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.