We have made it through Thanksgiving in the year of a pandemic. I hope that each of us has realized all that we have for which to be thankful in spite of the circumstances. My prayers are that we continue to stay healthy.
Advent begins! This Sunday, the 29th, is the first Sunday of Advent and we are blessed that the Vacas have agreed to do the reading as we light the first candle in the Advent wreath. Perhaps as others see what is involved in doing this at home, you will be motivated to volunteer to be candle lighters, also! We need three more families (think: not necessarily the traditional family group!). Please contact me at: email@example.com if you are able.
The beginning of Advent also signals the beginning of the new year in liturgical terms. We enter Year B of the lectionary which means that for the next year we will be reading from the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest one and gives us no birth story. Scholars believe that Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source for their gospels as Mark is also the earliest account we have of the ministry of Jesus.
In preparation for the sermon on Sunday, I invite you consider these questions. Has there been a time when it seemed that God was avoiding you? What makes God angry? Why do we try to suppress God’s anger? Is God accountable to us? What do we do with our disappointment with God? How do we wrestle with a God who often seems absent?
During the time captured by the last chapters of Isaiah, the people of God appear to vacillate between hope and despair, certainty and dismay, assurance and desperation. I battle these emotions on a daily basis! The exiles have returned to a Jerusalem that is in a great state of destruction. Those who stayed behind have not been prosperous. Return and reunion do not necessarily signify restoration. Rather than a celebration, the reunion presents a return to a place that only shadows its former glory. There is a profound disappointment among the people who have been waiting for this day.
Don’t we live in a time that could be described in this way? Raging fires in the west, severe tropical storms and hurricanes in the south do not let up. The rise of white nationalism and in Black Lives Matter activism continue to divide us. This contentious election season which still has not ended divides our nation already fractured. The global pandemic and a lack of responsible behavior by so many in this country about wearing masks and socially distancing continue to divide us. Is God angry with us? The lectionary texts invite a readiness for the move of God into our lives. We are warned not to sleep but in the words of Isaiah we also find a plea for the Holy One to return to God’s people.
In Advent we await the birth—again—of a tiny one to be born. What will that mean to us this year? Are we waiting in vain? Or, will the arrival of a baby turn our heads and make us pay attention? Is God waiting for us?
Together, as we journey toward Bethlehem, may we not be afraid to ask the questions. May we know that we are not alone—we have each other—and may we find comfort in knowing that. Whether we are ready or not, 24 December arrives each year, and whatever our preparations have been will have to be enough. O come, let us adore him!
Please mark your calendars now for our Christmas Eve service. Our children, youth, and their families are preparing a virtual pageant presentation and I, for one, am excited to see this! It will be a five o’clock service and besides this virtual pageant we will have familiar activities such as lighting candles and singing “Silent Night.” So, make sure you have enough candles for everyone in your family!
Also planned for Monday night, 21 December, will be a service of song, scripture, and prayer. This is the night/day when there are more hours of darkness than light. “It’s a time to come together for prayers and laments, to mourn the losses and griefs of the year, to let the tears flow for the hurting places in our own lives, as well as for our country and our world.” Although we must worship separately, hopefully we can create a safe and sacred space to share anguish, to plead with God to remember us, to pray for justice and restoration, and to hope against hope, through our doubts and tears and fears, that “God will set things right all over the earth” (1 Samuel 2:10, The Message). This service will be held at 7 PM.
Grace and peace to all,
Worship 11/29 @ 10am via Zoom
Welcome to online worship with PPC this first Sunday of Advent.
By phone: call (646) 558-8656 and enter meeting ID 864 6572 5219
Click here to open/download the worship bulletin and hymns:
Receiving of offerings continues to be important to sustain our church community. While it is missing from our order of worship, we hope you will continue if and as you are able to support the mission and ministry of the church—online, through your bank's bill payment system, or with a check mailed to the church (500 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02906). Regular and special offerings are all gratefully received. Thank you!
We invite you to stay online after worship for our virtual coffee hour.
Transcripts and audio recordings of recent sermons can be found on our website here. Audio recordings of older sermons are available here.
If you are interested in viewing the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service that St. Martin's Episcopal Church held on November 24 with Central Congregational Church, Temple Emanu-El, Temple Beth-El, and First Baptist Church in America, the service remains posted here: https://youtu.be/4SDtw1T5M9o
"Prepare the way for the Lord" —Isaiah 40:3
Please enjoy this year's Advent devotional from the Presbyterian Outlook. We pray that its daily reflections and prayers may help you to prepare your heart for Jesus in this season and always.
Youth Group Update
Sunday 11/29, 4:30pm: Pictionary (via Zoom)
Sunday 12/6, 4:30pm: TBA
PPC in Gingerbread:
If you would like to participate in decorating the gingerbread replica of PPC this year, please contact Jo Fisher by December 1st (contact info below). The decorating will likely take place on Saturday, December 12, if that is workable for those who would like to be involved. More details to come.
Youth group activities take place on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month. Contact Jo Fisher at 617-893-0865 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or suggestions.
Bible Study Update
Bible study meets Tuesday evenings from 5:30-7:00pm. This coming Tuesday (12/1) we will begin a 4-week Advent study on Handel's Messiah. All are welcome. If you would like to join, send Pastor Deb an email at email@example.com so she can add you to the email list and send you a zoom link.
Our next meeting will take place Saturday, December 5 from 10:30am-12noon. Discussion will focus on seeking to better understand political divisions within the church, particularly among evangelicals, as we consider what it might mean to repair broken relationships and seek dialogue in the midst of disagreement.
By phone: call +1 646 876 9923 and enter meeting ID: 957 4046 7813
Contact Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or suggestions, or would like to be added to the group email list.
Take a Part in the Christmas Pageant!
Children and youth: This year we will be doing a virtual Christmas pageant—there are 11 scripts that will be sent to those interested in participating, and each family will record their scene at home. Then Milton will put them all together for our Christmas Eve service. Please email Pastor Deb at email@example.com if your family would like to participate.
Special Solstice Service – Monday 12/21 @ 7pm
A service of song, scripture, and prayer on the night/day when there are more hours of darkness than light. “It’s a time to come together for prayers and laments, to mourn the losses and griefs of the year, to let the tears flow for the hurting places in our own lives, as well as for our country and our world.” Although we must worship separately, hopefully we can create a safe and sacred space to share anguish, to plead with God to remember us, to pray for justice and restoration, and to hope against hope, through our doubts and tears and fears, that “God will set things right all over the earth” (1 Samuel 2:10, The Message).
Christmas Eve Service 12/24 @ 5pm
A joyous celebration of our Savior's birth, including a virtual pageant by our children and youth, and singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. Be sure to have candles for everyone in your family!
Reminder: We Want to Hear from You
We are still collecting stories and feedback from as many people in our congregation as possible to gain a better understanding of what draws us to this church community. What about your life in this church has been meaningful to you? If there are areas of concern for you, include those also. We are trying to envision a future for this congregation that is satisfying and helps us grow spiritually. Your contribution will help Session as they consider our next steps. Send your feedback to Pastor Deb at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please help us update our church directory by emailing your contact info (name, street address, email, phone/text numbers) to Monica VanderBaan at email@example.com or to Pastor Deb at firstname.lastname@example.org. It just takes a minute and it is so helpful for keeping us connected!
Continuing Opportunities & Needs
Please contact the leaders listed below if you are interested in getting involved in any of these ongoing opportunities for fellowship and service:
Volunteer to be a Worship Leader: call Jill Moles 401-241-9812 or click the button to sign up here:
If you or someone you know needs help, contact your assigned deacon if possible, or otherwise contact deacon Matt Harrison at email@example.com or 401-340-9444 and he will coordinate care.
If you have a prayer request or would like to be included in the prayer chain, call/text Suzanne Affigne at (401) 523-4907 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton has put together some helpful tips for using Zoom – read them here and here.
Our presbytery's website (psne.org) and our denomination’s website (pcusa.org) are great resources for information about our faith, connecting with the larger faith community, and opportunities for action.