First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua

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September 2011

Pastor Points: At the Crossroads

I believe, very strongly, that Christ has sent our church to Whitehall to play a unique role in God’s activity here. For the past one hundred and fifty-six years, the mission of God in our community has held us together. However, our congregation is at a moment in its life when it is faces an uncertain future. We have good leaders and successful ministries, including music and Christian education. Our pool of volunteers has diminished, as more women have entered the work force. Children baptized in our church have moved away, and many “pillars of the congregation” are not able to participate as actively as in the past. The Lehigh Valley has suffered economic decline. Narrow flights of stairs from the kitchen and the entrance to the sanctuary cause physical hardship. Operating costs have risen. Our sound system is no longer “state of the art.” We need to revitalize our outreach, as well as our worship, in order to proclaim the gospel effectively.

Our church is one of three churches in Lehigh Presbytery which have been selected to participate in a mission study process, “Standing at the Crossroads.” Its design is based on a successful planning project done last year by Church Innovations for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Normally, a mission study like this one, guided by experienced consultants, costs a local congregation thousands of dollars. We will not need to spend a penny from the church’s operating budget on this project. Our participation in “Standing at the Crossroads” is partially underwritten by the Synod of the Trinity, and is funded by memorial gifts presented to our congregation in memory of one of its long-time members, the late William Joseph Marks.

“Standing at the Crossroads” will study the status of our church, its history and goals, and the needs of our changing community. The goal of this six-month project is to discern our congregation’s future, through the leading of the Holy Spirit. At its August 7 Special Meeting, our Session voted to join this project. Our Clerk of Session, John Hrizuk, and Elder Tom Steigerwalt, have agreed to serve with me on the church’s steering team for this mission study. Elder Eileen Tremblay agreed to serve after the Session meeting. Two other Elders from our congregation will be selected by the Session to join the team, as well. We will meet with a church planning firm, Church Innovations, online each month. Bible study classes and small group meetings will be open to other church members.

Our congregation’s steering team will meet with other church leaders from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia at an all-day gathering in Lewisburg on Saturday, October 22. The project will end in May 2012. Planning facilitators will be led by the Reverend Robert Armstrong, an experienced Presbyterian pastor who has served several congregations in Ohio. A report will be shared with the Session and congregation. Results and ideas from other Presbyterian churches will be available to us, as well. If you are a current or former Session member, won’t you consider volunteering to help lead “Standing at the Crossroads”?

Reverend Joyce Smothers, Pastor


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