Sunday, April 28, 2013

From Study Retreat

A couple weeks back I was on study retreat at a friend's farm in Williamsport. A couple pics from the hike around the property. How much wood could a woodpecker . . . ?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Come Pray Act

Acts 9:36-43
21 April 2013
Celebrations worship, message by Michael Greek
Listen online or download Sunday messages, and here!
In reading this passage, I expected to speak on the wonders of God, the Miracle of resurrection.  I though that I would touch on the power of the Holy Spirit and on healing through Jesus' name.  However, when I read through the passage with those things in mind, none of them really hit a place within me.  So I read it again.  In preparing for this sermon JP and Laura and I discussed the story of the healing, and how it closely related grammatically and in form and style with several other stories of resurrection from other points in the bible, new and old testament.  I found these links to be particularly interesting and thought that maybe I would dive into them deeper and speculate on the similarities and differences, but when I read through the text no spark was kindled in that particular arena.  So I read it again.

I read the text over and over.  I read some of the chapters leading up to it and some of the chapters proceeding it.  I looked into a concordance or two, thought that maybe there would be some great insight that someone else had wrapped up for me and tied with a bow, “Here, here is your sermon”.  But my imagination was somewhat stagnate.  Until I read again, and took notice of something I hadn't.  A semi-colon.  I saw a semi-colon and God began to nudge me.  And so while there are probably volumes that can be written on the miracle the God did through Peter on raising Tabitha from the dead and volumes more on the news of her resurrection and how it spread al throughout Joppa and on I will unashamedly be speaking today on a thought that all comes from noticing a form of punctuation that did not even exist when this story took place. 

You have been warned.

But I apologize for nothing.

Get Up

Acts 9:36-43
21 April 2013
Traditions worship, message by Laura Hulsey
Listen online or download Sunday messages, and here!
I don’t know about you, but the weeks after turning our clocks ahead can be grueling, especially when it comes to getting up in the morning. For my son and me the past month has been a struggle to get out of bed. Now I do not usually set an alarm, but Wesley does.  He likes to get up at 4:45. Well let me rephrase that, he wants to get up that early so he can shower, eat and play games on the computer or the Xbox before heading to school. I’m not sure that anyone likes to get up that early in the morning.

          For the past several weeks on the days that Wes has set his alarm, he has not gotten up. In fact not only has he not gotten up, but he has not heard the alarm. Well you can well imagine who has heard the alarm. I have. Now, I don’t need usually get up until 5:15. So his alarm goes off and I wait. No response and the alarm keeps ringing. And I wait. Again, no response. So in a feeble, tired voice I call out, Wes. Wes. Wes. Still, no response. Wes are you going to get up? Wes. Yes, I keep trying, because I really don’t want to get out from under the covers and I really don’t want to have to get up any earlier than I have to. Sometimes he wakes up and sometimes he doesn’t. Getting up, it’s not always easy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pastor and People on a Journey

I hope that you have all learned by now that, effective July 1, 2013, I will begin to serve as pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania. Neither we nor our church council requested this move, but it was the unanimous wisdom of the bishop and superintendents that this is the time and place for us to move. June 16 will be our last Sunday at Bethany; our move is tentatively scheduled for June 20. Stay tuned for details on celebrating our ministry together!

Our new pastor at Bethany is Pastor Dennis "PD" McCleary. You can read about PD and his wife, Jean, on our church website. I am excited that the bishop and cabinet are sending Bethany a man who loves Jesus, loves people, and loves the Scripture. His gifts of prayer and compassion are powerful and deep. We have already begun to work together on transition issues. He has been introduced to the council and has begun to meet the staff and some of the groups in the church.

I did not become your pastor simply because the bishop sent us to Bethany. I became your pastor as you welcomed me into your hearts and lives together. Though I will no longer be your pastor, that gift of journeying, growing, and serving together is something I will always carry with me. Now it is time for you to prepare to welcome a new pastor into your hearts and lives together, to extend to him the same gift that you gave to us. I remember that welcome – the joy, the helping hands preparing and painting the parsonage, the hugs, the people who took me visiting with them, and the powerful way not just the Bohanans but many other new faces were made welcome here. It is that gift that has driven the growth of Bethany Church and will continue to do so under the leadership of Pastor Dennis McCleary. So, please make every effort to be here on his first Sundays to support him, meet him, and hold him in your prayers as you begin ministry together with him.

In the midst of this process, I have noticed and collected small things, little coincidences and gifts from God, that serve as signs on this adventure. Like mother Mary, I "treasure these things in my heart" (Luke 2.51). We were informed of our move on a day that placed the announcement on the same date as the day I preached on Jesus’ word from the cross, "It is finished." It hit us hard, but we gulped and we said yes. A friend of mine works in soccer coaching across the region and travels to Mountain Top a couple times a year. He returned with a team for me to coach and a team for me to play on – and the secretary of the soccer club is a member of Christ Church. Please pray for us to find these same kinds of connections for Robin, Jesse, and Caleb.

I have been reading Scripture differently, through the lens of this experience. To Abraham God says, "Leave your country, your people, your father’s house and go to the land I will show you" (Genesis 12.1). On Palm Sunday, the apostles take a donkey with the simple words, "The Lord needs it" (Luke 19.30-34). The apostle Paul, confronted on the road to Damascus, is told, "You will be told what you are to do" (Acts 9.6). I have been reminded of the power of obedience and trust, even when things are uncertain, when the call comes to leave what is profoundly good. Abraham, leaving so much that was good and familiar, heard the promise, "I will bless you and make you a blessing" (Genesis 12).

Together on the journey!
Pastor JP

Monday, April 22, 2013

Study Retreat

Was on spring study retreat last week with my friend Steve. Yes, that's me with the farm in the background. Got lots of work done (sermon planning, reading, prayer), enjoyed a long hike around the farm, a solid run, and cooking for the week.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

No Way!

Listen online or download Sunday messages, and here!

The message from Sunday April 14: Call to worship, Psalm 30; Children, John 21.1-19; Message, Acts 9.1-29, especially 9.6.

Background:Saul – Stephen (forgive), became Paul, basket & his pride
Story is told twice more, in Ac 22.4-16 and 26.9-18, with slight variations

Followers of the Way (not yet called Christians) – following, not just about intellect or emotion but behavior

Jesus the persecuted one
solidarity with persecuted Christians
... with others persecuted

Call: "You will be told what you are to do" (9.6)
obedience is the response of faith/love
Unpleasant aspects of the call: NO WAY!
"I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name" (9.16)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ministry Matters™ | Blog | Faith Facing Tragedy

Ministry Matters™ | Blog | Faith Facing Tragedy
By Bishop Michael Lowry, Central Texas Conference

Collectively this has been a hard week. News of the tragic terrorist bombing at the Boston marathon was joined last night by the massive explosion here in West, Texas. While Boston may be distant, we still reach out instinctively with our prayer and our care. The town of West lies in the heart of the Central Texas COnference of The United Methodist Church. This tragedy is close to home and touches our lives much more intimately. Here too we reach out with the love and care of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I was on the phone last night with Rev. Don Scott, the District Superintendent of West United Methodist Church. West UMC is pastored by Rev. Jimmy Samson. At the time of writing this blog (Thursday morning, April 18, 2013), Rev. Laraine Waughtal, Disaster Relief Coordinator for the Central Texas Conference, is in West working with Pastor Samson on how we might best respond. Rev. Kyland Dobbins and Dr. Randy Wild from our Conference Mission Support Center are coordinating our response. We are aware of four church members whose homes are demolished and many others who have suffered damage. Four families of West UMC are currently unaccounted for. A number of churches in the Central District of the Conference are open as emergency shelters as needed. Officials from The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR— a part of our connectional worldwide mission to places experiencing disasters and one arm of the General Board of Global Ministries) has already been in touch with the offer of an emergency grant to help in relief efforts.

As is being widely reported, the community of West currently has all the emergency help they need. Officials in West are asking people to stay away until further assessment is done and specific help is requested.

How should we as a people of faith face these and other tragedies?

Continue reading!
Excerpted from Read more:
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Holy Communion in Haiti

As Americans, we tend to think that communion needs to be the traditional bread and grape juice, however the January team from the Haiti Partnership reports that the elements they shared, in their recent trip to Haiti, were American Coca-Cola and Haitian chicken. The communion was even more special for the people joined for communion as they sat as one American, one Haitian, one American, one Haitian and served each other. This team worked in Bercy in the south western part of Haiti, where there is an impressive concrete irrigation system for the surrounding fields. The work project was to help with construction of the community church that had been badly damaged by many storms that hit that part of the country. The Haiti Partnership wishes to offer speakers for any church that would like to find out more about God's work in Haiti. Please email Barb Gay at "skyhaven at epix dot net" or check out the website of
In 2012, Pastor JP and Caleb both served on a Haiti Partnership mission team. It was a wonderful opportunity.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Newest members

Sarah and Michael, with Pastor JP and with their presenter Robin. Congrats! It is always exciting to see folks make their vows and to remember and refresh our vows together with you.

Bishop Park responds to the Boston Tragedy

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry;
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalm 34: 15-18, NIV)
Dear United Methodists and Friends of the Susquehanna Annual Conference,
Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones of the bomb explosions in Boston. We pray for God's caring presence with them in their time of need for comfort, strength, healing and recovery. We want them to know that all the peace-loving and justice-seeking citizens of our nation and the world are with them. For so many people a day of celebration turned into a day of horror and pain. Our prayers are also with those who were there when it happened and were tremendously shaken by the horrific tragedy. In the midst of fear and confusion, we saw the first responders and many others rushing to the people to serve their critical needs at the place of terror. We give thanks for their heroic and inspiring actions of rescue and care.

This tragedy demonstrates once again that the presence of evil is real in the world. When one of the most life affirming events like a marathon is targeted to kill and destroy many innocent lives, we encounter the face of darkness yet again. Out of this brokenness we are reminded that there are countless numbers of innocent victims of terror and violence in so many places in the world. For such a time like this, we are compelled to cry out to God on behalf of the brokenness of our world. As God's people we put our trust in the Lord who is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We put our hope in the Lord whose eyes are on the righteous, whose ears are attentive to the cry of the righteous, and whose face is against those who do evil.

The Lord who is our present help in a time of trouble is with us. This is a time for God's people to pray on behalf of our brokenness and be resolved ever more to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the Prince of Peace, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world.

In Christ,
Jeremiah Park

We Are Witnesses

Listen online or download Sunday messages, and here!

Our message from April 7: Acts 5.27-32, with our own witness stories included (check out the audio)!

Witness = Greek legal term, martus = root for "martyr"
"Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

Not about the guilt question: Who killed Jesus
people have been killed over this – Jews, Roman Catholics

Not about the power question: Jesus told me to
About the gift of repentance and forgiveness (not guilt!)
About witness to cross and resurrection (not power!)

No proof of resurrection, only empty tomb and the church

Peter’s transformation
impulsive - walk on water
die for you
deny 3x

Our stories!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Thanks to the group for singing in Traditions worship on Apr 7, and to Gregg for leading!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pancakes & Paint

Thanks to Dick for coordinating another wonderful "Labor for the Lord" day on Saturday Apr 6.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pastor Dennis in his own words

My life has been an ongoing process of discovering who I am and learning to follow God’s call upon my life. 

I’ve been a lifelong resident in South Eastern York County.  I graduated from Kennard-Dale High School which is part of the South Eastern School District. 

My family was active in the then Methodist Church.  I grew up in Prospect UMC and took the membership vows of commitment after going through Confirmation Class.  Prospect UMC is linked with Crossroads UMC and makes up the Gatchelville / Crossroads Charge in the southern part of the York District. 

Throughout my childhood and high school years I was very active in the church family.  I was very involved in the MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) and was Sunday School Superintendent starting at the age of twelve.  I learned to appreciate and thirst for God’s word by reading the scriptures daily to prepare the devotions for Sunday School.  I was an officer in the youth group throughout my teenage years. 

At the age of twelve I began working on Maple Lawn Farms, Inc. in New Park.  They were involved in orchard and small grain production.  Out of high school I became the production manager for the small grain operation and was very involved in the workings of the orchard.  I was employed with them for more than twenty-five years.  During this time I began to pursue God’s call and grow in my faith.

Around 1980 I became a Lay Speaker in the York District.  God opened many doors of opportunity for me as a Lay Speaker.  I had many opportunities to fill the pulpit and teach Sunday School throughout the York District.  During this time I was a Youth Leader for Prospect UMC and Crossroads UMC.  I also became active in Lay Witness Missions throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania.  My involvement in LWM was as a witness, but also as a Youth Coordinator. 

In January 1989 I went on a working retreat with the United Methodist Church to Cuernavaca, Mexico.  That experience changed my life and that year I met Jean.  We were married in September and she became stepmother to my son, Drew.  Drew was five years old. 

In 1995, God called me to be a part-time pastor at Potosi Mt. Zion in Glen Rock.  During that time I continued working on the farm for one year.  Then needing to cut working hours, I worked at a Car and Truck inspection station as a mechanic and service manager in New Park.  In 1999 I was called to full-time ministry and began pastoring at Mt. Nebo / Mt. Olivet Charge.  Mt. Nebo is in Delta, and Mt. Olivet is located near Fawn Grove.  During my appointment at Nebo / Olivet, I attended the Course of Study at Wesley Theological Seminary.  I completed the Course of Study at Wesley in July, 2004.

My life has been one of discovering the wonderful guiding hand of God upon my life.  With prayer and excitement I look forward to walking the path God has planned in the years to come.
--Pastor Dennis McCleary, "PD"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Joseph's Story - International Justice Mission

I have met the leadership of IJM, a fantastic organization passionate for Jesus' mission to "proclaim release to the captives", and one person with connections to Bethany has served as an intern in their DC offices.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

All the Wrong Places

The message notes for Easter Sunday (no audio available), from Luke 24:1-12.

Looking in all the wrong places:
"Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
Casey & Danna’s keys
picked up by Robin and put into her jacket pocket

Looking in all the wrong places:
if you do it long enough, you give up
maybe you have been there
need for control – find it now, find it on my terms
surrender to surprise
do not quit looking ... start to look in the right places:
the table of the Lord,
the body of Christ not only in the bread and cup but in bro/sis

whether we are looking for the pair of glasses we are holding in our hands or the pen that is behind our ear, we have a habit of looking in all the wrong places

appreciate the response of Peter to the "idle tale" of "the women"
he does not debate, he does not decide (believe or not)
he does not look so much as enter the mystery, see it for himself
and "he went home, amazed"
entering mystery is leaving the realm of our control

rodeo horse, sit on or ride
entering mystery requires trust
even when the women and the other disciples see Jesus resurrected, the mystery of the empty tomb is not removed

they know Who, What, When, Where ... not HOW
"God raised him" (Acts 10.40)
"Power of an indestructible life" (Hebrews 7.16)

we know WHY – the most important question that can be asked
mystery is at the heart of the universe, because God at the heart
life has the last word – not death – so LIVE IT!
something, someONE, > me

That greater someONE, Jesus Christ the Lord, is worth trusting. Not simply so that we can enter the mystery and come home, like Peter, amazed. Not simply so that we can be surprised when we are looking in all the wrong places. But because he chose to become fully human, even to death. And, in doing so, he invites us not simply to enter the mystery but to live the mystery of LIFE with him.

Monday, April 8, 2013

New Windows

New windows were installed in the Young Toddler room in the Learning Center this past week. A fantastic improvement for comfort, beauty, and energy stewardship.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Easter Celebrations

From our Celebrations service ... the Peace, children at the altar, Holy Communion, and the annual gift of ceramic Easter eggs for all our children.

Friday, April 5, 2013

On our new pastoral leader

As I prepared to offer my reflection on the announcement of Pastor Dennis McCleary as our new pastoral leader here at Bethany, I was simply grateful for the appointment of a man of God who truly loves people.  "PD" will be blessed by you and will be a blessing to you.  Some of the other things I shared on Sunday March 24:

In the prior week, after the announcement that we were being moved by the bishop, I ran into Karen at the hospital, doing her job.  She gave me a hug and said, "I'm praying for a better one" (a better pastor).  I love big prayers!  And I recall what a past superintendent of the York District, Rev. Roger Mentzer, once said: "I'd be proud to call Dennis my pastor."

Do not underestimate the power of hospitality.  Social scientists tell us that people decide whether or not they would like to come back to a church within 5 minutes - long before they heard the preacher preach or had a chance to be introduced.  It's the people of Bethany that drive the growth and energy we experience together.  Dana, one of the newer folks to the Celebrations service, says that she decided to attend worship here because when she came to one of Marsha's recitals, a man stood at the door on a rainy night to hold it open and offer an umbrella.  Hospitality!  And, that is how your church Council began their relationship with Dennis and Jean McCleary - with a full breakfast served up out of our church kitchen.

Continue to welcome Pastor Dennis and Jean in this spirit, and continue to welcome every guest God sends us in this way ... and God will continue to bless.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Prayer for Easter

A prayer in the traditional structure of a "collect", written by our seminary intern Blanca Baker for one of her classes:

Eternal and loving God, we come before You in awe, to adore You and to praise Your name, and in remembrance of Your sacrifice on the cross and to celebrate Your resurrection.

Oh precious God, only to You all of our thoughts are known and only You can really understand us because You lived the suffering firsthand when You came to be part of this world who set You up to die on the cross at Calvary.

Oh God, forgive us for what we have done to You; make us new and help us so that we seek to live our lives to please You. Guide us to that perfect life that can only be achieved through You.

Oh God, hear our prayers so that we can be deserving children of Your love.

Thank You Oh Lord for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to this world in order to save it and to teach us the way to live in hope for eternal life.

In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Easter Traditions

From greeting the early arrivals to Easter flowers silhouetted against the stained glass, from the choral anthem to Mel's artistry.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Letting Go

From the March 24 devotion in Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, by Sarah Young. Shared by council member Crist as a reflection on our transitions:

This is a time in your life when you must learn to let go: of loved ones, of possessions, of control. In order to let go of something that is precious to you, you need to rest in My Presence, where you are complete. Take time to bask in the Light of My Love. As you relax more and more, your grasping hand gradually opens up, releasing your prized possession into My care.

You can feel secure, even in the midst of cataclysmic changes, through awareness of My continual Presence. The One who never leaves you is the same One who never changes: I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. As you release more and more things into My care, remember that I never let go of your hand. Herein lies your security, which no one and no circumstance can take from you.

Psalm 89:15; Hebrews 18:8; Isaiah 41:13

Sunday School - more

Adult Discovery (Library), and Youth!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Easter SonRise

From our service in Mount Rose Cemetery. Special thanks to David, Josie, and Curvin for preparing the breakfast that followed!

Monday, April 1, 2013

More on our new pastor

The text of the council announcement, given March 24, by the full council, as written by chair David Snyder:

Many of you heard the announcement last week about JP being reassigned to another church. We, the members of your Church Council, were surprised by that news, and experienced the same range of emotions that many of you experienced. We were not the only congregation to receive this kind of news last week, so please pray for all of the churches that are facing pastoral reassignments.

This week, the Council met on Tuesday to prepare to meet with the District Superintendent on Thursday. We feel, like you that this is moving fast, but once the conference starts pastoral reassignments, it’s a domino effect with much to address at many churches. During the Thursday meeting, the District Superintendent prepared a profile of Bethany – our strengths and weaknesses, wants and needs. This was prayed over by the Bishop and Cabinet overnight, a pastor was selected by conference call Friday morning, and the Bishop approved the selection.

Yesterday (Saturday March 23), we were introduced to our new pastor by the District Superintendent. (It was not an interview.) He is Pastor Dennis McCleary (“P.D.” or “Pastor Dennis”). He is married to Jean, has a grown son and 5 year old grandson, has a long pastorate near Delta, PA, and already knows a few folks at Bethany.

The District Superintendent said that Pastor Dennis is “a man of humility who leads by spiritual example” and “a man of the Holy Spirit who loves EVERYONE!” When asked about his spiritual strengths, P.D. listed: compassion, teaching, and willingness to take God’s path (going where God leads him).

We enjoyed our time with the McClearys yesterday. JP and the Council will be helping P.D. with the transition between now and when his service begins in July. Please be aware that we will be paying tribute to JP before that time, so please pay attention to special announcements in bulletins and newsletters.

Bethany Church is recognized for hospitality and loving people. The best thing that we can do to support and honor the Bohanans and the McClearys and to honor God is to continue loving, welcoming, and serving, and to continue our important mission “to honor God by making more disciples for Jesus Christ.”