What is God doing at St. Thomas?

At our last Session meeting on March 12, Revs. Bill and Roxie Davis visited St. Thomas on behalf of the Committee on Ministry, and asked the following question:

What exciting things is God doing through St. Thomas Presbyterian Church?

Here is how our elders replied:

  • Youth Program—our Youth Director has been with us about 25 years and has been a constant encouragement. That is probably why we have so many students who venture into seminary.

youth-at-springhill-2017

  • The church building is used throughout the week—both in the day and evening with groups such as 5 different AA groups, Senior luncheons, FAR—an organization that helps handicap children through Art and Music Therapy—4 days a week; the church has also sponsored a room at human trafficking drop in center in the area.
family-fun-sunday-zoe-and-gabby

December 2016

  • Changing Her Story—giving microloans to women around the world in developing countries. It is a Women’s Tea twice a year; the women in attendance learn about these entrepreneur women; they vote on the projects which seem to have the most promise.  Changing Her Story has given away thousands of dollars to help women around the world to make a living for themselves.  The Changing Her Story events include a speaker who might talk about human trafficking, birth control around the world; family planning in developing countries.  They are programs about women.

 

  • Many Small Group Bible Study Groups—there are seven groups in addition to the typical Women’s and Men’s groups. The Small Group Bible Study Groups meet at various times during the week, studying the same material.

 

  • The two Men’s Groups meet every 2nd and 4th Wednesday—one in the morning at Panera Bread and one which is called “Bible and Brew,’ which meets in a bar in the evening. Both groups consist of Bible study, conversation, fellowship and doing mission projects.

knitting-group

  • The Women’s Groups include a day time Deborah Circle and night time Ruth Circle. Also there is a once a month Women’s group that is called: Bible Tasting and Wine Study which meets in homes.

 

  • Every year the church participates in MCREST (Macomb County Rescue Emergency Shelter)—60 men, women and children for a week.
  • Pastors Jim and Jaime, along with St. Thomas, participate in ecumenical happenings in the area, cooperating with other churches. There is a Community Thanksgiving Service that is held each November.

Confirmation 2016- at Joes

  • Step Out and Serve—Retired folk and others do repairs for the homebound, shut-ins—most of these people come through “Interfaith Caregivers.”

 

  • A very active Stephen Ministry, serving those who need a weekly time for someone to listen to and pray with them because of some transition in their life.

senior-lunch-december-2016

  • Senior Luncheon is once a month.  It started out with about 20 people coming but through word of mouth, the senior luncheon serves 60/70 people a month.

 

  • The church comes around people who are in need—through their emotional support/ prayer chain and Meals Ministry—if someone is sick, homebound or has an emergency in their life. Becky Lazzara coordinates getting them food prepared by others in the congregation. Becky also coordinates funerals luncheons, organizing those who would help during that time in someone’s life.

 

  • Concerts at St. Thomas: just recently there was an organ concert; Alma college choir sang; this week will be a violin and piano concert.  Both members and people outside the church attend.  Alex—their  organist/pianist is a gift from God.

 

  • Communion is taken to those who are Homebound.

 

  • Transportation Ministry—if someone needs a ride to church, there are people who will gladly pick them up.

 

  • Legacy Gift committee—Through the Legacy Gift, a lot of money has been given to worthy projects like 2nd Mile/ Alabaster House/ MCREST/ to a seminarian studying for the Presbyterian ministry.

 

  • Nominating committee—there was no problem in getting people to be in leadership at St. Thomas. This is a good sign of a healthy church.

 

  • The church is working on a Strategic Plan—Looking at Mission and Ministry. They are looking at Goals, Actions, Needs, stretching out to a 5 year plan.
  • Worship—vibrant and welcoming. They have been working on making their second worship service more interactive so that it is more transforming in the lives of the congregation.

 

These are just a few of the things that God is doing in our midst.  Please add to this list by commenting below.  How do you see God at work in and through the people of St. Thomas?

 

 

 

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What’s happening at St. Thomas?

In case you missed the Annual Congregational Meeting, here is our Pastors’ Report for 2016:

“Deep calls to Deep”

(Psalm 42:7)

Looking back at 2016, it has been another exciting, eventful, and fruitful year at St. Thomas.  God is good!  And we are richly blessed!

Highlights of the past year include:

  • The purchase and installation of a new organ for our sanctuary that will help touch people’s hearts and lives for years to come,

    youth-at-springhill-2017

    SpringHill Trip- 2017

  • Receiving the donation of a new (to us!) church van to help with transportation and building community,
  • Completion of the installation of our new church sign, increasing visibility and outreach for our community,
  • “Birds of Prey” and “Blessing of the Animals” outdoor worship services, celebrating the beauty, wonder, and blessing of God’s good creation,
  • Nine young people participating in Confirmation Class and joining the church on Pentecost Sunday,
  • Another successful Mission Trip to Matthew 28 in Haiti and our continued support of the orphanage and new school there,
  • Continued growth of Changing HerStory, providing loans to women in developing countries, and a donation of $5,000 from the Legacy Fund to The Alabaster Gift to help renovate a room for a new drop-in shelter for women caught in human trafficking,
  • Continued small group Bible studies, this year studying Psalms and Revelation, and our Men’s and Women’s Groups (Women’s Circles, Bible and BREW, and Wine-Study, Bible Tasting) that provide opportunities for all to grow in faith and discipleship,
  • And a special Organ Dedication Concert and Christmas Cantata, celebrating the birth of Christ.

 

This is just a partial list of the many ministries, activities, and programs offered by St. Thomas throughout the year— for a complete listing, please read the rest of this report to get a fuller understanding of how St. Thomas is impacting people’s lives for Christ in the world today!  God continues to do amazing things in and through all of you, the friends and members of St. Thomas.  We are blessed, indeed!

Care and Compassion

Beyond these activities and physical improvements to the church, we are also continually amazed at the care and compassion of all the members of St. Thomas.  Whether it’s

knitting-group

Knitting Group

sending a note or card, offering a prayer, sitting with someone whose loved one is having surgery, shoveling the walk or doing laundry for someone in need, visiting someone in the hospital, providing a meal, building a ramp, hosting a funeral luncheon, serving homebound communion, or a visit from a Stephen Minister, the care of the people of St. Thomas is truly inspiring!  This congregation continues to show the love and compassion of Christ in so many ways!  It is truly a wonderful gift and a blessing to be a part of this loving church family.

Serving our Community

Moreover, the doors of this church are open to serve this community almost every day of the week.  Did you know?  We host five different A.A. groups throughout the week; F.A.R. (Music and Art Therapy) for children with special needs uses the church four times per week; a creative lunch group for adults with special needs comes here once a week; and of course, our Senior Lunch Group, which meets the third Thursday each month, continues to grow in popularity, serving seniors in our community.

senior-lunch-december-2016

Senior Lunch – December 2016

On top of all that, we continue to serve our local community through involvement in Samaritan House and Good Shepherd Coalition, opening our doors to individuals and families in need through MCREST, supporting Alabaster Gift, providing Christmas Shoeboxes to children around the world, and providing hundreds of gifts for Friends of Foster Families throughout Michigan.  One of the hallmarks of St. Thomas has always been, and continues to be, a BIG HEART for mission and helping and serving those in need.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to 2017, Session has been working on a new strategy plan, asking “What new thing is God calling us to do?” and “How might we better serve our community and those around us?”  Session has already identified one outcome:  “Boundless Worship.”  Session has said, “We want everyone to participate in worship, internalize and personalize it to their lives, and take it into the world so their daily actions are a reflection of God’s love…”  To that end, the Worship Planning team is already talking about making some changes to our Contemporary Service at 11:15 and is considering a brand-new worship service to be launched in the fall.  (Watch for further details as plans develop for this new service.)

Another ministry area that we are looking to bolster and further support is our Children’s Ministry.  We have a special planning meeting scheduled for February 12 for parents and children (and any other persons willing to help with this vital ministry).  We are “hoping to assess the need of children and parents within our church and community.  Develop and implement a plan to provide increased support for children’s education, especially for children with special needs, so that we can:  1) teach our children God’s word, 2) increase membership of young families, and 3) grow a volunteer group to support children’s ministry.”

Going Deeper

Finally, as we look ahead to 2017, we believe that we have unique opportunity to grow deeper in faith, in life, and in community.  To be sure, 2016 was a difficult year for many in our society and world.  The past presidential campaign and election revealed a growing deep-calls-to-deeppolarization and deep division in our nation.  Furthermore, racism and violence (both on our local streets and around the world) seem to be on the rise.  There are still big questions regarding immigration and how to build bridges with people of other faiths and cultures.

These are big questions facing our church, our society, our world.  The questions is:  As a community of faith and followers of Jesus, what are we going to do about them?  Will we ignore these problems and simply hope they go away, or will be willing to confront them, seeking a better way?  Will be able to create a space where we can talk about our differences truly seeking understanding?  And we will truly be able to hear God’s voice speaking today?

“Deep calls to deep,” the Psalmist says, and we believe that God continues to work in the challenging areas of our lives, our community, our society and the world.  God longs for us to go deeper in relationship with both God and others, to wrestle with these challenging issues, to hear God’s voice speaking still, and for ourselves to speak out against injustice and to stand up for those who are hurting and who are on the margins of society today.

The year ahead provides many wonderful opportunities to grow in our love for God and to truly learn what it means to love one another.  We are excited about this journey of faith and hope you are too as we seek to journey together as a community of faith.  Together, with God’s help, we can do great things!

Blessings Always,

Pastors Jim and Jaime

“5 for 5” Gratitude Challenge continues!

gratitude-i-am-grateful-for

A couple of weeks ago, we began what I am calling the “5 for 5” Gratitude Challenge.

The idea is simple:  Take 5 minutes each day in quiet prayer and mediation, and then write down 5 things you are thankful for.

I believe when we take time to practice gratitude, we connect more deeply to God.  It changes your attitude and outlook on life, and ultimately leads to a more joyful life.  I know it does for me!

Here are days 2 &3 of my Gratitude Challenge:

Day 2- Five Things I am Thankful for…

  1. Zeke- Again!  Each day he comes and sits beside me as I meditate. It’s hard not to notice him.  (see below)
  2. The sunshine and quiet stillness of the morning– not a leaf is moving and the sun is shining on the spruce trees in our backyard.
  3. The beauty and comfort of our home– we live in a beautiful place!
  4. My family- Abby, Ben, and Caroline–  What a joy to watch our children grow and become young adults.  (Abby is in her element at Alma College.)
  5. Jaime and the joy and challenge of marriage!
zeke-2

My Prayer Partner- Zeke

Day 3-

  1. The gift of this new day- Each day is truly a gift, a new opportunity to create, to love, to share.  What will I create this day?  How will I show God’s love?  With whom is God calling me to share?
  2. This time of quiet prayer and meditation, sensing the joy and wonder of God’s presence.
  3. Golf yesterday at the Orchards– I had two 2’s! (and three 7’s, oh, well!)
  4. Our small group Bible study– the gift of community and friendship shared.  (We are starting a new study on the Book of Revelation.)
  5. The gift of Sabbath rest!  It is Friday, and I have no obligations today!

 

I invite you again to try the “5 for 5” Gratitude Challenge— just five minutes each day, name five things you are thankful for.  It really does change one’s perspective and outlook, and leads to a more joy-filled life!

Blessings always,

Pastor Jim

“5 for 5” Challenge: What Are You Grateful for?

gratitude

Gratitude is a gift.  It is saying “Yes!” to life.

Last Sunday, I preached on my favorite scripture passage, Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and I say it again: Rejoice!”

At the end of the sermon, I asked everyone to take on the “5 for 5” Challenge.  That is, take five minutes each day for quiet meditation and reflection.  At the end of those five minutes, write down five things you are grateful for.

It’s that simple!  But, I believe this simple practice has the potential to connect you more deeply to God and change your outlook on life.

So, how is it going?  I want to know!  I invite you to share your stories and some of the things that you are grateful for.

Here are some of my thoughts from Day 1 of the challenge:

Day #1 – Today, I am thankful for…

  1. The gift of this beautiful, magnificent day!  The sun is shining and there are white puffy clouds floating in a clear blue sky.
  2. Riding my bike on the Macomb Orchard trail.  I had forgotten how beautiful this trail really is, especially north of Romeo, riding past farmer’s fields, woods, and the occasional old barn.
  3. Fresh peaches, corn, and donuts still warm from the fryer at Westview Orchards.  we are blessed to live in an area with so many farms, orchards, and cider mills.  What a joy to experience at the end of summer!
  4. To watch my dog, Zeke, rolling contentedly in the grass in the bright sun.
  5. Going to a baseball game with my neighbor and friend and watching the Utica Unicorns!  The gift of community!

My list may be a little wordy, (Remember, I am a pastor) but your doesn’t have to be!

What are you thankful for?

Please leave a comment and share the things you are thankful for!

Blessings Always,

Pastor Jim

 

Meet Kili, the Bald Eagle!

Kili the Bald Eagle

Howell Nature Center, Michigan’s largest wildlife rehabilitation facility, is coming to St. Thomas on Sunday, July 31st, and will present their “Lords of the Sky – Birds of Prey” program immediately following worship.

Great Horned Owl - Full Portrait - Winter - HowellWe invite you to join us for a special Outdoor Worship Service at 10:00 a.m., followed by the full “Birds of Prey” program immediately after worship.

Come, see a live hawk, owl, falcons, and a vulture, as well as Kili, the Bald Eagle, who will be featured during our outdoor worship service.

Learn about different birds of prey, their unique characteristics, and why it’s important to care for them and all of God’s good creation!

For more information, visit the St. Thomas website: St. Thomas Community Presbyterian Church or call the church office at 586-781-3025.

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Birds of Prey Program

The 23rd Psalm, a Reflection

The Lord is my Shepherd pic with sheep

Last Sunday (June12), we began a new worship series called “My Favorite Scripture.”  We are asking everyone to submit their favorite scripture passage, and then Jaime and I will preach on those passages through the summer.

Fittingly enough, we began with the 23rd Psalm, one of the most beloved passages in all of the Bible.  The 23rd Psalm is much loved, we believe, not only because it is beautiful poetry, but also because it affirms God’s provision, companionship, and help throughout all of life.

As a part of the message, we shared the following reflection on the 23rd that someone brought to our small group Bible study on the Psalms.  Here it is:

The Lord is my Shepherd

          That’s RELATIONSHIP!

I shall not want 23rd Psalm- God's promises

          That’s SUPPLY!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
          That’s REST!

He leadeth me beside still waters
          That’s REFRESHMENT!

He restoreth my soul

          That’s HEALING!

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
          That’s GUIDANCE!

For His name sake

          That’s PURPOSE!

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

          That’s PROTECTION!

For thou art with me — 

           That’s FAITHFULNESS!

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me

           That’s COMFORT!

Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies

            That’s HOPE!

Thou anointest my head with oil

            That’s CONSECRATION!

My cup runneth over

            That’s ABUNDANCE!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life 

            That’s BLESSING!

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

            That’s SECURITY!

Forever —

             That’s ETERNITY!                                      —Author unknown 

 

We invite you to consider:

  • How have you experienced God’s help and provision in your life?
  • Where do you go to find rest and renewal?
  • How does God restore your soul?
  • How have you felt God’s healing touch and mercy at work on your life?

Please feel free to leave a comment and let us know!  Also, it’s not too late to give us your favorite scripture passage!  We still have a couple of Sundays open in August to conclude our series.

Journeying Together,

Pastors Jim and Jaime