Westminster Lives!

For those of us “of a certain age,” April in Xenia is a tough month. For many of us, our lives were cleanly cleaved into two segments, “before” and “after,” on April 3, 1974. For us, it’s one of those events that you always remember, even down to knowing where you were and what you were doing when it happened. Even for Xenians like me, who weren’t in town when it occurred, our lives were permanently altered by the aftermath. Months and years of rebuilding were ahead of us and we all knew it.

I have many memories of the year or so that followed. One of the things I remember from that time, with grim amusement, was the prediction by “experts” that there would be psychological damage in Xenia severe enough to potentially make it impossible for the town to continue as a town. And there were outsiders who, apparently, were watching for it to happen. But it never did. I’m not saying none of us were permanently affected. I think we probably all were, in one way or another. But we didn’t let it stop us from getting done what we needed to get done.

We found places to live while we rebuilt our homes. Our schools were up and running 11 days after the tornado, thanks to the hard work of our administrators and the generosity of our neighboring districts, who shared their facilities with us. And that fall, we were back in our own facilities, rearranged, reconfigured, and augmented, but ours, just the same. Our newspaper never missed a publishing date, even though its facilities lacked power. Our stores and banks reopened, in trailers if necessary, while they rebuilt. When push came to shove, Xenia DID live. Our town simply refused to die.

Sound familiar? It should. Westminster is a microcosm of Xenia. Like Xenia, we have faced adversity. Like Xenia, our demise was predicted by “experts.” And, like Xenia, we told the experts to go pound sand and we went on existing. And we plan to go on existing, in one sense or another. Perhaps we will go forward as part of an even greater unified ministry. Perhaps we will go forward as dandelion seeds blown to new soil to continue spreading our trademark quirkiness. But, no matter what, just as Xenia lives, so will Westminster. And God’s people say—-AMEN!

Shirley Richardson-McCourt

Potholes

Potholes. Just the mention of the word sends a shiver down the spine, doesn’t it? Anybody who has experienced a spring in Ohio knows that along with songbirds and burgeoning greenery come…potholes. Those missing chunks of road and really mess with both your car and your driving habits. Looking ahead of you and seeing the cars swerve, you know to swerve too—or risk your cars suspension. You even find yourself steering around the potholes you know are there without even thinking about it; it has become the pattern of your driving.

Have you ever noticed that our lives have potholes, too? Sometimes these holes are the result of misunderstandings gone too long uncorrected. Others are the results of unhealthful habits too long indulged. Still others may be holes left in our lives that we always meant to fill in with positive personal improvements such as regular meditation, prayer, or Bible study. But no matter what the cause of our personal potholes, we have long ago adjusted the way we drive our lives to avoid them, even if the resulting odd, erratic path doesn’t serve our best interests.

There’s an awful lot that we don’t know about this life’s journey we’re all on, but there is one thing we do know: God wants us to be the best people we can be. He knows we’re not perfect (he made us, after all), but he knows that there is always room for improvement and he will always have our backs as we go through the vulnerability that leads us to personal and spiritual growth.

As we watch our road crews diligently filling in the potholes in our roads so that we can drive a straight path once again, maybe we should consider filling in some of our personal potholes so we can live in a bit straighter path. Are you game? At the very least, you know your church family will also have your back as you work on it. Because we are family. Because we are quirky. Because we are Westminster.

Shirley Richardson-McCourt

The Many Voices of God

On Reformation Sunday Westminster had a Homecoming Service. Former members, children who had grown up in Westminster’s loving arms, former pastors, and friends of the congregation  were all given special invitations  to attend.

Recently we had gone through several years without a Pastor. During this time we had an interim pastor, pastors who “filled in” on Sunday mornings, a moderator appointed by the Presbytery to guide our PNC and Session as we searched for a pastor, and finally a pastor elected by the congregation to serve a two-thirds position.

Many of these pastors joined us and participated in this special Homecoming Celebration. They had all answered affirmatively to the command of Jesus “ feed my  sheep”!

As I looked at them, I could remember the ways in which they had each “fed” us. While I listened to this variety of male and female voices, I recognized they each spoke from their hearts with assurance about God’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness- not necessarily in the actual words they used but in the manner in which they spoke. The sound of their voices resonated the faith which  lives in the center of their being. We give thanks today for all those who have dedicated their lives to “speak for God”.

We recognize that we can constantly choose to “speak for God” through our actions in our relationships with each other and toward all of creation. We pray that the sound of our voices and the results of our actions reflect God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness.

-- Sandra Middleton

How we describe our church

When we began searching for our pastor, we had to describe our church in a "Ministry Information Form" (MIF).  This included reflections on what we've been through, and what we hope to do in our service to our community.  If you'd like to read this document, click here.

This is our Mission Statement:

Sharing our journey with God in words and deeds

- "Our journey with God" means personal transformation

- "Sharing in words" means encouraging each other in fellowship and reflection on how our personal stories are part of God's story

- "Sharing in deeds" means service to the community that results naturally from transformation 

Centering Prayer at Westminster

[Note:  This was printed in our newsletter a few years ago.  Centering prayer continues to be a meaningful experience for our Westminster community]

What goes on during that centering prayer group Sundays at noon?

Why would anyone leave coffee hour and go down there?

And, if it's supposed to be silent prayer, why do I hear talking and laughter?

Let me describe this time for you.  The first few people gather in the chapel and chat a bit, and then more people come, and we have to get out the folding chairs.  We are happy to see so many people wanting to pray together.  Then we look over a hymn and each person picks out a word that stands out today, something that calls to the heart. 

Katie strikes that little chime, and we try to pray without saying anything, without thinking anything, just being quiet before God for a little while.  This is impossible!  You can hear the clock ticking, and the sounds of people cleaning up in the kitchen upstairs, and the person next to you is breathing too loud, and then you start thinking about the sermon or the grocery list -- oops. 

This is where the word from the hymn comes in:  You just repeat that word to yourself, as a reminder that this is a time to open yourself to God, not a time to worry about any other sound or thought.  Finally, Katie rings the chime again.  In 5 long minutes, maybe a few moments were truly offered to God.  But it is enough.  Somehow, you feel that you have been steadied, re-oriented, lined up like a compass needle in the direction God wants for you. 

After the chime, there is a precious silence.  We know we have shared something special.  But we are also bursting to share about this experience.  So we talk, and share, and celebrate; sometimes we are solemn, and sometimes we are filled with joy and laughter.  Then Katie jokes that we should tell everyone that we really sat in silence for the whole 20 minutes, honest! and we go out into our lives. 

Maybe you are being called to join in, too.  

Some thoughts from our former choir director

An excerpt from the 2016 Chancel Choir Annual Report, by William Henry Caldwell

"After you've done all you can, you just stand."  These are the lyrics from a very popular and powerful contemporary gospel song by Donnie McClurkin titled Stand.  For me it describes perfectly what life at Westminster has been about this year.

When situations looked bleak and dim, presenting all kinds of negative challenges, some of us, like investment bankers, seized the "down" time as an opportunity.  This year we demonstrated that we are spiritual warriors and soldiers in the army of the Lord ready to do "the will of the Lord" in spite of the challenges, and we seized our current situation as an opportunity.  With that being said, nothing pleased me more than when I learned a committee would be established to hire a new minister to serve with us at Westminster.  My soul and spirit rejoiced because I could not fathom Westminster, a congregation that has demonstrated so much love through the years, and where I served as choir director, closing its doors.  Love can't be locked up.  

Community

Here is a good description of our church community, from the Presbytery effort a few years back to find out about the strengths of the different churches.  

"Church" doesn't end with the Sunday postlude at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Xenia.

Much the entire worshiping congregation reconvenes in the second floor fellowship hall not simply for coffee, but lively interaction and the building up of this Christian community. It is not unusual to see groups of members and non-members engaged in discussions about all sorts of topics for an hour or more. Frequently discussions relate, not surprisingly, to controversial issues in the church, but because this congregation so strongly connects with one another in fellowship, "hot button issues" can be explored in ways that seem to be free from the "taking of sides" that too often causes division.

So what on first glance seems like just "another coffee hour" becomes an extension of a time of covenantal worship.

What is Church For?

Church is our human response to God's action.  We perceive that God is both beyond us and for us.  We recognize this in Christ, who was divine and yet cared for the lost and the least.  This is God's Story.

We come to understand God's story through study of scripture and through reflecting on God's action in our own lives, in our stories.

We respond to the understanding that God is both beyond us and for us in worship, as we bring both joy and pain before the Lord.  We come to worship in the hope to be changed into the women and men God wants us to be.

In our church family, we encourage each other in this process of change.  We share our stories and our understanding of how our stories are part of God's story.

When we let ourselves be changed in response to God's story, we find ourselves broken open to the hurts of this world.  We are turned outward to the community, with a deep desire to serve the hungry, the lost, the lonely, the suffering.  As a church, we work together to serve as Christ directed.  

We express this understanding in our statement of purpose:  "Sharing our journey with God in words and deeds."  We invite you to share this journey with us.