July 18th, 2018

I am now a gosling. A member of the Wild Goose Festival tribe forever. It doesn’t take long to see why more people flock to this festival every year. You are there and so you are family. The Wild Goose Festival is an art, music, and story-driven transformational experience grounded in faith-inspired social justice that takes place annually in Hot Springs, NC during the hottest month of the year. To really understand all that it encapsulates is to experience it.

Over the course of two and a half days there are over 400 presentations to choose from. From the Main Stage, I heard Barbara Brown Taylor, Jen Hatmaker, Peter Enns, Diana Butler Bass, Otis Moss III and the Trinity Church of Christ in Chicago choir. In the Living Room Tent I learned the history of the Evangelical and Mainline traditions, and where they began to diverge from one another, and how not to repeat the mistakes of our history. And I heard from Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera, the Religion and Faith Program’s Director of Latino and Catholic Initiatives for the Human Rights Campaign, about the history of the church and Puerto Rico, her home. It was like drinking from a fire hose. And those are just a handful of workshops and presentations that I was able to take in. I ran into friends from years ago and made new ones as I camped under the stars by the river.

Wild Goose is a place for all. There is art all over the camp ground to remind you of your worth. There is a spirit of truth and authenticity that, I believe, makes it a thin place. A place where your connection to the divine on earth is so palpable you can simply cannot miss it. At the Main Stage was a large weathered board with Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese painted on it. I will leave it here for you.

Kendra Crabtree

Director of Communications and Church Life


Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clear blue air,

are headed home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

Scripture Readings:
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

July 11th, 2018

The Health department has given us a go-ahead on the work in the kitchen with the understanding that there are still some hoops to jump through. Headstart has to provide some needed certificates and a Building Official and Fire Marshal need to do a walk through. The certificates exist and we have regular inspections anyway, so we don’t expect obstacles.

We’d like to have one more work day, Monday July 16th, to get things out. Demolition can then begin—though we’ve learned by now not to announce dates! With the delay we may not get the kitchen finished before Headstart reopens, but everyone will work together no matter what. The result will be a refreshed, workable kitchen that meets the needs of all-comers, and that’s something to celebrate. 

Summer is the time for staff to do a little renovating, too; we are all taking continuing education of some sort. I took mine in April and spent a week as a General Assembly Commissioner in June. Kendra is at the Wild Goose Festival now, along with church members Sarah Windes, Scott and Melanie Smith and Elva Miller. She’ll be back in the office next week. Susan Hunter is heading to Montreat all next week, and Music Director Steve Lawrence is heading to England on Friday to sing in a choir then take a short vacation. By the end of summer we and our surroundings should all be refreshed.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings
2 Samuel 7:1-14a
Psalm 89:20-37
Ephesians 2:11-22
Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

June 27th, 2018

Serving as a Commissioner to the 223rd General Assembly was an extraordinary experience. Picture men, women, college and seminary students and high schoolers gathering from every state and territory of the US: 538 Commissioners and 183 Advisory Delegates from 173 presbyteries. Then picture us with our various colored name badges and piles of documents filling the sidewalks and meeting rooms of an urban civic center and six adjacent hotels. The St. Louis civic center was so huge that one day I took 12,000 steps just walking from my hotel room to meetings and meals!

Every day was packed with worship, prayer, singing, hearings, debate, overtures, amendments, votes and shared meals at which the business of the assembly was often the ongoing topic. Mix that with seeing old friends from seminary and pastor colleagues from other towns while walking down almost any sidewalk or hallway. We would shriek, hug and hurry off to the next appointed gathering.

I have always been proud to be a Presbyterian, and this week made me even more grateful to God for our faithful company of witnesses. We debated many hard topics: immigration, whether to divest from companies that profit directly from business in the Gaza strip; the debtors prisons that arise when people accused of a crime but not yet tried have no money to post bail; the policy of separating children from their parents at the border (where it is not now, and never has been, illegal to present oneself to ask for asylum.)  These were only a few of the high-profile topics we as a church choose to act on or study. It was intense. It was moving. I cried during some part of each day—usually worship. And it was an incredible privilege.

You have an opportunity to hear more soon. PCUSA stated Clerk, J. Herbert Nelson, will be preaching and speaking at the next meeting of Peaks Presbytery, Saturday August 18, at Trinity Ecumenical Parish Church in Moneta. The other Peaks Commissioners and I will give our report. Given the size of our presbytery, it’s relatively close by should you want to attend and hear from our Stated Clerk and have your own micro GA experience. I will never forget mine.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings:
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Psalm 130
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

June 13th, 2018

The 223rd General Assembly gathers this weekend in St. Louis and meets through next week. As a Commissioner from the Presbytery of the Peaks, I head to St. Louis on Friday. We Commissioners are randomly assigned to committees that will meet most afternoons and evenings. Mornings are for the plenary sessions. Friends tell me that being a Commissioner to GA is utterly exhausting—along with being fun, energizing, and inspiring!

Much of the pressing work of the GA this year has to do with administrative reorganization. Injustice in the cash bail system is also on the agenda, including a march by Commissioners to the St. Louis Justice Center on Tuesday. We’ll be delivering money donated at our opening worship service to be used for bail. Click Press Release to read more. There is also an overture to disinvest from fossil fuel companies that may get some press.

We’ll also vote on raising the per capita, a per member fee that congregations forward to the denomination to cover administrative costs. That may turn out to be the most controversial issue. As a pastor who knows how hard church staff work and that the heating bills have to be paid, an increase seems reasonable and necessary to me, but I will listen with an open heart. Listening with an open heart is the main job of Commissioners. As a Church we believe that if all listen and speak as they are led by the Spirit, the best decisions will result.

Already I have been sent pages and pages of information to study on items that will be coming before my committee, which concerns four agencies: the Presbyterian Foundation, the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, the Board of Pensions, and the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. This is not the committee I would have chosen for myself, best, but given that I will be one among many I will trust in the principal that the Spirit is in charge.

This Sunday your closing hymn will be one we Commissioners will be singing in worship, too. Please pray for me and my fellow Commissioners as travel to and from St. Louis and throughout the week.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Reading
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17;
Mark 4:26-34



May 16th, 2018

Vacation Bible School is just around the river bend. Children ages 3 through rising 6th grade are invited to join us for a “Rolling River Rampage” June 3-7 at 5:30 - 8:00 PM to experience the Ride of a Lifetime with God.  Prepare to find adventure, acceptance, joy, rest and peace on the river!

We’ll start with chow-time in Fellowship Hall, float to the Opening Session in the Sanctuary to sing, move, and learn about our theme each night.  Then, rafters will paddle to the Bible Story, Games, and Discovery stations.  Preschoolers will have their own pond to explore before everyone meets up in the Sanctuary for the Closing.

A great crew of Youth and Adults have volunteered, but more are needed to help Guide the Rafts of kids to stations, assist with Stations, prepare meals and clean up the campsite afterward.  There is no charge for VBS, but donations for dinner will be accepted.  Children are asked to bring a t-shirt on Sunday June 3rd so we can apply a VBS logo on it.  Visitors are welcome!  

Please register children or sign up to volunteer by May 24.

Scripture Readings:
Ezekiel 37:1-14
Acts 2:1-21
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

May 9th, 2018

Every year it’s exciting to announce that the MANNA team is taking applications for awards from the income generated by BPC’s General Endowment fund. This year’s MANNA team, led by elder Brent Opell, is now seeking applications, due June 15th.

A little history:  The General Endowment fund was created by past members who felt a call to impact BPC’s work beyond their lifetimes. At the start of 2018, the balance in the fund was $1,777,441. The income goes to projects outside the church doors, under the authority of Session per recommendations from the Endowment Ministry. Traditionally, the money is not used for the operating budget, which comes from the stewardship of BPC’s current community of disciples. 

Under the umbrella of the Endowment Ministry, the MANNA team gathers once a year to gift the money. MANNA team members represent a broad sweep of the congregation. They come from current ministry teams and from the congregation at large. (And if this is something you would like to be part of, be sure to let us know!)  MANNA meets two or three times to study the applications and sometimes to hear presentations from those requesting the funds.

In the past many small awards were made, but in an effort to have a greater impact, the team is now making two large awards each year, with the money being given over a three-year period. Last year $20,000 went to Montgomery County’s new education initiative Access to Community College Education (ACCE), and $24,000 was awarded to FAST (Facilitating a Successful Transition) a program for people coming out of jail or prison. The projects are always worthy, which makes decision-making tough, but what an honor to have the resources for such a task. The total amount to be awarded this year is nearly $100,000, though most years is closer to $80,000.

Requests for awards can be sponsored by any three church members. They can be part of an existing ministry team, or can be any three people who come up with a project of their own or through partnership with local agencies. Projects must also promise broad involvement from church and community and have the potential for increasing BPC involvement. The full application is printed below.

And just so you know, BPC is also blessed with five Restricted endowment funds. Income from the Restricted endowments is used solely in compliance with the wishes of the giver. Those funds go to projects within or sponsored by BPC, and are under the authority of specific ministries. Restricted endowment funds, their purpose, and the amounts available to ministry chairs for 2018 are as follows:        

Dunlap          Music                                $5,173
Fisher           The Arts                            $4,923
Shoulders     Children's Education        $10,665
Smyth           Lectureship series            $11,976
Shear            Peacemaking                    $5,732

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings:
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Psalm 1
1 John 5:9-13
John 17:6-19

May 2nd, 2018

We are very excited to begin embarking on our roll-out of the Church Community Builder system for the whole congregation. We obtained licenses for this software to not only replace our old membership system, but to provide us with a new way to organize and communicate. (Real-time record updates, group and event coordination, volunteer sign-ups, etc.)
The goal is to keep the congregation more informed, get more people involved, and allow the ministries to focus on their important work. This new software will also act as our church directory! Any church member who has created a login will be able to update their personal data as it change.
In order for this software to be used to the fullest extent we need two things from you:
1. Create a login for your profile.
2. Update your profile (and family) information.
You will find the link to the instructions below.

If you have any questions along the way please contact Kendra Crabtree at kendra@blacksburgpres.org or Brian Smith at buildingsandgrounds@blacksburgpres.org.

This Sunday, May 6th, Brian and I will be in Westminster Library after worship to answer any questions and to help you if you have run into trouble creating a login or updating information.

There are many features that we will begin using more fully in the coming weeks and months with more details to come.
Thank you,
Kendra Crabtree, DCCL
Director of Communications and Church Life
Brian Smith
Elder and Chair of Buildings and Grounds

Scripture Readings:
Exodus 16:1-8
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Mark 8:11-21

April 25th, 2018

The kitchen is the heart of many homes. For churches, the sanctuary probably fills that place, but the kitchen is a close second. The kitchen at BPC is used almost every day year round. Staff use the fridge, sink and ice maker. Head Start makes lunches, sterilizes dishes and sends toothbrushes through the commercial dishwasher. Some Master Chorale members know the kitchen’s eccentricities as well as we do. Presbyterian Women, the Youth Group, the Boy Scouts, and countless others arrange plates on the counter tops and warm dishes in the ovens for banquets and receptions.

When the church was renovated in 2007-8, the kitchen was painted but otherwise untouched. It is overdue for a serious update, and, happily, the time has arrived. A team of folks led by Suzanne Sanford has been hard at work for over a year, in partnership with Buildings and Grounds. A gift dedicated to a kitchen overhaul is covering the cost of work that’s now set to begin June 11th. Here’s some of what to expect:

·      New ranges (one of our current ranges works only intermittently)

·      New cabinets

·      New counter-tops

·      In addition to the current commercial dishwasher, a fast-cycle residential model

·      A slightly shorter center island, allowing for better traffic flow

·      Designated space for recycling containers and rolling carts

·      A double sink that fits large pans to replace the triple sink; the small sink stays

·      Under-counter lighting

·      Reconfigured closet shelving

·      A mobile cabinet in the Gathering Space for coffee service items

The finishes are still being decided, but the basic palette is warm gray with a clean, sleek look. The flooring and basic layout will be much the same. The mobile cabinet in the Gathering Space will match the oak trim there.

All the kitchen contents will be moved to tables at the far end of Fellowship Hall, on June 8, the day after VBS concludes—helpers are always welcome! Construction starts June 11, and should take about a month. Meanwhile, be sure to talk with others about the redo—and discover just how many people have been involved and deserve thanks.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings:
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

April 18th, 2018

BPC’s Creation Care Team has once again crafted a Season of Creation worship series. It will fall on the three Sundays from April 22 to May 6th (April 22 happens to be Earth Day). Volunteers from the Worship Ministry and Creation Care have met several times to pick themes and decide on scriptures, liturgy and visual enhancements for the services. Their work has created services that already promise to be powerful. The themes this year in order are Wilderness (4/22), Diversity (4/29), and Abundance (5/6).

All three themes this year evoke contrasts. Wilderness, in scripture and in life, offers welcome solitude but also danger. There are places on earth we humans cannot enter  safely, places we perhaps ought not to visit even if well-prepared. Variety and diversity lead us to consider the number of species facing extinction. Abundance evokes its opposite—scarcity, fear of which lies behind many destructive choices.

Each year the team has offered ideas for how to enjoy and protect the environment in our daily living. The invitation for the first week is to write a sentence or two about a place that represents sacred space or wilderness for you; you can submit a picture if you’d like. Why is it a favorite place for you and how can others find it? The descriptions will be shared for those who might want to make visits of their own.

Thinking about the themes has been a rich experience for me as I prepare to write the sermons. It has also led to scriptures that fall outside the Lectionary, always a good thing to do from time to time. I will be at Austin Seminary for continuing education the week of April 15-20. That means writing the Wilderness sermon before I go. I’ll be thinking of wild sacred spaces near and far, and invite you to do the same.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Reading
Acts 4:5-12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16-24
John 10:11-18

April 11th, 2018

Throughout the year there is a quarterly art exhibit in Westminster Library. The exhibit is open to viewing during office hours and on Sundays. We host a forum with the artist during the exhibition. This coming Sunday, April 15th, directly after worship will be our next forum. Below is our current artists biography. We hope to see you there.

Richard Mallory Allnutt is a British-born photographer who lives in Blacksburg. He focuses primarily on portraiture, but his passions for aviation and the natural world also play a strong role in his repertoire. He has won several significant awards for his work, such as first prize in the 2016 Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine photography competition (Civil Aviation category), first prize in the FotoWeekDC International Awards Competition 2013 (Regional Focus category), ITVA-DC (stills section) and the prestigious Aviation Week & Space Technology photography competition. His images have graced the covers and pages of many books and magazines such as JazzTimes, Swing Journal, Smithsonian: Air & Space, and Brad Meltzer’s “Heroes for My Son”.

Allnutt's clients include, among others, Dom Perignon Champagne, Moet Hennessy, Nike Communications, Virginia Tech, Concord Records, Telarc and Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine. He has also worked as a set photographer on several motion picture films.

He divides his time primarily between Washington DC, New York City, Ottawa, Ontario and Blacksburg, Virginia.

Scripture Readings
Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

April 4th, 2018

Starting this Sunday, April 8th at 4pm in Hatcher, the Adult Education team has an additional learning opportunity for you that will be led by Anne and Greg Campbell about end of life planning. Below are some details on what will be covered.

Studies show that 80 % of Americans express a desire to die at home.  Despite this, 60% of Americans die in acute care hospitals, 20% in nursing homes and only 20% at home.  Advanced medical technology provided by well-intended medical professionals too often extends quantity of life with little regard for quality of life.  How do you know when to say “no, thank you” to efforts to provide you with treatment?  Who will make those choices for you if you are unable?  How will he or she know what you would want especially when your priorities may change with age and disease?  Will your choices at age 40 be the same as at age 85?

We will be exploring these questions during a 4-part series of classes starting this Sunday, April 8 at 4 p.m.  Each class will be an hour and a half.  Child care can be requested by contacting adulted@blacksburgpres.org.  Topics will be discussed in sequence, so you are encouraged to attend all four classes, but all are welcome, regardless.

We will be discussing what health care choices look like today, Advance Medical Directives, POST orders, DNR’s, “the conversation”, how to select your health care proxy and much more.  We hope you will join us!

Anne and Greg Campbell

Scripture Readings:
John 20:19-31
Acts 4:32-35

March 28th, 2018

The business meetings of PC(USA) churches always make me proud to be Presbyterian. I can remember sitting through after-worship meetings as a child as the congregation nominated and voted for officers or other matters. Those meetings were my first hands-on experience of democracy. Such an opportunity is coming up again for the children and members of BPC.
There will be a called Congregational Meeting after worship on Sunday April 8th for the purpose of 1) electing officers to the Class of 2021 and 2) gifting the land at the corner of Church Street and Hemlock to NRV Habitat for Humanity to be used for affordable townhomes.
I trust by now you have read many times about the project to build seven townhomes on the land across from our parking lot. The need for affordable housing in Blacksburg for families with lower incomes is great. Our gift of the land makes an in-town project possible for Habitat, who will sell or lease the townhomes. All seven townhomes will offer three bed-rooms. The two end units will be life-span units, meaning the master will be on the main floor. They will face Church Street with a parking lot behind and one exit onto Hemlock. They units will be designated “low-wealth” properties for 50 years, and Habitat will own the mortgages or be the leasing agent if any of the units are rented.   
The process has been unfolding for almost two years. Session began by discussing whether giving the land was in keeping with the mission of the church; and agreed it is. They then met with Habitat Director Shelley Fortier to discuss the project, and ultimately voted unanimously to proceed with the gift. Because PC(USA) churches hold land in trust for the denomination, Session then petitioned the Presbytery of the Peaks to approve the gift. The plan went first to the Peaks Presbytery Trustees. The Trustees then recommended that Presbytery approve the gift. The vote of the Presbytery took place, coincidentally, here in our sanctuary last November.
Meanwhile, Habitat applied to the Town of Blacksburg for special zoning. Hearings were held for neighbors and the plan went before the Planning Commission in January and, this month, Town Council. At each step the idea has met with enthusiastic support and gratitude that BPC’s gift can make the project possible. Habitat also applied to HUD for a federal HOME grant to pay for the majority of the build. Word that a grant of $800,000 has been approved came last week. It is part of the 2019 federal budget, however, so nothing is certain until after that budget is approved.
On our end, the final step is the vote by, you, the congregation to approve gifting the deed to Habitat, who need to hold the deed in order to receive the HOME grant. There are also some steps required by Virginia law that Greg Campbell will shepherd for us. The whole process has felt Spirit-filled and Spirit-fueled thus far! Join in with your presence April 8th, and if you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to share them. Let’s make meaningful memories for our children.


Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings
Isaiah 25:6-9
Mark 16:1-8

March 21st, 2018

All of a sudden a host of people seem to be moving. Church members Janice Woodard and Neal Boyd have just moved to The Crossings, leaving homes of long-standing. Letting go of all kinds of things that no longer fit or that they no longer need, they’ve down-sized into spaces more suited to their abilities, and into the hands of people prepared to help them with daily tasks. My neighbor Mary—the kind of neighbor you can laugh with or cry to—has spent the last three weekends emptying her house just doors from mine. She is starting a new life in a new town with a new job and soon, a new husband. I will be emptying her refrigerator for her in a few hours. And former BPC members Jonathan and Angela Anderson are moving back to Blacksburg with their three children in a matter of weeks, so Angela can begin her new faculty position, news that made my day when I heard it.

These comings and goings have confirmed for me that despite our best-laid plans, life is ever mutable. Some days we mourn the loss of things that were; some days we embrace the new—new settings, new starts, and new or even renewed friendships. Or we had best embrace it. Stasis is the only impossibility.

Jesus wondered last week if God might not take the looming cross away, but this week he is jumping on a donkey and moving into Jerusalem come what may. It’s a journey he is determined to take. Praise God that he did not opt for sameness, traveling away from Jerusalem instead of toward it. He could have done well as an itinerant rabbi and healer. Most of the disciples might have come along; after all, they were a traveling band already. Then nothing would have changed. Nothing.

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Reading
Psalm 118:1-2; 19-29
Mark 11:1-11
Philippians 2:5-11


March 14th, 2018

A new season of adult education is about to begin. Have you considered giving yourself the gift of Christian learning? With TED talks and countless resources on the internet, attendance at Christian Education events is lower and lower across denominations. But a TED talk, a session at your computer, or a TV documentary cannot give you a key aspect of life in the body of Christ: relationship. Learning in community, hearing what other Christians have felt and thought, sharing laughter and frustration with each other can enrich the journey of faith immeasurably.

You know this, and have probably pondered getting to church in time for a class that interests you. Do it. God speaks to us through one another, and through the thoughts that come to us in interactions that seem quite ordinary, but are Spirit-filled. Let me urge the parents of young children in particular to get involved. Is there really anything you want to give your child more than the memory of you as a man or woman of faith?

A new class is starting up called the Bible from Scratch. It is perfect for anyone who wants to know the Bible better, or simply feel more comfortable with reading and interpreting scripture. And if you are already comfortable with these things, come and be a gift to others. Peace, Catherine

Scripture Reading:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33

March 7th, 2018

4th century silver coin with labyrinth

4th century silver coin with labyrinth

Last week Paul told his church in Corinth to give up the wisdom of the world and rely on the foolishness of God. Some people may think labyrinths belong on the foolish list. Why take a walk that goes in a circle to nowhere and back again? What good can it possibly do? Yet labyrinths have been used by many cultures for decoration and meditation for centuries and have a renewed place in Christian worship and prayer.

For the unfamiliar, a labyrinth is a maze pattern that can decorate objects or a wall, be traced with your finger or be large enough to be walked on a floor. Some cultures used labyrinths to confuse “evil” spirits and thus keep them from entering sacred places. For Christians labyrinths are prayer paths that clarify rather than confuse. You can take an issue to God in prayer on such a walk and listen for guidance, or simply feel God’s comforting presence.

The earliest known Christian Labyrinth is in a fourth century church in Algeria. Around the year 1000 CE they began to be built into church walls and floors, the most famous being that labyrinth on the floor of Chartres Cathedral. They may have come into use as alternatives to making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, something not many had the means to do. Pilgrims could “walk” the labyrinth on their knees while praying.

Our canvas labyrinth is designed for walking and will be set up in the back end of Fellowship Hall for two weeks this year, from the fifth Sunday of Lent until Easter. We are adding some elements to help enrich the experience. Why take a walk to “nowhere” and back? Because God in God’s foolishness thinks “nowhere” is a fine place to meet. 

Peace, Catherine

Scripture Reading:
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 3:14-21

March 1st, 2018

Mid Week Musing

We are well into Lent now. Sadly, this is one of those years when I am not doing a good job of opening myself to Lent’s disciplines. There are signs of the Holy Spirit’s work all around me, yet I feel myself holding back. Why? The usual reasons. I’ve been busy with sermons, bulletins, funerals, visits, the Elder Nomination process, and—ironically—a retreat. Sunday through Friday in particular of late have been one big rush. When I’m not working It’s hard to find time in the day for Lenten reading, yah, yah yah.

I know full well, of course, that these excuses are thin. Yet I offer them in case you are in a similar place. In his sermon at St. Mary’s last night, Joe Racek, pastor at New life, offered some wisdom from Dallas Willard. Hurry, said Willard, is the enemy of God’s presence. Simply taking time to stop and look around you can open the heart to the nearness of God. Not only do I know this, I spoke about it at the women’s retreat. But knowing a thing and doing it consistently are not the same.

So, I invite you and myself to “begin” opening up to the gifts of Lent. The time between now and Good Friday is going to be the same no matter how we use it. Let’s slow down.


Peace, Catherine

Scripture Reading:
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
John 2:13-22

February 21st, 2018

Mid Week Musing

Rob and I will be heading over to Luther Memorial Lutheran tonight at 5:30 for supper and staying to worship afterward. Not having to fix supper on Wednesday in Lent is a help. Being able to worship in other sanctuaries is even better, since ministers in particular don’t get many chances to worship outside our own churches.

The theme this year comes from the story in Matthew 25 in which Jesus blesses the followers who cared for him through their care for neighbors who were hungry, homeless, poor, sick or in prison. I was assigned the last slot, the one about those who are in prison. I been thinking about how to approach the word “prison.” I could concentrate on actual prisoners. The United States has 4.4 percent of the world's population, but a quarter of the world's prisoners. Americans are locked up for crimes—from writing bad checks to using drugs—that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. We also keep people in prison longer than other nations do. So the sermon could look at the forces that have led us as a nation to be so prison-prone.

But there are many other kinds of prisons, some of which I have spent time in. There is the prison of small-minded-ness. The prison of limited experience of the world beyond our borders. The prison of needing other’s approval, or the far more terrifying prison of living with someone it is dangerous to upset or annoy. There is the prison of only associating with people whose ideas do not challenge yours at all, and the prison of self-consciousness, which puts you at the center of a universe that is in fact not concerned with you at all. The metaphors go on and on.

Because Lent is essentially about liberation, looking at the prisons around us can be fruitful in many ways. If you have thoughts to share, just get in touch. Meanwhile, join me in walking the world thinking about freedom in new ways.


Peace, Catherine

Scripture Readings for the week:
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:23-31
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38

February 15th, 2018

Mid Week Musing

With my first service behind me, I would like to thank everyone for their generous outpouring of welcome and hospitality this past Sunday.  It was an honor to be a part of such an energetic service.  I am already impressed by the many programs that nurture this congregation and serve the community, and I am excited to share in these ministries.

For the past 33 years I have served two churches, Episcopal and Lutheran, as organist, choir director and liturgist, being guided for the most part by the Book of Common Prayer.   To leave that tradition is a bit daunting, but I remind myself that the role of music remains constant, regardless of the worship tradition.  Music illumines the word and unites us in common praise.  In the words of the hymn When in our Music God is Glorified,How often, making music, we have found a new dimension in the world of sound, as worship moved us to a more profound Alleluia.”  I look forward to exploring those dimensions with you!

I would like to personally invite each of you to be a part of the music ministry at BPC.  Our Children’s Choir, A Joyful Noise!, is open to students in Kindergarten through 5th grade and rehearses Sunday mornings at 10 am.  Our handbell choir rehearses at 5:45 on Wednesday evening and we are currently looking for additional ringers.  The handbell choir is open to high school students and adults; music reading is required.  The BPC Choir is open to high school students and adults and rehearses on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 and sings for the 10:30 worship service on Sundays.  New singers are always welcome!  For additional information, please feel free to speak with me after worship or contact me via email at Steve@blacksburgpres.org.

Steve Lawrence
Director of Music/Organist

Scripture Readings for the Week:
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

February 7th, 2018

Mid Week Musing: UKirk


According to its mission statement, UKirk Ministry at Virginia Tech aspires to provide opportunities for “mission activities, locally and globally.” For decades, students have traveled widely, to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, and Haiti.  They have traveled to New York City, Washington, Atlanta, Bay St Louis, Louisville, and New Orleans. And they have traveled to many places in our home state:  Richmond, southwest Virginia coal mining towns, Prince Edward County where public schools were closed to avoid integration, and Jonesville in Lee County.  They have served, advocated, lobbied, studied, discerned, worked, restored, and tried to be the hands of Jesus in the world.

Twenty years ago, the first chili cook-off was held to raise funds for these trips, which are a highlight of the campus ministry year for many students. In those twenty years, we have tasted many kinds of chili, some of which have won awards for “Spiciest”, “Most Original”, or “Champion”.  We have consumed untold pans of cornbread and enjoyed countless homemade desserts.  We have played trivia games and bid on silent auction items.  We have met students and members from the other congregations who labor in this mission field with us.


Please join us on February 11 at 5:30 pm, as we celebrate 20 years of doing mission together.  Bring your taste buds, your checkbook, and your heart for serving our Lord Jesus Christ, as we send our students out once again to do his work in the world.

Suzanne Sanford

Scripture Reading for the Week
2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Mark 9:2-9

January 31st, 2018

With Our Hands: A Creative Spiritual Retreat


I can almost hear folks asking, “What does that mean?”  We are all given gifts by God, and we glorify God as we work, teach, play, and care for others. This creative retreat is another way to consider our gifts and honor God.  Our medium happens to be 3-D collage. 

Since the real purpose of this retreat is to spend time thinking about your faith journey, we will begin and end with devotions. WHO nurtures you; who do you nurture in return? WHAT brings you joy? WHERE do you look for inspiration? WHEN have you experienced stages of growth, challenge, stagnation, or faith-building? HOW do you express your gifts? WHY is that important? 

The bulk of the retreat on Friday evening and Saturday will offer Open Studio time in Fellowship Hall. Each person will choose from a variety of wooden cigar boxes. Then, layer upon layer of photos, words, paint, paper, and trinkets will come together to reveal some of what is important to you and your faith. A large selection of objects will be available, and you may bring small significant items to include in your piece. Some of us communicate well through words, song, or dance. This time, we will worship God with our hands. 

Visual arts allow creators and viewers to share memories, make associations, and find meaning. While there will be a ‘finished product’, the emphasis will definitely be on the process. So, ALL levels of artistic ability are welcome! 

Come to BPC on Friday, March 2nd at 7:00-9:00 PM and Saturday, March 3rd at 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM. Age recommendation is 6th grade and up. Register at the Welcome Window in the Gathering Space. Cost is $15 by Feb. 25, or $20 at the door. Childcare will be available on Friday evening by request (by Feb. 14). Snacks and supplies provided, but bring your own lunch. At 1:00 PM on Saturday there will be a guided Art Walk around BPC which is open to anyone. Bring a friend!


Susan Hunter

Scripture Reading for the Week
Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
1 Corinthains 9:16-23
Mark 1:29-39