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Join us in Our New Journey

March 23rd, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

Whittier Presbyterian and Salem Lutheran Churches are beginning a new adventure.  They are joining in a partnership for worship and ministry together.  Whittier Presbyterian Church is moving out of their buildings and moving in with Salem Lutheran.  Whittier Presbyterian decided to move so that they could concentrate on ministry instead of maintenance of their buildings.

Our first service together will be Easter Sunday March 27th at 9:30. The Rev. Tom Cramer from El Rancho Presbytery and the Rev. Tim Phillips, Assistant to the Bishop of the Pacifica Synod, together with Pastor Elizabeth Steele from Whittier Presbyterian and Pastor Patrice Nordstrand from Salem Lutheran will lead in worship.

The congregation of Whittier Presbyterian will start walking at 9:00 am from their location at 6030 S. El Rancho Drive, Whittier, and meet the congregation of Salem Lutheran halfway and walk together to 6442 S. Glengarry, Whittier.

It is especially meaningful that this uniting of two neighboring congregations be on Easter Sunday.  In celebration we look forward to new ministry, new life and new hope.

If you have been looking for a church, but can’t quite find something that feels right…

If you think the excitement of helping start something new outweighs the uncertainty…

If you want to be part of building a worshiping community…

If two small congregations starting over and open to others starting over sounds like a place for you…

We’d love to have you,

Come Join Us as we discover a new calling and a new life through Christ.

MOVING, NOT CLOSING

March 11th, 2016 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s amazing to us. No matter how many times we tell people that our journey is one from maintaining buildings to being able to do ministry again, people find it impossible to believe. Apparently the idea that we would give up a place in order to have the resources of time, energy, and money to serve as God’s people is so unthinkable that people can not accept it. We keep being told we are closing.

WE ARE NOT CLOSING!

Yes, we are selling our building. The details are not yet finalized but we have said for over a year we are going to sell our building. We are not doing this to close. We are doing this to do something more than focus on our own survival. We are doing this to serve and minister.

WE ARE MOVING

Even before the sale is final, we are going to be moving.

Our last service at the 6030 El Rancho property will be Palm Sunday, March 20.

For Christians, the following week is Holy Week. It is a journey through death to resurrection and new life. As part of our service we will look back and celebrate the good things of the past, the ministries that we did in this place.

Our first service in our new location will be Easter Sunday, March 27. We will celebrate the resurrection of our Lord with a new partnership with Salem Lutheran Church at 6442 S. Glengarry Avenue. Two small congregations that have chosen not to die but to enter into a partnership that will allow something new to develop.
Worship will be at 9:30
A procession from 6030 El Rancho will begin at 9:00 for those able to make the walk.

So…
If you have been looking for a church, but can’t quite find something that feels right…
If you think the excitement of helping start something new outweighs the uncertainty…
If two small congregations starting over and open to others starting over sounds like a place for you…

Come Join Us as we discover a new calling and a new life through Christ.

Joining in the Midst of Uncertainty

September 9th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Who joins a congregation when the future is uncertain? Those who have read this sporadic blog in the past know we are trying to move from spending our energy doing maintenance to having the time and energy to do ministry. That journey involves selling and moving out of a building too large for us, finding a new place to abide, discovering who we are called to journey with, and identifying the ministry God is calling us to do. It is an exciting journey, but while we are waiting for a sale our life together has an uncertain feel. Even as we look for options that uncertain feeling remains.

In the midst of this, however, we have a new member. Having attended several times and being fully aware of our journey and unclear future someone decided to join us. Out of respect for their privacy I am not going to identify NM (New Member). Their decision to join surprised many of us “Why do you choose to join us in the midst of such uncertainty?”

NM’s answer was encouraging and triggered a discussion. NM spoke of how our willingness to take a chance and try something new was exciting. Yes, this venture is uncertain, but it’s the kind of uncertainty that comes with taking a risk. NM likes that we are willing to take the kind of risk that allows life to flourish. Our journey is one that allows for creativity and means there is the opportunity to participate and help shape something fresh.

As our discussion continued, we began to describe who would make a good new member in this uncertain, open-ended journey we are on. The following is result of that conversation

Job Description for a New Member of a Changing, Uncertain Church

*Is open to God’s leading, even in unexpected ways.
*Understands that faith is not a destination, but on ongoing journey with God
*Understands the ministry is not something the pastor does, but something we are all involved in
*Understands the church is called to move from inviting people in to reaching people where they are
*Is eager to participate and shape the future rather than just attend and listen
*Is willing to welcome and work with others, including those who believe differently or are at a different place in their faith journey
*Recognizes that none of us have all the answers

Are you somebody like this? Maybe you are disenchanted with the church as you have experienced it. Why not stop by and talk with some of us? You never know, you might have ideas that are what we are looking for and you might like the community we hope to build.

“Ministry Instead of Maintenance

June 16th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

We made it into the denominational magazine. This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Presbyterians Today and is reprinted here with permission. You can find the original article at http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/today/

ONE IN MISSION | Linda Valentine

Linda Valentine is executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

‘Ministry instead of maintenance’

By deciding to sell its church building, a congregation finds new freedom to do God’s work.
When Elizabeth Steele arrived at Whittier Presbyterian Church, the first thing that struck her—after the refreshing openness of its small but active membership—was the sheer size of the building. “We have a huge facility,” says the veteran interim-ministry specialist. “Without the building, this could be a healthy small congregation, but the facility is absorbing all of the church’s time, energy, and money.”

Elizabeth and the congregation set out on a journey to discern God’s call.

Whittier is a 64-member Anglo congregation in a majority Latino community near Los Angeles. Average worship attendance is between 20 and 25. Whittier shares its vast space with Nueva Vida Presbyterian Church, a Latino congregation, which also has fewer than 100 members. Together, they embarked on New Beginnings, a Presbyterian Mission Agency assessment process designed to help congregations understand where they are and then make faithful decisions about new directions for their future.

Now in her 10th interim position, Elizabeth was called to Whittier Church in May 2013 because of her experience with New Beginnings. She has been through the process as a presbytery representative and as an interim in a previous congregation. She is also a trained and experienced assessor for New Beginnings.

“I have seen a number of different assessment tools, and a lot of them basically look at the same information—like finances, building use, and demographic information,” she says. “The biggest difference is that the New Beginnings curriculum has a good way of putting it together for people and giving them a process. If they will read it and discuss it with the understanding that some of it applies to them—some doesn’t—then it has served its purpose.”

In October 2012, the church began six weeks of studying the report in small groups at different locations. “It was hard work to look in the mirror and see exactly who we are as a congregation,” says Donna Hanson, a ruling elder at Whittier. “Sometimes we were sad in our conversations, and sometimes we were energized and excited about possibilities. As we discussed possible ways to go forward, each group came to the conclusion that we were going to make a decision and not just continue exactly as we are until we are out of money.”

In the church’s conversations, the building was always a focal point—even a flash point. After much prayer, talk, and work, Whittier concluded not only that it is a vibrant congregation with a vital mission but also that its facility is too large for both congregations. They decided to sell.

“Once we were able to separate the question of what happens to the building and what happens to the congregation, that’s when the new options appeared,” says Elizabeth. “As long as people had stuck in their minds that closing the church meant closing the congregation, nothing much could happen. Then there came a point where they realized, ‘No, we can use the building as a resource for ministry in a different way.’ ”

Is the church joyful about selling the building? Elizabeth says the answer is yes and no. “Even those who are eager to move on are sorry to be leaving,” she says. “Most of them have spent 60 years here. But the idea that they can go somewhere else—use the financial resources to do ministry instead of maintenance—they are so excited about that.”

Donna says that the church today is “full of energy and looking for a new focus,” confident that God has a plan.

“It was the talking with each other each week and sharing our concerns about our shrinking congregation that helped bond us together stronger as a church,” she says. “There was a sense of unity when we finished with New Beginnings. We didn’t have a concrete direction, but we knew that God was calling us to stay together and that God had plans for us.”\

 

LEARN MORE
For more about New Beginnings and its discernment process: whatisourfuturestory.com

An Overdue Update

June 8th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

The last few months have been busy. As some readers know, our first offer fell through. It came with a whirl of excitement and a frantic deadline. It would have had us out of the building by Easter. That meant spending the first part of the year cleaning out closets and rapidly making decisions about what to take, what to leave, and what to give away. If you visit now, you will see bare spots on walls where pictures used to hang. But the sale of our property was contingent upon the sale of other property. The other sale did not happen, so our sale did not go through.
In some ways, the cancellation brings relief. It has given us time to think. What ministry can we do when we are not burdened with caring for a too large building? How do we be responsible about our future and new resources? Where are we going? The cancellation means we can take time to make serious decisions with deliberation. However, having had an offer we know we can not drag our feet. Like the disciples at Pentecost or the people of the Exodus after the last plague, we have to be ready when the time to act suddenly appears.
There is also the kind of frustration that comes whenever plans change unexpectedly. We were emotionally prepared to scramble, and now we slow down. The extra waiting can be disappointing. How do we keep our disappointment from overwhelming our excitement? Where are we going?
So we continue to prepare. We are able to shift the discussion about this congregation’s future from how to do maintenance to do how to do ministry. We have time to understand the question is not whether there is ministry to do, but how do we choose a ministry that both reaches people and uses our skills and abilities. For this part of our discussion of the future, I lift up Frederick Buechner’s quote “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.1” What is it that gives us joy in God’s service and how can that joy be used to meet people’s deep hunger for hope, support, and new life.

1. From  Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

Smokin’

June 1st, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I enjoyed the following sermon written by my friend and colleague so, with his permission, I am posting it here.

Frank R. Fisher, Obl OSB
Interim Pastor
First Presbyterian Church
Pontiac, IL

Smokin’!”That exclamation of excitement and awe emanates from the mouth of a teenage visitor to the very tiny congregation. For an instant the worshipers turn and gape at the speaker with open mouths.
Excitement, you see, isn’t a normal part of this Presbyterian congregation’s order of worship. But the worshipers attention quickly returns to the morning’s main distraction. After all things are going on around them that don’t seem to meet their proper criteria of decency and order. Propriety has always been an important part of the tiny congregation. But they weren’t always tiny. Once their Sanctuary, in the church’s upper room, had thronged with people. All sorts of influential people gathered there every Sunday, and frequently during the week, for worship, work and fellowship. Lately though, their membership had shrunk rapidly. And as they gathered together for worship on this Day of Pentecost, they couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before their doors shut forever.

Then, in the middle of the service, in the midst of Pastor Johnson’s somewhat boring sermon, it happened. All of sudden, the pastor’s calm and peaceful phrases were drowned out by a roaring sound. Ladies’ hats, and one or two of the men’s hair pieces, went sailing into the air as a hurricane force wind burst through the doors and windows and swirled around and around the Sanctuary. And in the midst of the wind appeared tongues like fire that reached down from the ceiling towards the heads of every person in the room.

“What can be happening,” someone cried out with alarm! “Don’t be afraid,” answered Pastor Johnson with a voice filled with awe. “It’s Pentecost, and the Spirit’s fire is falling again!” Indeed it was the Holy Spirit coming among them, and reminding them of the day Christ’s church was born. For as the fiery tongues reached each person, they knew the congregation could have a future. They knew the Spirit could empower them to reach out to others within their community. They knew the Spirit could give them the power to speak in ways their community both could hear and needed to hear. Exciting visions of a vital ministry stretched before their eyes as they saw the way the Spirit could work through them and empower their work.

But in the midst of their excitement, they drew back. “I just don’t know if everyone will want to do this kind of work,” one worshiper observed. “Yes,” another agreed. “It’s a nice idea, but I’m not really sure
we can fit it into our schedules.” One by one the worshipers agreed that the path ahead was impossible to tread. Then in decency and in order they filed out of the sanctuary, shook Pastor Johnson’s hand, and
said, “nice sermon pastor.” Five years later the congregation closed its doors for the very last time.

***

Smokin’!”That exclamation of excitement and awe emanates from the mouth of a teenage visitor to the very tiny congregation. For an instant the worshipers turn and gape at the speaker with open mouths.
Excitement, you see, isn’t a normal part of this Presbyterian congregation’s order of worship. But the worshipers attention quickly returns to the morning’s main distraction. After all things are going on around them that don’t seem to meet their proper criteria of decency and order. Propriety has always been an important part of the tiny congregation. But they weren’t always tiny. Once their Sanctuary, in the church’s upper room, had thronged with people. All sorts of influential people gathered there every Sunday, and frequently during the week, for worship, work and fellowship. Lately though, their membership had shrunk rapidly. And as they gathered together for worship on this Day of Pentecost, they couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before their doors shut forever.

Then, in the middle of the service, in the midst of the prayers of the people it happened. All of sudden, the Pastor’s Meyer’s words were drowned out by a roaring sound. Hymnals, bulletins, and the choir director’s robe went sailing into the air as a hurricane force wind burst through the doors and windows and swirled around and around the Sanctuary. And in the midst of the wind appeared tongues like fire
that reached down from the ceiling towards the heads of every person in the room.

“What can be happening,” someone cried out with alarm! “Don’t be afraid,” answered Pastor Meyer with a voice filled with awe. “It’s Pentecost, and the Spirit’s fire is falling again!” Indeed it was the Holy Spirit coming among them, and reminding them of the day Christ’s church was born. For as the fiery tongues reached each person, they knew the reason for the congregation’s existence. They knew they existed to embody Christ’s love both to their community and to the world. They knew the Spirit could empower them to show that love. They knew the Spirit could show them the direction they needed to go and the work they needed to do. Exciting visions of a vital ministry stretched before their eyes as they saw the way the Spirit could work through them to bring the light and love of Christ to everyone they met.

But in the midst of their excitement, they reconsidered. “This is a really good idea,” one member observed. “Yes,” another agreed. “Why don’t we make sure Pastor Meyer does this work. And we can hire some more staff to work with he r.” One by one the worshipers agreed they’d direct the pastor and her staff to get busy with the work that needed to be done. Then in decency and in order they filed out of the sanctuary, shook Pastor Meyer’s hand, and said, “it was a wonderful service. We’ll talk some more about what we need you to do at our next Session meeting.” As the years went by the clarity and vision they’d briefly observed became more and more obscured by the day to day tasks of keeping their organization functioning. More and more worshipers faded away to more and more places. Eventually the members decided there was no reason to continue their common life. And after a final worship service, they said goodbye and went on their separate ways.

***

Smokin’!”That exclamation of excitement and awe emanates from the mouth of a teenage visitor to the very tiny congregation. For an instant the worshipers turn and gape at the speaker with open mouths.
Excitement, you see, isn’t a normal part of this Presbyterian congregation’s order of worship. But the worshipers attention quickly returns to the morning’s main distraction. After all things are going on around them that don’t seem to meet their proper criteria of decency and order. Propriety has always been an important part of the tiny congregation. But they weren’t always tiny. Once their Sanctuary, in the church’s upper room, had thronged with people. All sorts of influential people gathered there every Sunday, and frequently during the week, for worship, work and fellowship. Lately though, their membership had shrunk rapidly. And as they gathered together for worship on this Day of Pentecost, they couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before their doors shut forever.

Then, in the middle of the service, in the midst of the Lord’s Supper it happened. All of sudden, the words of the pastor’s great prayer of thanksgiving were drowned out by a roaring sound. Communion bread, the chalice, and the pastor’s stole went sailing into the air as a hurricane force wind burst through the doors and windows and swirled around and around the Sanctuary. And in the midst of the wind appeared tongues like fire that reached down from the ceiling towards the heads of every person in the room.

“What can be happening,” someone cried out with alarm! “Don’t be afraid,” answered Pastor Smith with a voice filled with awe. “It’s Pentecost, and the Spirit’s fire is falling again!” Indeed it was the Holy Spirit coming among them, and reminding them of the day Christ’s church was born. For as the fiery tongues reached each person, they were reminded of their baptism vows and their call to reach out to others as member’s of Christ’s body. They knew the Spirit could empower them and direct them as they reached out to follow their call. They knew the Spirit could show them the people they would serve and the ways they would serve them. Exciting visions of a vital ministry stretched before their eyes as they saw the way the Spirit could transform a burned out lamp to a roaring flame that would shine Christ’s love out clearly in the midst of the darkest night. They accepted the Spirit’s call to be about their Lord’s work. Those who were able began to minister to those who were in need as the Lord commanded. And their worshipers who were older and could no longer labor began the vital task of prayer for all those the congregation encountered. In words and in deeds the worshipers spoke to those to whom Christ called them in the language of love; a language all could know and understand. New life abounded among them as they gathered to worship, for fellowship, and to serve. Fiery worship filled with the Spirit’s power became their norm and kept them focused on their Lord’s call. Not one of them knew how long their congregation would exist; indeed, not one of them even cared. For they were about their Lord’s work and living each day in the burning flame of the Spirit’s breath.

The teenager worshiper’s exclamation of awe became their byword and standard, and the way they were known to all around them Smokin’,” visitors shouted in wonder at the joy of their worship! “Smokin’,” the community cried in wonder at they way they showed forth Christ’s love. “Smokin’!” “No, not us,” the worshipers replied. “For we work and worship in the love of Jesus Christ and through the power of the flame and wind of the Holy Spirit. And to God alone be glory.”
Amen.

The Communicator – February 2015

February 1st, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

View church newsletter

Continuing on our Adventure

November 11th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Whittier Presbyterian is full of energy and looking for a new focus.  We have been through New Beginnings, which showed us that we are a small yet vibrant congregation.  We decided at that time to work with Nueva Vida and help them to grow.  After much prayer, talk and work; we now know that these buildings are really too big for both congregations.  The upkeep of all these buildings is so expensive in both money and time and effort.  So… we are investigating where God will lead us; we know he has a plan for us.

We have been talking with Real Estate people to determine the worth of our buildings and finding if another congregation would be interested so it is not just a tear down.  God also opened doors for us to talk to Presbytery and we discovered that when we move on, they might be interested in keeping the buildings and leasing them out to a different church.

Pastor Elizabeth has been sharing this information after worship services this summer, but we know many of you have been on vacation and missed those discussions.  

Session has always coveted everyone’s prayers for the direction God might be taking our congregation and we are seeing fruits from those prayers.  People are contacting us about using the building and people are sharing ideas of where we might go and what type of mission we could provide for our community.  There is no timeline for anything that is happening but Session will be sharing information as it develops.  So please be patient and please continue your prayers, as these are exciting times for our congregation.   Please be sure to talk to a Session member if you have ideas or questions or concerns.  Session is excited and can feel the energy coming from our membership about where God is leading us.  So keep praying and thinking and sharing.
Questions:  talk to Lurene, Carole, Melinda, Marilyn J, Marilyn R., Donna, Jim, Fermin (Session members) or Pastor Elizabeth

Thanks to Donna Hanson for this piece

Whittier’s Great Adventure

October 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

We’re moving! We are not sure yet where we are going. We are not doing this without large doses of reluctance and sorrow, but we are stepping out in faith.

Like many congregations that were started in California during the boom years after World War II, we were planted, grew large, and in recent years have seen our numbers decline. The buildings that once housed a congregation of over 1300 now hold less than 100. They are too big and we are too small. Several months ago, after much conversation, we came to the painful recognition that we can no longer maintain these buildings. Rentals help pay the bills. However, we increasingly find that being a landlord absorbs all our time and energy. Little is left for doing the kinds of ministries—from sheltering the homeless, to starting the still-operating preschool, to wonderful music programs—that were a big part of our life. So we faced the hard question. What now?

We considered closing. That is what many congregations do at this point. We considered merging. That is another option many congregations take. Then we realized there is a third option. We can take our strengths, move where we do not have the burden of maintaining the building, and find new ways to reach out and share God’s love and grace. We can carry on the congregation’s 70 plus year history of following God’s leading and sharing God’s love.

We are still figuring out the details, but we know God is leading us. We ask one thing of those of you reading this. Pray for us. Pray for us the following prayer.

Lord,
Introduce us to the people we should walk with,
Show us the ministry we should do,
And lead us to the place where we should abide.

Keep watching. We’ll let you know where God leads us and how our adventure unfolds.

New Beginnings Follow Up Discussions

March 2nd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Please mark your calendar and take the time to join us for the four weeks of the New Beginnings follow up discussions. We need everyone’s input as we make decisions for the future of Whittier Presbyterian Church. We need everyone’s voice to be heard and this is the time and place to be involved with our decisions. See you all there.

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