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.

November 9th, 2016

The Presidential campaign that has absorbed so much national angst and energy is finally over, opening a very different era from the one we've just passed through.  Our Reformed father, John Calvin had the highest regard for secular government, perhaps because he knew the burdens of ruling the city of Geneva. Our Presbyterian father, John Knox, on the other hand, went into exile during the reign of Queen Mary to avoid being burned at the stake. Christian citizens honor secular laws and leaders and take part in civic life while at the same time giving our ultimate allegiance to God, never a simple task. I offer the following prayer as we await a new administration.
Peace, Catherine
Eternal God, we give you thanks for a largely peaceful election in a time of contention. Be with the nation as it absorbs change, and be with our president-elect and his family. Let the transition of power go smoothly and the cooperation among leaders be conducted for the common good.
If we are elated by the outcome, help us be gracious to fellow citizens who are distressed. If we are distressed, help us be gracious toward those who are elated, understanding that our nation is large and our experiences different. Comfort those who are afraid or anxious with the knowledge that you alone are the power behind all things: behind the energy of the storm, behind the ability to think and reason, behind all understanding and truth, behind the cross of Christ, behind unconquerable love. Grant us as a nation the fullness of your promises, and help us act always as citizens of your realm. Amen.

Scripture Readings for Sunday, November 13, 2016:
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13; Isaiah 12

The prayer list can be found here.

November 2nd, 2016

Yesterday was All Saints Day, and some of the saints in my family or who graced the pews in churches I’ve served are on my mind. It may be flimsy theology, but I like the thought of this collection of beloved people worshipping together beyond our sight, gathering with us at the communion table and keeping us in their prayers. I want them near us this week and next week as we go to the polls, if only to remind us that permanence and security come from God alone.

For the past several years we have made All Saints the main focus of Sunday worship. We aren’t doing that this year, in part because of other things competing for our attention. When we gather this week, we’ll be facing the most divisive election in most of our lifetimes. Already several people have urged me to be sure to pray for the election and do something in worship to offer us help with our worries and fears. So I’ve been combing the websites and blogs of people I admire, looking for powerful language to share. Fortunately, we’ll be taking communion, good preparation for all important choices.

Meanwhile, just seeing the paper tree in the narthex, mirroring the fall colors outside, makes me happy and calms my soul. Lots of people put their names on the tree last week, and I hope that continues until it’s bursting with leaves. It is powerful to read the names of children who were born into this congregation alongside those who have been here for decades.  This week, I’m going to urge us to add to the tree the names of those at BPC who have gone before us. We are all part of the generations of generosity that make up BPC. Seeing this community in visual form as a strong and sturdy tree is a great reminder that the body of Christ is what lasts and fills our lives with meaning.

Scripture Readings for Sunday, November 6, 2016:
Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31

The prayer list can be found here.

October 26th, 2016

There is a tree growing at the heart of BPC. You’ll see it in the narthex outside the sanctuary this Sunday. On the roots are words and images that represent stories of growth and generosity—the founding of the church (1832), the first missionary, a woman, to go out from BPC to Japan (1888), the first interracial Thanksgiving service held in Blacksburg (1957) just to name a few. The tree represents the stories of those who have enabled God’s work through BPC for 184 years.

This Sunday is the first Sunday of stewardship season. The theme is Generations of Generosity, based on Psalm 145: “One generation shall laud your works to another.” The tree is a symbol of those who came before us and the places we now hold. There will be a basket of paper leaves by the tree. Everyone is invited to write your name and year you connected with BPC and put it on the tree. We know the kids will love it, but I hope you will, too, because it isn’t just fun. The tree, like the one outside our front door, is a great representation of faithful ministry over time, of deep roots nurtured in the past and the places we now hold that allow BPC to shelter and support us and so many beyond our doors.
I hope you’ll be listening over the next three weeks for stories of generosity and grace sprung from this place, and thinking about your own giving. Stewardship is a learned spiritual practice that takes time and intention to bear fruit; it deserves our best and most prayerful thought.

You’ll be getting a mailing from the Stewardship Ministry soon with lots of information about ministries and mission, and, of course, costs. You’ll also be getting a letter from me to help you with your discernment. This year we’re invited to fill out a Time and Talents card and bring that forward along with our pledge card on Dedication day, Sunday, November 13. Meanwhile, I invite you to think about who taught you to give, what you learned, and what the next step on that journey might be.


Scripture Readings for Sunday, October 30, 2016:
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Luke 19:1-10

The prayer list can be found here.

October 6th, 2016

Kendra and I will be leaving early Monday to attend a four-day conference in Montreat—“DISGRACE, Seeking God’s Grace Amid the Disgrace of Racism.” Keynote speakers include political scientist and television host Melissa Harris-Perry; professor of Church Growth and Evangelism Soong-Chan Rah; and Anthea Butler of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to the keynote addresses, there will be panel discussions and optional sessions exploring institutional racism in the Church. It’s a conference I want to attend while knowing it will not be an easy week. Please pray for openness to the Spirit and good learning.

When Kendra returns to Blacksburg Thursday, I will meet Robert and go on down to Atlanta to see our son and daughter-in-law for a few days. I’ll then be staying on through Wednesday to attend my first board meeting of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, on which I have been nominated to serve. It will require two physical meetings a year—in October and April—and two electronic meetings. I feel honored to be on the Smith board, and rather than take on another assignment with the Presbytery, will let this be my service to the greater Church for the next three years. Again, I ask for your prayers for me as I begin this new endeavor. I’ll be back at BPC on Thursday, October 20th.


Scripture Readings for Sunday, October 9, 2016: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; 2 Timothy 2:8-15

The prayer list can be found here.

September 28th, 2016

This coming Sunday is World Communion Sunday, a day I have always loved. So I was startled this week to read an article entitled “Why World Communion Sunday Is a Bad Idea.” The basic argument was that the emphasis implies that the Eucharist is special, rather than being the ordinary (meaning frequent) gift of what is extraordinary—Christ’s very body given for the world. The author also raised the issue that there are places in the world where Christians are persecuted. Calling a day World Communion Sunday as if Christians aren’t taking risks to gather around the table ignores that reality. Indeed that reality will be very present for us since BPCs global missions are being highlighted in October. The work of the two mission partners to be honored on Sunday can’t be spelled out fully because to name them or where they are serving might put them in harm’s way.  

So, yes, the author makes good points, but they do not dampen my gratitude in knowing that on this particular day people will be gathering around tables—some at great risk—in places around the world from sunrise on through the night. In truth that probably happens every Sunday to some extent, and I like being reminded of that, too.

Here in our sanctuary we will sing and share music from around the world, and be fed with Jesus’ limitless grace. We’ll once again use many different kinds and colors of bread and the Communion table will look especially abundant, again as a reminder of the limitlessness of God’s love. It was very moving last week as people “set the table” while Scott Smith shared about the Peace and Global Witness offering we’ll be taking that day. A quarter of whatever we give will stay right here in Blacksburg, and go to Glade Church for Laundry Love, which helps people who sometimes have to choose between clean clothes and buying food or medicine. The rest of the offering will go to PC(USA)  projects that promote peace, justice, and reconciliation. The image you’ll see on the bulletin cover says it all: a table set in a bombed-out building. Perhaps the best way to honor the day is to give generously.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings for Sunday, October 2, 2016: Luke 17:5-10; 2 Timothy 1:1-14

The prayer list can be found here.

September 21st, 2016

Many times when we come to worship our hearts are carrying baggage from the previous week. Perhaps we’ve gotten bad news, or a relative or friend is hurting. Perhaps something great has taken place that will bring a wanted change. Or we might have news we want to share, but there is no one other than God to share it with. Offering written prayers in worship meets some of these needs, and makes our corporate prayers more immediate. For some time now we have been talking about also offering private prayer after worship to anyone who needs it.
After conversation in the Worship Ministry meeting and with the elders and deacons, the Session voted to begin this practice in October. On Sunday, October 2nd—and from then on—an announcement will be made in worship that anyone who would like individual prayer may go to the Prayer Room following the service. Two people will be there to meet them, a deacon and elder, and one of them will listen and offer prayer.  The other will wait by the door to greet anyone who might be waiting.

Praying with and for the people is one of the responsibilities of elders listed in the Book of Order, and prayer is certainly part of the ministry of the newly installed deacons when they visit in people’s homes. The deacons had a training session on prayer a month ago and the elders had that same training last Sunday. Together the staff and the Worship Ministry came up with a format for brief private prayer on Sunday mornings. Anyone who wants counseling is encouraged to contact me.

There may be days when no one asks for private prayer and other days when several people do. Either way, the elders and deacons will take turns offering this ministry, and look forward to the ways God will bless them and you in prayer.

Peace, Catherine
 Scripture Readings for Sunday, Sept. 25:
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15


The prayer list can be found here.

September 14th, 2016

Sherry Ingham has been working at BPC for ten years as of this spring! We are going to celebrate that anniversary this Sunday in worship. Sherry, however, does not like to be the center of attention. When Charles Taylor decided this fall that it was time to end his work at the church as parish associate, it gave the Personnel Ministry the perfect opportunity to thank Sherry and Charles together. 

A parish associate serves at the request of the Pastor, and can help in a variety of ways. Charles was visiting the home-centered at Alex’s request before I came, and continued at my request, attending staff meetings and at times conducting memorial services for saints of the church he had known for many years. As Church Office Manager Sherry does all kinds of things to make life easier for everyone and is the face and voice of the church for those in the community. So we are pleased to take a moment in the service to give thanks to God for Charles care among us and for Sherry’s ongoing service. Personnel will be providing refreshments in the Gathering Space after worship. Come and say thank you to Sherry and Charles.


Scripture Readings for Sunday, Sept. 18:
1 Timothy 2:1-7; Luke 16:1-13

The prayer list can be found here.

September 8th, 2016

This Sunday marks the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Most of us refer to is simply by the date. Television and media schedules are already packed with retrospective programs, one of which aired last night. There is something about anniversaries divisible by five or ten that amps up these memorial programs, or their alternative—a deep desire not to be reminded at all.
Here in Blacksburg, we have our own date to signify a different tragedy. Our reactions to the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th are probably similarly mixed. But remembering is seldom a choice. Our memories have a life of their own. They come to us unbidden, at times in ways that hurt but that also help build meaning.
Every year the flag is placed in the narthex on the Sunday closest to September 11th. This year, with the date falling on the Sabbath, we have printed the names of those who died and posted them on the wall outside Fellowship Hall. Those who want to walk along the wall and see the names can do so. Only the names are given, grouped according to where they were: at the Twin Towers, on a plane, or at the Pentagon.
The core belief of Christianity is that God chooses to bring life out of death. Jesus’ own death was unjust, and his resurrection transforms all forms of brutality, in the past and today. God is still choosing life out of death. As we worship this Sunday, may we remember that every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection.
Scripture Readings for Sunday, Sept. 11: 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10

The prayer list can be found here.

August 24th, 2016

For many people, the church building is like a second home. Having it be a welcoming place matters, and if something is not right, it bothers us. Fortunately, people often pitch in to clean up a spill or put a stray item in the trash. There are large numbers of people in the building on some days and the vast majority of them help keep the church in good shape. Large groups are required to hire our sexton, Viola Howery, to come in after an event to ensure that things are as they should be for the next group. Being open and sharing our beautiful building is part of our calling as a church, and things go smoothly most of the time.
To make sure that remains true, the Buildings and Grounds ministry has put a space for comments on their page on the church website. Do you have an idea for how to improve our facilities? Would you like to help out with the care of our church? Have you noticed a problem in the building, surrounding grounds, playground, or parking lot? A light bulb is burned out, a lock is broken, or you see a crack in a wall? Now you can let them know. Just go to and

  • click on Ministries up near the top. A list will drop down with Buildings and Grounds at the bottom.
  • Click there and on the right you will see “Contact the Buildings and Grounds Team” with a form underneath it where you can report and issue or share an idea.

Now that a new season of programming has begun, the building hosts groups nearly every day. That’s something to celebrate! Together we can ensure our fine facility feels like home for decades to come.
Peace, Catherine
Scripture Readings for Sunday, August 28:
Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Mark 9:33-37

The Prayer List can be found here.

August 17th, 2016

This week's MidWeek is from Peg Warren, reflecting on the recent CEDEPCA trip to Guatemala sponsored jointly by Peaks and James Presbyteries. Peg, Kendra Crabtree, and Renae Gillie all went on the trip for the first time. Peace, Catherine

Kendra Crabtree, Ranae Gillie and I recently had a wonderful week in Guatemala learning about CEDEPCA and the troubles facing the vast majority of the population.  Through this experience, I now know about the country’s continuous cycle of corruption, contaminated water supply, the 36-year civil war that killed or ‘disappeared’ about 200,000 people, and the role of our government and private businesses in all of it.  As the week went on, many of us felt overwhelmed by the country’s problems and all that stands in the way of progress. 

Where do you start when there’s so much to fix?  CEDEPCA works to transforms lives through education within its 4 missions – Biblical and Theological Seminary, Women’s Ministry, Disaster Ministry and Intercultural Encounters, which our trip fell under.  Over the week, we met with about 10 groups or individuals that benefit from CEDEPCA.  There’s not enough room here to share them all, but here are a couple of my favorites:

-        Corazon de Mujer is a women’s cooperative that started as a result of the violence against the indigenous people during the civil war and the need for women to help provide for their families.  The women are able to weave at home and then sell their beautiful scarves, bags and other items to CEDEPCA’s tour groups.  We bought many scarves as souvenirs and gifts and purchased an additional 14 scarves to sell to church members at the Advent Market.  Turns out we couldn’t wait and we started selling them as soon as we returned.  There’s a few left – check with Kendra!

-        Nueva Santa Rosa Mine Protestors – A group of people have organized a 24-hour peaceful protest outside one of the many mines in Guatemala.  They are protesting against the American mine company that is polluting their community and not following through on promises of new jobs and schools.  CEDEPCA’s Disaster Ministry and the Center for Legal-Environmental and Social Action (CALAS) provide them with spiritual support and workshops in psycho-social care. We enjoyed a wonderful meal, presentation and a bonding exercise with them.

Through our tithes, BPC supports CEDEPCA each year.  Individually, we can also support CEDEPCA directly.  A $50 donation will provide a family with a water filter so they won’t get repeatedly sick from the contaminated water.  $25 provides a personal hygiene kit for people who have survived a disaster.  Every little bit helps. 

The Presbytery of the Peaks, in partnership with the James Presbytery, sends people on a CEDEPCA tour each year and I encourage you to consider going on a trip.  It’s fun, well-organized, safe and enlightening.  We met so many warm and friendly people and ate lots of great food.  Find Ranae, Kendra or me to ask us more about our trip!

Scripture Readings for Sunday, August 21st, 2016: 1 Corinthians 12:4-2; Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

The prayer list can be found here.

August 10th, 2016

Making time to pray has always been a challenge. Susan Hunter introduced me to a free app for my smart phone called Centering Prayer. Just seeing the icon when I look at my phone gives me an opportunity to think about God. If I tap on the app, I am led through a brief process that uses scriptures and music (you get to choose) around a few minutes of silence. So a bit of music leads me in, a piece of scripture reminds me to give myself the gift of time with God, a sound opens and closes the silence, and scripture and music lead me out again.
When I first used the app, I tried for a longer period of silence than I could manage. The blessing of being somewhat older is the ease with which you cut yourself some slack. So I shortened the time, and now it works for me. Have I been great at using this technology to help me pray more often? Not especially. But it is there, and my eye falls on the icon regularly, reminding me that all I need do to be with God is stop and be with God.
Some people think that using a device like this app, or books of written prayers, or scented candles, or music is somehow “cheating,” as if prayer should be some kind of pure act. But nothing about our lives is pure and God is not school master, lurking to catch us out. Anything that helps one pray more often or more fully is welcomed by God. Are there things you do when you pray, and do they help you? I would welcome hearing from you, and sharing the responses.
Scripture Readings for Sunday, August 14: Jeremiah 23:23-29; Luke 12:49-56

The prayer list can be found here.

August 3rd, 2016

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name; —Psalm 96:1-2

“But I don’t like to sing.” “I can’t carry a tune.” “I just don’t have a singing voice.” Do you know how many times in my life I have heard statements like that? When in “recruiting mode,” choir directors are often met with such polite ways of saying, “No!” Or how about, “I’ve never sung in a choir before.” The worst one is, “When I was a child, I was told I couldn’t sing.”

Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm. —Psalm 47:6-7

Well here is my not-so-polite response: “Too bad!!” Whew, OK, sorry, but it feels good to get that out after years of smiling and nodding and accepting people’s rejection of my invitation to join choir.

Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all God’s wonderful works. —Psalm 105:2

And while it seems kind of harsh, that just may be God’s response, as well. Singing is a big thing in the Bible. The word “sing” appears 292 times in the NRSV pew Bibles (plus 190 more when you include “singing,” “sang,” and “song”). The entire book of Psalms was meant to be sung, and we will sing many of them during the hymn festival in worship this Sunday. So let me address each of the objections mentioned in the first paragraph.
“But I don’t like to sing,” etc. What would you say to someone who said, “But I don’t like to pray,” or “I don’t like forgiving people,” or “I don’t like praising God”? You probably wouldn’t say, “OK, no problem. You can just skip that.” The Bible tells us to sing—it doesn’t present it as an option.
“I’ve never sung in a choir before.” Oh, really? Are you sure about that? I’ll bet you’ve sung in the choir at BPC without even knowing it. That’s because the main choir in worship is the congregation. The other choirs meet to rehearse music that requires practice to prepare. You are a member of the congregational choir whether you like it or not, so you might as well sing!
“When I was a child, I was told I couldn’t sing.” This one makes me sad. I know people whose music teachers or choir directors told them to just move their mouths in the concert so they wouldn’t “spoil” the music. It is true that some people are more gifted than others at many things, including singing, and we usually want to use the gifts we’ve been given. You have to try out for some choirs and have a certain level of ability to join. But luckily, the main choir of God’s people is for everyone—no audition required! Psalm 96 says, “Sing to the Lord, all the earth!” not “Sing to the Lord, those of you who can sing in four part harmony!”
So I will always sing praises to your name, as I pay my vows day after day. —Psalm 61:8


Scripture Readings for Sunday, August 7: Psalm 150; Col. 3:14-17

The Prayer list can be found here.


July 29th, 2016

A poem by Philip Appleman
      O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,
            gimme a break before I die:
            grant me wisdom, will, & wit,
            purity, probity, pluck, & grit.
        Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind,
     gimme great abs & a steel-trap mind,
  and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice
        these little blessings would suffice
          to beget an earthly paradise:
          make the bad people good
           and the good people nice;
  and before our world goes over the brink,
       teach the believers how to think.
Scripture Readings for Sunday, July 31: Psalm 22:1-2, 42:1-3; Matthew 12:9-14, 18:12-14

The Prayer list can be found here.

July 20th, 2016

The beach house where we’ve gone for some twenty years in Florida feels like another home to me. It’s not ours, and yet it is because we have generated many memories there. Each time we arrive I feel a tremendous sense of relief that it looks much the same. As important as the house itself, which sits in a marsh on the bay side of a barrier island, is the long dock that winds out to the water. Robert is likely to take off down the dock first thing. Both of us will spend hours on the screen porch looking out across the bay and soaking in the sights and sounds of ospreys, owls, pelicans, terns, and eagles. And this year we’ll be surrounded by extended family.

As others of us travel or come back from time away, I hope you will offer prayers for the other place of retreat in all our lives, our church. It, too, can be an oasis, a place of refreshment and restoration, and we don’t have to journey far to get there. We only need to journey past the voice in our head that says church “takes away” from other things.  


Scripture Readings for Sunday, July 24: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Mark 4:30-32

The prayer list can be found here.

July 13th, 2016

Today is a good day for reminders:

The meeting for those interested in learning about the possibilities for sponsoring a refugee family is tonight at the Blacksburg public library at 7:00 in the community room.

After worship on Sunday we’ll be holding a Congregational Meeting to elect six people to serve as deacons to undertake a ministry of compassion among us. The people the Nominating Committee will put forward are Phyllis Albritton-Webb, Jeananne Bame, John Browder, Deb Call, Robert Dean, Bill Neely. If you wish to nominate someone from the floor, please obtain that person’s permission ahead of time.

Then on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 we will gather for a service of Witness to the Resurrection in honor of Beulah Kline, to be followed by a reception in the Fellowship Hall. A private graveside service for Beulah took place on Tuesday.

After the past few weeks, I am very ready for the vacation we have planned with family for the weeks of July 23-August 6th. While I am away Dave Snyder will fill the pulpit, and the Sunday I get back Jeffrey has prepared a Hymn festival for us to share. Together the Reverend Shirley Larson and Kendra will cover any emergencies.

Scripture Readings for Sunday, July 17: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Matthew 28:16-20

The prayer list can be found here.

July 6th, 2016

You may recall from the June Newsletter that the Session decided to ordain and install a group of Deacons to assist with pastoral care. With the reorganization of the Book of Order in 2011, it became possible for churches to ordain individuals as Deacons who serve and visit the home-centered, the sick, and those undergoing significant transitions in their lives. In other words, churches can now ordain individuals to ministries of compassion. They will receive training in active listening, prayer, and being present, and meet as a group with the pastor for training and support without functioning as a Board.
The Newsletter article invited anyone who felt called this ministry to let the chairs of the Nominating Committee know. Thankfully, two people did just that. Now the Nominating Committee has met and prayerfully selected six candidates who, if elected, will be ordained and installed as deacons. The candidates are Phyllis Albritton-Webb, Jeananne Bame, John Browder, Deb Call, Robert Dean, and Bill Neely.
I have asked the Session to authorize a Called Congregational Meeting after worship on July 17th to vote on these six candidates. Their terms of office will be staggered so that two of the candidates will serve one year, two will serve two years and two for three years. After that, the Nominating Committee will offer two candidates a year.
I give thanks to God for this wonderful group who have said “yes” to this possibility for service. Nominations will also be taken from the floor, so if you plan to make a nomination, please obtain the person’s permission before the meeting. We’ll confirm the date of the Called meeting once the elders have had a chance to vote on the request.
Scripture Readings for Sunday, July 10: Luke 6:46-49; Colossians 3:12-17

The prayer list can be found here.

Dear BPC Family,
Former elder and professor of religious studies Guyton Bowers Hammond, 85, died peacefully at his home in Crozet, VA on Sunday. A memorial service will be held on July 22 at 11:00 am at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 Rugby Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903. Those wishing to honor Guy may donate to the Virginia Tech Foundation, 902 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061, or the Music Ministry of Westminster Presbyterian Church.