July 5th, 2017

"God bless to us our bread, and give bread to those who are hungry and hunger for justice to those who are fed.  God bless to us our bread."

My family sometimes sings these words at the table before a meal.  It is a paraphrase of a very old prayer from Latin America, put to music for the Iona Community by John Bell. It expresses succinctly the hope and prayer we show through our Cents-Ability offering, that hunger offering which we collect at BPC, without fail, every month on the third Sunday.  Sometimes that Sunday falls on another important liturgical day, as happened in 2017, when the day for Cents-Ability fell on Easter Sunday, the same day we emphasize the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. 

Every month I try to make sure that some sort of announcement or information is given regarding Cents-Ability.  No other special offering recurs so frequently. and no other special offering is expected to fall on the same day as another special offering. This aspect of Cents-Ability always reminds me that, for those who are hungry, there is no schedule, no coordination with other needs.  A family can’t say, “This week I need to pay for heat; next week I will pay for food.” A hungry person cannot just take a break from food while they get their finances together in order to afford it. And thus, we who have the capacity to help cannot take breaks either; the offering comes around again regularly to remind us that the need is always there. 

The above prayer reminds us that there are different kinds of hunger and different ways to address it.  As Kristin Tennant says in a post about this prayer, “Some people need bread, some people need to be woken up to care about the needs of others…Is your hunger for bread or justice?”  The conclusion is that if you aren’t hungry for bread, you should be hungry for justice.  If we are blessed with plenty of bread to meet our physical hunger, we should let that strengthen us for recognizing where lack of food means a lack of justice, and for discovering ways to address that injustice.  Cents-Ability is one way to respond to that injustice.  Our hunger can lead us to more.

To a man with an empty stomach, food is God.  — Gandhi

Sarah Windes

The prayer list can be found here.

At Heart, A Podcast by BPC

We hope you enjoy the next two episodes of our new podcast.



June 28th, 2017

At Heart: A Podcast from BPC

Before Catherine left for her Sabbatical she and I spent some time recording her thoughts on a number of topics. I have turned those into podcasts. A podcast, for those who don't know, is a radio program that you can listen to online and you don't have to tune in, you can listen whenever you want.

Today is the release of the first two episodes of the Blacksburg Presbyterian Church Podcast, At Heart. For the rest of the summer, they will be available here, on the website. They are short and sweet and meant to stir thought and conversation. Enjoy!

June 14th, 2017

This past Sunday I introduced our new intern during the announcements. I am excited for you to get to know Ginny, who will be serving with us through the summer and fall. Her focus will be on communication and technology projects as well as some curriculum development. I have also developed a personal and spiritual leadership curriculum that she will be working through. I am excited to have her join us. Below you can hear from Ginny herself and get to know her a bit more.

Kendra Crabtree
Director of Communications and Church Life

My name is Ginny Pearson and I am the new intern at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. I am a senior at Virginia Tech pursuing a degree in Human Development. I have a longstanding involvement with the UKirk Campus Ministry at Virginia Tech, which led my interest to working with the church this summer and fall. Through my position as a Student Leader in UKirk over the past three years, I have grown even more passionate about my own personal development and the need for faith communities.

I grew up in Madison Presbyterian Church, near my hometown of Stanardsville, VA. My studies of Human Development and my background with the Presbyterian Church led me to pursue an internship with Blacksburg Presbyterian. My faith is where I find meaning for all things in life, and shapes how I respond to topics such as social justice issues, human services, and education. I am hopeful that working with Blacksburg Presbyterian Church will help me grow in my faith, develop new relationships, and help me gain experience for my future. I have already felt so welcomed by this congregation, and cannot wait to see what the summer and fall semesters hold.


Scripture Reading: Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7); Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19; Romans 5:1-8; Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23).

The prayer list can be found here.

May 24th, 2017

Do you know about all the work that BPC supports through your contributions? This month Peace Justice and Global Mission Ministry is focusing on the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

This is how they define themselves:

“Our call is to be movers and shakers within the PC(USA) and beyond, encouraging one another to take seriously God’s call to God’s people to participate in God’s nonviolent work of love, peace, and justice in the world.”

Over the years they have helped lead the PC(USA) to take bold stances in the face of violence. By supporting nonviolent action in situations of conflict today, we follow our commitment to the Prince of Peace.

A bit of History –

  • In 1940 the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship started as a group that provided support to Conscientious Objectors to World War II
  • In the 50's PPF worked to oppose the development of nuclear weapons.
  • During the 60’s and the 70’s, members were doing draft resistance counseling and working to end the war in Vietnam.
  • In the 80s PPF was one of the founding organizations of the US-Soviet Bi-Lateral Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, leading the PC(USA) to become the first major church to endorse the proposal.
  • They were instrumental in encouraging the Presbyterian General Assembly to pass the document called “Peacemaking: The Believers’ Calling, which initiated the annual Peacemaking Offering, and established the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program of the denomination.
  • In the 90's PPF work included the Jubilee 2000-Third World Debt Relief.
  • Throughout the last couple of decades, PPF has been committed to dealing with gun violence and landmines.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and the denominational offices in Washington are among the most important partners with this work.

To learn more about their work, go to www.presbypeacefellowship.org where you will find detail on these areas of work and more, including,

  • Colombia and the Accompaniment Program
  • Israel/Palestine Conflict
  • Gun Violence
  • Becoming a Sanctuary Community

As always, PJGM would love more church members to join the ministry.

The prayer list can be found here.

May 3rd, 2017

The Baby Shop

Do you know about The Montgomery County Baby Shop?  Do you know where it’s located and who it serves?  This totally volunteer, donations-based project in our community, is located in the activity building of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at 220 W. Main St. in Christiansburg. It’s just a stone’s throw from my house in Christiansburg and I was drawn to becoming a part of the volunteer crew knowing I could get there easily. I truly felt called to support this worthy undertaking by BPC and St. Paul’s and the Baby Shop has been a great fit for me.  It gladdens my heart to be able to serve my neighbor there and practice hospitality to all who walk through its doors.  And as more “customers” and new faces come into the shop every month it is even more rewarding to know the word is spreading about this valuable faith-based outreach in our community.  The clients that come in often express how grateful they are for the Baby Shop and I always hear those comments as prayers of thanks.
So, a few more facts: The MCBS serves low-income families in Montgomery County and Redford City. Clients must have at least one small child (or one on the way) and have to complete the short application and agree to meet the stipulations of the shop.  Approved families can shop at the Baby Shop once every two months.  They are given a list of items that they are allowed to get for each child. The list includes 2 dozen diapers, baby wash and lotion, baby wipes and several items of clothing, a used toy and children’s book. When larger items, such as strollers, cribs or car seats are requested we do our best to seek out those used items or in some cases purchase a particular item for a family.
And what do the volunteers do?  We spend time organizing the shop, (sorting clothes, packing up diapers, etc) and greet clients, take care of the minimal paper work and make sure clients and their families can find what they need.  Our goal is to give the shop a warm and welcoming look and to make the clients’ “shopping” experience as pleasant as we can. There is a small play area for children and sometimes volunteers entertain little ones while moms and dads select their items. Some of you had the opportunity to visit the MCBS about a year ago during Community Ministry month, and helped sort clothes and organize the clothes racks and bins.  Community Ministry at BPC continues to help support the Baby Shop with monetary donations to help stock the shop with new bottled baby care items and emergency items like porta-cribs/Pac’N Plays.
We have a group of about 6 regular volunteers from St. Paul’s and BPC who staff the MCBS on Mondays 10 am-Noon and Wednesdays, 2:00-4:00 PM.  But we can use more volunteers!  You can work a lot or a little in any given month.  And we can always use donations to help stock the shop.  Check out the Baby Shop website (https://www.themcbs.org) to find out the items we regularly need most.  New and gently used clothing and shoes for sizes 2T-5T are always in demand as are toys and books.  Consider stopping by the Baby Shop for a little tour.  Contact Melinda Winslow if you’re interested in volunteering or want come check us out.
Jama Hayes
Baby Shop Volunteer

Scripture Readings: Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 23; 1 Peter 2:19-35; John 10:1-10.

The prayer list can be found here.

April 26th, 2017

My leaving for sabbatical next week has had little impact on the ongoing work of the church, which shows no signs of slowing down. The new elders have begun their training—we have a session tonight from seven to nine—and the MANNA team has met to begin the work of awarding grants from general endowment income. Small grants to agencies we have come to think of as “ministry partners” were approved by Session last Sunday night. Now MANNA is looking forward to getting requests for up to two larger grants for new initiatives.
Under the leadership of Endowment Chair Brent Opell, MANNA has put a lot of work into a new process for receiving requests. Brent will be making an announcement about it at the start of worship this Sunday, and there will be a full description of how to apply for a grant in the bulletin this Sunday and in the May newsletter. What excites me about the new process is that it puts church members in charge. I’ll leave the details to the write-up, but the ground-up approach encourages congregational engagement and excitement—which is always a good thing. No more than two large grants can be awarded in a given year, so not every request will be funded. The decisions are in the hands of the MANNA team, making it a meaningful assignment.
Every ministry in the church is invited to send a representative to the MANNA team, so if the idea of promoting, studying and praying about good projects to fund excites you, be sure to volunteer your time next spring. Strong leadership from the pews seen as that seen among the elders and on the MANNA team is one reason why BPC is thriving, and why I am not worried about good things continuing while I’m away.  I will hold you in my prayers this summer, and ask you to hold me and my family in your prayers as well.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116:1-4,12-19; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35.

The prayer list can be found here.

April 19th, 2017

Over the 3 years since BPC’s Creation Care Team was formed, we have been working to encourage our congregation toward ever more earth-friendly actions and practices.  We also seek to provide information and education to help individuals and families adopt habits and make changes toward increased appreciation and protection of earth’s resources.  

In the process, we have found that the more we learn, the more there is to learn!  The more we work together on making changes, the more we discover that there are yet bigger changes we should be seeking to make!  It is challenging and frustrating, but we are grateful that we live in a time in which we can know how our planet is interconnected and how much difference individual action can make! We know that our faith in God as creator, savior and daily maintainer of the entire earth gives us hope and certainty that the earth is worthy of our care.

This Saturday is Earth Day. The first earth day was held in 1970! It has been observed worldwide since 1990.  In honor of that day in 2017, the Creation Care Team is offering an Earth Day Fair in the church’s fellowship hall after worship this Sunday, April 23.  Each of us from the Creation Care Team, with the help of the youth group and some others, will be leading an interactive booth about one of our areas of expertise, passion, or interest, something we would like to share with the rest of you. We are excited about this chance to share some really good ideas about little and big things you can do to improve your positive connection with the earth and all of creation.  

I hope you have seen the publicity.  Most of our booths will be family-friendly, with activities and information suited for children, youth, and adults, and they will all be hands-on to some degree.  A guide to the booths and their age appropriateness will be available at the door, as will snacks of protein and fruit to tide you over til lunch. In addition, child care for infants and toddlers will be available. If you have children who will need to use this, please take them down immediately after worship so the childcare providers will know of the need.

This Sunday is also the first Sunday of our annual Season of Creation in worship.  This Sunday our theme is Oceans.  If there is any “landform” that typifies best the understanding of the earth as a whole, it is probably ocean.  Whatever affects oceans, affects us all.  I hope you will join us this Sunday!

-- Sarah Windes for the Creation Care Team

Scripture Readings: Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31.

Prayer List can be found here.

April 12th, 2017


A gift to One Great Hour of Sharing enables the church to share God’s love with our neighbors-in-need around the world by providing relief those affected by natural disasters, provide food to the hungry, and helping to empower the poor and oppressed. We will receive the offering on Easter Sunday, April 16th.  The offering distribution is 35% to Presbyterian Hunger Program, 32% to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and 32% to Self-Development of People.
The Presbyterian Hunger Program approaches hunger holistically with five tools:

  • Direct Food Relief combined with Root Cause Work
  • Sustainable Development
  • Advocacy
  • Intentional and Sustainable Living
  • Education

The Presbyterian Disaster Relief Program has reached people in crisis all over the world.  Examples include:

  • Tennessee Wildfires
  • 2016 Gulf flooding
  • Public Violence
  • Malawi Flooding and Food Crisis
  • Ebola Crisis
  • South Sudan
  • European Refugee Crisis
  • Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, Dominican Republic and United States

The Self-Development of People Program

  • Promotes Justice in the world
  • Builds Stronger Communities
  • Seeks economic equity

This ministry has enormous impact on so many lives around our country and our world.
Please plan to give generously to the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering on Sunday April 16.

Scripture Readings: Acts 10:34-43 and Matthew 28:1-10.

The prayer list can be found here.

Don't forget! The Prayer Labyrinth is set up in the Fellowship Hall this week!

April 5th, 2017

There was a day in the summer when I just couldn’t watch clips of the agony in Syria any longer without finding out how to get even just one family out of Syria.  I saw clips on TV of families walking and walking and imagined if it were me in that situation, would I have the courage to put some of my things in a bag, and head away from my life to escape bombs and destruction?  My children would be my motivation, I am sure. Would my children be brave enough to make that hike with us, experiencing fear of the unknown?  That was the day, when the TV shots got to me, that I promised myself I would find out how people get refugees to come to their town.

An active and dedicated group, the Blacksburg Refugee Partnership (BRP), is my answer to knowing that I am involved.  The group has grown, and the generous folks of Blacksburg have spent hours planning, hours volunteering, and the New River Valley people have helped us with funds.  The first family, a mother and father, and six children, arrived in October 2016. Amazing.  In two weeks, the father had a job, the kids were in school, and the family were our friends.  But their life had been so different.  Both the refugees and the Blacksburg folks had to adjust to differing ways of doing and seeing things.  We found translators who have dedicated themselves to enabling us all to communicate.  At first it was hard.  But we knew without saying it or needing to be told, that we were close to the least of them, close to the Spirit at every turn.

We now have two Syrian refugee families and four Afghan refugee families living in Blacksburg. We are getting to know their stories, and the stories are not easy. They include stories of relatives still struggling in their homes in Syria, still in camps in Jordan, and bombings that have killed members of their families since they arrived here.   Every night I give thanks that they are here.  They are safe, their children are in school, the men are working, and all are taking ESL.  They are so grateful, with the words of thank you on their lips whenever we see them.  It is not an easy thing to come to a new country.

BRP finds that at every turn there is someone to help fulfill a need. We are grateful for how loving and kind people are in our town.  People from Blacksburg Presbyterian Church are involved as friends of the families, as organizers, as funders.  We thank each and every one! But we need more volunteers.

This Sunday right after church some of us from Blacksburg Refugee Partnership will be giving a 30 minute presentation to update you on the families.  There will be a short PowerPoint presentation, to familiarize you with the families and the program and two women who are leading the volunteer work with three of the Afghan families will be with us to describe what they do and how you can help. We have photos to share, and I think you will see in their faces what we are feeling. We hope to see you there.

Janne Mathes, Serving on the Community Ministry Team

Scripture Readings
Matthew 21:1-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29.
Passion: Isaiah 50:4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 26:14-27.

The prayer list can be found here.

March 29th, 2017

The Nominating Committee whom you elected at the Annual Meeting in February have been hard at work. Many thanks to all those who spoke with them or sent emails with suggestions for leadership. The slate to be presented at the Congregational Meeting after worship on Sunday is as follows:
Elder Class of 2020
Andrew Warren, Community Ministry
Heather Polikoff, Children’s Ministry,
Diane Wilson, Membership
Jen Stewart, Adult Education
Jimmy Ritter, Personnel
Deacons to be installed for a three-year term
Deb Call
Bill Neely
Nominations from the floor will also be invited during the meeting, and may be made by any active member of the church. If you plan to nominate someone from the floor at the meeting, please be sure to obtain the person’s permission ahead of time.
The democratic way we govern ourselves as Presbyterians in one of our most distinctive characteristics as a denomination. The very word “Presbyterian” comes from the Greek word for elder presbuteros (πρεσβύτερος). Parents might want to talk with children before this Sunday about our we govern ourselves, and share that Presbyterians in the Continental Congress modeled the United States government on our denomination’s way of organizing itself, “decently and in order.” One day, after going through Confirmation, our children will be voting members with the right to elder elders and pastors, too.
Ever “decently and in order,” Catherine

Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45.
The youth will be leading us in worship on Sunday. Though they will not be reading the scriptures in the usual fashion they will be incorporating them into the service through skits.

The prayer list can be found here.

March 23rd, 2017

Happy Spring, the season of new growth and fresh beginnings. Every year at this time the Personnel Ministry evaluates church staff. Every staff member, including me, fills out a self-evaluation form, then sits down with members of Personnel for a conversation about accomplishments, ways to improve, and future goals. The self-evaluation consists of the following questions:

  • What did you accomplish in your work/ministry in the past year?
  • What are your current goals?
  • How do you plan to fulfill these goals?
  • Are there particular areas where your knowledge could be refreshed or new things learned?
  • What could the church do to enhance your working life?

You can be part of the process. If you have comments on staff performance, praise you’d like to pass along, or insights for staff that you think could make BPC a better place to worship and serve, send them directly to Personnel Ministry chair Steve Drumheller by Tuesday March 28th. Your comments will be shared with the whole Personnel Ministry and with staff as appropriate.

Send your comments to Steve’s email: sdrumheller@mountainprecision.com; to his phone address: 4500 West Benoit Trail, Blacksburg, 24060; or give him a call: (540) 449-5322.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9: 1-41.

The prayer list can be found here.

March 15th, 2017

This weekend we’ll be hosting former PC(USA) Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase for the Smyth Lectures. He’ll be preaching in worship and speaking Sunday afternoon at 4:00, then again on Monday night at 7:00.

Rick’s ministry has always been centered in action. He was the founder of Border Links, a binational agency that helped educate people on both sides of the US Mexican border about the realities of borders, immigration, and social justice. Nowadays he and his wife serve as co-directors of Stony Point, a multi-faith conference center 35 miles from New York City. His recent book, Faithful Resistance, is about the need for the Church to move away from centers of power and privilege to the margins where hurting and vulnerable people live out their lives, taking the risks required to live the gospel Jesus proclaimed.

Rick is not going to offer a standard lecture. For his talks he has asked us to be seated around tables in the Fellowship Hall for a more interactive exchange. Having him with us seems very much in keeping with the work we have been doing as a congregation for the past few years, stepping out in faith with God as a sailboat church determined to let God leads us where we are most needed today. I look forward to hearing from you about the impact of Rick’s life and faith.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings: Exodus 17:1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-11; John 4:5-42

The prayer list can be found here.

March 8th, 2017

A few times in recent years different groups or classes have asked if the PC(USA) has a particular approach to reading and studying the Bible. Indeed we do.

Because the congregations in our denomination cover the landscape when it comes to how best to interpret scripture, in the 1990s the Office of Theology and Worship prepared some excellent materials on the topic. They also offered guidelines that every congregation can use. A bookmark of these guidelines has been shared with the Morningstars (the Tuesday Morning Bible Study class). Now we’ve had posters made for spaces where Bible study takes place on a regular basis. The one for Hatcher Conference room has already been hung. The other will go up in Fellowship Hall soon.

Here is what the Office of Theology and Worship recommends, and what is on the posters. Now those who come into the building on a casual basis will be able to get a sense of where we stand in relationship to our scared text. May these guidelines be helpful to you in this season of contemplation. 

Peace, Catherine


Guidelines for Seeking the Meaning of Scripture

† Keep Jesus Christ, the Redeemer, at the center.

† Rely on the Holy Spirit in interpreting and applying God’s message.

† Be guided by the rule of faith:  the doctrinal consensus of the church expressed in its

          creeds, confessions, and catechisms.   

† Let all interpretation be in accord with the rule of love: the two-fold commandment

            to love God and neighbor.

† Focus on the plain text, in its grammatical and historical context. 

† Remember, all interpretation requires earnest study. 

† Seek to interpret a particular passage in light of the whole Bible.

Scripture Readings: Genesis 12:1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4:1-5, 13-17; John 3:1-17.

The prayer list can be found here.

March 1st, 2017

Dear Members and Friends,

A few days ago the Equipping Team wrote to you about a visioning process we as a congregation will undertake this fall. That letter shared the history behind the decision to focus our vision along with a discipleship model the Team recommended we use. It's based on the book Shift: Three Big Moves for the 21st Century Church by pastor Mark Tidsworth. The Equipping Team also invited you to be in prayer as we begin this new phase in the life of BPC. My job is to share a few more specifics, but first some things need to be said.

Many of you may have taken part in discernment processes before—at work, in school, or in other churches. They may have involved gatherings where a lot was said but nothing of lasting value was accomplished. If so you may be thinking, "Great, another big waste of time. No thank you." Having gone through some of that myself, I understand that response. But a "been there/done that/no thanks" response is only valid if the following is true:

  • God has played no role in the life of BPC up to this point
  • God is not present or at work at BPC now
  • BPC has no calling to serve Christ in Blacksburg and beyond
  • Fellow church members and friends are not committed to BPC ministries

As far as I'm concerned, none of the above is true. Unlike many of our sister congregations today, BPC's pews are filled with people of all ages, and the nursery is busy.  The budget is stable and the level of commitment to ministry here is high. Why? Because BPC seeks to make disciples, not church members, Several years ago we committed to being a "sailboat" church, trusting God to fill our sails and set our course, no matter how surprising. The Shift process is another tool in trusting God to lead us.

What's involved?

  • During Lent I will preach about what it means for BPC to be a missional church, a hot button word that means partnering with God take on God's goals, not our own.
  • In the spring we plan to hold a Saturday retreat for all who want to attend, led by a Shift trainer who will share more about what it takes to be God's missional people in the 21st century.
  • Over the summer the Equipping Team will recruit and train small group leaders in the Shift pattern of discipleship
  • Small groups on Shift discipleship will meet this fall, some on Sunday mornings and others on Wednesday nights. Our future focus for ministry will arise from the work of these small groups.

I pray that you will begin now to think about taking part in Shift, trusting that God wants your voice to be heard as BPC defines its vision. More importantly, I hope you will decide to let God engage your heart in a process of deepening discipleship.


Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11.

The prayer list can be found here.

Februray 22nd, 2017

Members and Friends,

We want to let you know about the next step in faithful ministry for BPC. We are the Equipping Team, a group put together by the Session to follow through on recommendations made three years ago by Ministry Architects.

For those who are new or may not remember, Ministry Architects (MA) was hired to help us determine how best to staff the church for the 21st century. An MA team spent a full weekend here, holding small group sessions with people of all ages.  Based on what they heard, they recommended hiring a Director of Communications and Church Life, putting a team in place to change some aspects of Children and Youth ministries, and rewriting Catherine's job description to give her more time for pastoral care.

All that has taken place. Now we hope to tackle a tougher recommendation: finding a single shared vision.  The MA consultants saw that BPC was healthy and thriving, that we have a good mix of ages and stages, and that we are engaged in all kinds of ministry to the community, and that different groups in the church have lots of passion for lots of things. But our lack of focus keeps us divided into little groups who are sometimes wary of each other, limiting what we can accomplish for Christ.  

Last August the Equipping Team was formed by the Session to find a process for building a shared vision. We researched, studied, prayed and talked with folks in other churches. We picked a discipleship process created by pastor Mark Tidsworth called Shift: Three Big Moves for the 21st Century Church. We practiced some of the steps ourselves, then practiced them with the Session. Now Session has approved a timeline for sharing the Shift process with the whole church. It will be introduced from the pulpit in Lent and begin in earnest this fall.

BPC is a healthy church because it's been responsive to God's calling throughout its history. We trust that God is speaking again. We've found a good process, but building a shared vision means hearing from everyone:  long time members and new members, children and adults, those who are here every week and those who come when they can.  BPC is a family.  It will take all of us discerning together to focus our vision faithfully.

This is the first of two letters you will be receiving—in other words, only the beginning. We are not going to rush through this process. We ask you to begin now to be in prayer for Blacksburg Presbyterian Church and for your role in the discernment process to come.

In Christ,

The Equipping Team:

Elva Miller, Heather Polikoff, Jack Call and Kendra Crabtree, staff

Scripture Readings: Exodus 24:12-18; Psalm 2 or Psalm 99; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9.

The prayer list can be found here.

February 15th, 2017

Recently I have become somewhat of a scheduling-addict by way of Google Calendar.  This app helps me manage classes, tests, group meetings, and other events all vying for my time.  Using Google Calendar is one of the many ways I bring some structure to the hectic schedule I am living in.  My calendar is constantly changing; but the Tuesday night meetings at UKirk have not moved from my calendar. 

I build my week around Tuesday nights filled with community, faithful discussions, and fellowship around delicious food.  Tuesday nights at UKirk allow me to have some holy Sabbath time and center myself no matter what has happened and what is to come in the week.  At these meetings we either have an enlightening worship service or a critical conversation about how we believe we should respond as Christians to events taking place in the world around us.  But the impact of UKirk on me goes far beyond the Tuesday night meetings. 

UKirk has helped me make many close friends, which makes Tech feel just a little bit smaller when I see a friendly familiar face around campus.  UKirk has also strengthened my faith and helped me in my spiritual walk.  Whether it is sharing our joys and concerns with each other at the end of every meeting, feasting on the Lord’s supper together, or the laughs we share around the fireplace at Montreat, I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in this group.

Matthew Anama
VT Class of 2019
Industrial and Systems Engineering Major

Scripture Readings: Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18; Psalm 119:33-40; I Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23; Matthew 5:38-48.

The prayer list can be found here.

February 8th, 2017

Spotlight the Possible began in 2013 here at BPC. The goal then and now is to address topics of interest with a focus on telling the complete story in a truthful, unbiased way. Articles were published monthly for about three years. Then there was a roughly one-year hiatus until today’s return. The return was prompted by the continued polarization and extreme levels of misinformation in our current public dialog. With the return, a new focus is added on social media and easy access to the articles by the general public. It is hoped that this access will lead to productive civil dialog.

We encourage you to use our Facebook page to post comments, either about Spotlight the Possible or especially about the topics we discuss. You can read previous articles on our website. Spotlight the Possible.

The Syrian Civil War

Did you know?

The Syrian Civil war has been ongoing since 2011. It rose from the 2010 - 2012 wave of protests in the Arab world known as the Arab Spring. The protests turned violent and the war started when the government attacked protestors calling for the removal of Syrian president Bashar al Assad. Since 2011:

  • At least 470,000 people have been killed. This number was the best estimate approximately one year ago and many more deaths have occurred since then, but accurate counts are difficult to obtain as the violence is too great and the situation too chaotic for monitoring.
  • It is estimated that two million people have been wounded.
  • More than 5 million Syrians have left the country and are living as refugees in other countries. Another 6.5 million are displaced within the country. These two numbers combine to more than half of the pre-war 22 million people of Syria who have lost their homes.
  • It is estimated that there are today 4 million people in need, who live in areas that humanitarian organizations are unable to reach.

The Syrian government receives various kinds of support from Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. The forces opposing the government in the civil war are not a unified entity, but are instead a large assortment of independent groups. Some of these groups are supported in various ways by countries such as Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, as well as by the US, Great Britain and France.  At least one rebel group is an al Qaeda affiliate. Additionally, the terrorist organization which calls itself the Islamic State (ISIS) took advantage of the civil war and began to take over large areas of Syria.

Did you also know?

In the last weeks of 2016, following a battle that had gone on for four years, the Syrian government recaptured one of Syria’s largest cities, Aleppo. Following that battle, a cease fire was brokered by Russia and Turkey between the Syrian government and some of the rebel groups. While an important step towards peace, this cease-fire is not an end to the war. Rebel forces continue to hold approximately 60% of the area of Syria, home to 40% of the population.  Syrian president Bashar al Assad has vowed to recapture those areas. Also, ISIS and some other opposition forces are not part of the cease-fire and continue to fight. US president Obama supported the removal of Assad, while president Trump has expressed an interest in partnering with Russia, and by extension Assad, to fight ISIS. Other governments supporting one force or another have an interest in continued fighting.

What you can do:

The Syrian Civil War is one of the bloodiest and most disruptive conflicts of our generation, whose consequences have rippled across the Middle East, Mediterranean countries, Europe, and the United States. The war is at a cross roads with the current cease-fire and the change in the US president. Voice your opinion to the new administration. Urge the US to promote and vigorously pursue a peaceful resolution. Support efforts to assist the many victims of this great human tragedy.

Learn More:

PCUSA supports taking action to provide humanitarian assistance and refugee resettlement. If you would like to learn more about Presbyterian advocacy on Syria, download the following document to learn about their partner organizations engaged in the region. Included are sample letters to your legislators urging them to support Syrian humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement in the U.S. https://www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/holy-discontentment-advocacy-action-syria/

Other sources of information:

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:  http://www.unocha.org/syrian-arab-republic/syria-country-profile/about-crisis

UN Refugee Agency: http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/global-trends-2015.html

PBS http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/a-staggering-new-death-toll-for-syrias-war-470000/

Syrian Observatory for Human Rightshttp://www.syriahr.com/en/?p=58111

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37.

The prayer list can be found here.

February 1st, 2017

This Sunday at the Annual Meeting after worship, you will be voting on my terms of call. Included this year is a three-month sabbatical, in May, June, and July, something I negotiated back in 2010 when I arrived. This will be the first sabbatical I’ve been offered during my career.

There will be a letter from the Personnel Ministry in the bulletin with a lot of information about what I’ll be up to and how the Session will cover my absence, both in the pulpit and when it comes to pastoral care. The letter quotes a few sentences from the Sabbatical Guidelines given by Presbytery of the Peaks. I thought I would offer a large chunk of that document here for those who might be interested:

The Committee on Ministry recommends to churches and other ministries that Ministers of the Word and Sacraments and full-time Christian Educators be granted a compensated Sabbatical Leave of no less than two months after the completion of six continuous years in one ministry within the Presbytery of the Peaks. 

Sabbatical Leave is an extension of the Biblical concept of renewal through the Sabbath day and Sabbath year.   In the Sabbath year, the land was allowed to lie fallow to replenish itself.  Scripture also abounds with illustrations of God’s leaders (Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, Paul, and Jesus) spending significant time in rest, solitude, and reflection for continuation of ministry.  Jesus spent 40 days in preparation for his ministry and other times away in prayer and rest.   Ministers bear the burdens, the anguish, the pain and hurt of their parishioners on a 24 hour basis.  As a result, many, if not all, experience symptoms of emotional distress, stress related illnesses, and burnout adversely affecting the minister’s personal, family, and parish life, and greatly diminishing effectiveness and personal well-being.  Sabbatical Leave is time for the minister to refresh, nourish, and replenish body, mind and soul for ministry.  It is a time of rest, travel, study, & re-creation, a time away from the responsibilities of pastoral ministry.  A renewed and refreshed pastor would be expected to bring new energy and insight to the life of the congregation.   

Sabbatical Leave is also for the congregation.  It is an opportunity for the congregation to reflect on the whole nature and meaning of ministry and the place of the congregation in that ministry; to renew and strengthen congregational lay leadership; and to continue to grow in faith. 

Needless to say I am looking forward to the chance to be refreshed, do some traveling relevant to ministry, and connect with our new granddaughter.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 58:1-9a (9b-12); Psalm 112:1-9 (10); 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 (13-16); Matthew 5:13-20.