Clerk’s Corner: Transition Team Report, July 28, 2017

 

 

Dear Congregation,
 
I mentioned in a previous message that there were going to be several opportunities to consider the future direction of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church. This is the one I consider the most important.  So, please read the following.
 
As part of our on-going preparation for our change in pastoral leadership at Pleasant Hill, we are seeking feedback from you – the congregation – about your needs, wants, and vision for our church family as we move into this next phase of our life and ministry together.

To gather this information from as many of you as possible, we will be surveying all church members.  On July 31, each member of the congregation with a valid email address will receive an email with a link to take a detailed survey that captures your current thoughts about our ministry and, more importantly, your vision for our future. 

I know that we receive repeated requests for feedback all the time – from on-line purchases to the doctors’ office – but please make time to provide this critical feedback.  This is much more important than saying whether the latest widget met your expectations.  Our future direction as a congregation will be guided by your input.

The survey will be open for about 3 weeks, but please try to make time to reply as soon as you can after receiving the email. It can be taken on any computer, laptop, tablet or mobile smartphone. We will send reminders at certain points, so if you have already responded when you receive these, please disregard them.
 
It is important that every member provide feedback, so please don’t answer for your “family”, but rather have everyone take an individual survey.  If you do not have access to email, please call the church office and we will make arrangements to provide you with a paper version of the survey.
 
Thank you in advance for your commitment to this transition period and this effort in particular.  We expect to be able to provide feedback to the congregation in early September. 

David Ashley
Clerk of Session, Pleasant Hill Presbyterian 

Fry On Friday: “Questions and Answers,” July 28

    I asked for it.  Literally.  Each summer I invite our congregation to submit questions they’d like to examine.  Over the next Sunday or two, I offer my responses in place of the sermon that morning.  Here are a few of this year’s queries:

  • “How about an explanation of The Trinity?”
  • “What can we do to reduce the tension between the political extremes in our
       nation?”
  • “How about raising teenagers in a social media world? How can kids and
      parents verbally communicate?”
  • “How can God forgive me all the time? How can I feel worthy of His love? How
    can I feel it’s okay to pray for myself?
  • “How does God view war? The Bible says to turn the other cheek, but is that still valid on a large scale? How can it be possible to show love in a time of such violence and hate?”

            I have a question of my own—“What was I thinking?!!?”   I promised answers, but I don’t have answers.  When I started preaching, I used to think I had something to say that people needed to hear.  Now I realize I don’t have much to say, but people keep coming to hear it anyway. 

            By now, haven’t you heard everything I have to say?  I think you don’t want my answers, you want my struggles.  I think you keep coming to hear the struggles, to hear what faith sounds in the absence of answers, without cast-iron certainty, when I’m preaching not because I’m ready but because Sunday has arrived. You don’t want my visions, you want my glimpses.

           What truth I offer about scripture or about life is like a brief glimpse of a deer in the woods just off the trail.  “Look!  Did you see that?” I cry.  Sometimes by the time I point to the location, the deer has bounded into the thicket.  But occasionally someone exclaims, “Yes!  I saw only a brief glimpse, but it was beautiful!”  You don’t need my 3-D image of a deer, only an opportunity to experience your own glimpse.  And the assurance that a glimpse is enough.

             That doesn’t make getting ready for Sunday any less of a struggle.  Tony Campolo preached a now classic sermon on resurrection hope titled, “It’s Friday…But Sunday’s Coming!”  Well, today is Friday, but the knowledge that Sunday is coming looms as a huge threat, not a promise.  Forty-eight hours ‘til pulpit time!
         


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.

          

Fry On Friday: “Pilgrimage to the Parks,” July 21

            I am on a pilgrimage.  Don’t be impressed with my level of spirituality; this is a baseball pilgrimage.  Each summer, we four guys travel to another two or three baseball cities with the goal of eventually seeing a game in every MLB site.  (After this trip, I’ll have seven remaining.)

            Wednesday—the Oakland Athletics; Thursday—the San Francisco Giants.  Both teams stand solidly in last place in their respective divisions.  This isn’t going to be pretty baseball.  The unsightly performance of the Oakland A’s, however was overshadowed  by the appearance Oakland Coliseum. The O.Co is butt-ugly. 

            It was constructed, of course, for the NFL Oakland Raiders because football rules, we all know that.  The stadium accommodates more than sixty-three thousand Raiders fans during football season, but when the A’s are playing the stadium staff unrolls large green tarps to cover massive swaths of the upper deck.  As a result, instead of playing home games before twenty thousand fans and forty thousand empty seats, the A’s play before twenty thousand fans, fifteen thousand empty seats, and a shiny plastic sheet.  If this is an improvement, it is only a slight one. 

            The fans, however, are beautiful.  They are aware that the glamor of Billy Beane’s Money Ball years has long faded, but they arrive decked out in the team’s green-and-gold, carrying home-made banners, and waiting for the fourth inning, when Bud Lite is sold for $4.00. (We foreigners from Georgia wondered why the seats suddenly emptied as the third out was made in the bottom of the third!)

            The right-field bleachers, section 149, contains the Oakland Drummers.  Fans in this section bring drums, cow bells, triangles, large plastic buckets—anything that can become a percussion instrument.  Befitting the Coliseum, it isn’t pretty, but it is loud.  During a game against Houston a couple years ago,  the section’s drumming and noise was so loud that it actually disrupted Houston’s broadcasts and prompted Astros fans watching on TV to file a complaint. The Astros responded with a tweet during the game:  The As fans in the bleachers have drums at the games. It is not a broadcast issue and there is nothing we can do about it.” 

            Take that, corporate sponsors.  There is nothing you can do about it.

            Late in yesterday’s game the Oakland Jumbo-Tron cameras spotted a lone fan in the last row of the highest section of the most remote part of the stadium.  He was shirtless, despite being in his 50’s and of ample girth.  Between innings, he danced, his generous belly moving in multiple directions at once.  He held aloft a sign, “Oakland Baseball Diet.”  The stadium responded with a standing ovation.  A few innings later, he reappeared on camera in the same seat, now surrounded by a couple dozen college-age fans, all topless, or as near it as public decency would permit.

            It was a great day at the ball park. Ugly facility matched by ugly baseball.  But we left smiling, privileged to have been among such passionate people.  

            Oakland can keep their stadium.  But I’d like to bring some of the passion of their bleacher crowd to worship on Sundays.         


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.

          

Fry On Friday: “The Old Man and the Wedding,” July 14, 2017

The bride was lovely.  The bridesmaids, all nine of them, were lovely.  Even the groomsmen attempted to be lovely themselves.  All went smoothly until…  (You knew that was coming, didn’t you.  Why does every wedding include the word “until..?”)

An elderly gentleman stood up from his seat in the second row.  Just stood up, in the middle of everyone and everything.  After a moment, he turned to his left and began making his way into the center aisle.  The minister had stopped speaking by now.  The gentleman turned, not toward the back of  the sanctuary, but toward the bride and groom.  We checked our programs and understood:  it’s the grandfather of the groom; he’s going to say a few words.

Which he did, after climbing the two steps to the chancel and taking his place before the couple.  He spoke eloquently of marriage, with the wisdom of an 89-year-old who had been a groom himself sixty-some years before.  I know this man.  He is a giant among intellects—former college president, former head of the doctoral program of a prestigious seminary.  He is a men among men, teaching winter wilderness survival to National Park Rangers.  Now he is old.

He spoke, among other things, of what he termed “erotica.”  This made the bride briefly cringe, not because she was opposed to the matter but because she did not want to envision an 89-year-old aware of such things, much less considering them important.  Wisely, the old man lingered here for only a couple of sentences.  “It’s a wonderful source of pleasure and I recommend you try it sometime, if you’re so inclined.”

Having finished speaking, he began to retrace the route to his seat.  The steps now fell as a sheer precipice before him.  He hesitated.  Being a mountain man, he knew that far more lives are lost during a descent than while reaching the peak.  The congregation held its breath.  He cautiously, slowly, deliberately swung his right foot forward.  When it landed  tentatively on the middle riser, it was joined in matrimonial harmony by the sturdy cane in his left hand.  After successfully reaching this small precipice, there was no pause.  Instead, a chaotic, hell-bent-for-leather race to the bottom.

Once safely arrived, he looked up at the guests and smiled triumphantly, “I can still hold an audience breathless,” he observed for all to hear.

For a few moments, the old man had given the gift of the elders.  He had slowed us down, at least enough to become aware of the holiness of holy matrimony.   The groom, without uttering a sound, had proclaimed for all to know:  “I still want to hear what my grandfather has to say.  If it takes a while, you folks can wait.”  The old man, beyond his words, had made his own vow as well:  “I can, and will, climb mountains for you, my young man, if you but ask.”

Hurrah for erotica.  But there are other forms of love that shape us deeply.   This unspoken exchange between a young groom and his elderly grandfather was that day the most treasured wedding gift of all.


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.

Fry On Friday: “Putting Things Into Words,” July 7, 2017

Preparing to be a minister, I learned Greek.  I can read the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the original language.  I wish that I had learned carpentry.   I wonder how often, after a day filled with words, weary of conversations and beatitudes and mountainside sermons, Jesus turned to his carpentry tools.  While the disciples circled up with their after-dinner wine, to discuss the day’s encounter with the rich young ruler, I see Jesus retreating to the workshop with  plane and adz.

I love words.  Putting things into words is what I do.  “What’s the sermon about this week, Preacher?”  “Pastor, would you lead us in prayer?”  “Dr. Fry, can I ask you a question?”  I give people words.  Sometimes I wish I could put things into my hands.  Like a carpenter with a chisel.

Early yesterday morning, the day after our friend died, Bill and I sat just outside the stables on The Farm, gazing across the field that glittered like diamonds in the morning dew.  Our friend had died suddenly.  The woman he loved had kissed him goodbye, then spent the day at work, not knowing until she returned home to find him that her world had ended.  We sat mostly in silence.  What could words add?  My knowledge of the original Greek was no help to either of us.

“Too wet to mow that hay,” Bill observed.  “I’m getting way behind, but we’ve had so much rain all I can do is wait for it to dry.”  I nodded in affirmation, aware that he was speaking both of hay and of tears.

After the hundredth deep sigh, I rose to leave.  “Can I show you something?” Bill asked as we reached his truck.  He pulled out a small box.  “Ever collect arrowheads?” he asked.  Hasn’t every boy who grew up in the southern mountains?  He opened the box.  “I’ve stopped collecting them.  Now I make them.”  Thirty sharp triangles of flint, quartz, and antler.  Some large enough to stop a bear; some the size of babies’ teeth, all Bill-made works of art.  “Hold that one up to the sun,” he ordered.  It sparkled like a kaleidoscope.

I put things into words; Bill puts things into his hands.  Creating arrowheads, chipping away at stone and flint to create shapes, Bill has a capacity for touching truth that is beyond my grasp.  Bracing myself against the assault of grief, I had felt my heart harden up like  a neglected lump of Play-Doh.  I needed to work through the loss, and knew I had to work it, not talk about it.

The memorial service will be held in a few days.  I will be asked to lead it, to speak a few words, and it will be an honor to do so.  I hope my words are of some help.  This morning, I think I’ll stop by The Farm and ask Bill if I can have an arrowhead to carry in my pocket as I speak.


Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.

Fry On Friday: “Braves Front Row Seats,” July 30, 2017

            Loving baseball as I do, I share a portion of Braves season tickets.  My seats are almost directly behind home plate, though on the highest level of the ballpark, far distant from the playing field.  Not prime seats, but it’s what I can afford and I enjoy them thoroughly.

            Last week I invited three friends as my guests to a Braves vs. Giants game.   As we got in the car, one of my friends produced four additional tickets.  “They’re from my boss; nobody at the office could use them.  I thought we’d check out how good the seats are.”   Answer:  pretty damn good!!  Row 1, Field level.  You know when you watch a game on TV and in the background behind the batter you can see a few fans?  Those seats.  That night, we were those fans!  I examined the tickets and learned the face value was $475.   Each.  This is what is called an upgrade.   This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote,  “The one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  (2 Corinthians 9)  And that’s this Friday’s lesson, right?  Nope.  Guess again.

            Did I mention these up-close seats included access to a lavish buffet and open bar which were totally gratis?  Chipper Jones sat a couple tables away, but he didn’t ask for my autograph, so I didn’t ask for his either.  Surrounded by luxury, we even enjoyed the 90 minute rain delay.

            Frankly, my high-altitude seats, offer a better view of the game, the positioning of the fielders, the base-runners’ leads.  First Row seats distort distances and perspective.  From Row 1, however, the game becomes very personal.  We could see the expression on the umpire’s face when a batter argued a called strike.  We could hear Nick Markakis (Braves outfielder) chatting to a friend from the on-deck circle.  We saw the catcher grimace when hit by a foul tip.  We felt like we were part of the game itself.

            I enjoy my high-altitude seats where I can dissect and analyze the game.  But I’ll opt for up-close and personal every time.  Even without the free food.  When God invites me to abandon my distant objectivity and throw myself into intense involvement, I hope I’m awake and have the courage to accept the challenge.  That’s my lesson for this Friday.

            Lesson #2:  I don’t think often about heaven.  But after spending three hours in heaven at the ball park, I can warm up to it.  Right now, heaven is a distant concept I can affirm in theory.  If eternity with God is as up-close and personal as a Row 1 seat, I can dig it.  Who knows—in heaven Chipper may want my autograph.

 


 Dr. Dave Fry is the senior and founding pastor of Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church in Duluth, Georgia, which was started in 1985. Send comments to “Fry on Friday” at dave@pleasanthillpc.org.

Red Cross Blood Drive on July 9

Be Wonderful! Be A Hero!

Donate Blood!

Red Cross Blood Drive@ PHPC

Sunday July 9
2 pm to 7 pm
Fellowship Hall

To schedule your life saving donation, please go to http://www.redcrossblood.org

and enter sponsor code: PHPC

or send an email to ivy.campbell@redcross.org.

Free T-shirt and pizza to all participating donors!!!!