Jesus is Among Us
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24: 13-16)
Sometimes seeing is spiritual. The two followers of Jesus were, for whatever reason, unable to see Jesus among them. I believe we are kept from clear spiritual vision for whatever reason in certain seasons of life. As the two walkers went on their way they encounter Cleopas who expresses surprise and possibly concern that they could not discern the joy that had overtaken Jerusalem. Jesus was alive! Reports of sightings of Jesus and conversations with him permeated the villages and the city. Jesus is among us! was the talk of the marketplace, the temple, wherever people gathered.
Today, Jesus remains with us. Our inability or ability to “see” him is not dependent on our religious exercise or lack of it. Only the grace and mercy of God allows us to discern Christ and rejoice in His Presence.
Celebration of the Resurrection and the steps leading up to that glorious day will take place in several services and events this year in Palacios and Collegeport:
- ~Palm Sunday worship with blessing of the palms and reading of the Triumphal Entry at 9:00 AM at Collegeport and 11:00 AM at First Presbyterian Church (FPC) Palacios.
- ~ Maundy (Mandatum) Thursday service of Holy Communion on March 24 at 7:00 PM at FPC, Palacios recreating the Upper Room supper with Jesus. ~Good Friday Tenebrae (service of darkness) at FPC, Palacios on March 25 at 7:00 PM.
- ~The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, March 26 from 6:00-mindnight at FPC, Palacios. Come and go for individual prayer.
- ~Sunrise Celebration of the Resurrection at the Texas Baptist Encampment on Easter Sunday, March 27 at 6:30am for the community.
- ~Celebration of the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, March 27 at FPC, Collegeport at 9:00 AM; FPC, Palacios at 11:00 AM and at Casa de Dios at 11:00 AM.
- ~Easter potluck breakfast and Easter egg hunt preceding worship at FPC, Palacios.
Members of the Nghinh Ngo family returned for a visit this month. In 1975, our church sponsored the family which had fled the collapse of South Vietnam. They were the first Vietnamese refugee family in Palacios. Nghinh was a lieutenant colonel in the South Vietnamese army. He and Bach moved to Palacios with their 4 children, ages 4 years to 6 weeks. The congregation provided a place to live, a job, and friendship to the Ngo’s, and in return was enriched by their presence. Among other efforts, women of the church helped Bach, a beautician, with her English, and she enjoyed saying thank you by giving haircuts and wonderful facials! Ngoc, the oldest walked with church members from their apartment on Welch to our Day School. While here, the family, tho Buddist, were in church every Sunday.
But the Ngo’s were city people, and Mr. Ngo was by trade a mechanic, not a fisherman. They only lived here for nine months before moving, first to El Campo, then to Houston. The congregation and particularly John Toellner, continued to be friends to the Ngo’s even after they moved.
After leaving Palacios, the family added another daughter. Mr. Ngo is now retired and Mrs. Ngo died a few years ago. All five children graduated from college and are doing well. Among their occupations are nurse, teacher, missionary (to China), and dentist. During this visit, Ngoc told us that they have met other refugees who did not have such a welcoming experience when they came to the US, and they are very grateful that they landed in Palacios with the Presbyterian church. The children, now grown, are all Christian.
For the 41 years since they left Palacios, they have continued to visit and would often come to Sunday services. Visits got farther apart as family situations changed, but they still return to visit and to say thank to the church for a very welcoming sponsorship when they were refugees. .
A HOLY SEASON…February 10 begins the holy season of Lent. Lent is a church season set apart for a “spiritual status update.” This year, we enter Lent with a service of Holy Communion and Imposition of Ashes. During the service, if you wish to receive ashes on your forehead, you are welcome; or if you wish to attend and only receive only communion, or simply listen to scripture readings, pray, observe and visit with your church family, you are welcome.
The ashes are made from the palm branches of last year’s palms given out in celebration of the day Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, ready to begin the final part of his earthly journey.
The Season of Lent is an amazing experience when approached with intent to set apart this time to be the best disciple of Jesus Christ you possibly can become. Use this season to reconnect with people you have lost contact with or with whom you have experienced broken relationships. Reach out to people who no longer attend a church or have never been to worship services or participated in religious activities. The potluck luncheon on February 21 is a great opportunity to invite a new or old friend or family member to worship and dinner. Bring a guest that Sunday with your covered dish. Our church fellowship is open to all.
Sunday, January 31, I had the honor of meeting the church family of Casa de Dios (formerly Second Presbyterian Church) and of officiating at our Lord’s Table. The welcome was so warm and so much energy and excitement was in the air, that Bruce and I were blessed and energized by this new partnership.
Each of our three congregations, though very different in style and personality, are joyous co-workers in this most southern region of Mission Presbytery. I am very thankful to each congregation and to the presbytery for recognizing God’s calling to bring us all into relationship with one another. Our challenge is reaching out with the invitation to reconnect or begin to be involved with one of these church families. Who can you to invite to join in the Lenten experience? Here is the “why” to the “who.”
After Jesus was crucified, died and was buried, he rose from the grave on the church day. This is the grace we celebrate on Ash Wednesday. Hear what happened next from Luke’s Gospel (24:50): Then he went out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy’ and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Since the last newsletter article several tasks have moved forward or been completed.
The Car Seat Project has been completed with great success in repairing and replacing car seats for children as needed. Thanks go to Marsha Baumann for organizing this worthwhile project, and to Dan Fuhrman, Jerry Purvis and others who helped.
T-shirts advertising our church have been ordered and distributed to Session members and a few other members. Dan will order more shirts in the future. The cost of each shirt is $15.00. Wouldn’t it be great to see all members wearing t-shirts during special projects and events?
Leslie is charged with organizing the adult fellowship opportunities. Stand by for more information after the holidays. Faithful folks are working behind the scenes to move our church toward a new beginning.
Your New Beginnings Team (Gail, Colleen, LaHoma, Dan and Linda G.)
The yoked congregations of First Presbyterian Church, Palacios and First Presbyterian Church of Collegeport extend warmest greetings to our new Pastor, the Rev. Kathy Vineyard, and her husband Bruce. Kathy and Bruce will be moving to Palacios between the second week in September. Her first Sunday in both pulpits will be September 20th. A joint installation service will be held in Collegeport the afternoon of Sunday, September 27. Please come celebrate with us!
Kathy Vineyard received her BA degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, and her Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. Her first call was to be an Associate Pastor in Florida where she served for 2 ½ years.
She spent the next 27 years in Grace Presbytery (the Dallas area). Nearly half of her career was as Associate Pastor at Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church in Dallas. OCPC was unique at that time in that it was—and still is–a successfully integrated congregation. Her tenure as Associate ended when the Senior Pastor took another call, and for two years Kathy served as interim head of staff. This began a decade of service as interim pastor to a number of congregations. Over the years, she has served in various churches as Associate Pastor for youth, Christian Educator, Interim Pastor, and Stated Supply. She is currently the Pastor/Head of Staff for First Presbyterian Church of Duncan, OK.
She comes to us with much experience proclaiming the Word. She has experienced the importance of creative communication as the word of mission to those hungry to hear. Her experience in a variety of environments has required her to become adept at diplomacy and at bridging gaps.
Kathy married Bruce Vineyard in 2011. They met while she was serving at Grace Presbyterian Church in Temple, TX, and they feel this is God’s determination for their lives. Bruce was born and raised in Lawton, Oklahoma where he went to college and pharmacy school. He moved to Temple, Texas, in 1978 as Director of the Pharmacy at Kings Daughters Hospital. He later moved to Scott and White Hospital in Temple where he served as Senior Staff Pharmacist for ten years.
Together they have five grown children, all of whom currently reside and work in Austin or the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Kathy and Bruce hope for frequent visits from their children to our quiet bayside communities.
Kathy and Bruce have a love of coastal areas of Texas and have vacationed in Corpus Christi and Galveston. She said that when she looked at our Ministry Information Form, the setting of small yoked churches on the coast jumped out at her as something special.
We look forward to Kathy’s coming as our pastor as something special and hope that you will join us as we worship and serve God together.
Dear church, friends and those searching for a new beginning: Our church is listening to God to learn what it is God wants to do with us, among us, through us, and for us and others as we continue to worship and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes getting a little “outside help” from someone who has never been to our church or worshiped with us, or know what we are about, is helpful. It’s like listening to someone who sees us with fresh eyes, and sometimes that’s better than what we see. So we’re taking a risk and participating in a new initiative called, “New Beginnings.” Read below and join us for all that will happen as we anticipate God’s blessing of a new beginning for us, and perhaps for you, too! New Beginnings For Churches Faithfully Seeking New Life
1. Our church’s session has adopted this new denominational resource and leadership for discerning God’s future direction for our church’s future.
2.Thanks be to God for the funds we received to cover the costs of this new initiative from dedicated church members, from the gift Lowell Sewell left to the church upon his death, and Mission Presbytery.
3. Everyone – members and regular guests are wanted to fully participate in this endeavor by: Attending the dessert event on Tuesday, May 19 at 7:00 p.m., Clement Hall where we will have a lively conversation with our assigned denominational assessor and our presbytery liaison who’ll be eager to learn about our church and our dreams, hopes and desires. Before this dessert event, the assessor will have toured our facilities, met with leaders who are familiar with our finances, met with the interim pastor and clerk of session, received congregational annual calendar of ministries, and the demographics of the membership and friends. Also, the assessor will have toured our town.
4. A couple of months after the denominational assessor has been here, we’ll receive a report that will convey what the assessor thinks are our strengths and opportunities for ministry.
5. Nine churches including us, in our presbytery, are participating in this new initiative. The session will recruit some members to be trained to be small group leaders, who will be given the skills for interpreting our assessor’s report and in spiritual discernment for our future.
6. All members and our friends will be needed to be in our small groups where the prayerful brainstorming will take place for new ministries. 7. All new ideas for ministry will be shared with the session for their decision-making, and for leading us in our new direction. Please keep the church in your prayers and ask that the Holy Spirit keep you attentive to what God is calling us to be and do in this time and place. Believing with you,
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Palm Sunday worship was glorious with the performance of the cantata, “What A Morning!” It was performed with conviction and a contagious spirit for the love of Christ. Thanks so very much to the narrators, choirs, musicians, and the directors for gifting us with a witness of faith.
The reception following worship was very well attended and as David King, pastor of First United Methodist Church, said as he thanked our church for it, “This reception has brought us together as one community. This is so much fun!” Thanks to all who helped with setting up the room, decorating, and for providing food, and service to clean-up. The shared hospitality was good for all.
With the music still playing in our hearts and minds, we are preparing for Easter after we go through a significant time of remembering our Lord’s suffering on behalf of us. To honor his suffering, I hope you will take time this week, to suffer, to sacrifice for someone else, as a witness of your faith. Then get ready for new life to unfold like it never has before.
Sometimes someone else’s reflections help me to name what I’m feeling. Ted Loder, a United Methodist Minister, is one of those persons. He wrote this Easter prayer:
“I Praise You for this Resurrection Madness.”
“Lord of such amazing surprises as put a catch in my breath and wings on my heart, I praise you for this joy too great for words, but not for tears and songs and sharing, for this mercy that blots out my betrayals and bids me begin again, to limp on, to hop-skip-and-jump-on, to mend what is broken in and around me, and to forgive the breakers.
For this YES to life and laughter, to love and lovers, and to my unwinding self, for this kingdom unleashed in me and I in it forever, and no dead ends to growing, to choices, to chances, to calls to be just; no dead ends to living, to making peace, to dreaming dreams, to being glad of heart; for this resurrection madness which is wiser than I and in which I see how great you are, full of grace. Alleluia! Amen.”
Joy is on the way! Celebrate it on Easter Sunday in worship.
Believing with you,
Dear Friends in Christ in both churches:
It’s Lent, a Church season to reflect on our faith in Jesus Christ, especially his suffering for us. In order for me to do that, I need to be re-grounded in the faithfulness of God. Remembering God is faithful to me, then I can bear to look at my sin and what I did to crucify Christ.
One of the ways I get re-grounded in the faithfulness of God is to read the Scriptures, especially Psalm 23. Eugene Peterson, Presbyterian minister and scholar has written a paraphrase of Psalm 23 that is meaningful to me. Here it is:
“God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.”
What do you do to get re-grounded in the faithfulness of God? How are you able to consider the meaning of Christ’s crucifixion and confess what you did to crucify Christ? I’m interested in knowing.
I hope this season of Lent will be one in which we all grow more transparent in faith and hope with great expectancy the new life Easter promises!
Believing with you,
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ in Palacios and Collegeport: I look forward to celebrating Advent and Christmas with you as these holy days help us to concentrate on the gift of love God gives us in Jesus Christ. A calendar of events is provided to guide us through this significant time in the Christian year. It can be found here.
Something new is happening on Sunday evening, December 21 at FPC, Palacios. It is a short worship service and soup supper. Here is the reason it is being held: Sunday, December 21 is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. You may know it as winter solstice. For more than ten years, protestant churches across our nation have been hosting a worship service of solace on this night to symbolize that God’s help and hope is abundantly available even when we go through the “darkest” times of our life. So this longest night of the year service invites us to come for the calming presence of God who is ready to comfort us when we are tired, sad, grieving or have a deep yearning to be still in the presence of the Lord.
This year, we are offering to the church and our community a soothing service at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, December for everyone’s heart and soul. It will be short, simple, relaxing, and hopeful. Following the service there will be a soup supper for all to be nourished.
This is a beautiful opportunity to invite someone to come and worship. It does not matter if they belong to another church or not. All are welcome. Be sure to invite neighbors, friends and strangers, welcoming them to this special time of serenity. I hope you will eagerly invite those whom you encounter as a way of extending God’s love. I also urge each of you to attend even if you are not feeling sad, lonely, or tired. For after all God who has consoled us in our time of need has made us to be a blessing. The scripture says, “We have been consoled to console”. Your presence will be a sign of God’s love for others.
Now, as we anticipate celebrating the birth of our Savior, know that you are on my mind and in my heart!
Believing with you, Pastor Vanessa
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ of Both Churches:
Every member has their own perspective about having pastoral visits to their home. Some like to have them; and others don’t. I want to make sure to call on all those who want a visit and haven’t had one with me.
If I haven’t visited you in your home and you want me to plan one with you, please let me know by speaking to me after a worship service, calling me at 830-496-0925 or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please inform me yourself rather than depending on someone else to tell me because sometimes messages are forgotten, or get confused, etc.
I look forward to visiting with you! Meanwhile, may the one who visits us through the Holy Spirit bless you beyond your imagination!
Vanessa Potter, Interim Pastor