First Notes – November 2015

Given the practice of the modern church and the culture in which we live, we spend some time giving lip service to the notion of “gratitude” during the month of November. We are encouraged to be grateful for the things that God has entrusted to us. Yet, what exactly does this idea of “gratitude” involve? It is a simple recounting of all the wonderful things that have happened in our lives, or is it something more?

I’ve long believed that simply gathering in the pews to give thanks, or to gather around our tables on the fourth Thursday of November to list our blessings falls well short of what “gratitude” is all about. There needs to be something more. It’s not enough to be appreciative—although being appreciative is a good thing to be. Gratitude needs to be turned into action.

Every day contains an abundance of blessing and joy. These gifts were not meant to be hoarded away; they were meant to be shared and multiplied. How can we best use these gifts to make a positive difference in the lives of others? That, I believe, is the question that “gratitude” prompts us to ask. The ancient rabbi, Hillel the Elder, who lived in the time just before Jesus, posed this question: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”

We are not here to simply list the goodies we’ve been given but to be the best of our selves and the best of our church for the world around us. And there’s no time for that like the present. May our “gratitude” be an active, dynamic one—not just in this season of the year, but always.
Your servant in Christ,

Rev. Jim Hoppert

First Notes – October 2015

Heading into October, the ministries of the program year are well underway. Choirs are rehearsing, church school children and their teachers are meeting on Sunday mornings, and the Confirmation program is in full swing. I anticipate that come October, folks will start to embrace the fall schedule of events in their lives.

I have no great issues or themes to share with you this month (aside from the ones that we preach in worship), but there are three reminders of events described in greater detail in the newsletter that I want to list, briefly.

First, there are one of our “5-For5” all-church offerings, Neighbors In Need (NIN), that we will be receiving on October 4th—World Communion Sunday. NIN is a special mission offering of the UCC that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States. One-third of NIN funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry. Two-thirds of the offering is used by the UCC’s Justice and Witness ministries to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants. I urge folks to consider supporting this offering with a generous response.

Second, the Praying Hands Ministry is holding their first event on Saturday, October 10th, at 3:30 p.m. (fellowship begins at 3:15 p.m.). I am excited about this ministry: it was generated after our summer study on healing prayer and it is led by a core of church members who have a passion for healing prayer. If you wish to make prayers of healing a greater part of your life, this ministry may be of particular interest to you.

Last, Sunday, October 18th is Children’s Sabbath at Salem. It’s always a good thing when our youth contribute their talents as they participate in worship. The level of energy and enthusiasm is such a positive thing. I hope that many of you will be a part of this Sunday morning worship experience.

There are a lot of good things happening through the ministries of Salem. As always, I invite your prayers, welcome your participation, and encourage your enthusiasm.

Your servant in Christ, Rev. James Hoppert

First Notes – September 2015

As I begin this page, I am struck by one thought: man, the summer season sure went by quickly around here! In terms of actual church programming, the summer season may be a quieter time, but it isn’t a quiet time in terms of preparation for the upcoming months. Various committees and ministries have been quite active during these summer months and this has been one of the most active summers that I can remember during my time here at Salem.

Among some of the things that we’ve been doing this summer:

Our confirmation program has made some changes in the material that we’re presenting to the confirmands and we’re presenting more opportunities for worship and service.

The Mission and Stewardship Committee has spent much time looking at the mission of the church and how it presents that mission to the congregation. One of our mission emphases will be local: our neighborhood school, Fairview, and its community. We had a drive to help furnish school supplies this summer and other opportunities will present themselves to us in the weeks and months ahead.

Our Church and Ministry Committee has worked on ways of better connecting members of the congregation with one another, and has developed a questionnaire (included in this newsletter) which may help us to meet that goal.

Our adult Bible study on healing this summer has sparked interest in beginning a healing ministry at Salem. A ministry of healing prayer and special services of healing may well be the outgrowth of this summer’s study.

September will find us returning to our regular schedule of programming and the ministry that accompanies it. New things will be appearing on the horizon in the months ahead, so stay tuned to things as they develop.

One final note before I close out this front page: the Lectionary takes us through the Epistle of James from August 30th through September 27th. Since I’ve not spent a great deal of time with the themes of that letter during my ministry with you, I am going to turn those weeks into a sermon series on James. I believe that the Epistle of James has a great deal to say to us.

In the meanwhile, enjoy the waning days of summer.

Your servant in Christ,

Rev. Jim Hoppert