Bucket List Update!

Dear Friends,
Thank you to all who have already donated toward our Bucket List drive for disaster clean-up in areas affected by the recent hurricanes! Thanks also to everyone who has been helping to spread the word!
We are still collecting needed items, and I have an update about both the timeline and items still needed to complete our set of buckets.
The Penn Northeast Conference (our regional setting of the United Church of Christ) will be making our region’s first drop-off to Church World Service facilities sometime in next week or so.  The PNEC Disaster relief team will also continue to accept buckets through the rest of the month, as we’d anticipated doing. Working in concert with PNEC helps be an active part of the mission life of the Conference and connects us in mission with our sister churches throughout the region.
We have already collected a 5 completed buckets and we’ve also collected many materials toward assembling more complete buckets!  In and of itself, this is fantastic job! Thank you to everyone who has already responded and to everyone who has been asking about what items are still needed. 

 

We were blessed with a large donation of empty buckets, of which 22 remain. 

Ann Haley took an inventory of remaining items (thank you, Ann!)

Here’s the break down of what we would need to fill every single bucket:

  • (17) large sponges   
  • (15) scrub brushes
  • (22) 12-count packs of Handi-Wipes (or other brand) reusable cleaning cloths/towels. Other counts also accepted. 
  • (8) 50 oz liquid laundry detergent (also accepted as (2) 25 oz bottles).
  • (16) 16-28 oz liquid disinfectant dish soap
  • (19) 12-16 oz household cleaner to mix with water
  • (19) 100 ft clotheslines (also accepted as (2) 50 ft clotheslines)
  • (9) pairs of work gloves (leather or leather palm)
  • (11) boxes of heavy duty contractor 35-40 gallon trash bags
  • (10) non-aerosol inspect repellant (6-9 oz)

Filling every bucket is a pretty big goal, but I think we can do it!  If you’d like to contribute but aren’t able to shop yourself, you can also donate funds toward the effort, 100% of which will be spent on these needed items.  

Thank you everyone!

-Pastor Chris

Celebrate Harvest Home this Sunday!

 

“Our passion is to imitate the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. This requires we must follow Jesus out of baptismal waters, through our personal deserts, and into the harvest.”

     – John Wimber

Lowhill, we’re getting ready for our annual Harvest Home celebration this Sunday, October 15.  The gathering and blessing of produce (and, in modern times, canned goods) at the altar of the local church is a long-standing tradition among many American churches with Germanic roots.  Lutherans, Mennonites, Moravians, and the German Reformed ancestors of many United Church of Christ congregations like Lowhill brought this yearly celebration with them from Europe, where its roots run even deeper.  This 2013 piece in the Berks-Mont news chronicles some of the tradition’s origins and practices.

The Lowhill Food Pantry, hosted on our property and managed by volunteers from across the community, serves the needs of families and children in the Northwestern Lehigh School District.  All produce and canned goods offered at the altar on Sunday will be donated to the Food Pantry for their essential work in bringing the harvest home to friends and neighbors in need.

Please join us this Sunday as we celebrate God’s good provision through another year. There will be special music, a harvest liturgy, and a message about perhaps the most famous and subversive of Jesus’ agrarian parables about the Kingdom of God:

“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

The mustard plant was considered an invasive weed in Jesus’ day.  What that might say about our own harvest work here and now?  Join us on Sunday!

 

On Harvest and Harvest Home

I worked at a record store the summer before I left for college.

Actually,  I worked at Best Buy.  But I worked in the media department, and two of my main jobs were keeping the expansive CD aisles organized and making sure no one was stuffing Snoop Dogg, Everclear, or Blink 182 into the pockets of their late-90s cargo pants.

Over the course of the summer, I developed a compulsion for farming the product, organizing the albums alphabetically by artist and title.  At the end of the season, I used my employee discount to buy my dorm-room mini-fridge and one exquisite piece of music:  Harvest by Neil Young, released 26 years prior.

“The Needle and the Damage Done.”  “Old Man.”  “Heart of Gold.”  “Alabama.”  All classic songs that helped make Young’s fourth solo album a breakout record and establish him as a breakout solo artist.  “Heart of Gold” is the best known, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” about the death spiral of heroin addiction, and “Alabama,” a response to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” (itself a response to Young’s “Southern Man”) about the pernicious longevity of racial hatred,  are the most important (and, sadly, still the most timely).  The title track, “Harvest,” is the most understated and lovely, the most closely observed.

Much of Young’s music is about growing up, falling in love or out of love, understanding the process of loss that leads us to adulthood.  Harvest, the album, dominated my late teens and early 20s.  45 after its release, “Harvest,” the song, keeps asking important questions:

Will I see you give
more than I can take?
Will I only harvest some?
As the days fly past
will we lose our grasp
Or fuse it in the sun?

When I first met my wife, these were the kinds of questions I was asking about the persistence of relationships.  Our first date was a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young concert.  One of the first things I ever bought her was a “Heart of Gold” t-shirt. It was the early 2000s, but our souls were very much in tune with the early 1970s.

When Harvest was released in 1972, the haze of hippie possibility had already dissipated.  Harvest is in part about what happens after fleeting first love fades. The older I get, the more I understand love to be a choice, and the less I think about my feelings.

At Lowhill, we’re celebrating a Harvest Home service on October 15. Prevalent in churches and denominations first organized by early German Americans like the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Harvest Home tradition is hundreds of years old. I’m part Dutch, but I didn’t grow up in one of those kinds of churches.  A Lehigh Valley native, I’m about as familiar with always-present agriculture as someone who grew up in the suburbs can be.  But every bit of planning I do for Harvest Home brings me back to “Harvest.”

Will I see you give more than I can take?

If I’m addressing this question to God instead of my wife, and if I’m being honest, the answer is always yes.

Will I only harvest some?

Yes. But only because God’s provision of love and grace is so vast and unwieldy.  Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a seed that grows into a plant so invasive, so tenacious, so all-consuming, that it was actually illegal to grow, even in private gardens.  God’s longing for us is so outsized and uncontainable, Jesus compares to it contraband.

As the days fly past
will we lose our grasp
Or fuse it in the sun?

That’s the question left to us in every season of life.

In the book of Malachi, the foretold Messiah, who Christians believe is Jesus, is seen as “the sun of vindication,” rising with healing in his rays. (Hence the lyric from “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing:” “Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace, hail the Sun of Righteousness, life and light to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings!”). In the Gospel of Luke, Zechariah (the father of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus) prophesies powerfully:

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us—
to show mercy to our ancestors
    and to remember his holy covenant,
    the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
    in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

We undoubtedly find ourselves straying from God’s path. But God longs to grasp hands with us, to fuse us in the sun of his grace, love, and peace.

“Give,” a worship song by Third Day, puts it this way:

All I want is love
I confess to this
I will take it, Lord
All You have to give.

That’s a harvest prayer.

Please bring your produce and canned goods to harvest on October 15 for donation to the Lowhill Food Pantry, and I look forward to seeing you as we celebrate the God who is our Harvest Home.

Blessings!

– Pastor Chris

What is World Communion Sunday:

This Sunday, October 1, 2017, Christ’s Church at Lowhill will join with thousands of Cristian congregations around the globe in celebration of World Communion Sunday.

So what is World Communion Sunday?

 When I need to cut to the core of something, I tend go right to Wikipedia. It’s usually where Google sends me anyway.  According to the editors of the internet’s most popular encyclopedia:
World Communion Sunday is a celebration observed by several Christian denominations, taking place on the first Sunday of every October, that promotes Christian unity and ecumenical cooperation.[1] It focuses on an observance of the eucharist.

 

The tradition was begun in 1934 by Hugh Thomson Kerr who ministered in the Shadyside Presbyterian Church. “Davitt S. Bell (the late Clerk of Session and church historian at Shadyside) recalled that Dr. Kerr first conceived the notion of World Communion Sunday during his year as moderator of the General Assembly (1930). Dr. Kerr’s younger son, the Rev. Dr. Donald Craig Kerr, who is pastor emeritus of the Roland Park Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, was sixteen in 1933. He has related that World Communion Sunday grew out of the Division of Stewardship at Shadyside. It was their attempt to bring churches together in a service of Christian unity—in which everyone might receive both inspiration and information, and above all, to know how important the Church of Jesus Christ is, and how each congregation is interconnected one with another.”[2] It was then was adopted throughout the US Presbyterian Church in 1936,[1] and subsequently spread to other denominations. In 1940, the Federal Council of Churches (now the National Council of Churches), led by Jesse Moren Bader, endorsed World Communion Sunday and began to promote it to Christian churches worldwide.

It’s important to note that even though different Christian denominations have different practices and beliefs regarding Communion, or that practices and beliefs often differ from church to church even within the same denomination, World Communion Sunday celebrates what unites us.

Ian Doescher puts it this way:

“The key words for World Communion Sunday are togetherness and unity.  It is a day when we mark the almost universal Christian practice of breaking bread with one another and remembering both the night of Jesus’ betrayal—when Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord’s Supper as a lasting remembrance—and of Jesus’ sacrifice.  World Communion Sunday is a time for remembering that around the globe—in different languages, with different traditions and customs, and in various forms of liturgy—the Lord’s Supper is celebrated throughout Christendom.  At its best, therefore, World Communion Sunday serves two purposes: it is both a joyous and meaningful partaking in Jesus’ sacred meal with his friends and a mind-opening exposure to different Christian traditions from around the world.”

At Lowhill, the Communion table is open.  As the liturgy says, come, for all things are ready.  Let us share the bread and cup with one another and the world!

See you Sunday!

– Pastor Chris

A Different Kind of Bucket List

On Monday evening, we gathered at Lowhill to pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, the earthquake in Mexico, and all others in need.  We also began to take direct action.  We’re gathering items that will be donated to Church World Service for the volunteer and professional clean-up efforts taking place in Texas and Florida.

On Tuesday, I visited a 95-year old member of our congregation with deep ties to our church’s history.  She told me about growing up on the farm, taking her produce and meat from New Tripoli to the farmer’s market in Allentown, life with her husband and children.  “Life is short, when you think about it,” she said.

The idea that life is short is found throughout the Scriptures, and it’s the animating principle behind the so-called “bucket list,” that compendium of things, places, and experiences people wish to do or see or have before they die.

In response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, Christ’s Church at Lowhill is putting together a different kind of bucket list.  We’re collecting the following items needed by clean-up teams in the wake of Harvey and Irma.  The following list details the contents of one clean-up bucket:

  • One five-gallon bucket with resealable lid (If bucket has been used, clean well but do not use if it has held chemicals of any kind.)
  • Four scouring pads
  • Seven sponges, including one large
  • One scrub brush
  • Eighteen reusable cleaning towels (e.g. Easy Wipes)
  • One 50 oz. or two 25 oz. bottle(s) of liquid laundry detergent
  • One 16-28 oz. bottle of liquid disinfectant dish soap
  • One 12-16 oz. bottle of household cleaner that can be mixed with water (no spray bottles)
  • One package of 48-50 clothespins
  • Clothesline, two 50 ft. or one 100 ft.
  • Five dust masks
  • Two pairs non surgical latex gloves
  • One pair work gloves, cotton with leather palm or all leather
  • 24-28 heavy duty or contractor type 30-45 gallon trash bags on a roll and removed from carton
  • One 6-9 oz. bottle of non-aerosol insect repellent

All cleaning items must be new – all liquid items must be capped and securely tightened. When collected, we’ll place the cleaning items into the buckets, making sure they are packed securely to avoid damage during shipment, and we’ll deliver them to Church World Service collection depots to be distributed to clean-up teams in the communities affected by these storms.

Life may be short, but the work we do as the hands and feet of Christ is lasting.  In a world were so much attention is paid to fleeting things, to what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls vanities and vapors, we’re making a different kind bucket list focused on helping people recover, rebuild, and live.

Please help these efforts by sharing this post with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and by donating whatever items (many are available at local Dollar Stores) you can.  Donations can be brought to the church every Sunday, and arrangements can also be made by getting in touch with one of our volunteers at contact@christschurchatlowhill.org.

Thank you for your help!

 

 

Gathering, Praying, and Collecting Items for Harvey and Irma Clean Up!

This evening, we gathered for a prayer and action vigil for people in the paths of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. You can download tonight’s liturgy, which includes a gathering prayer and litany by UCC disaster relief worker Karl Jones, here. We also incorporated a new setting of Amazing Grace, called We Who’ve Prayed in Wind and Rain, a compelling insight from Teresa of Avila, and a prayer adapted from Jonah’s cry in the belly of the whale.

We also got a start putting prayers into action. Please consider helping us fill much-needed Clean Up Buckets for the volunteer and professional crews that are will be dispatched to Texas, Florida, and elsewhere.  Many of the needed items are available at dollar stores.  We’ll be accepting donations for the next month, at least, and will be sending buckets out on a rolling basis. Please join us!

Hurricane Prayer and Action Vigil

In response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, we will gather on September 11, 2017 at 7PM for prayer and action at Christ’s Church at Lowhill. We’ll be collecting items from the attached list to create Clean Up Buckets to be donated to Church World Service’s disaster relief efforts for Harvey, Irma, and forthcoming storms.  Please join us!

BUCKET CONTENTS AS SPECIFIED BY CHURCH WORLD SERVICE:

One five-gallon bucket with resealable lid (If bucket has been used, clean well but do not use if it has held chemicals of any kind.)
Four scouring pads
Seven sponges, including one large
One scrub brush
Eighteen reusable cleaning towels (e.g. Easy Wipes)
One 50 oz. or two 25 oz. bottle(s) of liquid laundry detergent
One 16-28 oz. bottle of liquid disinfectant dish soap
One 12-16 oz. bottle of household cleaner that can be mixed with water (no spray bottles)
One package of 48-50 clothespins
Clothesline, two 50 ft. or one 100 ft.
Five dust masks
Two pairs non surgical latex gloves
One pair work gloves, cotton with leather palm or all leather
24-28 heavy duty or contractor type 30-45 gallon trash bags on a roll and removed from carton
One 6-9 oz. bottle of non-aerosol insect repellent
All cleaning items must be new – all liquid items must be capped and securely tightened. Place all items into the bucket, making sure they are packed securely to avoid damage during shipment. Snap the lid on tight and seal with packing tape.

You can share this event with your Facebook friends here!

You can also sign up through the United Church of Christ’s national organization to  volunteer in regions affected by Hurricane Harvey here.