”.
Every year I prepare for Stewardship by selecting a stewardship themed study or reading
to use along with my daily devotion. This year I’ve chosen the book “Treasures of the
Transformed Life” by John Ed Mathison. In the introduction, Mathison focuses on a Bible story
from Matthew 13:45-46: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine
pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” In
the story, the merchant was actively looking for his treasure. We too actively look for things we desire. The lesson is clear. As people of faith the true treasure is the kingdom of God.
How do we embrace active stewardship? Is it something that we can accomplish filling out
our pledge card on Stewardship Sunday or is it something more? If so, what can we do
throughout the year to become healthier stewards? Also, how do we change our perspective on giving so stewardship talk is more inviting?
During our October Presbytery meeting, Rev. Deborah Rexrode, Associate GeneralPresbyter and Stated Clerk for Stewardship, Presbytery of the James shared a message in worship titled “Called to Steward God’s Church.” In her sermon she emphasized stewardship as a part of active ministry that we ,should engage with throughout the year. She also reminded us that active stewardship involves prayer and study, community building and fellowship, along with personal commitment in response to our life with God. Good stewardship is transformative. When we actively search for the treasures of the kingdom, we find ourselves growing as Christians and becoming closer to God. Eleanor Powell sums up good stewardship as such:“What we are is God’s gift to us. What we
become is our gift to God.” Friends, let us join on this journey of stewardship together. The discipline of giving is an essential part in our life with God. We are called as Christians to use or time, talents, and tithes to assist God in the work of the church. Ask what you can faithfully do to give of yourself this year.
Any gift is a blessing! To quote Woody Allen, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
Rev. Julie Sterling
The three churches of West End Baptist, Oxford Methodist, and Suffolk Presbyterian have
planned joint worship services during Holy Week. Please join us for the following services:
Maundy Thursday Service:
March 29, 7:00 p.m., at Oxford Methodist Church,
Rev. Julie Sterling (SPC) preaching
Good Friday Service:
March 30, 7:00 p.m., at West End Baptist Church,
Rev. Rita Kanten (OMC) preaching
Easter Sunrise Service:
April 1, 7:00 a.m., at Suffolk Presbyterian Church,
Rev. Bob Pipkin (WEBC) preaching. West End Baptist will provide refreshments after the service
Ash Wednesday Service: Wednesday, Feb. 14th. 7 pm. Come join us in worship as we prepare for the Lenten Journey. This is a service of music, prayer, scripture, message, and imposition of ashes. Everyone is welcome.
Lenten Study: Thursday, Feb 15th. 6 pm. Church Library. You are invited to take part in our Lenten Study “Learning forgiveness”. This is a six week study. You are welcome to take part in some or all of the sessions. Everyone welcome. Please contact Rev. Julie with any questions.
On Sunday afternoon, October 15, the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia installed the Rev. Julie Anna Sterling as pastor of Suffolk Presbyterian Church. The long-awaited ceremony marked not a beginning but a joyous continuation of Sterling’s ministry in Suffolk. She and her husband, Eric Sterling, had immersed themselves in the congregation and community in May, after she accepted the call to become our church’s pastor. After PEVA welcomed Sterling at its quarterly meeting in July, a presbytery commission began planning her formal installation. She opted to wait until fall when her parents, Ron and Mary Ann Sterling, who live in Iowa, were planning to visit.
During the installation service, The Rev. Bill Lamont, PEVA moderator, asked her the constitutional questions of whether she was willing to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination and love. Elder Don White asked the congregation members if we would support and respect her, share in her ministry and agree to pay her fairly. The Rev. Leigh Gillis, interim pastor at St. Andrew Presbyterian, presented the charge to the pastor, reminding her to take care of herself so she can care for others. The Rev. Lou Ventura, pastor of Franklin Presbyterian, gave an emotional charge to the members of her home church, urging us to love and support our new pastor. Other members of the installation commission taking part in the service were Commissioned Pastor Billy Ricketts and the Rev. Skip Irby.
The choir sang a beautiful rendition of “One Step” as an anthem, the Rev. Larry Ugarte preached the sermon, and the congregation celebrated Communion by intinction. The Presbyterian Women provided a lovely reception of finger foods and punch. On behalf of the congregation, the Pastor Nominating Committee presented Rev. Julie with a bright blue stole from Guatemala, noting that she shares our dedication to missions. Susie Stoughton, PNC chair, said that Rev. Julie embraces SPC’s values – being accepting, caring, outreaching, spirit-led and willing to serve. “The congregation asked us to find a pastor who would love us,” she said, “who would care for us and others, who would lead us in serving others, a pastor who would inspire us from the pulpit and share with us in fellowship.” The PNC felt that God had brought the congregation and Rev. Julie together. “It was like God was saying, ‘this is a good fit,’” she said. “‘You all would work well together.’”
Come join us as we celebrate the installation of Rev. Julie Sterling to Suffolk Presbyterian Church on Sunday, October 15 at 2 pm. All are welcome! Reception to follow.