Pentecost Communion at the Altar: Historical and Spiritual Perspectives

Join us for a historical expression of a timeless reality this Pentecost!

Christ’s Church at Lowhill is an historic church; next year marks our 250th anniversary, and our current sanctuary is 150 years old. But we also strive to be a church community that looks to entrench itself in the future to which God is calling. We’re learning together how to blend traditional and modern expressions and understandings of Christian worship and spiritual depth.

This Sunday, which is also Pentecost, we’ll be sharing Communion together. In and of itself, that’s not out of the ordinary, especially for a special day on the church calendar. What is different, though, is how we’ll be sharing the Lord’s Supper together. Rather than reinvent the sharing of the sacrament, we’re going to be doing something very, very traditional; something that hasn’t been done at Lowhill in many, many years.

Harkening back to practices from the long life of our church, we’ll be receiving Communion at the altar railing this Sunday. We hope that participating in this practice helps each of us understand a greater depth of meaning in the shared meal, or, perhaps, a more personal connection with the God we meet in bread and cup.

Altar railings are, themselves, a product of the Protestant Reformation. They were designed in part to mark off sacred altar space from the sanctuary in general, according to prevailing theological sentiments of the time or of a particular local church. For many Christians, the “otherness” of sacred space is an important aspect of the experience of worship.  Other Christians understand all space as sacred, and therefore have tended away from the use of altar rails. Here at Lowhill, somewhere along the line, an architectural and spiritual compromise seems to have been struck. Our altar rails are low and permeable, meant, I think, to suggest that while the kingdom of God is here in nascent, growing form, it’s not entirely here yet. Even so, there are very real places and times and experiences in which heaven meets earth. Jesus himself is the ultimate expression of this truth. Our altar rails, which once wrapped around the entire altar space but were scaled back in the 20th century to allow open access to the table, seem to suggest both the present nature of the kingdom and our access to it, and the not-yet complete work of Jesus’ mission and prayer, that God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Pentecost itself is a seminal moment in the building of the kingdom of God here among us. Join us this Sunday as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church, and as we look with anticipation to the Spirit’s clear call in the present and for the future God is calling us to build.

Blessings!

Pastor Chris

 

 

Lenten Bible Study Starts this Wednesday!

Lenten Bible Study:  Jesus’ Final Week

Please join us each Wednesday throughout Lent at 6:30 in the Social Hall for a this year’s Lenten Bible Study focusing on the final week in the earthly life of Jesus.  In this study, we’ll look at the narrative scope of the events immediately leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, starting with the accounts of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem mere days before the tide of popular opinion would turn against him.  By exploring these events, we will have better prepared our hearts and spirits for Easter, and we will have better prepared ourselves to be the Easter people Jesus enables us to be.

Weeks and Themes:

  February 21: The Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11)

  February 28: Clearing the Temple (Mark 11:12-19)

  March 7: Teaching on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24: 1 – 31)

  March 14: Jesus and His People at Prayer

  March 21: Last Supper Special Seder Presentation with Rev.     

     Dr. Steve Shussett*

  March 28: Good Friday (Matthew 27)

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Welcome to a Journey with Jesus

Here at Lowhill, our leadership team has started to read and discuss a book called Real Good Church by Molly Phinney Basket.  It’s a great resource and we’re having some great discussions because of it.

Something that emerged from our last leadership meeting was the idea of intentional welcome.   Three questions emerged from that idea that I wanted to take a moment to share.

In terms of our life at Lowhill:

Who is welcome?

How do they know they are welcome?

What are we welcoming them to?

The consensus we came to:

Who is welcome?   Everyone is welcome (and wanted).

How do they know they welcome? We’re not exactly sure if we’re conveying that welcome as publicly as possible. It’s something we’re thinking about how to act more visibly on.

What are we welcoming everyone to?  Simply put, we’re welcoming each other, our community, our friends and neighbors –and everyone else– to get to know Jesus better.  We don’t think we have all the answers, and we know that your presence with us will help us get to know Jesus better, too.

That’s not a bad start toward articulating who we are and why we gather.

Boiled down to one sentence:

We’re a church where everyone is welcome to be part of a journey with Jesus, and we’ll hope you’ll join us!

– Pastor Chris

 

Lenten Bible Study Starts Next Wednesday!

Please join us each Wednesday throughout Lent at 6:30 in the Social Hall for a this year’s Lenten Bible Study focusing on the final week in the earthly life of Jesus. In this study, we’ll look at the narrative scope of the events immediately leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, starting with the accounts of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem mere days before the tide of popular opinion would turn against him. By exploring these events, we will have better prepared our hearts and spirits for Easter, and we will have better prepared ourselves to be the Easter people Jesus enables us to be.

Weeks and Themes:

February 21: The Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21:1-11)
February 28: Clearing the Temple (Mark 11:12-19)
March 7: Teaching on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24: 1 – 31)
March 14: Jesus and His People at Prayer
March 21: Last Supper Special Seder Presentation with Rev. Dr. Steve Shussett
March 28: Good Friday (Matthew 27)

Worship Series: The Kingdom of God is Like…

 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus uses parables of everyday life to explain the radical hope and promise of the Kingdom of God.  Through stories about things as vital as planting and harvesting, working and leading, preparing food and sharing it, Jesus reveals a compelling vision.

We’ll follow this theme Sunday mornings, September 24 – October 15.  We’re also excited to celebrate World Communion Sunday on October 1 and Harvest Home on October 15 in this context.  Join us!

New Wednesday Night Bible Study!

 

Pastor Chris is leading Bible studies starting this Wednesday night! The first series will look at the Bible as literature and investigate the different genres and themes found within.

 We’ll learn about why certain texts were written certain ways, and what that tells us about the Bible as a relevant resource for our journey of faith now. There are many ways to think about the questions we’ll encounter. One way of framing it: who wrote the Bible…and why? Join us!

Wednesday evenings at 6PM at Christ’s Church at Lowhill!

The Kids’ Table: Worshipping Together as Family

Two weeks ago, we introduced a new way of sharing our worship experience as a family of faith.  Rather than separate our children from their parents and the rest of the church family during the worship gathering, we’ve created a space, “The Kids’ Table,” within the service itself where children are free to engage in age-appropriate crafts and activities building on the Children’s Sermon all while remaining in the same space as the rest of us.

The adage is true: Children are sponges. The things they hear and remember from the service, even while they’re coloring, cutting, pasting, or writing, are remarkable. Jessica Nelson, a children’s minister from Texas, says, “children need calm and security, and they don’t always get that at home. Sitting in worship, holding hands, and speaking community prayers together can give our families a respite. Once families are comfortable with these practices, they’ll be able to use them away from the church when a crisis or difficult situation emerges and they need family spirituality.”

One of our members had this to say about The Kids’ Table experience at Lowhill:  “Keeping the children in the room, having them work on their projects while still being able to engage in what the rest of the church is doing…it reminds me of a living room.  It’s like we’re all in one big family room together.”

Exactly.  That’s how it was in the early church, too.

At Lowhill, we’re committed to helping families worship, grow, love, and serve together.  Life is hectic. Families are separated during the work and school day, during sports practices and extracurricular activities.  Weekly worship, which started in the homes of early Christians, seems like a great place for families to be together.  It also helps the entire church family remember the promises it has made to help parents raise children up in the life-giving ways to which God calls us.

Another old adage says it takes a village to raise a child.  What’s a village other than an extended family of adults caring for each other and sharing in the encouragement of parents and children?  And what’s a church if not precisely an extended family?  What’s a worship gathering if not a place where the whole family can grow together in faith, hope, and love?  We’re called together as the Body of Christ, a family of faith, a community.  A village without borders and a people welcoming children, like Jesus did, without reservation.

At Lowhill, we’re focusing on living out our Christian purpose, mission, and vision in ways that welcome children, families, and neighbors with the love of Jesus.  Because He says so, yes, but also because it’s what gives us life, because it’s what blesses our community, and because it’s what really matters.  We’ll hope you’ll join us!

– Pastor Chris

 

 

 

 

Exploring Our Identity: A Three-Week Series

Today at Lowhill, we began  a three-week series looking at the spiritual and historical “DNA” of our church.  What does it mean to understand and embrace our identity as Christ’s Church at Lowhill, a United Church of Christ where God is still speaking?

We’ll look at our identity in three parts:

  • Christ’s Church at Lowhill (today)
  • a United Church of Christ (September 3)
  • where God is Still Speaking… (September 10: Rally Day/Fill The Pews Sunday)

This week, we looked closely at the first part of our identity.  By exploring the history of the words Christ and Church, how they relate to each other, and what it means to be a people of God belonging to Christ and situated in a local, particular context, we considered what it means to be Christ’s Church at Lowhill here and now.

Today’s scriptures and study notes on the history of the words Christ and Church can be downloaded in an easy-to-read format by clicking here: Word Study August 27-Christ:Church.

Peter’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, is the starting point for our response as Jesus’ people.  “Thou art the Christ,” Peter said.  And we are the Church.  As Christ’s Church at Lowhill, we belong to Jesus, we are a people gathered for a purpose, and are called to minister to the heart of our community!

 

Lowhill at The Great Allentown Fair!

The Great Allentown Fair is marking a major milestone this year: 2017 brings the 165th installment of this time-honored and forward-thinking Lehigh Valley tradition!

Lowhill’s connection to the farming communities at the heart of the fair go back to our founding, and we’re proud of the modern farmers and historic farming families at the heart of our community. We’re also especially proud of Christ’s Church at Lowhill’s very own Bev Gruber, the first woman to serve as President of the Great Allentown Fair! “I encourage everyone to come out to the Fair and help celebrate Lehigh County Agriculture!” Bev said. Her energy, dedication, and enthusiasm for the Fair are a key to its continuing success, as is the great work done by the entire fair staff and the leaders and members of the Lehigh County Agricultural Society.

The Lowhill Church Choir is honored to be participating once more in the Fair’s Opening Ceremonies, and Pastor Chris is excited to be giving the invocation. “The Great Allentown Fair is easily one of my favorite Lehigh Valley traditions,” he said. “My family has been involved with the fair for over 40 years. I have never left summer without it!”

Join us for this year’s Opening Ceremonies on Tuesday, August 29 at 5PM in the RCN Farmarama Theater!