“A Friend Loves At All Times…” | Blog #39

“A Friend Loves At All Times…” | Blog #39

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

This morning was the first time I’ve helped lead worship and preach since sabbatical started two days after Easter. I was at First Presbyterian Church of Clarks Summit, “The Church on the Hill”, to do a dialogue sermon on friendship with my buddy Bill Carter. Bill’s been at FPCCS for more than 30 years and we’ve been close friends ever since meeting on the first day of Princeton Seminary 40 years ago. It was such a joy sharing in worship with him, hearing him lead the congregation in singing the Psalm from the piano, and meditating together on Proverbs 17:17, John 15 (where Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants, but I have called you friend”), and Genesis 12 (where Abraham is called “friend of God.”). Here is the link to the sermon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9w0vCITUfU&t=1373s). There were special Welsh hymns sung, so it was almost like a Gymanfa Ganu(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cymanfa_Ganu) and the church’s hospitality team surprised me with Welsh Cakes (https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/11020/welsh-cakes/). Another surprise was an old friend from Washington St. David’s Society days, who now lives back in her home town of West Pittston, PA, brought by a Welsh Love Spoon for Leah (https://www.welshlovespoon.com/).  

Spending the last few days with Bill and his bride, Jamie, and their Springer Spaniel fur-babies, Pippa and Oakley, was such a time of refreshment and joy. We explored some of the region – Steamtown National Historical Site (https://www.nps.gov/stea/index.htm) and went to a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRider baseball game; the RailRiders (https://www.milb.com/scranton-wb/) are the NY Yankees farm team and they came up a run short against the Washington Nats team out of Rochester, NY. We were able to go with two of Bill & Jamie’s daughters, Lauren and Katie. I wore my Kansas City Monarch’s ball cap in honor of Katie Carter, who I’ve known since she was born. Fireworks afterward were a surprise treat.

Saturday was cold, overcast, and windy. Amy said it has been uncomfortably hot in Nashville, but it was sweater weather in the rolling mountains and verdant green in NE PA. I was glad I had my fleece as I wasn’t expecting a day-time temp in the 50’s with a stiff breeze. 

The cool weather continued into today. I ran down to Bethlehem right after worship to meet with the Rev. J.C. Austin, pastor of my home church, FPC Bethlehem, PA. He suggested a place in downtown Bethlehem, and we took a table outside, but by the time the waitress brought the drinks we asked to switch to an inside table. I’ve known J.C. since he came in ’17 but only over the internet and the phone, so I was very glad to finally get the chance to break bread with him in person. He came after the church split, with about 1,500 members voting to become Grace Presbyterian Church in ECO (the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians), a denomination that broke out of the PCUSA several years ago over social issues and theological differences. It broke my heart that the schism caused the church to split, but I’m grateful that the courts awarded the church building that I grew up in to the group who voted to remain faithful to the PCUSA. 

Back in Bethlehem for a few days I’ll see friends before heading over to Princeton Seminary mid-week. I was pleased to see my friend, Rev. Ruth Faith Santana Grace elected co-moderator of the PCUSA. She was Associate Pastor for Discipleship at First Pres Bethlehem when our old preaching professor, Tom Long, asked us if we’d co-author a book on the Study Catechism. It was fun getting to know her through writing Devotion and Discipline: Training for Presbyterian Leaders (https://www.amazon.com/Devotion-Discipline-Training-Presbyterian-Leaders/dp/066450096X). Blessings and prayers for Ruth Faith and her co-moderator, Shavon Starling Louis as they start their work leading the church.