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:; 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.

Other sources of information:

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

UN Refugee Agency:


Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

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.

January 25th, 2017

Cabin at Alta Mons

Cabin at Alta Mons

Seeing Jesus:
In the Word, in ourselves and in the world. 

PW Winterlude 2017, February 24th and 25th

More than twenty years ago, Virginia Bethune, who has now moved away, came up with the idea of having a mid-winter retreat for Presbyterian Women.   Hildegard Circle took on the challenge and held a retreat at Camp Alta Mons for the first time in January 1997.  Since then, the retreat has expanded to include all Presbyterian Women from BPC and women from a few other local churches.

The Winterlude retreat has been held almost 20 times, mostly at Alta Mons.  Some years there has been ice on Purgatory Creek, some years the weather has been nearly balmy.  Some years, Styles Falls at the end of the trail has been full and loud, and some years the creek has been a quiet trickle.  Some years, folks walk to the falls, and some folks take naps every year.  We watch the trees and pond out the big windows in the gathering area; once we saw wild turkeys!  Some years we invite an outside guest speaker/leader; some years we find folks in our midst to lead us in a topic that interests them.  

Throughout all the variations, every year we have times of laughter, times of quiet contemplation, good food, great singing, meaningful informal worship, great conversation and opportunities to get to know one another better, deep sharing, prayer and rest.  The fire in the fireplace is a focal point, and the rockers around it are always in demand.  I always appreciate being able to eat food I didn’t have to cook myself, and being able to leave the weekend chores behind for a couple of days!  

 All women are invited to join us this year on Friday and Saturday February 24 and 25.  We have invited Suzanne Stelling from Knoxville to lead our program on Seeing Jesus. You can mail or take your payment to the church office.  

Due to the fact that we have to let Alta Mons know our numbers for lodging and food, the deadline for sign-up is 10 days away, February 5.  So don’t put it off.  Sign up today! I hope to see you there!

Sarah Windes

Scripture Readings: Micah 6:1-8; Psalm 15; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Matthew 5:1-12

The prayer list can be found here.

January 18th, 2017

Image: Ann Scull, Mustard Seeds

Image: Ann Scull, Mustard Seeds

The presidential inauguration is this weekend. Among those who have shared their plans with me some intend to watch, some intend to boycott completely, some are going to the Women’s March on Saturday, and still others haven’t made up their minds.  According to one of my most reliable Lectionary blogs, “This is one of those Sundays when everyone in the pew will be bringing the events of the world into the room with them.”

One would hope we always bring the events of the world into worship; certainly I try to preach as if that’s the case. At the Tuesday Bible Study we looked at all the texts and agreed that the portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians on unity was the best pick for this weekend. Here’s a sample: “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (1 Corinthians 1:10-18) The purpose, of course, is to follow Christ.

So between now and Sunday I will be contemplating what unity in divisive times means and listening to Jesus call four of his disciples in Matthew to be “fishers of people.” However you decide to respond to the inauguration on Friday, on Sunday morning I hope you will make it a priority to be in worship, where, as the body of Christ, we will listen to and seek to follow the Word.

Grace upon grace, Catherine

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 4-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23.

The prayer list can be found here.

January 11th, 2017

Peace, Justice, and Global Mission (PJGM) supports a number of organizations and missions locally, nationally, and internationally. One of the organizations we support locally is the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP). VICPP is a broadly diverse, morally driven group of advocates working to advance public policies that better serve low-income, vulnerable, and underrepresented communities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. They engage and educate people of faith and the public regarding critical social issues, the legislative process, and the call to advocacy. VICPP is currently advocating in three priority policy areas: Expansion of Medicaid, State Suspension of Driver's Licenses, and Wage Theft. PJGM supports VICPP with both financial support as well as attendance and participation in advocacy events.


An opportunity to contribute our time and talents as members of PJGM and Blacksburg Presbyterian Church is presenting itself on January 25, 2017. VICPP's Day For All People is being held that date in Richmond, VA at Centenary United Methodist Church.  On this day attendees will visit with Delegates and Senators at the General Assembly, participate in a prayer vigil, and learn more about VICPP's priority policy areas and how we can more effectively advocate in support of those issues. This is an all day event and breakfast and lunch are included. If you would like to attend this event, please contact Stacy Potten at 720-320-9690 or


If you would like to learn more about the VICPP and the work they do, please see our bulletin board near the Westminster Conference Room or visit There are wonderful tools on the website to help you learn about effective advocacy and social justice issues. You can also sign up to receive an email newsletter with their latest updates.

Peace, Justice, and Global Mission (PJGM) committee meets monthly and anyone is welcome to attend these meetings to hear more about what PJGM is up to in the world and our community.

By: Stacy Potten
Scripture: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42.

The prayer list can be found here.

January 4th, 2017

 What is it?
Hospitality with heart!
Unconditional love
Embracing the unknown
Living the Word
Sharing a meal
Experiencing the body of Christ
The warmth and safety of a shelter
Faith in action
Personally dispelling myths about the homeless
Knowing homeless men searching for independence
Driving a van full of homeless men to BPC
Meeting a part of yourself that you didn’t know before
Lining the walls in Fellowship Hall with fourteen beds with colorful warm handmade quilts
Making a friend
Feeling God’s presence


Such a mix of experiences will be possible with To Our House here the week of January 28 to February 4!
Who might our guests be?

  • One man talked readily about his previous job that disappeared, leaving him unable to pay the rent.
  • Another man told me he couldlive with his father just so long because it was a constant battle when they were together.There was drinking and drugs, and he really didn’t want to be part of it.
  • Another man was with us for now, while he was looking for work so he could afford to get back together with his girlfriend and two-year-old son.
  • One man was a man that I see now and then with a cardboard sign, “NEED FOOD”.I stop and talk to him and remind him about food pantries, but he likes the interaction with people and gets enough food with his cardboard appeal.
  • One man was working eight hours a day for $7.50 an hour while staying with us.He couldn’t pay for rent; utilities; food; and car insurance, gas, and repairs on his $250 a week take home pay.
  • Another arrived, ate with us, and went straight to his bed to sleep.
  • Another loved western novels so much we had trouble keeping books on hand that he hadn’t read.
  • Yet another had his own laptop computer and spent his time doing homework for Community College and watching movies late into the night.

It is a diverse group who are our guests.  The men are of all ages, all educational backgrounds, and have differing assumptions and goals.  We provide a caring heart and a listening ear.  The TOH staff member is here at all times.  They do more work than you might think, counseling the men, talking about their skills and possible work opportunities, connecting them with employers, and help move many of the men into independence and permanent housing.
With To Our House the world becomes a better place.  Those of us who will volunteer this year will grow and be changed by their experience. 

Janne Mathes


Interested in more information about volunteer opportunities with To Our House? Click here and submit a form for more information. You can also watch the church bulletin for information to volunteer.

BPC is hosting To Our House January 28th - February 4th, 2017.

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:15-17


The prayer list can be found here.

December 28th, 2016

The reading for the First Sunday of Christmas is the story of the slaughter of the innocents in Matthew. There was a time when the lectionary did not include this story, but wiser heads prevailed and it now comes up every three years. I say wiser heads because the world does not need sanitized Christianity, but a faith that tells the truth about human sinfulness, and thus offers genuine salvation.

I’ve already posted an alert on the church Facebook page for those parents who prefer that their kids not hear this story yet. But not everyone is on the page, so please share this information with those you think might benefit. Here is a link to a good discussion on how to talk to kids:  I don’t share some of the literalism of the writers on this site, but much appreciate their insight and advice.

Some of you may be wondering why we can’t just have a New Year’s celebration and avoid this dark story, and believe me, I was tempted. But after some prayerful thought, I decided to trust the Church Calendar, which insists that it is still Christmas, and that the Christmas story is multidimensional and rich with truth.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 63:7-9; Psalm 148; Hebrews 2:10-18; Matthew 2:13-23.


The prayer list can be found here.

December 21st, 2016

The Christmas Eve services are fast upon us, and here at church all manner of things have been made ready. At the Family Service on Saturday at 4:30 we will once again go on a journey to Bethlehem in the Latin American tradition of Los Posadas (Spanish for “lodging”). The children are encouraged to come dressed as any character in the Christmas story—angel, shepherd, animal, or sage. Costumes will be available in the Narthex for those who may not have suitable biblical gear at home, and adults are welcome to join in, too..
During the service the children will be called up to journey from inn to inn, represented by two sets of doors, the charming set of doors created for last years’ service by Susan Hunter, and the entry doors to the Sanctuary. We’ll sing a song of hope for lodging as we go that Jeffrey will teach at the start of the journey. Four Innkeepers will be at the doors to greet us each time we arrive and ask if there is room, only to be turned away!. In the Latin American tradition Los Posadas journeys would often happen on several nights, with the safe arrival at the manger happening only on Christmas Eve. Our journeying will be condensed and end up in the Presbytery around the manger.
Would that the journeys or the poor and the displaced always be so short and end so well. On the Holy Night of Christmas Eve we will celebrate God’s entry into history to indeed change the ending of all our stories.

Peace, Catherine. 

Scripture Readings for Christmas Eve: Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14 (15-20)
Scripture Readings for Christmas Dawn: Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:(1-7) 8-20
Scripture Readings for Christmas Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrew 1:1-4 (5-12); John 1:1-14


The prayer list can be found here.

December 14th, 2016

Last year the Presbyterian Joy Offering provided much-needed assistance to two important groups, 500 retired ministers and church workers in need, and numerous students at three minority institutions: Menaul School (Albuquerque, NM), Presbyterian Pan American School (Kingsville, TX), Stillman College (Tuscaloosa, AL). 

Be prepared to give this Sunday to support past and future church leaders who are not faring as well as most of us  Or, give today at Click the link and choose "Christmas Joy Offering" under giving type.  We will report back to you our BPC Joy Gift total, hopefully with joy!

Mike McGilliard

Update on Sherry's daughter Amanda:
Amanda is making good progress after a stroke that affected her speech and her right-side. Sherry is staying through this week and will return this weekend. Please pray for continued recovery.

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 7:10-16; Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Romans 1:1-7 and Matthew 1:18-25

December 8th, 2016

My wife, Gail, and I are a living example that opposites attract: organized/disorganized, neat/messy, plan ahead/spontaneous, practical/idealistic (I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which!). Of course, we both love music, but one of the other things we discovered about each other early in our relationship was that we are both very picky about correct spelling and grammar. As you might imagine, the words there/their/they’re, of/have, and its/it’s are a never ending source of consternation (and don’t even get me started on the serial comma…).
That brings me to worship this Sunday (I’ll bet you were wondering where this was going). The Advent Service of Lessons and Carols is centered around the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. I love this hymn, but it stirs up my captious tendencies. In the Lutheran hymnal that was in use when I was growing up, the title of the hymn was Oh, Come, oh, Come, Emmanuel. Surely this must hold the record for “most commas in a hymn title,” but what bothers me about the title is the different spellings in different hymnals (“Oh, Come” vs. “O Come”). Many people think that “O” is just an alternate spelling for “oh,” but there is a distinction! “Oh” is an exclamation that expresses surprise, disappointment, anger, excitement, or agreement (Oh, no!) or to get someone’s attention (“Oh, wait!”). “O” is used as a formal way to address someone or something (O Captain! My Captain). So does it really matter? Consider the different meanings of the following:
                “O Lord, hear my prayer.”
                “Oh, Lord! I locked myself out of my car again!”
Still wondering what my point is? Are you impatiently thinking, “Oh, boy, get to the point, O Jeffrey!” OK, let me bring it home. The aforementioned hymn is based on texts known as the “O antiphons.” Each antiphon (and each stanza of the hymn) begins with “O” followed by a different title for the coming Christ (e.g. O Wisdom, O Root of Jesse, O Dayspring—note the proper use of “O”) and a plea to come and do something (e.g. teach us the way of truth). The final antiphon is O Emmanuel, from which we get the hymn title. So if we want to preserve the “O” and “come” connections to the antiphon, and be grammatically correct, it might be better to change the title to “Come, Come, O Emmanuel.” Or if we want to get the other “oh” in there, then “Oh, Come, come O Emmanuel.” Unfortunately, that sounds a little awkward and doesn’t fit metrically with the tune…
Regrettably, the editors of our current hymnal, Glory to God, have chosen to eliminate the distinction between “O” and “oh.” In order to “simplify,” they use “O” exclusively, even when it should be “oh.” (Fun challenge for the week: look at the title index in the back of the hymnal and see if you can figure out which titles should be “oh” and which should be “O.” Oh, doesn’t that sound exciting?) Following this practice would yield song titles such as “O Where, O Where Has My Little Dog Gone” or “O, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” which just doesn’t seem right (no offense to doggies or Oklahoma). “O” has a sense of importance and dignity associated with it. You can almost always leave off the “O” and still have the same meaning (Lord, hear my prayer.), but adding “O” shows a respect and reverence for what follows (O Lord, hear my prayer.).
On Sunday you will hear the antiphons read and respond by singing the associated hymn stanzas. Each time you see, hear, say, or sing “O,” pay attention to what follows. Let the “O” give special honor to Jesus through the many names by which he is called.
Scripture reading for Sunday, December 11, 2016: Luke 1:46-55

November 30th, 2016

As the last month of the year on the Roman calendar, December appears to be a month of endings—end of another semester, for many the end of the fiscal year, last month for writing out “2016”. Yet December is full of new beginnings in the Church. It is the month in the Church Year when the liturgical calendar begins with the season of Advent. It is full of weddings, as families take advantage of Christmas break to gather. It is the month when finance committees sit down to determine what budgets will be for the coming year, which in turn determines the shape of ministries and programming. That’s true of us here at BPC, so if you haven’t turned in your pledge card, please do. December is also the month when those applying to college or graduate school get their applications in, applications that will determine the course of their lives for years to come.

For Emily Rhodes Hunter, the most recent seminary student to receive BPC’s care and support, it is the month for her ordination, and thus the beginning of her life-long ministry. Emily and Stuart are now settled in Alexandria, VA. Stuart has a job at the U.S. Patent Office and Emily is a chaplain with Montgomery Hospice. She will be ordained by National Capital Presbytery this Saturday at the historic New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, DC, where Emily is also serving as parish associate. All of the Hunters will be there to celebrate and Rob and I are going up, too. We’ll come back that night and be here for worship on Sunday.

As you take part in whatever Advent practices you follow, think of all the new starts this season brings and add Emily and her family to your prayers.

Peace, Catherine
 Scripture Readings for Sunday, December 4, 2016: Matthew 3:1-12; Isaiah 11:1-10

The prayer list can be found here.

November 23rd, 2016

Thanksgiving is a feast for the senses, of the smell of wet leaves, wood smoke, a banquet baking in a nearby oven. Now that the wind hints of cold days to come, I feel energized to hang a wreath on the door, play a jazz CD, and light a pumpkin candle. The nights are growing longer, and the idea of a good sit-down with a book by the fire is enticing. Once I get a little rest accomplished, then comes the time to reflect.
The moments of reflection Thanksgiving brings are inherently individual. I feel deeply blessed to have a family, a household where some of us are far flung, but no one is ill; it will not always be so. Those of us who need a job have one. Clean water is as close as a flick of the wrist. We have an abundance of food, clothing, and shelter, and are free to rest at intervals mostly of our own choosing.
Here in Blacksburg we are surrounded by beauty—the changing colors of the season, the hills as they sparkle in the sun or with the dotted lights of evening, waterfalls that change with the rain. For the second time in my life I am living in a place of deep physical beauty. And this place is suffused with peace; I am not one of those who prays each day for the safety of a loved one in or near a combat zone.
Given a little time, I am bound to think of other things. Just writing what I have so far fills me with a sense of profound gratitude.  So I invite you to move toward Thanksgiving with similar purpose, maybe while relaxing by a fire, or as you watch the sun slant through the branches of the shedding trees. With thanks to God, now and forever, Catherine
Scripture Readings for Sunday, November 27, 2016:
Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 24:36-44

The prayer list can be found here.

November 16th, 2016

Can’t believe that Advent is almost upon us? Neither can we, but the First Sunday of Advent will arrive right after Thanksgiving. To help us prepare and enjoy the season, we are offering an Advent Workshop for all ages this Sunday, November 20th, before worship.

Three-tables off alternative gifts, four tables of children’s crafts, and a station for making your own Advent wreath are just some of what you’ll find in Fellowship Hall this Sunday morning at 9:00. Adult and children’s classes are not meeting this week so all ages can gather to share the fun. If you have greens to contribute to wreath-making, please bring them along. Extra clippers would be welcome, too. Candles for the at-home wreaths will be available for purchase.

The Worship Ministry is offering something new this year. We thought it would be meaningful if everyone could help prepare the big wreath to be used in worship throughout the season. So we’re offering a station where everyone can add a strip of cloth or two to the Advent wreath to be used in worship. There will be light refreshments and plenty of coffee, so whether you’re a crafter, a shopper, or a watcher come and enjoy the fellowship.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings for Sunday, November 20, 2016:
Colossians 1:11-20; Luke 1:68-79

The prayer list can be found here.