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April  5, 2024
A good question . . .
This Lent we have been exploring questions that are asked in the Bible.  This Sunday we’ll deal with another question, but it wasn’t asked in the Bible.  It was a question directed to me on Easter morning by a member of our church.  She wondered, “What actually happens when we die?”
I think that’s a great topic to explore the Sunday after Easter.  We just celebrated our Lord’s victory over his death; so what does it actually mean for us and our death?   We’ll look to the Bible - especially parts of I Corinthians 15 - for some clues.  I say “clues” because the Bible doesn’t get too specific about our experience after death.  In fact Paul calls it “a mystery” in the text I’ll be using.  But there has been enough of that “mystery” revealed to us that we can stand for the Apostles’ Creed and affirm that “we believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  We’ll explore just what that means for us and our hope in Jesus Christ.
Speaking of the Apostles’ Creed, this Sunday we will celebrate communion, so we’ll be affirming it as we always do when we come to the Lord’s Table.
On a very different note, our church is going to receive “special recognition” this Sunday at the the kick-off meeting for this year’s annual CROP Walk.  We are going to receive the “Best New Effort Award” for our participation in last year’s walk.  Our own Judy Kimes will be attending that meeting and will no doubt take a bow on our behalf.  If you would like to join Judy so you too can bask in the acclamation, let her know - the meeting is this Sunday, 3:00 pm at First Reformed Church, Albany.
Sue and I will be on a break after this Sunday so the weekly Bible Study will be taking a hiatus for the next three Tuesdays.  Our preachers will be Rusty Riley on the 14th and Belinda on the 21st.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave 
 
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March 29, 2024
 
Easter Morning Worship
In the Sanctuary - 10:30 a.m.
Sermon:  Piercing Questions: "Do You Love Me?"
John 21: 1-17 
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March 22, 2024
Consistory Updates
Here are some of the highlights of this week’s consistory Meeting:

•We are participating in the Hilltown Maundy Thursday worship service at Jerusalem Reformed (7:00 p.m.).  It will be a Tenebrae       service and will include communion.
•We will begin our celebration of Easter at 9:00 a.m. with breakfast provided by the Women’s Guild.  Our worship celebrating the   resurrection of our Lord will be at our usual time, 10:30 a.m.
•Please let us know your plans for providing Easter Flowers by signing up on the lists by each exit of the church (or let Belinda     Phillips know A.S.A.P.).
•The next meeting of the Women’s Guild will be April 3rd.
• Mark your calendar!  The Guild’s next BBQ dinner will be May 31st.
•The next Food Pantry pick-up day is April 14.
•Consistory hopes we will have walkers in this year’s Annual CROP Walk which raises funds to fight hunger.  It will be May 5th.  We   can walk with the Delmar Reformed Church as we did last year.
•Our hot water tank in the church is not working.  We hope to have it fixed in time for our Easter Breakfast.  (We are also hoping it   needs “fixing” and not “replacing!”)
•Thanks to Paul Watson’s efforts, our old gas stove has found a new home.  The Elsmere American Legion paid us $200 to take it off   our hands.
•Our Treasurer Joanie de Paz reported that February was “a good month.”  Our income outpaced expenses by just over $1,100.
   Praise God!
•Joanie also pointed out that our Denominational Assessment will total $4,451 this year.  Assessments are what each congregation   gives toward the administrative expenses of our denomination’s higher judicatories (Classis of Albany, the Particular Synod of   Albany, and the national General Synod).  It now is figured as a percentage of each church’s income.  When you do the math for our   congregation, our assessment comes to about $123 per each active member.  Consistory asks that if you can, please consider   giving a reimbursement gift for that expense.  While this gift in no way impacts your status as a member (it is NOT a “membership   fee!”), it is a great help to the church financially.  The Consistory thanks you for considering this.
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The "Lenten Question” we will focus on for this Palm Sunday will indeed be a "piercing one" since we know what happens after Palm Sunday.  We know the joyous "Hosannas!" quickly turn into shouts of "Crucify him!"  So our focused question is the one Jesus asked his disciples while many followers were having doubts about him and leaving his movement:  “You do not want to leave too, do you?”We’ll be thinking about the role doubts play in our faith.
I look forward to gathering with my church family for our Palm Sunday worship together.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave 
 
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March 15, 2024 
“Down in the dumps”
This Lent we are focusing on questions asked in the Bible.  We are directing them at ourselves in an effort to do a little “soul searching” to prepare ourselves for the good news of Easter.  The Bible is full of such questions.  They are often directed either by God to humans or by humans to God.  This Sunday will be different.  It will be a question a person is asking himself.  It’s asked as a part of a conversation the Psalmist is having with himself.  He is literally trying to talk himself out of depression.  
The question he asks is, “Why, My Soul,  Are You Downcast?” (Psalm 46:5)  Or as Eugene Peterson renders it in his version of the Bible, “Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues?”  We will be reflecting on that question and looking at how the Psalmist talks himself out of it.  (Does he?  You can read the Psalm by clicking here.)
“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?”  It’s a good question to be asking ourselves these days.  There’s a lot going on that might get us singing those blues.  Let’s see how our faith can prevent us from letting that happen as we worship this Sunday.
 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave
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March 9, 2024
 A Season of Introspection
Lent is a time for self-examination.  It’s when we look inside ourselves and assess our spiritual condition and ask how our journey with God and with one another is going.  We do this soul searching to make our hearts ready to embrace more profoundly what comes at the end of Lent - the wonderful Good News of Jesus’ resurrection.
 
That means Lent can be tough on us.  It makes us confront some things about ourselves that we’d rather not deal with.  We all have some things that need “fixing” but to fix them might mean we’d have to disrupt the status quo of our lives.  Let’s face it:  that can never be easy.  But because something is difficult should never be a reason not to do it.  So buckle up, Unionville!  Let’s do it!
 
This year we’re "doing Lent” by using questions that are asked in the Bible.  Each Sunday we are going to take one of those questions and direct it at ourselves.  These questions will make us look within and examine our deepest feelings and values.  
 
This Sunday we will be asked what Jesus asked his disciples when they were being thrashed about in a little boat out in the Sea of Galilee:  “Why are you afraid?”  Next week we’ll ask ourselves the question of Psalm 42:  “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”  After that, the question Jesus asks his disciples, “You don’t want to leave me too, do you?”  And for Easter we’ll hear the resurrected Jesus asking us as he did Peter, “Do you love me?”
 
I once heard a professor at Seminary say, “If Lent is done right, it should feel like a spiritual root canal.”  OK.  But root canals are good things.  They take away rotten stuff and replace it with good stuff, right?  And with novocain they’re very doable.
 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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March 1, 2024 
 
Time flies . . .
It's March 1st already?  My how time flies.  It seems the older I get, the faster time passes by.  And that means I often run up against deadlines like, “Oh my, it’s Friday?  I better get working on that sermon!”  Or there's the “gentle reminder” I just got from the Stated Clerk of the Classis, saying she hasn’t received the annual consistory report I am supposed to send her.  (When I received that “reminder” this week, I literally said to myself, “Oh that’s not due ’til March . . . Oops!”)
I don’t want that “Oops” to happen to us.  I’m thinking about our anniversary year coming up in 2025.  That sounds like a long time off - but it’s not.  Not when time flies by so fast!  So I repeat the request I made at our recent Annual Meeting (which by the way happened almost two weeks ago! - See how fast time flies?)  That request was for volunteers to serve on a little Anniversary Planning Committee for the celebrations I hope we’ll have through the next year.  Let me know if you would like to serve on it.  Also, start thinking about what you’d like us to do for the next year - which is coming upon us very quickly.
In regards to that sermon that is fast approaching (yes, it’s Friday!), I will be starting a little series for the rest of the Lenten season entitled, “Questions That Don’t Go Away.”  I’m referring to those tough questions that literally are asked in the Bible - often by Jesus himself.  They challenge us to look deep within our hearts to see ourselves as we really are.  This Sunday I’ll be starting with sharing why such probing questions are so important for our spiritual development.  My text will be Luke 11: 5-13, where Jesus tells us to keep on asking, seeking, knocking.  
 
And yes, it’s Communion Sunday (already).

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave

 
 
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 February 9, 2024
“A Humble Walk With God . . .”
That is the third exhortation of the prophet Micah’s famous summary of what God desires for us.  The righteous person is asked by God to “do justice” and “love mercy” but to do so in a dynamic way as we move forward along the path of life, accompanied by God.  This movement (“walking,” as the prophet puts it) is important, for it implies our faith can never be static.  Life takes us on a journey with our God.  It involves growth, change, maturity and advancement toward a goal, our eternal destiny.
 
As wonderful as that sounds, I think it begs a big question:  “How can we tell God is there, walking with us?”  Scripture tells us “no one has ever seen God” (1 John 4:12) so how can we be sure God is there with us along the path of life?  That’s what I want to think about with you this Sunday:  How can we have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” this God of ours as he is walking beside us (or is it ahead of us?).
 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave 
 
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February 2, 2024
Hesed - We Love It!
The Hebrew word above is “Hesed.”  It is a word so rich and deep that it takes several of our English words to capture its meaning.  Words like, “Mercy,” “Loving Kindness,” “Steadfast Love,” “Grace,” “Gentleness.”  Sounds like the very qualities of the heart of God, does’t it?
And according to Micah, God wants us to "love hesed."  (Click here to see the many ways Micah's call to "love hesed" is translated.)  Of course we love receiving kindness and mercy from others, but loving hesed also means we should relish opportunities to offer it - to pass it on to others.  We should give mercy even as we have been given mercy.
We’ll be exploring what that all means this Sunday as we come to the table of the Lord to celebrate His perfect hesed poured out for us on the cross.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave

 
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January 27, 2023
What does God desire from us? - Justice!
This Sunday we will look at the first of the three things the prophet Micah says God “requires of us.”  We are to “do justice.”
Justice begins with God.  It is an innate part of God’s character.  God cannot help being just, any more than he can help being good or loving.  It is not something God strives for or works at - it simply is a part of God’s nature.  As the Bible puts it, “God’s work is perfect, and all his ways are just.”  (Deuteronomy 32:4)
Micah points out that justice is something we do as believers; it should be as natural to us as it is to God.  So what is it?  What does it mean to “do justice?”  We’ll delve into the world of doing justice together this Sunday.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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January 19, 2024 
The January Consistory Meeting
We welcomed the newest Consistory members (Elder Judy Kimes and Deacons Sharon Matott and Shirley Milbert) to the first regular meeting of Consistory in 2024.  Here are some of the items we covered:
 
•The following officers were appointed:  Judy Kimes, Vice President of Consistory.  Joanie de Paz, Treasurer.  Belinda Phillips, Recording Secretary.  Bonnie Banahan and Judy Kimes are our delegates to the Classis of Albany.
Praise was lifted to God for the good fiscal news our Treasurer shared:  We finished the year with a solid positive balance of just over $9,700.
•We drafted a budget for 2024.  We anticipate expenses this year to be just over $124,000 - that’s $20,000 over the 2023 budget! That is because we included in the budget the repair of the septic system of the parsonage.  We will have to do it this spring, and it will be a very costly project!
•All of these financial matters will be discussed in more detail at our annual meeting.  Consistory has planned to hold that meeting after worship on February 18.  Lunch will be served.
•We will host the Ash Wednesday Hilltown service.  It will be held on February 14 at 7:00pm.
•I am pleased to say that the Consistory voted to renew my contract for another year!
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This Sunday I will preach on the passage I hold most dear in my ministry.  It was the focus of my Doctoral Thesis and has shaped my faith journey in significant ways over the years. I call it the tripod on which I place the practice of my faith. It is from the prophet Micah and has been called “The Magna Carta” of the Old Testament prophets.  (You can read it here.)  You have heard me reference it many times.  Over the next few Sundays, we’ll delve into it in more detail.  I’m looking forward to it!
 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave

 
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January 12, 2024
 
Together Again
It turns out I wasn’t the only one who had a vacation from church last weekend.  We all did, thanks to the storm.  God willing, we’ll make up for that this Sunday as we honor our wonderful God in worship.  It will be good to be together again.
 
We will expand that time together by staying after the service and doing one of those things no one looks forward to - taking down and putting away the Christmas decorations.  Many hands make light and quick work (important for a certain Steelers fan I know who will certainly want to see the game against the Bills).  As I send this email, plans are being made for providing a lunch for the workers.
 
Something else this weekend:  Tomorrow (10:00 am Saturday at the Jerusalem Reformed Church)  there will be a meeting to plan the Hilltown Churches’ Ash Wednesday service.  It seems early, but it’s not since Ash Wednesday will be the 14th of February!  It feels a bit odd to me to have Ash Wednesday on Valentines Day, but that’s how it unfolds this year.  Anyone from Unionville is invited to participate in the planning.
 
Speaking of being “together again,” our Bible Study will meet this week to continue our study of Matthew’s Gospel.  By the way, this Sunday’s sermon is a result of one of our previous study times when we looked at the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness.  It was asked why was it not right for Jesus to miraculously turn stones to bread there in the wilderness, but it was OK to miraculously provide bread later for 5,000 people on a remote hillside.  I’ll jump ahead in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 14: 13-21) and explore that question with you.
 
A REMINDER:  Kim Watson announced in church the last time we were together that we are having a “Bag Donation Drive.”  Bring shopping and grocery bags (both plastic and paper) and place them in the donation box.  They will be re-used at the food pantry or re-cycled.  ALSO:  This Sunday is the pick up deadline for the food pantry.  See the requested items below.
 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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January 4, 2024 
SUNDAY’S SNOW
It looks like winter might finally catch up to us.  And of course it will happen on Sunday.  Now the question is how bad will it be.  Will it be enough to cancel worship?
 
Our worship leaders will make that decision sometime in the late afternoon or early evening of this Saturday.  They’ll make their best judgement call, yea or nay, and Belinda will put the word out that early evening via her email list she uses for the prayer chain and food pantry updates.  So watch your email that Saturday night.  I hope it will be good news and worship will happen.
 
Meanwhile, I will be keeping you all in my prayers while up in Montreal.
Blessings,
Pastor Dave
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January 3, 2024 
IN MEMORIAM
I pass along the sad news that Richard Vanderbilt passed away on New Year’s Eve.  Richard, a member of the Onesquethaw Reformed Church, was a friend of our congregation and often came to our worship services.  His last time with us was at the Hilltown Thanksgiving Service.
 
To honor Richard’s life and to celebrate his indelible spirit, calling hours will take place at the Onesquethaw church on this Thursday, January 4th, from 10a.m. to 12p.m.  The funeral service will be private at the convenience of the family.
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On a happier note, Grace and Judy received the following email from Robin Hughes who is in charge of the Onesquethaw Food Pantry:
Sandy Swann just informed me we received a $1300 donation for the food pantry from Unionville. Could you please kindly thank your congregation for this very generous and thoughtful donation, as well as for their support throughout the year.
 
Please also let your congregation know we are always happy to welcome new people and they can contact me directly if they know of anyone in need of food pantry assistance in the community.
 
A big “thank you” to both of you for your support all year as well. It is such a blessing and pleasure to spend time with you each month as we serve our community. I will miss you while I am away.
I wish you a happy, healthy, blessed, and prosperous new year.
Peace and Blessings,
Robin
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A REMINDER:  Kim Watson announced in church that we are having a “Bag Donation Drive.”  Bring shopping and grocery bags (both plastic and paper) and place them in the donation box.  They will be re-used at the food pantry or re-cycled.
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Sue and I are heading to Montreal for a brief winter vacation.  Prayers for a safe, storm-free journey are appreciated.  Once again you’ll be blessed to have our own Belinda Philips lead the worship service this Sunday.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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December 29, 2023
Welcome 2024
 
The last Sunday of 2023 happens to be the last day of 2023.  So we will be welcoming the New Year together at the Lord’s Table as we celebrate communion.  And to make this Sunday extra special we will also install our new consistory members.  Shirley Milbert and Sharon Matott will be our new Deacons and Judy Kimes will be our new Elder.  Welcome aboard faithful servants!
 
With this full docket for Sunday, there won’t be much time left for a sermon!  But I will try to squeeze in a few thoughts on how we form our expectations for the future.  Those foregone conclusions about what we think might happen have a tremendous impact on what actually does happen.  What are your expectations for 2024?  What are you expecting from God?
May God bless our New Year’s Eve time together.
 
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Dave
 
 
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December 15, 2023 
Consistory News  
 
 There's been a phrase used more and more lately to describe our Unionville Church:
 We’re calling ourselves, “The little church with a big heart.”  I feel our consistory lived up to that description beautifully at its meeting this week.
 
An important focus for that meeting was on the expenditures we will make this year to support the ministries we partner with both locally and around the world.  They voted to support local missions for the poor, including the Capital City Rescue Mission, the Albany FOCUS Ministry for the poor, the Onesquethaw Food Pantry, the Salvation Army and the town of New Scotland’s  “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” program.  We also gave a “thank you” gift to the Onesquethaw Volunteer Fire Company.  Then there’s our support for youth oriented ministries like Camp Fowler, Camp Pinnacle and the Helderberg Christian School - as well as all our denomination’s colleges and seminaries.  We also support several of the Reformed Church missions, including its Board of Benefits for surviving families of Pastors who have passed away, its Care Network Aid for world disaster relief, the Regional Synod of Albany’s mission, and (close to my heart) we gave a support share for Nicole Opgenorth, RCA’s missionary to CEPAD in Nicaragua.
 
What made me so proud of this decision by the consistory to support these ministries was that it was done as an act of gratitude.  They acknowledged that God has blessed us in amazing ways this year and they felt that this was one way to say, “Thank You Lord!”
 
They also know that this is  “stepping out in faith”  Our always cautious treasurer pointed out that a good portion of these expenditures totaling slightly over $10,000 will probably have to be paid for from our savings account.  How big a portion?  Well, that depends on how generous our giving will be this last month of the year.  Consistory feels God will bless our “big hearted” giving to support others; that’s what God always does.  (As Hebrews 13:16 puts it, “Do not forget to be generous and share with others, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God”)   I’m confident that if we all contribute a “Christmas offering” over and above our usual monthly giving, God will be pleased and blessings will abound - for God, for us, and for those whom we support.
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Consistory dealt with other matters:
•They nominated three new consistory members to be elected this Sunday at a brief meeting following worship.  Agreeing to serve are Sharon Matott and Shirley Milbert as deacons and Judy Kimes as elder.  We give deep thanks to the “retirees” stepping off of consistory:  Judy Palmatier, Dale Matott and Jeff Mudge.  Well done, good and faithful servants!
 
•We decided to usher in the new year with a communion service on December 31st (rather than the first Sunday in January).
 
•The Women’s Guild has so much to celebrate!  Their bake sale proceeds totaled just over $1,800. Their Advent Breakfast was fantastic - about 40 people attended. The Salvation Army box overflowed with contributed toys.  Now it’s time for a Christmas Party - today - Friday.
 
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Pastor Dave
 
This Sunday we light the Candle of Joy.
 
And we'll continue our sermon series:
First we Repent, then we Seek, then this Sunday we'll talk about the next step:
We Obey.
 
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December 7, 2023 
December Dates at Unionville

Please note the following dates for the special Advent and Christmas activities we are planning for our church family:

This Saturday, December 9:  The Women’s Advent Breakfast and Devotional Service.  9:30 am.
This Sunday, December 10:  Deadline for the Salvation Army Toy Drive.
Friday, December 15:  The Women’s Guild Christmas Party.  1:00 at Kim Watson’s home.
Sunday, Christmas Eve:  Two services - 10:30 am and the Candlelight service at 7:00 pm.
 
In addition to those special activities, we will also have our regular meetings:

Sundays, December 10, 17 and 24:  Advent Worship Services at 10:30 pm.
Tuesdays, December 12, 19 and 26:  Bible Study - The Gospel of Matthew at 12:30 pm.
Sunday, December 17:  Food Pantry Pick up day.
Thursday, December 14:  Consistory meets at 1:00 pm.
Thursdays, December 14, 21 and 28:  Choir Rehearsals at 3:00 pm.
 
My prayer is that in the midst of all this “busyness” we’ll be blessed with a deeper appreciation of the miraculous gift of God’s Son coming to us for our salvation.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave

 
 
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December 1, 2023 
 “Prepare the Way of the Lord!”
This Sunday begins our time of preparation for the miracle of Christmas.  It’s the first Sunday of Advent.  For the next four weeks we’ll join all Christians from around the world to reflect on how we can prepare our hearts and homes to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas.  Traditionally Advent focuses on “the coming of Christ” from three different perspectives: the actual birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the reception of Christ in our hearts today, and the expectation of his “Second Coming” in the end times.  This Sunday we will focus on the second: preparing our hearts for Christ’s renewing presence in our lives today.
 
John the Baptist will help us do that.  He is a dominant figure in Advent observances.  He is the one who originally called on God’s people to prepare their hearts for the arrival of the promised one.  How he prescribed that preparation is summed up in one word:  REPENT!
 
I have always felt the call to repent is made in anger, with threats of eternal doom and punishment.  I picture an angry prophet pointing his finger directly at me, shouting, “Repent,” and adding, “Or else!”  He wants to scare me into changing my bad ways and he’s using fear as the motivator.  He’s hoping I’ll respond, “Yikes!  I better get my act together.”
 
What if there is another motivation to repent?  Maybe it’s not just fear of God’s punishment that can inspire us to change our ways.  Repentance might also be about our accepting a loving invitation from God - to come back to God’s embrace.  I’ll be unpacking that thought some more this Sunday - and I’ll even try to show how the two different ideas behind repentance can totally change how we understand the Lord’s Supper, which we will celebrate that morning.
 
“But wait!  There’s more!”  After the service we’ll stay and enjoy another Advent tradition:  We’ll “hang the greens” and decorate the sanctuary with our Christmas adornments.  Of course we don’t expect you to work on an empty stomach.  A pizza lunch will be served.
 
May God bless our “preparations” this Sunday.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
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November 17, 2023 
Consistory News
The highlight of our consistory meeting this week was a visit by representatives from the Congregational Support Team of the Classis of Albany.  In our church governance, we are accountable to the Classis which serves as a bishop would in other denominations.  From time to time they check in to see if all is going well in our church life.  Our answer to them was, “Yes, there is much to celebrate and we are truly blessed.”  I confess we did “brag” a bit about the fine things that are happening here.  

At the same time we were honest about the challenges we face:  We have shrunk in size over the past decade and ours is an “aging” congregation.  We are all getting older together and we no longer have young families with children in our life together.  While we are OK financially, we live “on the edge,” and depend on our parsonage income to balance the books.
 
So our conclusion with our Classis guests was that we should build on what’s right and good at URC right now.  (Thanks be to God for His blessings upon us!) Our task now is to get the word out about us.  We should broadcast far and wide that we are a special little church with a great big heart.  In other words, we should be intentional about reaching out and inviting others to join us!
 
Consistory covered other matters:
•We celebrated a wonderful Election Day Bake Sale.  The Guild raised over $1,700 for their efforts!  Again, praise be to God - and thanks to all who donated to the cause.
 
We will host the Hilltown Thanksgiving Service this Tuesday at 7:00 pm.  I’ll be preaching the sermon.
 
Advent begins December 3rd.  That day we will celebrate communion, and after the service we’ll have a pizza lunch and “hang the greens” together.
 
This Sunday is the deadline for submitting your nominations for consistory members.  The nominees will be elected at a congregational meeting following the service on December 10th.
 
The Women’s Guild has sent out invitations to the area churches to attend their Advent Breakfast on December 9th.
 
•We have a Salvation Army Toy Drive box located in fellowship hall. It will be there until December 10th.  Donations of new and unwrapped toys for any age are most appreciated.  If you have any questions see Kim Watson.
 
Our Treasurer reported that October was a better month for us.  Income that month outpaced expenses by a little over $4,300.  So far this year we have a positive balance of $3,079. Your support is so appreciated and will be be vital as we finish the year because this is the time we make our contributions to the missions we support.  December is an “expensive month.”
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Last Sunday I spoke about how “remembering” God’s faithfulness in the past can give us comfort now in these trying times.  But what about the future?  I’ll talk this Sunday about the hope we have for the future - as daunting and forbidding as it seems to be.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
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November 11, 2023 
 Congratulations!
Way to go Women’s Guild!  Your Election Day Bake Sale was a huge success.  Tables overflowed with amazing baked goods and crafts.  The picture above is only part of the total number of pies made and sold (there were even more chilling in the fridge and out on the table when that photo was taken).  At the end of the day all those amazing goodies were completely sold out and over $1,500 was raised. I know “pride goeth before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18), but you deserve to be proud of your accomplishment.
 
As we celebrate the bountiful blessings God has showered on us, let’s not forget the less fortunate around us - especially as we enter the holiday season.   Pick up day for the food pantry is tomorrow and while we have already collected the frozen turkeys and cans of gravy they requested, I am sure they’d appreciate any other contribution you might offer.
 
Today is Veterans Day.  We salute all who have served our country in our armed forces.  This day first began as “Armistice Day” remembering the peace that came after World War 1, signed the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  In 1954 President Eisenhower signed the bill that changed it to Veterans Day.  Whatever we call it, the heart of this special day is our remembering the service and sacrifices of our military for our freedoms.
 
Tomorrow I’ll be looking at a moment when ancient Israel was called upon to remember a military victory in their history.  It was done by “lifting an Ebenezer” to commemorate that moment.  Ebenezer literally means, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”  I’ll be sharing some thoughts on how important it is to remember our past and how God has always been there with us though it all.  My text will be 1 Samuel 7: 7-14.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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November 4, 2023 
 
Extra Zzz's!

Tomorrow is one of my favorite Sundays of the year.  It’s the Sunday we get an extra hour of sleep because we set our clocks back to Eastern Standard Time.  Ah, the sweet bliss of extra sleep - it has become quite important to me in my “golden years.”

Since we all will have had that extra hour of sleep time, I’m sure we will be extra vibrant and alert tomorrow to worship, hear God’s Word and celebrate communion together.  My sermon will be a follow-up on the topic of beating back the spirit of hate in our times.  Specifically it will be about forgiveness.  I will share thoughts I have gleaned from my text (Matthew 18: 21-35) in which Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant.  In that story Jesus is telling us why we should be forgiving.  I feel his words are extra-important for us in light of these hate-filled unforgiving times in which we live.
 
On another note, I am anticipating a very difficult week ahead for me and ask for your prayerful support.  In the next few days my house will be filled with the aroma of wonderful pies baking in the oven.  “Why is that so difficult?,” you may ask.  Well, those pies aren’t for ME to enjoy.  They will be offered to other lucky folk who will purchase them at our bake sale on election day.  Do you think those people purchasing those pies would mind if a slice is missing from any of them?

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who will be going through such torment.  Maybe we should start a support group at URC for those of us who are suffering from the PTSD of the “look but don’t taste” torture we have experienced.
 
Putting the kidding aside, I’m looking forward to a week blessed by God. Enjoy!
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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October 28, 2023
 
What’s the antidote?

I’ve been overwhelmed by hate this week.  There is so much of it out there these days, but this week was especially gruesome. We all watched helplessly as Israel and the Palestinians slipped precariously toward all out war, each proclaiming a deep hatred toward the other and pledging to completely destroy the other.  Then back home there was another mass shooting that broke our hearts.  And as background noise, there was the political vitriol that has rendered congress useless.  What a week!  And it makes me wonder, how can we make it all stop?  

That’s what I bring to the sermon this week:  How can we make the hate stop?  Is there an antidote for hate?  The Bible says there is - or at least it offers a different and better way.  Can you guess what it is?  My text will be Romans 15: 1-7.
 
AN UPDATE:  We held our Hilltown Planning Meeting for the Thanksgiving Service on November 21.  And we will be the host church for that gathering!  We hope to have a combined choir.  Rehearsals for that will begin November 2nd.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
 
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 October 20, 2023
 
Consistory News:

The main item on the consistory’s agenda at their meeting this week was planning the activities and meetings that will happen during the busy time leading up to Christmas.  Here is what they (and the Women’s Guild) planned, in chronological order:
•November 1:  The next Women’s Guild Meeting
•November 5:  Communion Service (Daylight Savings ends)
November 6:  A Pie Baking (apple peeling) meeting at the church kitchen.
November 7:  The Bake/Craft Sale at  the church for Election Day.  We hope you can help with this project by             donating baked goods and/or craft items!
November 16:  Our next Consistory Meeting
•November 21:  The Hilltown Churches Thanksgiving Service.  (The location will be determined at the planning        meeting which will be held at our church TOMORROW MORNING at 10:00 am.)
•November 23:  HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
•December 3:  Communion Service (The First Sunday of Advent) - Followed by our traditional Christmas Decorating     Party.  Pizza will be served.
•December 9:  The Women’s Guild Advent Breakfast.  All neighboring churches are invited.
•December 10: A Congregational Meeting following worship to elect our new consistory members.  Nominating       ballots will be distributed at each service the month before.
•December 24: We will have two services that day:  Our regular Sunday Morning Service at 10:30 and the Christmas     Eve Candlelight Service that evening.
 
Consistory noted other activities at our neighboring Hilltown churches:
 
•November 4:  Jerusalem Reformed Church will have a “Soup, Sandwich and Dessert Supper” from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.
•Also on November 4: The Onesquethaw Reformed Church will have a Craft Fair from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
 
Yes, it’s that busy time of year.  But through it all, let’s always keep our focus on “the reason for the season” - namely the gift our Heavenly Father gave the world in that baby born of Mary, lying in a manger.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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October 14, 2023
 
“I’m Back In the Saddle Again”

You have to be pretty old (and I am) to remember that Gene Autry song.  The past couple of days I have been singing it to myself, but with a little different twist.  My song  is, “I’m back in the pulpit again.”  It’s been awhile and it will be great worshiping with my church family again tomorrow morning.
 
I’ll be preaching on a text that reminds me of that line of jokes about “good news and bad news.”  It’s a genre of jokes that makes blessings seem like curses and curses seem like blessings.  Here’s an example:
 
An art dealer and an artist are having a conversation. The art dealer says, "I have good news and bad news. The good news is, a person came up to me this afternoon to ask about the value of your paintings. When I told him that they all would increase in value after your death, he immediately bought ALL of them.”
 
The artist reacts, "Wow! That’s great!  So what’s the bad news?" The art dealer answers, "He was your doctor.”
(After a bad joke like that, you might be wishing I had stayed on vacation.)
 
In the text on which I’ll be preaching tomorrow (Luke 6: 17-26), Jesus is once again counter-intuitive.  He seems to be giving us some good news and bad news, but like the jokes, the bad news seems good and the good news seems bad.  Sound confusing?  We’ll try to figure it all out tomorrow.
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I am happy to say that our Tuesday Study Group is re-convening this week.  We will embark on a journey into Matthew’s Gospel.  His work was written to persuade Jews that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah for whom they had yearned for centuries.  Therefore there are many references to Jewish history, laws, and customs in his Gospel.  Matthew is also called “the teaching Gospel” because it contains so many of Jesus’ lessons and proclamations.  I'm praying it will be rewarding journey for us as we take it together. The Tuesday class meets at 12:30 pm.
 
Yup - back in the saddle again.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
  
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September 29, 2023
 
Consistory News
Here are the highlights of the consistory’s most recent meeting:

• The Tuesday Bible Study Class will begin to meet again on October 17th.  They will study the Gospel of Matthew.
 
• I will be away the opening days of October.  Communion will be celebrated October 1 and led by our head Elder,    Jeff Mudge.  Elder Belinda Phillips will preach.  The following Sunday Preaching Elder “Rusty” Riley will preach.
 
• It’s time to start thinking - and praying! - about who should be nominated to serve on consistory.  We have four    people retiring this year:  Jeff Mudge, Bonnie Banahan, Dale Matott, and Judy Palmatier. Our treasurer, Joanie de    Paz, reported that we will have to begin to pay school property taxes for the parsonage since it no longer is    “housing” for a pastor.  The town says that our current tax bill is $5,473.  We will explore any possibility for that    figure to be reduced.
 
• She reported that income for July and August lagged behind expenses by about $3,000.  The cost for the new       boiler and oil tank in the parsonage was the primary reason for that deficit. Plans were discussed for the Women’s    Guild Chicken Dinner (which was the next day, and turned out to be a great success).  Many thanks to Kim Watson    and her crew of volunteer helpers.
 
• Many thanks to Paul Watson who has done remarkable work on the Meade Cemetery.
 
• Another maintenance challenge is coming from the parsonage.  It appears that the septic system is showing its age    (it’s as old as the building).  The leach field and possibly the tank itself might need replacement.
 
• Consistory noted that our denominational assessment is $112.41 per active member.  These funds are collected by    the higher judicatories (Classis, Albany Synod and the General Synod of the RCA) to cover their expenses.  Each    year the consistory asks for a reimbursement donation from each member to help defray this expense.  These are    not “dues” and you are not required to pay them. Your status as a member is not impacted in any way by this    appeal.  If you do decide to donate to cover this expense, please identify your gift as “Assessment    Reimbursement.”  Consistory thanks you for considering this.
 
Something else from the meeting:  We have a “thanksgiving” time in our consistory meeting during which we ask, “For whom are we grateful?”  Our list was long this time and we noted that there are so many in our congregation who take on a responsibility and quietly do what needs to be done.  We all are so thankful for all that you do to make our “little church with a big heart” so wonderful. Praise to you all - and praise to God!
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
  
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September 20, 2023
 Signs of Fall
 
The crisp cool air these past mornings and the first blush of color in the trees are sure signs that Fall is arriving.  Churches have another sign.  It’s when, after a summer of quiet, their calendars get loaded with a host of activities.  Fall is “wake up” time for churches.
 
That’s certainly true for us at Unionville.  No more sleepy, lazy days of summer here.  We’re off and running “full steam ahead.”  Take note of what’s on our calendar the next few days:
 
• Tomorrow, Thursday, we have our Consistory Meeting at 1:00.
• Friday is Chicken Barbecue Day!  (Have you ordered your dinners yet?  Have you signed up to help?)  It looks like it will be a beautiful day, and with a little divine protection, we can hope there won’t be an accident in front of our church this year.
• Saturday we will join our Hilltown brothers and sisters for a Hymn Sing and Pot-Luck at Jerusalem Reformed Church.  Our own Judy Kimes will be playing for the sing-along part.  Time: 1 to 3 pm.
• Then Sunday we of course will be together for worship.  I’ll be preaching on the #1 pursuit of our lives.  It’s what we all strive for, but find so hard to achieve.  Can you guess what it is?  My text will be Luke 12: 12-21
• But wait!  There’s more!  If you aren’t exhausted from all this activity, you can go hear our own Amy Heebner play in a carillon concert Sunday afternoon in Albany.  She says they’ll even have refreshments.  The concert will begin at 3:00 pm.
 
I look forward to seeing you at these events.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
 
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September 2, 2023 
 Just One Word
 
I am preaching a one-word sermon this Sunday.
 
Don’t get your hopes up.  I don’t mean the sermon will only be one word long.  I mean I will be preaching about one word.  It’s an important word that captures the meaning of the Gospel’s good news.  It describes God’s relationship to us and our response to God.  Can you guess what that one three letter word is?  Hint:  You can see that word featured in the text I’ll be preaching from by clicking here.
 
We will also celebrate communion, which affirms that word beautifully.
 
I look forward to breaking bread with you on this last weekend of the summer season.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
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August 12, 2023
Summer Journeys

Summer is the time when many of us take little “journeys.”  Sometimes they follow a familiar path to that happy place we go to every year.  Others are new explorations to spots never before seen.  Some can be adventurous; others rather tedious.  I hope wherever you have ventured this summer - even if just to stay home and relax - that it has been a good and rewarding “journey” for you.
 
This Sunday I will be talking about a different kind of journey.  It’s a trek we all take because it’s a part of our human nature.  We can’t help it; God made us that way.  We are all born to want to know God and to know the meaning to our lives that only God can reveal.  St. Augustine said it beautifully: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  We all are on that journey seeking that peace.

As Christians we are followers of Jesus, who calls to us, “Come, follow me.”  And off we go on the adventure of faith, a journey seeking and finding God. So Sunday I’ll be talking about how faith isn’t just a package of doctrines we say we believe.  It is so much more.  It is an adventurous journey full of surprises, u-turns, and challenges.
 
I hope your summer “journey” will include a trip to church this Sunday to worship our awesome God.  
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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August 4, 2023
 
“Outlook Not So Good?”

One of my favorite toys as I was growing up was the “Magic Eight Ball.”  It was a big glass #8 Billiard Ball that was filled with water so that “answers” to your questions would float up to appear in its little window.  I’d ask it questions like, “Does that girl in my homeroom class like me?”  Or, “Will the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl this year?”  The typical answer I’d get from the Magic Eight Ball to those kinds of hopeful questions was, “Outlook Not So Good.”
 
That seems to capture the current mood that many of us have about the future these days: “Outlook not so good.”  There appears to be growing despair about the long list of problems we seem unable to solve.  Poling organizations like Gallup and the Pew Research agree that we have a dim view of our future.  Both organizations say we fear for the kind of world today’s children will have when they are adults.  There’s not much hope or optimism toward the future among us any more.  “Outlook not so good.”
 
So what’s the hope we Christians have that we can offer our gloomy world?  Forget the Magic Eight Ball, we should ask God, “Can we hope for the future?”  That’s what I’ll be asking this Sunday and I’ll be looking to the Book of Revelation for the answer.  It’s a good source since it was written to give hope to God’s people as they faced very dark and terrifying times back when the church of Jesus was just starting.  And - spoiler alert! - its answer was essentially, “Outlook Very Good!”
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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July 22,2023
 
Sadness to Report,

We have a couple of deaths to report from our church family.  First, we were stunned to hear of Charles Milbert’s sudden death from a brain aneurism.  Please keep the Milbert family in your prayers - especially Shirley since she not only has to deal with this loss of her beloved husband but is also supporting her grandson Karl as he continues to fight to heal his legs and prevent amputation.  She is grateful that her family has been there to help.  Still, it’s a heavy load.  
 
There are no plans for a funeral service.  The family will have a private committal service at a future date.
 
We also have learned that Judy Palmatier’s husband Donald died yesterday at his home under hospice care.  Please pray for Judy and their sons Andrew, Christopher and Micheal during this very difficult time.  There are no plans yet for a funeral service.  Your prayerful support is always appreciated.  
 
Meanwhile, Sue and I are still “on vacation” and this weekend we will be in Pearl River celebrating our grandson’s 13th birthday (A teenager - Yikes!).
 
The service this Sunday will be led by our friend and Preaching Elder Rusty Riley.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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July 9, 2023 
 
"Hey, You Never Know . . ."

The Lotto is beginning to make the news again.  The jackpot is growing into the hundreds of millions of dollars.  I can’t say “never,” but I will say “rarely” do I buy a lotto ticket - no matter how big the promised winnings.  This time?  “Hey, you never know.”
 
I’m inclined not to jump in and buy a ticket after reading a recent op ed article by Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, our country’s Surgeon General.  In it he recounted what happened to a patient of his who won big money in the lotto.  The big winner tells a surprising story.  He apparently had worked for years in the food industry with a modest salary and humble lifestyle. Then he won all that money. Overnight, his life changed. He quit his job and moved into a large house in a gated community.  Sounds great, right?  Well, not really.
 
As he spoke with Dr. Murthy, he sadly declared, “Winning the lottery was one of the worst things that ever happened to me.”  As Dr. Murthy puts it, “Wealthy but alone, this once vivacious, social man no longer knew his neighbors and had lost touch with his former co-workers.  He soon developed high blood pressure and diabetes.”  
 
Even though he could have any material thing he desired, this man suffered from loneliness and many of the “ailments” that stem from it.  Dr. Murthy has declared loneliness and isolation as one of the biggest crises we face as a nation in terms of our overall health - both mental and physical - as well as our collective well-being.  Dr. Murthy approaches this problem from a medical perspective.  As a Pastor, I see it from a spiritual one.  
 
In the creation story, one of the first observations God makes after making the human being is, “It’s not good that man is alone.” (Genesis 2: 18)  We are not meant to be isolated from one another; we are created to “be together” in community.  And guess what?  That’s exactly what we Christians offer to the world.  We are a connected network of support, encouragement and love.  It’s called “fellowship.”
 
Just as the church has declined dramatically in our land and fewer people participate in what it offers, our country suffers from an outbreak of “loneliness and isolation” according to the head Doctor of our country.  Do you suppose that’s just a coincidence?  Hmm . . .
 
I’ll be reflecting more on all this tomorrow in my sermon.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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July 1, 2023 
Back to reality.

That’s what this weekend feels like for me - “back to reality.”  Last week was surreal for me.  All those kind things said about me left me in a dream-like state.  And it was made even more special (and surreal) when I saw our entire Unionville family among the worshipers that morning.  I told Pastor Chris that it was truly one of the top “feel good” moments of my life and I will cherish its memory forever.  Thank you for being a part of it.

But now, it’s definitely back to reality.  I have a sermon to deliver and communion to administer.  Actually this Sunday will feel a little more comfortable to me because all those kudos last Sunday, while most appreciated, left me feeling a little “self-conscious. Tomorrow the spotlight will be focused on where it should be - on Jesus, his leadership and what he calls us to be.
We’ll have a fellowship time after the service and a happy recognition of Enrique’s graduation last week.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
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June 24, 2023 
Worship This Sunday
will be at the
Delmar Reformed Church
384 Delaware Ave. in Delmar

The 10 a.m. service will include a moment
in which the Delmar congregation honors Pastor Dave
with the title, "Minister Emeritus."
 
We all have been invited to attend.
 
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June 16, 2023
News from URC:
There are several things to pass along to you from our consistory meeting this week:
•Our church has had a long standing agreement with the Mead family to maintain the small family grave yard on the Mead farm.  We received a sizable grant from the family decades ago to underwrite the costs of that care. The graveyard is in need of some TLC and we will soon announce clean-up days to cut brush, mow grass, repair a fence and straighten gravestones. Paul Watson has volunteered to coordinate this project.  If you think you could volunteer to help, click here.
 
•We will have a special Father's Day Coffee Hour after church this Sunday.
 
•We are about to complete the 40 Days of Prayer program.  The Tuesday class will discuss the “Bonus Session” which asks, “Why doesn’t God always answer the first time I pray.”  If you can’t join the Tuesday class you can see that video by clicking here.
 
•We will celebrate communion on July 2 and August 6.
 
•Consistory reminds you that we will not have our worship service in our sanctuary on June 25.  Instead we will join Delmar Reformed Church which is planning that day to honor me with the title, “Minister Emeritus.”  I am overwhelmed by this kindness.
 
•We all are invited to Enrique de Paz’s graduation ceremony which will be June 23rd at 6:30 p.m. at the MVP Arena.  We are also invited to a reception party before graduation at 3 p.m. at Track 32 Restaurant on Rt. 32 in Feura Bush.  If you plan the come to the reception, please let the de Paz’s know.
 
•The new tenants are moving into the parsonage this week.  Many thanks to those who helped spruce it up to welcome them.
 
•There is a lot happening with the parsonage these days:  The chimney has been repaired.  We are still waiting for bids on replacing the furnace and oil storage tank.  We will also seek bids for installing leaf guards on the gutters (and for the church as well).
 
•Our Treasurer reported that for the month of May our expenses outpaced our income, leaving us with a $7,100 deficit balance.  However, she noted that for the whole year so far, we have a positive balance of $3,400.
 
Sunday I will be preaching about “the perfect father.”  What would make a father “perfect?”  And isn’t it wonderful that we all have one?
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave

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 June 10, 2023
News from URC:
There are several bits of “news” to pass along . . .
 
•First I hope you can stay after the worship service this Sunday.  After we enjoy a soup and sandwich lunch, I’ll share some memories and lots of photos of my mission trip to Nicaragua last March.  I hope to convey how blessed I was to have been able to experience such a remarkable journey.  And many thanks to the folk that are teaming up to prepare the lunch.
 
• I am inviting you to attend another special moment in my life.  The Delmar Reformed Church (DRC - the church I served before retiring) has informed me that they have decided to grant to me the honorary title of “Minister Emeritus.”  And this isn’t like sending me a certificate in the mail; they want to do this in a little ceremony during their worship service on June 25th.  And all of us from Unionville are invited to join them for this event.  Our consistory decided this was special enough to have us all “travel down the hill” and attend the service at DRC that day.  So there will be no service at our church on the 25th; we’ll all attend DRC’s (even though that means getting up a half hour earlier; their services begin at 10:00 a.m.)  Your presence will make this moment even more special for me.  By the way, in case you are not familiar with the term Minister Emeritus, here’s what the title means, according to one web site I found:  “Emeritus is an honorary title bestowed upon one who has retired from a position (pastor, professor, or other professional position) as a way of honoring the individual’s service. Emeritus comes from the Latin word emereri, which means to earn one’s discharge by service. Bestowing the title “Minister Emeritus” upon a retiring pastor is a way for the church leadership to honor his service to the church.”  Wow.  I am honored!
 
• The pick up day for our contributions to the Food Pantry is earlier than usual - it’s this Sunday!!  The requested items are:  Soup, Bar Soap, Kleenex, and Canned Ravioli.  Let’s fill the cart!!
 
This Tuesday our study group will discuss Session #6 of the 40 Days of Prayer.  It’s about praying in the midst of a crisis.  If you can’t attend, you can view the video by clicking here.
 
This far along in our focus on prayer, I’ve come to realize that there is one primary and very important ingredient in prayer.  It’s an attitude we have to embrace in order for prayer to be meaningful.  I’ll be taking about that prime ingredient in Sunday’s sermon.  (Can you guess what it is?)
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
 
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 May 19,2023
“Who is this?”
Have you ever had a phone call from someone who doesn’t identify himself - or herself - and just starts talking?
 Apparently the caller assumes you know who it is - or maybe doesn’t want you to know.  It leaves you guessing, and that’s kind of awkward, isn’t it?  It affects the tone of your conversation.  You don't know what to say or how to say it.  You're a little more guarded.  Is this the Pope or the Pizza Guy?  You don't know what words are appropriate. You don't know how to address them properly.
 
You just have to stop the conversation and ask cautiously, “Who is this?”
 
That can be true of another kind of conversation we have.  I’m taking about our prayers with God.  If you don’t quite know who you are talking to when you pray, then your prayers will be a little awkward.  Your understanding of what God is really like shapes your prayers.  Your ideas about who is “on the other end of the line” set the tone and expectations you have in your prayer life.  
 
You should ask “Who is this?” as you begin your prayers, and God will tell you through his Word.  That’s what we will be exploring this Sunday.  Who is it that we think we are talking to when we pray?
 
It will be good to join you again for worship after our trip to Ohio.  I appreciate your prayers and good wishes as we gathered with family to say good bye to Sue’s special uncle.  There’s nothing quite like the soothing love of family in times like that.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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May 12, 2023
 
Odds & Ends . . .
There are a number of things I wish to highlight:
Way to go CROP Walkers!  We surpassed our $1,000 goal.  Our five walkers raised $1,330 toward the effort to fight hunger.  As one coordinator of the walk said, “Your little church did awesome.”  Yup.  I think our motto should be, “We’re a little church with a big heart.
• ”This Sunday is Mother’s Day.  I hope it will be a special day for us as we all remember and honor our moms.
•Sadly, however, Sue and I can't be with you on Mothers Day.  We had a couple of deaths in our family.  Sue’s uncle and stepmom both died on the same day last week.  We are heading today to Ohio for the funeral of Sue’s uncle.  Many thanks to Belinda and Jeff for leading worship on short notice while we are away this weekend.  We still don’t know when the service will be for Sue’s stepmom.  Your prayerful support is most appreciated.
•The Tuesday class is taking the day off this week.  The following week (May 23) we will meet to discuss the 4th session of the 40 Days of Prayer Campaign.
•We have to change the date for my presentation on my mission trip to Nicaragua.  Too many people will be away on June 4th.  How’s June 11th?  I will confirm the date after running it by consistory.
•The pick up day for the Food Pantry is this Sunday.  Their special requests are:  Baked beans, Juice, Pasta Sides, Soup and Paper Towels.  As always, thank you for your generous support of this ministry. The new stoves are installed and ready to go!  Just in time for the Classis meeting on May 23rd.
 
Again, many thanks for your prayers and good wishes during this time of sorrow in our family.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dav
 
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May 5, 2023 
 CROP WALK UPDATE
As of this moment we have five walkers for this Sunday’s CROP Walk!  Joining me on this stroll for a great cause will be Amy Heebner, Judy Kimes, Dale Matott and Jeff Mudge.  I am glad to report that we already have raised $600 for the CROP Walk - and that’s only what has been recorded for our Group on the Walk’s website (click here to see it - or make an online donation).  I know my fellow walkers and I have received additional donations as well.  I wonder . . . . could we raise over $1,000???
 
We will be joining the walkers of the Delmar Reformed Church.  They walk on the Rail Trail that is just a block away from the church.  We will all walk at our own pace for about an hour and arrange it so that we all finish at the Stewart’s in Delmar for ice cream!  (That’s a bribe I couldn’t resist.)

Why are we walking?  The prolonged war in Ukraine, on top of the pandemic and other natural disasters is causing a global food crisis. Millions are are suffering from famine. The CROP Hunger Walks across our land and the funds we raise will feed the hungry through Church World Service.  When we join this movement, donate and raise funds, we will provide life-saving support like emergency food along with the seeds, tools and programs that will help families feed themselves in the future.  25% of the funds we raise will go to local food programs as well.
 
We five walkers all thank you for supporting this important cause to fight hunger “one step at a time.”
 
40+ DAYS OF PRAYER UPDATE
This Tuesday we will begin the third section of the 40 Days of Prayer experience. Monday I will send out an email with the links to the video for that section and the scriptures for the daily prayer exercise through the week.
 
One thing I have observed over my many years as a Pastor, is that most people feel they aren’t very good at praying.  Many seem to feel a bit awkward about it - especially if they are asked to lead it publicly.  I would say that's universal.  Everybody feels they could be better at praying.  I’ve never heard anyone say, “You know, I’m a pro at praying - world class.”  In fact the Number one “world class” Christian himself - St. Paul - said, “We don’t even know what we should pray for; nor how we should pray.” (Romans 8: 26)   So when it comes to praying we all could use some help.  We all need to learn more.  It’s okay to admit, "I need to get better at this," and that’s what we’re trying to do on this journey into prayer together.
 
This Sunday I will talk about the false expectations we have of prayer.  There are so many bad ideas about prayer and what it's supposed to do that it’s no wonder we feel inadequate in doing it.  I’ll try to explain “what prayer isn’t.”  Ridding ourselves of these false ideas can be the first step in making prayer a more comfortable and pleasing experience.
 
We will celebrate communion this Sunday.  The elders have decided to go back to using the little communion glasses.  We will also distribute individual pieces of bread in little paper “cups.”  It will be nice to celebrate communion a little more like the way we did before the pandemic.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
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April 22, 2023
Let us pray . . .
We have just begun our 40+ Day journey into prayer.  Our Tuesday group is the center of this focus, but we all will be engaged in reflecting on what prayer is about in our Sunday services.  The group will be following Rick Warren’s insights and using the prayer journal that comes with those teachings, but I hope every one of us will commit to taking a deeper journey into your prayer life.  Even if you do not attend the Tuesday sessions, I encourage you to commit to spending time each day in intentional prayer.  While you are certainly welcome to “jump in” on any Tuesday, you can also purchase the Prayer Journal and use it as a guide and personal log of your growth through the coming weeks.  We can also show you how you can view the weekly video sessions we will be using on YouTube.
 
Prayer isn’t so much “something we do” as Christians; it’s more the essence of who we are.  Prayer is the key to our growth as Christians.  In fact, tomorrow I will look at how and why we grow as Christians, using Paul’s analogy of our being spiritual babies who need to grow up (see Ephesians 4: 11-16).  He notes that if we don’t deepen our faith and broaden our understanding of God and God’s ways, we’ll turn into “suckers” (my word, not his).  Suckers fall for anything because they don’t know the truth.  In his words, they are like infants who are “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”  (That sounds like an apt description of our times, doesn't it?).  A hearty prayer life is one of the ways we “grow up” and are able to discern what is true.
  
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
  

 
April 7, 2023  
It’s Good Friday . . . But Easter Is Coming!

After a last evening’s beautiful Tenebrae service of communion with our Hilltown Church friends, we turn our attention to Holy Week’s ending:  The crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord.  This evening we have more opportunities to worship with Hilltown churches.  We are invited to join the Good Friday services at the Onesquethaw and Westerlo Reformed Churches.  Both begin at 7:00 p.m.
 
Then at last the long journey through Lent ends with our Easter Celebration of Jesus’ resurrection victory.  That morning begins for us with breakfast at 9:00 a.m., followed by our service at 10:30.  (A big “Thank You” to our Women’s Guild for preparing that breakfast for us!)
 
It seems to me that we really need Easter this year.  With so much bad news breaking out every day in so many shocking and troubling ways - with the mayhem and madness of our sinful world so prevalent and powerful -  the Good News of Easter is like a “balm in Gilead.”  It’s our only hope, our only comfort.  I pray that this Sunday we will hear that Good News, embrace it and be empowered by it to carry on in our service to God’s Kingdom.
 
Let’s invite Easter to shine brightly into our darkness.
 
I have some pretty exciting announcements to make about what will be happening after Easter.  But for now I don’t want any distractions from our Easter focus.  After all, for us Christians, Easter is the whole reason for our being.  (See 1 Corinthians 15 about that.)  Next week I’ll fill you in on these new things:
 
  •     We will be participating the this Year’s CROP Walk to fight hunger.
  •     We have an exciting new topic for study at our Tuesday Study Group.
  •     I’ll share more stories and pictures of my trip to Nicaragua at an after church lunch later     this spring.
  •     We have new tenants for the parsonage!
Good things will be happening for us - Starting this Sunday.
 
Grace and peace, 
Pastor Dave
 


 
March 31, 2023
Hosanna!

We have two invitations from neighboring churches this Palm Sunday weekend.  First, the Onesquethaw Reformed Church invites us to join them tomorrow, Saturday, for a Lenten worship service.  
 
That will begin at 10:00 a.m.  We are also invited to attend a dinner program at the Delmar Reformed Church on Palm Sunday evening.  The four of us who traveled to Nicaragua this month will share some pictures and thoughts about our experiences and we will be making some Nicaraguan food to share.  It will all start at 5:30 p.m.

Of course we begin Holy Week with this Sunday’s Service of Communion and Palms, and we’ll have a fellowship time following the service.  I am also looking forward to our Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Service where we will be joined by folk from the Clarksville and Jerusalem churches.  Maundy Thursday commemorates the first Last Supper.  We also will make it a kind of “reversal” of the Christmas Eve tradition by extinguishing candles. (“Tenebrae” is the latin word for “darkness.”)  As we extinguish each candle, we’ll hear the scriptural accounts of how the darkness of human sin tried to dim the Light of the World.
 
Then, out from the darkness comes the glorious light of Easter!  After a 9:00 a.m. Easter Morning breakfast planned and provided by the Women’s Guild, we will celebrate our Lord’s resurrection at our regular worship time.
 
A couple of other things to note about Holy Week:  The Choir is preparing special music for Maundy Thursday and Easter, so they are having a special rehearsal.  It will be Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m.  Also the Women’s Guild will have a meeting on that Wednesday afternoon at 12:30 p.m.
 
I’m praying that in all the activity and gatherings this coming week we will be touched by the joyful good news of Easter’s proclamation.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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March 24, 2023 
Consistory News
Here are the highlights of this week’s meeting of the Consistory:
 
We will host a Tenebrae service of communion and candles on Maundy Thursday with our neighboring Hilltown churches.  The 7pm service will include a combined choir.
 
We will also celebrate communion at our Palm Sunday’s service.  
 
Consistory approved the print up of laminated liturgies that we can use at communion services. We are invited to attend a dinner program at Delmar Reformed Church on Palm Sunday where those of us who traveled on the mission trip to Nicaragua will share our thoughts and photos of the experience.  Nicaraguan dishes will be offered. It all starts at 5:30 pm.
 
The Onesquethaw Reformed Church invites us to a Lenten Service of Worship on Saturday, April 1 at 10:00 am.
 
The Women’s Guild will host an Easter Breakfast at 9:00 am.  Our celebration of our Lord’s resurrection will be at 10:30 am.
 
There will be a sign-up sheet for Easter Flowers.
 
Belinda will preach on the April Sundays (16th and 30th.)
 
The Tuesday Study Group has completed its journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and is exploring what to focus on next.
 
We are invited to attend the installation service for The Rev. Elizabeth Moses at the Bethany Reformed Church.  It will be April 23rd at 4:00 pm.
 
The pick-up date for the Food Pantry is April 16.
 
Our treasurer, Joanie de Paz reports that February ended with a positive balance.  (Being the good Church Treasurer that she is, she pointed out that the positive balance was due primarily to the fact that we had not yet received the bills for oil heat and electricity.)
 
The next Guild meeting will be Wednesday, April 5.  They will make plans for the meal we will offer for the Classis meeting we will be hosting on May 23rd.  They also are working on crochet projects.
 
Speaking of meals at our church, the Consistory was glad to hear that progress is being made on the installation of our new electric stoves.  Deacon Paul Watson has arranged with professional movers to remove the old (heavy!) gas stove on April 12.  He is also negotiating with someone who might purchase it.  Meanwhile, Deacon Irving Mosher has secured bids from electricians to install wiring for the stoves.  (After the meeting we voted on line to  accept the bid from Excel Electric of Glenmont and they will be able to install the stoves in April - in plenty of time for the Classis dinner!)
 
This spring we will continue our work on the Mead Cemetery plot.  Some grave stones need straightening and other improvements need to be completed.
 
The stained glass window is repaired and re-installed!  It took Chapman Stained Glass Company only 32 days to complete the job!  They also installed a new plexiglass window to protect it.
 
Our parsonage is on the market.  We hope to welcome new tenants soon.
 
Our next meeting will be April 24th.
 
Wow, I guess we covered a lot at that busy meeting! 
 
This Sunday I will be talking about the secret identity we Christians all have.  It’s tied directly to the “secret” identity Jesus had.  My text will be Luke 3: 15-17, 21-22 and Matthew 16: 13-17.
 
Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
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 Saturday 18 March 2023
 Back from Nicaragua
It was quite a trip!  So many wonderful things took place in Nicaragua as I visited with old friends and made many new ones.  I just have to share those special moments with you and that’s what I’ll do this Sunday.  Instead of a traditionally structured sermon I’ll share some of the highlights of the trip and explain why it was so important to me to go. To make it a sermon, I’ll frame my remarks in the context of 1 John 4: 7-12. 
 
After the service we will hold our annual meeting and celebrate the highlights of what was a glorious year. This meeting will be over a brunch prepared by the Women’s guild.
 
Reminder: Tomorrow we will have a planning meeting with the Hilltown Ministries Congregations that will be joining us for the Maundy Thursday service of communion and candles. We’ll meet at our church at 10am Saturday and all our members are welcome to attend.
 
I look forward to worshiping with my church family again.
 Grace and peace,
Pastor Dave
 
 
SATURDAY 07 May 2022

There’s no place like home . . . .

It’s good to be home.  Even after a wonderful vacation trip, it’s good to be back.  Yes, our journey to the Smoky Mountains was wonderful.  You can’t beat visits to the Biltmore Mansion, the Country Music Hall of Fame, or a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  It was all wonderful.

But to walk through that back door of your own home and into that place where everything is in it’s designated place, and you hear those familiar everyday sounds and smell those 16 South Street smells, and then at last you cozy into your own bed . . . . well, let me just say Dorothy was right:  “There’s no place like home.”

Tomorrow our own homes will be on our minds as we celebrate Mothers Day.  We’ll remember the homes our mothers helped make for us as we grew up, and, if you are a mom yourself, hopefully you’ll receive heavy doses of accolades and praise for all you do.

I’ll be glad to be back to my “church home” where we’ll make Mothers Day special by being together as a church family.  My sermon will not be taking the familiar route of focusing only on human mothers, but rather I’ll be honoring something that is spiritually much greater than that.  Well, that doesn’t quite say it right, but it’s complicated.  It’ll take a whole sermon to explain.  So I hope you can join me as a church family as we honor the women in our lives - and we'll honor God, who in Jesus’ words is like, “a mother hen who gathers her chicks under her wings.” (See Luke 13: 34-35)

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dave

 

There’s no place like home . . . .

It’s good to be home.  Even after a wonderful vacation trip, it’s good to be back.  Yes, our journey to the Smoky Mountains was wonderful.  You can’t beat visits to the Biltmore Mansion, the Country Music Hall of Fame, or a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.  It was all wonderful.

But to walk through that back door of your own home and into that place where everything is in it’s designated place, and you hear those familiar everyday sounds and smell those 16 South Street smells, and then at last you cozy into your own bed . . . . well, let me just say Dorothy was right:  “There’s no place like home.”

Tomorrow our own homes will be on our minds as we celebrate Mothers Day.  We’ll remember the homes our mothers helped make for us as we grew up, and, if you are a mom yourself, hopefully you’ll receive heavy doses of accolades and praise for all you do.

I’ll be glad to be back to my “church home” where we’ll make Mothers Day special by being together as a church family.  My sermon will not be taking the familiar route of focusing only on human mothers, but rather I’ll be honoring something that is spiritually much greater than that.  Well, that doesn’t quite say it right, but it’s complicated.  It’ll take a whole sermon to explain.  So I hope you can join me as a church family as we honor the women in our lives - and we'll honor God, who in Jesus’ words is like, “a mother hen who gathers her chicks under her wings.” (See Luke 13: 34-35)

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Dave

 
 
FRIDAY 22 April 2022
 
What a Day!
 
This past Easter Sunday was one of the finest moments I’ve had with URC. After a long hiatus from social gatherings, we had a wonderful Easter breakfast together. Thanks to the preparation of all the volunteers under Bonnie Bahanan’s leadership, everything was delicious and the decorations and favors were splendid. Then there was the worship service . . . Wow! The choir was stellar, the singing robust, and the pews were filled! (Someone reported that they counted over 50 worshipers.) We had visitors with us and more than a few of us had family and friends worshiping with them. Through it all, the joy and hope of the resurrection of our Lord was palpable. It was a wonderful day!
 
Now our life together continues. Here are a few bits and pieces about that:
  • We received word from the Onesequathaw Reformed Church that they are having a special event on Thursday, the 28th of April at 7pm. They are showing a video of the musical “The Witness,” which features our own Chuck Phillips (the late husband of Cindy Phillips and brother of Belinda Phillips). This musical depicts the life of Christ as told by the Apostle Peter. There will be an Ice Cream Social following the performance.
  • I will be away the next couple of Sundays. We are visiting family in Tennessee and North Carolina. Rusty Riley will preach on the 24th and our own Belinda Phillips will be preaching on May 1st. I will be back for Mothers Day which will include communion and a special coffee hour after the service.
  • Very soon we will unveil our new web site. Al de Paz has done a wonderful job getting it started.
  • Our prayers are with the Slingerlands. Don had a fall on the ice and broke bones in his foot. He just completed surgery (it was the same surgeon that operated on Sandy). That makes two Slingerlands with broken feet on the mend. As our prayer chain email said, “Isn’t this taking this togetherness thing too far?” Maybe, but still, we're praying for them both!
 
Many of you have shared that you’ll be praying for our safe travels. That’s much appreciated.
 
Grace and Peace,
 
Pastor Dave