The Summer

The Summer

By Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, July 30, 2015

Once there was a man who filmed his vacation. He went flying down the river in his boat with his video camera to his eye, making a moving picture of the moving river upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly toward the end of his vacation. He showed his vacation to his camera, which pictured it, preserving it forever: the river, the trees, the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat behind which he stood with his camera preserving his vacation even as he was having it so that after he had had it he would still have it. It would be there. With a flick of a switch, there it would be. But he would not be in it. He would never be in it. ~ Wendell Berry

The time for summer vacation is almost over. Over the next few weeks, all of our kids will go back to their classrooms. Inevitably, they will hear that time-honored first-week-of-school question, “What did you do over the summer?” Summer stories will follow. Answering that question might even involve trinkets from your travels or souvenirs that you saved or mementos meant to capture travels or souvenirs that you saved or mementos meant to capture a moment. These things preserve our presence in those moments and allow us to share them with others. Like the poem from Wendell Berry printed above, souvenirs and vacation mementos have a way of preserving for the traveler “his vacation even as he was having it so that after he had had it he would still have it. It would be there.” Capturing the fleeting feeling of an exceptional vacation when you return to your everyday vocation.

Answering the question, “What did you do over the summer?” for our congregation would include some time off, but also include stories centered on things done and not things undone. Our summer stories involve a Choir tour, children’s camp, family retreat, Passport and an international mission trip. For the next few weeks as we gather on Wednesday nights, we will tell summer stories. As a fun, first Wednesday back to our everyday vocation, I invite you to share your own summer mementos as we gather around the tables. On the 12th, you will hear about the experiences of our youth at Passport Camps. Two of our college students will share about their work through Passport as summer interns. On the 19th, our Slovakia Mission team will report on our work with the Roma settlement. There will even be a taste of Slovakia for all to share. You will want to be there. I look forward to hearing your summer stories.

Praying for Our Teachers

Praying for Our Teachers

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, July 23, 2015

By Jake Hall

Right now, in the heat of summer the
educators in our congregation prepare for
another academic year. First-year teachers
ready classrooms and long-tenured
professors edit their syllabi for another group
of learners. My wife, the other Reverend Hall, is an educator, a
calling that has been embodied both in classrooms and in
congregations. Last year about this time she wrote a prayer for
those other educators in our midst. May it be our prayer for
students and teachers and lifelong learners of any age.

Harambe for Giving Hearts at VBS

Harambe for Giving Hearts at VBS

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 7/16/2015

By Ruth DuCharme

Each year at Vacation Bible School our children present their offerings during the morning assembly. A cause is chosen where these offerings will be directed, and our children gauge their progress each morning. It is always a meaningful part of our VBS week.

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 7/9/2015

By Jake Hall 

“Jambo,” it’s Swahili for “Hello.” “Jambo” has echoed throughout the halls of Highland Hills during our Kingdom of the Son Vacation Bible School. This safari-themed week has examined the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer like an explorer on safari learning the landscape and experiencing local life. In the New Testament, the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The Lord’s Prayer is a model prayer that Jesus taught his disciples. The prayer teaches us about the landscape of the Christian life and living an adventure of faith on which we embark when we embody the prayer. Each word of the prayer, from the opening salutation to the powerful benediction, provides insight into the way of following Jesus. Even the “Hello” is important.

The Field, the Farmer, and The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

The Field, the Farmer, and The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 7/2/2015

By Jake Hall

That is quite a title, right? I feel like I have read too many manifestos as of late. So, I will add one more to the mix. Wendell Berry is an American novelist, poet, activist, and cultural critic. I think the most important thing Berry is though is a farmer. Maybe we can learn something from farmer poets about abiding the season in which we live. The poem you will find below reminds me to do two things: practice resurrection and plant sequoias. The Psalms remind me that this is God’s work to which we are called. 

They Do Not Grieve Alone

They Do Not Grieve Alone

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 6/28/2015

By Jake Hall

In the host of responses to last week’s tragedy, I was struck by this liturgy used by so many congregations this week. May it be our prayer.

Breathless in Slovakia

Breathless in Slovakia

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 6/18/2015

By Carol Brown

I’ve seen many mountain ranges from the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and they are all amazingly beautiful. But the majesty of the High Tatra Mountains rising up in the backyard of this small village in Slovakia takes my breath away. As our mission team serves among the Slovak and Roma families in Vazec, our work is framed by rows of quaint houses, sheep and chickens on the side of the road, friendly neighbors calling out “Dobry den!” to the Americans, and the ever present but sometimes cloud-covered High Tatra Mountains.

The Mission Pack List

The Mission Pack List

By Jake Hall 

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 6/11/2015

Tomorrow our Mission Team departs for Slovakia. Today I imagine there will be a frenzy of packing for the trip and double-checking the checklist to make sure everything is ready. Checklist from Carol, check. Second checklist from Marsha, check. Travel documents, clothes, teaching materials, and even a box of crunch berry cereal for our long-suffering field personnel make up the list. The two most important things that we will bring with us will be open minds and open hearts for the Romany people.