Pastor

PASTOR DAVID WILLIAMSON’S MESSAGE FOR JUNE

     2017 is a year of significant anniversaries in the life of our church.

     First, it marks the 155th anniversary of the founding of this congregation.  The Rev. Lucian J. Mayer organized this and several other churches in this area, and served for 4 years as our first pastor … and then our ancestors in the faith invited him back 22 years later to serve here again for another 3 years!

     Pastor Mayer was also the first chairman of the committee which eventually created St. Paul’s Orphans’ Home in Butler 150 years ago.  It moved to Greenville almost a century ago, and is now the area’s premier “continuing care community” for senior citizens.   When they moved to Greenville, our church’s Ladies’ Aid Society furnished a room for $75 – that’s a donation of over $2,000 in today’s dollars!

     Speaking of facilities, this year also marks the 60th anniversary of our current church building.  The first was built in 1861 where Burger King now stands.  Sixty year old buildings require a lot of maintenance – look elsewhere on this website for opportunities to help with that.

     You’ll also find mentions on this site about the Freemasons celebrating the 300th birthday of their first grand lodge – a coming together for the common good – and the Zem Zem Shriners’ 125th birthday.  Both of those groups have chosen to celebrate their anniversaries here, a tribute to our warm welcome and loving kindness!

      But there’s one more anniversary I want to highlight: the 60th birthday of the United Church of Christ.

     The U.C.C. has a poor reputation in many circles, and I suspect that when the General Synod meets this summer, it will issue yet more resolutions that merit scorn.  Folks active at the national level tend to forget that if a majority of the local churches aren’t supporting their pronouncements, they’re just hot air and irrelevant.

      But the United Church of Christ does something well!  It reminds us that the best expression of the Christian faith is not independence, but interdependence.  If a church wants to engage in their God-given mission effectively, it must be in community with other Christian churches … even if they disagree about some things.

     That’s true of individual Christians, too.  You and I cannot “come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity ” (Ephesians 4:13) without each other.

     So I hope to see you in church this summer.  Bring a friend with you.  

 

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The Rev. David J. Williamson became our twentieth installed pastor on November 1, 2007.  Baptized, confirmed, and ordained in the United Church of Christ, he was born and raised in New York City.  He is a graduate of Hofstra University, American University, and Yale University, and previously served churches in New York and Connecticut.  A former Army chaplain, he is currently the secretary (and past president) of the Lake Erie Association of the United Church of Christ, secretary of the Sharon Hermitage Clergy Association, and chaplain of the Hermitage Fire Dept. and Hermitage Police Dept.  He is a master chaplain in the Federation of Fire Chaplains, a senior chaplain in the International Conference of Police Chaplains, an American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress board-certified crisis chaplain, and has received a Certificate of Specialized Training in the field of Spiritual Care in Crisis Intervention from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.  His wife, the Rev. Julia Williamson (also a U.C.C. minister), is the pastor of Slippery Rock Presbyterian Church in Ellwood City.  Their son, James, recently graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.

 

          According to the folks who study trends, there’s a new demographic among Christians:  “Dones.”  In the words of one author, “After sitting through countless sermons and Bible studies, they feel they’ve heard it all. One … said, ‘I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with having some guy tell me what to do.’”

 

 

 

     There are several problems with what you’ve just read.  First, the phenomenon isn’t new – it goes back to Biblical times.  The author of the letter to the Hebrews, for instance, devotes the end of chapter 5 and the first half of chapter 6 to the topic of “falling away” and says in chapter 10:  Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  

 

 

 

     Second, the “Dones” complain about having someone tell them what to do.  Religion, though, is about revelation: God revealing Himself and His eternal truths and His guidance for our lives to us.  We get to discuss what He’s telling us; we don’t get to negotiate about the content of God’s revelation, however.  As God tells the prophet Isaiah, My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

 

 

 

     Third, note the attitude of the “Dones” – everything is about “I” and “me.”  Now compare that with the attitude found in Hebrews – everything is about serving “one another.”  Reformed hymns reflect this idea: they always use the words “us” and “we.”  The Bible is emphatic that the Christian faith is about so much more (but never less) than “me and Jesus”!  When Christ is asked about the greatest commandment, He replies, “Love the Lord your God” AND “Love your neighbor.”

 

 

 

     Our United Church of Christ Statement of Faith says it well:  “[God] calls us into His church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be His servants in the service of men, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ’s baptism and eat at His table, to join Him in His passion and victory.”

 

 

     A new year is at hand, filled with many challenges and blessings. 

 

Be the man or woman God calls you to be!  Let the world know you live life Jesus’ way!  Don’t be a “done” – be a disciple.  Come to church, and bring your family and friends … for their sake, and for yours.