Reflections after Vacation

Jean and I have just returned from sunny southern California, where we stayed with our daughter and son-in-love, Shelton and Scott. They are happily married after their wedding last October and blessing last March. We rejoiced together in your many expressions of love and support. Scott is finishing his year of post doctoral research in Atmospheric Chemistry at Caltech and Shelton is serving an internship with a refugee resettlement organization as the concluding requirement of her master’s program in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Please keep them in your prayers as they discern God’s leading toward international missions. They were such gracious hosts in allowing us to enter into their lives for two weeks. During our time together, I spent a week planning preaching and worship through next June, and reading a book on youth ministry, Sustainable Youth Ministry. In addition Jean and I enjoyed some recreation with Scott and Shelton, and as a couple. Some highlights were worshiping in two churches: one an inner city fellowship, another a new church of mostly twenty-somethings. We also visited Catalina Island, Huntington Gardens and Museum and the San Fernando Mission (one of the original 21 missions established in the 1700’s). We discovered that Bob and Delores Hope are buried on these mission grounds. For many of us (older ones), Bob Hope is an iconic figure. We remember his warm and self-deprecating humor, his wholesome movies and, most importantly, his outreach performances to our armed forces, especially during times of war. He and his wife celebrated 69 years of marriage just before he died at the ripe old age of 100. His wife, Delores, died at 102 years of age. One of God’s serendipitous gifts was a conversation with a Muslim man who came from Afghanistan to America in 1982, after the Soviet invasion. Our lives were richly blessed by another of God’s amazing interruptions.

While I have your attention, let me share with you three things about which I am very excited. First, our Session recently approved the calling of Rob McAlister as our Interim Director of Youth Ministry. Rob is a new graduate of Sewanee, having majored in religious studies, and is a close friend of Lizzie Walker (daughter of John and Salley). He grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and has been involved as an intern at Covenant Presbyterian Church  there. Is God’s providence something to behold?! The day after Dave Reiss informed us of his plans to leave for San Antonio, Liz Walker told us about Rob. Our Youth Discipleship Team began the process of interviewing Rob, checking references, etc. and concluded that Rob was one of those immediate answers to prayer. Rob plans to join us September 1st and is committed to serving among us through next May. This will give us time to search for a permanent staff leader in youth ministry. The strength of our youth ministry is the many dedicated, grace-filled volunteers who give generously of their time and energy to serve. Having Rob join us will only add to the strong ministry which is in place.

Second, during August we will be thinking together about Sabbath. Sabbath? What’s that? Well, it’s the practice of setting aside a day of each week for rest and worship. We’re going to reflect upon what Sabbath is, what it means to “keep the Sabbath holy” (you know, one of the Ten Commandments? ), why and how we worship. One of our priorities is to love God well. Keeping Sabbath is a primary way of loving God well. We will also celebrate, give thanks for and commission our worship and music leadership teams on Sunday, August 26th.

Third, during September and October we are challenging Covenant to become involved in “The Big Give.” What is this? For the past three years we have celebrated Compassion Week during this time, where we go out to serve in our community through various outreach projects. This year we are focusing on being good neighbors, that is, giving to our neighbors. Who are Covenant’s neighbors? One might think they are the ones who live within a mile or so of our facility. No, that’s not it. Covenant’s neighbors are those who live near, or work around, all of us. We are challenging everyone to come up with an idea (yourselves or with a group of people) to serve your neighborhood in some way. That might include making cookies and taking them to your neighbors with a welcome to Covenant. It might include welcoming neighbors to a fellowship event . It could be getting together with other Covenant members and doing improvement for your neighborhood school, or a senior neighbor. It could be joining with others to give out bottled water to people in one of our city parks. Or, you could hold a party for your neighbors at Covenant’s facility. You come up with your own ideas and go to work. The idea? GIVING OURSELVES AWAY FOR OUR NEIGHBORS.

May God be honored and glorified in our good work.

In Christ’s Service,

Hal