Week of October 7

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

During the years that Abraham Lincoln lived with his family in Springfield, Illinois, he practiced law as a part of the circuit court. The whole court, including the District Attorney, the Circuit Court Judge and a few defense attorneys would travel from county seat to county seat in Illinois in order to try cases. In each town where they held court, the defense attorneys would meet with defendants and plaintiffs, establish lawyer-client relationships, and try cases before the court. When they finished their work, they would travel on to the next county seat and begin the process again. Lincoln learned many of the skills that would serve him well later in life. He obviously learned to practice the law, but he also learned to listen with understanding and learned how to argue a case and how to tell a story so that everyone would listen to him with rapt attention. In truth, the travelling circuit court was made up of lawyers who came to know each other well during their travels and have resources like lawyers specialized in green card procedures such as Sam Shihab who was really helpful in these travels. One night, staying together at an inn when their work was finished, due the next day in the neighboring county, anxiety ran high as rains continued to fall heavily. To get to the next town, they would have to cross the swollen waters of the Red River. It was all that his colleagues could think about, and as they shared their fears out loud, their collective anxiety only rose. Finally, someone said to Lincoln, “What are you going to do tomorrow about the Red River?” Lincoln replied, “I always follow the same rule with regard to the Red River: I never cross it until I get to it.”

There is much wisdom in Lincoln’s decision not to worry about matters over which you have no control until you actually find yourself facing them. Jesus actually counseled such wisdom in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?” Jesus was speaking about our tendency to worry, to focus upon our fears, forgetting about God’s providence. The Heidelberg Catechism asks, “What do you understand by the providence of God?” The answer is direct: “The almighty and ever-present power of God whereby he still upholds, as it were by his own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by God’s fatherly hand.” Then the Catechism asks, “What advantage comes from acknowledging God’s creation and providence?” “We learn that we are to be patient in the midst of adversity, grateful in the midst of blessing, and to trust our faithful God and Father for the future, assured that no creature shall separate us from his love, since all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot even move.”

Remembering that God provides is one way for believers to deal with worry. Living lives in day-tight compartments, as God gives them to us live, is another way to contend with anxiety. How often have we worried about tomorrows that never actually materialized, robbing ourselves of life and joy by so doing? Jesus finally concludes, “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Never cross the Red River until you get to it!

Todd Jones

Endowment Program Update

First Things First
Endowment Program Update

Once again, we can all be thankful for the generosity demonstrated by past members who included the church in their planned giving. Those gifts continue year after year to fund programs, projects and missions that otherwise would not be possible or would put pressure on our annual operating budget. Here’s a short list of some of the things that endowment fund income accomplished in 2013:

• $10,000 to assist two members in their seminary educational pursuits.
• $11,000 to support the Center for Youth Ministry Training.
• $117,000 for construction of a handicap ramp, roof repairs and other facility improvements.
• $46,000 for landscape, irrigation and asphalt improvements to church campus.
• $100,000 to support New Creation Church, our New Church Development project in Hendersonville.
• $7,000 to purchase donuts and coffee for the enjoyment of worshipers on Sunday mornings.
• $3,000 for scholarships for needy children to be able to attend the Oak Hill Day Camp.
• Funded various projects and initiatives to improve the Biblical Garden, the music program and other church outreach.

We sincerely hope that you will prayerfully consider joining those who have already expressed their love of the church by including it in their planned giving. What stronger statement is there about what was important in life than a gift that extends beyond one’s life on this earth? The easiest way for many members to participate is by a simple bequest in their will: “After all my bills are paid, I want X% of my estate to go to First Presbyterian Church.” Another easy method is to designate the church as a beneficiary of a percentage of a retirement account, such as a 401(k) account. There are other ways too, and any planned gift qualifies you for membership in our Vance Society. In 2013, we had several new Vance Society members. In fact, we will be recognizing all Vance Society members at our annual thank you dinner in a few weeks. This year’s Vance Society dinner will be Sunday evening, September 28, so now is a wonderful time for you to become a member of the Vance Society. Should you have an interest in joining the Vance Society and attending the dinner, please contact the church office (383-1815). Once you have included the church in your planned giving, complete the enrollment form that you can download from the church website at: fpcnashville.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/VanceSocietyEnroll.pdf, and send it to Cindy Bozman in the church office. And as always, we encourage you to contact any member of the Endowment Committee listed below or the church’s Finance Office if you have questions or you can use fully accountable e-commerce accounting services for this purpose as well. Thank you for your prayerful consideration!


 

Endowment Committee
Todd Jones, Staff Liaison Sam Cooper, Staff Liaison
Skip Stevens, Chair Eric Lamb
Allen Kennedy, Vice Chair Benjamin Carswell
Lawson C. Allen Les Coble
Susan Kaestner Tom Stumb

Week of September 24

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

Please mark October 5 on your calendar as a day in the life of our church that you will not want to miss. Two years ago our congregation lost a beloved member, Barry Bennett Gibbs. Barry had not been a member of our congregation a long time, but she came to love dearly First Presbyterian Church, for it brought Barry and her husband Homer back into a worshiping community where they felt at home. Barry loved our church so much that she left in her estate a gift to First Presbyterian Church, and in conversation with Homer and our Endowment Committee, we established the Barry B. Gibbs Lectureship, using the proceeds from her estate gift to fund an annual lecturer or preacher to enrich our ministry and mission for Christ.

Sunday, October 5 will mark the first Barry B. Gibbs weekend, welcoming Dr. M. Craig Barnes to our pulpit, and New Testament theologian Shane Berg to offer a lecture in Courtenay Hall during the Sunday school hour for our whole membership. We are asking our adult Sunday school classes to consider attending Dr. Berg’s lecture on Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Shane is a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, earned his Ph.D. in New Testament from Yale University, and after teaching New Testament for many years at Princeton, Shane now serves as Vice President for Communications and as a special assistant to Craig Barnes, the seminary’s new President. Craig Barnes will be preaching that morning at both of our services, which is something that should bless us all! Craig is widely regarded as one of the finest preachers in America today. He is the author of eight books and countless articles on preaching and the Christian journey. For many years, Craig served as Pastor of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. He was there when the Pentagon was hit by a terrorist attack, and the pulpit of National Presbyterian Church became one of the most profound and listened to voices in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In 2004, Craig left National Presbyterian Church for a faculty position at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He later accepted the pulpit of Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, and held two posts, as both professor and preacher, for the next nine years. Last year Craig was called back to serve as the seventh President of his alma mater, Princeton Theological Seminary. A 1981 graduate of the Seminary, Craig went on to earn his Ph.D. in church history from the University of Chicago, serving pastorates in Colorado Springs, Chicago and Madison, Wisconsin. His great gift is preaching, and Craig is in great demand all over this country to fill pulpits and to offer lectures. He also writes a column for the Christian Century, one of the most widely read Christian periodicals in America.
October 5 is also World Communion Sunday, so we will offer a wonderful Sunday of word and sacrament, and a chance to hear one of the most popular and dynamic young professors of New Testament share his passion for the Gospel. Many of you have heard Craig preach at Montreat, Chautauqua, and at the National Presbyterian Church. Craig is clearly becoming one of the wisest and most thoughtful voices in American church life. I hope and pray that this will be the start of a relationship with Craig that continues to bless and enrich both First Presbyterian Church and Princeton Theological Seminary. In what is how our two-hundredth year, I am keenly aware of our congregation’s indebtedness to Princeton. ­­Walter Courtenay graduated from PTS in 1932, and Bill Bryant, Mark DeVries, Adam DeVries and Sam Cooper are also alumni of the seminary. The first Barry B. Gibbs series speakers will provide a wonderful opportunity for our whole congregation to be enriched and blessed by two outstanding Christian thinkers. Craig’s sermon is entitled, Jesus the Center. It is, of course, in three short words, the life we are called to live.

On another matter of church life, this a joyful note, Lee Barfield, who has served as an Elder on our Session and been our Clerk of Session, was named the recipient of the Joe and Honey Rodgers Leadership Award for 2014, an award that cites someone in our city whose life offers an exemplary model of Christian service and leadership. It was a heartening night of celebration for Lee, Mary and for their wonderful family. Lee has worked as an attorney in Nashville since graduating from Vanderbilt Law School for Bass, Berry and Sims, and served in our community in a variety of leadership roles to build up the work of God’s Kingdom, and to bless and enrich God’s people. He has had a passion for education at every level in our community, and has blessed our own congregation by teaching Sunday school and leading men’s study groups. Lee also makes Courtenay Hall a more hospitable place by his warm, engaging presence! One of the people playing an important role in this night given to honoring Lee was Marty Dickens, himself the recipient of the Joe and Honey Rodgers Leadership Award in 2012. As always, as Connie and I sat at our table with members of the Barfield and Frist family, we felt richly blessed to serve as part of this wonderful church, this remarkable community of faith that is known as First Presbyterian Church. We are two hundred years old, and still growing into what God is calling us to be!

Todd Jones

Week of September 10

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

One of my favorite things to do in our wonderful city is to hike the Warner Woods Loop in Percy Warner Park. Recently, in the interest of erosion control, the course of this two-and-a-half-mile trail has been altered. In digging a new path for the trail in two places, they unwittingly uncovered two active bumble bee nests. So in two places along the new trail, you are greeted by signs that say,

BUMBLE BEE NEST AHEAD.
PASS BY QUICKLY.
LEASH ALL DOGS.

These homemade signs make me smile each time I pass them, and the more I read them, the more wisdom I find. There is always wisdom in taking into account what lies ahead on the road of life. All of us do well to factor in what the future might hold and to anticipate how that future might influence your actions today. Some things take us by surprise, but there are others that telegraph themselves. We should learn to think ahead.
Additionally, there is a world of wisdom in anticipating potential trouble spots and avoiding those which can easily be sidestepped. At the end of his life, Paul wrote to young Timothy and said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” There are indeed “good fights” that must be joined if we are to live well and keep faith with both God and ourselves. The fight for justice is one that God would always have us join. The fight against hunger and homelessness is a constant Biblical call. The fight for what you believe in most deeply is one that people of faith have always joined. The fight for freedom and for human rights summon many to enter in “the good fight.” But not every fight qualifies as a “good fight.” Some fights are not worth our trouble, and sometimes we join fights out of ignorance or foolishness or just plain fear. Jesus said once, “Be wise as serpents, be harmless as doves.” I want to suggest that passing by quickly a potential bee’s hive, whether literal or figurative, can be what Jesus called wisdom.
Things can be said to you to elicit a response, and wisdom often is found in not taking the bait. There are words that are better left unsaid and fights that are wisely avoided, because they are not worth waging. I recall times when I wish I could take back the words that tumbled out of my mouth. They were not things I needed to say at all, and they caused both hurt and anger. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” In the French, the word for peacemaker can also be translated “artisan of peace.” How blessed are those who know the craft of bringing peace into this world! Part of this art is found in knowing when to avoid an unnecessary fight, a fight that is finally not at all what Paul called “the good fight.”

BUMBLE BEE NEST AHEAD.
PASS BY QUICKLY.
LEASH ALL DOGS.

Let those who have ears to hear, listen!

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

Week of October 6, 2013

Todd JonesA survey of our nation’s incoming college freshman class has been a part of American life ever since opinion polling became a kind of social science in our country. The University of Michigan Survey Research Center still conducts this annual randomly chosen sample of incoming freshmen at America’s colleges and universities to gauge what our nation’s college bound teens believe and what is important to them. Alongside of this the Pew Foundation now funds an annual survey that measures and questions students on religious convictions, commitments and affiliations. This year’s opinion polling was revealing of what is happening religiously in America. One third of those incoming freshmen identified themselves as people of faith with ties to the church or synagogue. The vast majority of this group was Christian, reflecting the historic nature of religious life in America, a nation largely founded by Christian people with commitments to the Church. One third of those polled described themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” That is, they had a belief in some kind of God, but they did not practice this faith in any organized way and they demonstrated no commitment to any faith community, neither church nor synagogue.

Interestingly, 43% of this group identified themselves as Christians, even though they had no ties to any church or worshiping community. The surprising part of the survey for many was the final third, who reported themselves as having no religious faith or no ties to any larger community of faith. Pollsters call this growing group of Americans “nones.” The group that is expanding the fastest in America today is those with “none” to report with regard to God or religious affiliation. Interestingly, very few of these people describe themselves as atheists or agnostics. They simply do not care about the whole issue of religion, or the larger question of God.

If you have ever wondered if America is a mission field in desperate need of the Gospel, wonder no more! We are a nation that is adrift religiously, and because of this fact, I would argue that we adrift morally and ethically. Twenty years ago the Notre Dame philosopher Glenn Tinder asked the question in The Atlantic Monthly, “Can we be good without God?” It was a widely read and discussed question, raised by a first rate academic philosopher in a national magazine read by many of our nations brightest and best minds. Tindal argued that is certainly possible “to be good without God,” that is, to be a nation that finds some core of values and ethical standards apart from religion, apart from believing that these values and moral standards are revealed by some Deity, but rather are humanly derived. But he then added honestly, “It is possible, but it has never happened once in human history. There is no precedent for a society or culture that organized and sustained its life without a religious set of moral standards and ethics to guide it.” Not one civilization has ever established itself in a sustaining way without a religious center at its core. The word “religion” itself means “to bind together” and it is still an open question of what will bind our own nation together if we become what it seems we are quickly becoming: a nation with a large segment of our population possessing no religious belief or affiliation.

I am not at all surprised by the findings of the Pew survey. So much in American life has crowded out the church from the place it once held in American society. We are no longer a nation of joiners, as once we were, but rather we are more apt to be people who live our lives unencumbered by commitments and accountability to others. And while we once all knew the Biblical story, a story which provided not only hope, but also one that infused this life with meaning, and gave to people a belief in a life to come, even many self-described Christians do not know that story any longer. We are not only no longer a nation of joiners, we have also ceased to be a nation of readers, and it is hard to be a Christian if you do not read, as it is supremely “a religion of the Book.”

Our mission at First Presbyterian Church is “To know Christ, to make Him known, and to exhibit His love through worship, education and service.” This makes us a church committed to evangelism and the mission of the Church. I honestly believe that there is nothing our nation needs more than it needs the Gospel, because I believe that every life and every community and every nation will be enriched by what Jesus Christ and Christian faith offers. Only Jesus is large enough and true enough to gather this fragmented, conflicted and all too violent world to the place of peace and justice. And only Christian cultures are civil enough to work alongside of people of other faiths and people with no faith at all to build a better world. I am more committed than ever to living and proclaiming the Gospel. How about you?

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

Week of February 25, 2013

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

One of the wonderful traditions we have established during the last decade at First Presbyterian Church is Family Facelift weekend. Each winter we have taken a weekend to focus upon the art of parenting our children. There is no more important work to which we are called than nurturing faith in the next generation, and parents play a role second to none in this high and holy calling. In baptism, parents take vows “to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” In baptism, the congregation promises to support, encourage and pray for parents in this calling. Family Facelift has become a weekend in which we seek to offer wisdom, encouragement, guidance and support to parents, reflecting the partnership that our baptismal vows establish between parents and the church. Our Youth Ministry and Children’s Ministry teams will be sponsoring this event jointly.

This year’s leader for Family Facelift is Wynn McGregor, a nationally renowned Christian educator within the Presbyterian Church. Wynn will be with us for two days, offering a variety of opportunities and presentations to help parents and families deepen the spiritual climate of their homes. On Saturday afternoon in The Gathering Place from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on March 9, Wynn will offer her first seminar, called The Art of Soul Meeting. While this is aimed especially at Sunday School teachers and youth leaders within our church family, it is open to all parents. Wynn will explore what practices make us more aware of God’s presence in our lives, and she will discuss and demonstrate how these practices can be used in group settings with children and youth to deepen our relationship with God.

On Saturday night in Courtenay Hall, from 6:45 to 8:30 p.m., she will lead a session for parents of newborns to high school students called Nurturing the Natural. Child care will be provided by our Recreation Department for parents wanting to participate. In this seminar Wynn will explore ways that the family can become the primary influence upon nurturing our innate longing for God. She will discuss ways that families can be more intentional about nurturing and encouraging a relationship with God. What are the attributes, qualities and skills that fit parents for this important work? Practical and inspirational ways of nurturing the spiritual life of our families will be offered by Wynn to all parents.

On Sunday morning, in the Enrichment Center from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m., Wynn will gather with parents of children of all ages to talk about Spirituality: Connecting with God, Self, Family and World. We all long for our families to be places that nurture and deepen faith in the Living God. We want our homes to be places hospitable and welcoming to spiritual growth, and places where our children are prepared to relate to the world in life-giving ways. Wynn will help us to think more deeply about these vital issues of parenting.

None of us are experts on parenting, really. We all learn how to do it was we go. Any of us who have ever been parents know how demanding, humbling and all consuming a task and calling it is. We need each other to fulfill our calling, and Family Facelift on March 9 and 10 will afford us another chance to reflect upon this sacred calling. I plan on being present to learn from what Wynn McGregor will offer to us. I hope to see you there as well!

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

Legacy of Changing Lives…Monroe Harding

Dear Friends at First Presbyterian Church,

My name is Noelline Moukeba, and I have been a member of FPC for five years now since my father and I arrived in America from Central Africa. I graduated from John Overton High School in 2010, and it was during that summer that members of this church introduced me to a program called Monroe Harding.

Many of you know about the residential programs of Monroe Harding at their Glendale Lane facility, but I am part of their off-campus Independent Living program. This program serves young adults like me as well as those who might otherwise become homeless or were formerly in foster care but are now too old for state custody.

This program has provided me affordable housing near Nashville State where I am enrolled studying banking and finance. Up to two other roommates and I live independently but have regular access to Monroe Harding staff to guide us into adulthood. We are required to have a job and attend school as part of this Independent Living program.

I love what this program is all about because of the chance they have given me and many other youth in Nashville. I do not know what I would have done if this program did not exist. I thank God every day for His blessings, this incredible opportunity and a very wonderful society in which we live. I am taking advantage of this amazing blessing to do everything that I am supposed to do so that I will be ready when the time comes for my next big step in life. 

I am thankful to all the donors of Monroe Harding and ask for their continued prayers and support. I encourage others to get involved. Because of these generous donors, the youth at Monroe Harding and I have a chance to do and experience things that would not have been possible on our own.

Thank you & God bless — Noelline Moukeba

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38

Week of December 10

Todd JonesMy Dear Friends,

Theologian Mary Ellen Ashcroft said, “To get ready for Christmas, God undressed. God stripped off his finery and appeared — how embarrassing — naked on the day he was born. God rips off medals of rank, puts aside titles, honors, talents and appears in his birthday suit.” In other words, the Christmas story is about a God who came to us in a disturbingly human way, travelling a distance longer and giving up more than we can imagine in order to draw near to us. The Nicene Creed puts it so beautifully when it says, “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became truly human.”

This notion of God would have offended not only most first century Jewish sensibilities about God, but also those of the Graeco-Roman world into which Jesus was born. They knew that the gods dwelt on high, above and beyond this mundane world where humans struggle and suffer. C.S. Lewis speaks of the Incarnation in this way: “God could, had he pleased, have been incarnate in a man of iron nerves, the Stoic sort who lets no sigh escape from him. Of his great humility he chose to be incarnate in a man of delicate sensibilities who wept at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane.” In other words, Jesus’ mission was not to become big and to rule from a position of strength and power. Rather, Jesus became small in order to work in the midst of weakness and suffering. God knew better than we ever could that the best way to heal this broken world was not in overpowering it, but in loving it.

Yet in becoming small and weak, like one of us, Jesus forever lifted up and transformed what it means to be human. By becoming one of us, Jesus took up our cause, making our cause God’s great cause. Irenaeus (circa 130 to 200 A.D.), that great early church father, called this “the wonderful exchange.” “He became what we are, in order that we might become what he is.” Everything God ever hoped or dreamed for human beings was present in Jesus. In a sense, what Christmas tells us is that if you want to know what it means to be a genuine, authentic human being, to stand and live for what is right in the world, then look to Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Follow Jesus. For Jesus shows us what we can be, what God put it in each of us to become.

The Church calls this the doctrine of the Incarnation, in Latin the Assumptio Carnis. But Christmas is far from only being a doctrine of the Church, however important the central claim of Christmas may be to the life of the Church. More than a doctrine, Christmas is an event. And until Christmas becomes an event in our lives, until we somehow open our hearts so that God is born in us and comes alive in us, then we will miss it completely. Isn’t this the message of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? Ebenezer Scrooge discovers that Christmas is something that must happen in him, and the event of Christmas forever changes his life. It saves Scrooge from himself. This is what I want for everyone in the life of First Presbyterian Church! I want for Christmas to happen within you. Christmas is way too important, way too crucial, way too joyful for you to miss it.

I love the words Martin Luther penned in his beloved Christmas carol:
  Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
  Make Thee a bed, soft,undefiled
  Within my heart, that it may be
  A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

Merry Christmas and Peace to You!

Todd Jones

Week of November 14

Catherine Foster

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Sunday, November 25, First Presbyterian Church has the unique and exciting opportunity to welcome the Reverend Doctor Anthony Campolo. Dr. Campolo is an internationally celebrated speaker, author, sociologist, pastor, social activist and passionate follower of Jesus. First Presbyterian Church will be blessed to have Dr. Campolo in the pulpit at all three services. Additionally, he will join young adults for a special dinner in the Enrichment Center following the 5:30 service. While I was studying religion at Davidson College, I had the poignant experience of witnessing Dr. Campolo and his wife Peggy preach to a standing-room-only congregation in one of our local churches. What deeply impressed me about Dr. Campolo was his ability to communicate the gospel in such a clear, capable and convicting manner. He is not afraid to broach some of our nation’s most sensitive religious and social issues while simultaneously modeling respectful dialogue and Christian reconciliation. Though I did not agree with everything that Dr. Campolo espoused, I left the Davidson church that evening feeling intellectually challenged, spiritually recharged and generally more receptive to conversations with Christians whose positions differ from my own. Since then, I have jumped at the opportunity to hear Dr. Campolo on radio and TV, and I have consistently found his remarks to be relevant, insightful and faithful.

Dr. Campolo is an ordained American Baptist minister and prolific Evangelical Christian. Yet, Dr. Campolo refuses to be confined to any one denominational or sectarian platform. He has employed his fierce intellect and passionate love of Christ to serve as a major proponent for progressive thought and reform in the Evangelical Christian community. His sermons call Christians to respond to God’s boundless love by combining personal discipleship, evangelism and social justice.

Dr. Campolo is a graduate of Eastern College and earned a Ph.D. from Temple University. For ten years, he served on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania and is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has pastored churches in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is presently recognized as an associate pastor of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia.

As part of his life’s work, Dr. Campolo is founder and president of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE). For over thirty years, the EAPE has developed and nurtured elementary and secondary schools, universities, adult and child literacy centers, tutoring programs, orphanages, AIDS hospices, urban youth ministries, summer camps, and long-term Christian service programs across the United States and Canada, in parts of Africa, in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The EAPE embodies Dr. Campolo’s unique understanding of the gospel that combines personal discipleship and social justice. A prolific speaker and writer, Dr. Campolo has authored 39 books. His latest release is Red Letter Revolution, which he co-authored with Shane Claiborne, the leading figure on the Christian New Monasticism Movement. Other recent titles include: Choose Love Not Power; Connecting Like Jesus coauthored with Mary Albert Darling; Stories That Feed Your Soul; Red Letter Christians, A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics; The God of Intimacy and Action co-authored with Mary Albert Darling; Letters to a Young Evangelical; Adventures in Missing the Point co-authored with Brian McLaren and The Survival Guide for Christians on Campus co-authored with Will Willimon. Dr. Campolo speaks about 350 different times each year around the world. His diverse audiences include churches, colleges, youth groups and the business community. He has guest starred on television programs including the Colbert Report, Nightline, Crossfire, Larry King Live, CNN News and MSNBC news. He co-hosted his own television series, Hashing It Out, on the Odyssey Network, presently hosts Across The Pond, a weekly program on the Premier Christian Radio Network in England and also co-hosts Red Letter Christianity on JCTV.

Dr. Campolo and his wife, Peggy, live in the Philadelphia area and have two grown children and four grandchildren. Sunday, November 25, would be an excellent Sunday to invite a friend to experience this internationally renowned preacher at First Presbyterian Church.

You may not agree with everything he says, but I can guarantee you that you will leave church challenged, entertained and inspired. His books will be on sale in the FPC bookstore, Bookmarks on November 18 and 25, and December 2.

To learn more about Dr. Campolo, visit TonyCampolo.org and his blog RedLetterChristians.org.

Grace & Peace,

Catherine Foster, Associate Pastor

Catherine Foster

Week of October 31

Dr. Todd B. Jones

My Dear Friends,

As the election season comes to an end, we pause once again to reflect upon the blessings of a society that permits the free exercise of speech among its citizenry and enfranchises its people with the right to vote. This is no small blessing, and I often marvel at how matter of factly we ponder every four years the possibility of the orderly transfer of power at the very highest levels of our government. As I write this letter, the presidential race is too close to call, and the outcome remains very much in question. The right to vote and to voice support and opposition for political candidates continues to be one of the foundational principles of freedom in our land. The free exchange of ideas in the public arena is a sign of strength in a free society and reason for all of us to give thanks.

Historically, freedom is an idea that appears powerfully in the Bible, where Israel’s God is seen as the author of freedom. The story of the call of Moses to liberate his own people from bondage in Egypt into liberty is one of the foundational stories of all of Scripture. Moses is commanded by God to go before Pharoah and to speak truth to power, to say to the world’s most powerful ruler, “Let my people go.” God said to Moses, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of the land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” God empowered Moses to lead a band of slaves to freedom. Bruce Feiler, in his book on Moses says, “Wherever freedom is voiced, it is always spoken with a Hebrew accent.” Exodus is a text that speaks to the entire human family of liberation and law, of the longing for freedom and justice. In the New Testament, Paul could say to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to any yoke of slavery. ”The roots of our nation’s commitment to a free society can be traced to many sources, but none are any more important than the Bible and the Word of God that it proclaims. 

The history of our country tells an often-painful story of how we finally learned to hear this word of freedom as a word to all of our citizens. The long, slow struggle toward the abolishment of slavery and the Civil Rights movement brought a new birth of freedom to our land and purged us painfully of many of our national sins. But even in our worst moments, we learned and grew as a people, and while we remain far from perfect, the rule of law, the preservation of individual freedoms and the liberty of conscience and speech and press that we enjoy make us a place where people who love freedom want to live.

So as some proclaim that they are weary of politics and glad that another election season has passed, I for one am grateful that we are a nation that listens to voices of its citizens and that opposing ideas and candidates are free to vie for the support and commitment of the people. I have marveled once again at how our democracy works, and I trust that you will pause to thank God for this nation that de Toqueville called “the American Experiment.” I trust that you treasure more than ever the right to vote and to participate in the election of our leaders. George Washington believed that we lived “In the hands of a Good Providence.” He saw the vital connection between our freedom and the God who is author of all freedom.

“Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing; Long may our land be bright With freedom’s holy light; Protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.”

With Love and Prayers,

Todd Jones

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