March 23rd, 2023
It is almost time for Send Hunger Packing (SHUP) assembly on Saturday! I know just how much preparation, planning, shopping, and donating has gone on by so many of you in order to make our goal of 200 SHUP (Send Hunger Packing) weekend bags, in partnership with Mercer Street Friends. The weather forecast for Saturday looks like rain, which I think helps us all to find passing a morning in the church fellowship hall assembling these bags together the perfect rainy day activity. Hope to see as many of you as can make it. Remember, you can come for as long/short a time as you like between 10am-1pm.
I also wanted to let you know that there is one more opportunity to get fully into the spirit of Lent, a season not only for reflection but for acts of service, and that is to join with ArminArm (formerly Crisis Ministry of Mercer County) and the Centre Street Boys and Girls Club for their Super Saturday event on April 1st.
My family and I volunteered with ArminArm a few Saturdays back at their newest food donation warehouse at the Mill One building in Hamilton. ArminArm helps folks in our community with food, housing, and job support. Their mobile food pantry will be at the Centre Street Boys and Girls Club on April 1st from 11am-1pm in order to hand out food to neighbors there.
They need volunteers to help with the following:
Prepare bags of fresh produce
Prepare bags of frozen meats and (or) eggs
Replenish bags as they go & helping distribute the bags
Taking basic information from clients before they receive food
If you would like to take part in this volunteer opportunity, you can reach out to ArminArm’s volunteer coordinator, Shariq Marshall. You can contact her at (609) 396-9355 ext: 21 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t make it for this April 1st event, but hope to make another one in the near future. I’ve reached out to Shariq to share more info on future opportunities.
Season of Lent
As we journey ever further into this season of Lent, I wonder what God has been teaching you? What have you observed about your own yearnings so far? What discoveries are you making about what you need to do to know about God and to trust God more fully?
Over the past few months, I have been carving out space for the daily spiritual practice of walking with God. I use the time to breathe deeply, to take time for quiet reflection and prayer, and simply to enjoy being with God in nature. The regular rhythm of this practice has been so life-giving. Taking walks, in and of itself, is not a new practice for me, but it is the intentionality in my approach that has been so restorative.
I want to invite each of you into intentional engagement during the final week of Lent, which is, of course, Holy Week. We are preparing several special offerings for Holy Week. The hope is that, as disciples, we can journey with Jesus through the most difficult week of his life. The whole of our faith centers on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We would miss the power of the gospel if we went directly from the “Hosanna’s!” of Palm Sunday to the “Hallelujah’s” of Easter Sunday without experiencing and connecting to all that transpired between those events. But we want to do it in a way that is gentle, thoughtful, and prayerful. And we want to make our offerings accessible to the whole variety of ages and stages of folks in our community.
So, here’s a run-down of what we are planning:
1. Sunday, April 2nd: Palm Sunday is Kid’s First Sunday with communion and lots of special music by our choir. This will be a music-centric, interactive, and engaging service for all ages with the joy of a Fellowship Hour following the worship service.
2. “A Gentle Holy Week”: An Interactive Display. Designed for all ages but with particular focus on telling the story in a way that is appropriate for children, youth, and young families, this 8 stations exhibit is a way to see, hear and interact with the full story of Jesus’ last week, including all that transpired after Palm Sunday and before Easter Sunday. This immersive and interactive display tells the story with words, art, wondering questions, short prayers, and simple activities. We invite the congregation to come experience this display located downstairs. Please invite friends, family and neighbors to come along with you.
“A Gentle Holy Week” Display Hours are:
Following worship on Palm Sunday
April 3rd-5th | noon-3pm
April 6th | noon-3pm | 5:30-8pm
April 7th | 10am-4:30pm
3. Thursday, April 6th: Starting at 6pm, we will share in a special family-friendly Maundy Thursday Potluck & Communion Service in the upstairs Fellowship Hall. We will sit at tables together both for dinner and the communion service and hear a few bible stories about the way that God feeds us.
4. April 7th: Good Friday Service of Silence and Sorrow at 3pm in the upper Fellowship Hall. This service will be in the upstairs Fellowship Hall. The design of the service rests in the belief that in places of sorrow, lament, and grief we meet God differently. In our culture of conflict avoidance, we too often rush through these moments, touching down as lightly as possible as we reach out for the new life offered on Easter Sunday. In doing so, we do not give ourselves a chance to meet the God who sits with us in our sorrow. With this in mind, central to this service is creating a space where people can gather around the cross with as much vulnerability as possible in silence and in sorrow.
5. April 9th: Easter Story Walk & Easter Service. The Easter Story Walk will take place outside, following the sidewalk around the church. Easter eggs will be given out at each stop on the Easter Walk. Come for the story as early at 10:45am. Worship will begin at 11:15am in the sanctuary with pre-service music and activities from 11:00-11:15am.
I hope you will begin thinking about how you want to be intentional in your experience of Holy Week this year.
Rev. Dr. Shannon Smythe
United Presbyterian Church