Midweek Meditation – May 11, 2022

“I Believe”

The Apostles’ Creed was not the only creed to come into existence in the period of the early church, However, it is one of the oldest and simplest creeds of the church stemming from the statement, “Jesus is Lord”.  All Christian traditions recognize its authority and its importance as a standard of doctrine. To study the Apostles’ Creed is to investigate a central element of our common Christian heritage. It is an affirmation of the basic beliefs that unite Christians throughout the world and across the centuries beginning with the words “I believe”.

The Christian creeds had their origins as a profession or confession of faith made by converts at their baptism. Since then, they have served other purposes—for example, as a test of orthodoxy for Christian leaders or as an act of praise in Christian worship. In our day and age the creeds serve three main purposes.

First, a creed provides a brief summary of the Christian faith. You do not become a Christian by reciting a creed; rather, the creed provides a useful summary of the main points of your faith. Certain Christian teachings are not dealt with in the creed. For example, in the Apostles’ Creed there is no section that states “I believe in Scripture”. The importance of the Bible is assumed throughout. Most of the creed consists of direct quotations from Scripture.

Second, a creed allows us to recognize and avoid inadequate or incomplete versions of Christianity. By providing a balanced and biblical approach to the Christian faith, tried and tested by believers down through the centuries, the creed allows us to recognize deficient versions of the gospel.

Third, a creed emphasizes that to believe is to belong. To become a Christian is to enter a community of faith whose existence stretches back to the upper room in which Jesus met with his disciples. By putting your faith in Jesus Christ, you have become a member of his body, the church, which uses this creed to express its faith.

Many people have found their faith strengthened and clarified by being forced to think through areas of the gospel that you might otherwise overlook. See the creed as an invitation to explore and discover areas of the gospel that otherwise you might miss or overlook.

Want to know more? You are invited to join us on Sunday mornings beginning May 15 at 9:15 a.m. in Hollis Hall as together we explore The Apostles Creed.

 – Jean Strain, Director of Christian Education

Midweek Meditation – May 11, 20222022-05-11T10:54:38-05:00

A Letter to the Congregation – Mask Policy Update – February 28, 2022


February 28, 2022


Dear Friends in Christ,

At its February stated meeting, the Session of First Presbyterian Church reviewed and revised the church’s masking policy. After an in-depth discussion of community case numbers, changing CDC guidelines, and mitigation measures, the session has decided that masking will no longer be mandatory at First Presbyterian Church. The only exceptions to this policy change will be in the areas of Christian Education and music. Adult teachers, volunteers, and nursery staff will be asked to remain masked when they are involved in children’s Christian Education activities. And the choir will remain masked in rehearsal and in worship. The session will review these exceptions, along with the mask policy as a whole, at its March meeting.

Practically, this means that all Sunday school activities will resume on Sunday, March 6 at 9:15 a.m. (See the Midweek News for additional details.)

The session has also authorized the resumption of choir. Details will be forthcoming.

Nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions in our congregational life, we are excited to take these steps. Know that the session and I remain grateful for your patience, your compliance, and your support these past years, especially as we have navigated so much that is unfamiliar and uncertain.

This current policy change, like all of the steps we have taken responding to the pandemic, is an imperfect one. We recognize that, at the end of another COVID wave, the burden of evaluating risk increasingly falls on individuals, especially as organizations and community groups relax precautions. Please know, then, that we would not take this additional step if we did not feel that church was a safe community in which to make these changes. Our Sunday morning activities are, to our best knowledge, attended by fully-vaccinated adults. In addition to this, our church HVAC upgrades of the past years, including the circulation of outside air and UV light filtration, have ensured that church ventilation will mitigate the harms of any circulating pathogens. This is especially true in the new construction where most Sunday activities take place: sanctuary, commons, Hollis Hall, and nursery.

For any members who wish to remain masked, we encourage you to do so. And, to keep the church safe, we ask that you remain home and enjoy our virtual worship if you have any COVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, sore throat, shortness of breath).

Please be in touch with me or a member of session if you have any questions or concerns about our policy changes.

We look forward to seeing your smiles in worship soon!






A Letter to the Congregation – Mask Policy Update – February 28, 20222022-03-01T12:58:35-05:00

Midweek Meditation – February 2, 2022


Carrying Heavy Nets


Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.
Mary Oliver in “At the River Clarion” (Evidence, 2009)
What is God saying to you today? Through whom or what is God speaking?


Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”
So they dropped the nets and their catch was so huge that their nets were splitting. They signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They filled both boats so full that they were about to sink.
Luke 5:5-7

We all have nets. In them, we carry a lot of things. Those things can feel like huge weights. There are physical weights like backpacks and bags of groceries. There are invisible weights. Thoughts in our heads. Feelings in our hearts. Sometimes they are so heavy that taking the next step or doing the next thing can feel almost impossible. Even taking a breath can feel like hard work. When you feel weighed down, and your net is splitting, who do you signal? Who are the people you call for help?

Getting support is the only answer when things are too heavy to carry. We have to practice getting support before we need it. Practice identifying the people we can trust. Practice going to those people and talking about what we are carrying. So when things get too heavy, we will know exactly what to do and whom to go to for help. These deep connections to other people and God can help us carry anything.


 – Patrick Kangrga


God, give me the wisdom to identify people whom I can trust.
Guide me to reach out to them whenever I feel like I am carrying too much.
And support them as they do their best to support me.
Where there’s water on Earth, you find life as we know it.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist
Spend time in the places and with the people who are your waters and life.
Seek out new waters and new life.
Be life to others.


From d365 Daily Devotionals – devotions 365 days a year

Midweek Meditation – February 2, 20222022-02-02T10:49:11-05:00

Midweek Meditation – December 22, 2021



Nine Lessons and Carols

This may be a little too “inside baseball” but every once in a while we get a question about our Christmas Eve service. Why do we have communion some years but not others? Why do we sing lessons and carols? What happened to candlelight?

Through some years of experimentation we’ve settled into a pattern. On Christmas Eve, every year, we adapt a service of lessons and carols to celebrate the coming of Jesus. (Don’t worry: there’s still candlelight. We light candles at the end of the service during “Silent Night” in order to welcome the light of the world coming to us.)

The format of the worship service is borrowed from the Festival of Lessons and carols begun at King’s College Chapel in Cambridge (UK) in 1918. The service is so beloved that the BBC sends the broadcast over the radio to millions around the world. You can find it sometime on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Begun in 1918 as a way to reintroduce imaginative worship into worship that wanted some renewal, the service follows the story of salvation history, beginning with Adam and Eve in a garden, and ending the Gospel of John: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Interspersed with the readings are musical pieces sung by the choir or congregation to celebrate Christmas.

The choir is famously good, and shares a bit of high drama. One of the notable traditions on the musical side is picking a young boy to sing the first verse of the old hymn, “Once in Royal David’s City” as a solo. Remember, the broadcast is heard by millions around the world, so who gets the solo could be a fraught question. Rather than picking a soloist days or weeks ahead, and risking an enormous amount of pressure on a ten year old, the choirmaster begins to conduct and, a few beats ahead, points to the young boy who will sing about the coming of Jesus to millions.

The service is long enough that communion doesn’t quite fit, which is a shame. But the scope of the service focuses us on the saving work of God which, in its enormity, demands all our attention.

The story begins in a garden, telling of our well-known separation from God. The rest of the service is about our healing—in God’s promise to Abraham, in the prophecies of Isaiah, in the annunciation, in shepherds and angels, in wise men, and in the Word made flesh.

It’s long enough, then, that we realize the depths of the story of salvation. It is not a picturesque Christmas card creche, but the response of a God who has been at work for a long time in order to shine light into darkness.


Genesis 3:8-15, 17-19

Genesis 22:15-19

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

Isaiah 11:1-4a, 6-9

Luke 1:26-35, 38

Luke 2:1-7

Luke 2:8-16

Matthew 2:1-11

John 1:1-14

Come share God’s story with us!

Lessons and Carols:

5:30 p.m. on Friday, December 24.

Midweek Meditation – December 22, 20212021-12-21T12:24:33-05:00

“Gloria” by Vivaldi during December 19 worship

When the modern-day Vivaldi revival began early in the twentieth century, attention focused mainly on the composer’s concertos.  Those were particularly interesting to scholars and musicians because of their influence on J. S. Bach.  But then, in the late 1920’s their view of Vivaldi changed, when a large collection of his vocal music was discovered in Turin.  Suddenly, he was much more than a composer of violin concertos.  The Gloria, part of that Turin collection, received its twentieth-century premiere in 1930 and has remained the most popular of all Vivaldi’s vocal works ever since.

In addition to concertos, Vivaldi was asked to write a good deal of religious music for the accomplished musicians at the Ospedale della Pietà, the girls’ orphanage in Venice where he served as music director.  In all likelihood, the present Gloria, in which all the vocal solos are for female voices, was written for the girls at the school.  It is a setting of a single section of a mass, but it is almost certainly a complete work and not a fragment, since it was not uncommon to write individual mass movements for specific occasions.

The orchestration, which may have been inspired by the roster of students at the school, calls for relatively limited forces — only a single oboe and a single trumpet (with no timpani) are added to the strings —  and there are only three vocal soloists.  The work opens with the kind of strong motoric rhythm that is reminiscent of Vivaldi’s concertos but then shifts into the beautiful harmonic world of the Et in terra pax, a movement that wanders meditatively through unexpected keys.

The closing fugue (Cum sancto spiritu) is in a more conservative style than the rest of the work and is in fact not originally by Vivaldi.  He “borrowed” it from a work by a contemporary, Giovanni Maria Ruggieri.  Here Vivaldi has considerably improved the original, altering the orchestration, giving a greater role to the trumpet, and condensing Ruggieri’s double chorus to a single four-voice chorus.  The Ruggieri fugue may be an unexpected choice for the ending of this work, but Vivaldi seems to have been so impressed with it that this was the second time that he used it. The first was a rather different adaptation in one of his earlier works, which was also a setting of the Gloria.

-Martin Pearlman

“Gloria” by Vivaldi during December 19 worship2021-12-15T10:19:02-05:00
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