Pastor’s Page


Starting Over Redux

About this time last year, the Rev. Dr. Lew Parks wrote in these pages about the challenge of either “dawdling in a memory or heading out for a new experience.” His ruminations were prompted by a re-reading of Ezra and Nehemiah, which told of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile. Pastor Lew mused about the choices the returnees had when they found that their city and temple, destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army, remained in ruins after so many years: they could break down and cry; grumble and wish they didn’t have to deal with the difficult task of rebuilding, or ask their enemies for help. None of the options were palatable. Instead, they prayed to the God whom they had once turned their backs on and set about starting over.

The story of the returning Israelites is our story today, Pastor Lew wrote. Over and over we must find a way to begin anew in life because life is not static but evolving. Change, pleasant or otherwise, is constant, and we must adapt. And we at Calvary find ourselves in that position today: we are changing shepherds of the flock once again. I say “we” because I feel blessed to be part of the Calvary family, but I’m acutely aware that the change is difficult for some. Let’s set about starting over, together.

As it happens, there’s a similarity between Pastor Lew’s comments and my first sermon at Calvary, “We’re Doing a New Thing”, which also deals in part with the exiles’ liberation from Babylonian captivity and return to their homeland. My take, however, deals not with the daunting task of rebuilding a city but with the comforting news that God goes with us and prepares our way.


The Israelites were leaving a terrible setback, and protected by God, they were proceeding to a bright future. Our story today, Calvary, is not one of calamity but of uncertainty due to attrition in recent years in our numbers. If I can steal a line from Sam Cooke, a change is gonna come. But it’s a bright one, church, because we’re doing a new thing.

One final word about Pastor Lew: I am indebted to him for his graciousness. He has helped and advised me tremendously during this transition. Somebody once said folks don’t have to be nice, and when they are, they don’t have to be nice to you. Pastor Lew has been unbelievably nice to me, and I will be forever grateful.

Pastor Russell

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Pastor Goodman joins pastors from other churches for a Pastor’s Breakfast to provide mutual support and encouragement.

Summer 2019

JW’s Best and Why We Need Them Now More than Ever

An institution that has nourished many of us is shaking at the foundations these days: The United Methodist Church. As institutions go it is not exceptionally old, fifty-one years to be exact. Most of the senior members of Calvary are in their third iteration of a Wesleyan denomination: United Brethren, Evangelical United Brethren (1946), United Methodist (1968).

The shaking of the foundations has two main sources: the debates surrounding the interpretation of scripture on human sexuality and the changing climate of religious belief, specifically the increase in numbers of persons who identify themselves as having no religious belief, at least “none” as it relates to a religious institution. We talk regularly about these two subjects in the adult Sunday School class and you are welcome to join the conversation any time.

In these uncertain days I find it helpful to remember that there is a Wesleyan tradition, spirit, and character, a Wesleyan Way of being a Christian if you will, that transcends the ups and downs of the institutions that lay claim to the name Methodist. The Wesleyan Way is captured best in the sermons of John Wesley which were intended to be the basic teaching and formation tool of the people called Methodist. The sermons of JW amplified by stories from his long life (1703-1791), the wonderful poetry of his brother Charles, and a little help from Methodist scholars, past and present, remain a very effective tool. They spell out a unique path of salvation, separate the essentials from the nonessentials, and provide next steps for growth in love of God and neighbor.

Please join me in the worship this June as we listen together to the wisdom of three of my favorite John Wesley sermons. There will be more scattered across the coming year. In July our seminary intern, Kayla Shaffer, will share her call story and start our series on the The Gospel in Baseball. (Spoiler alert: she is a Yankee fan). Kayla’s last Sunday with us is the first Sunday in August. On that Sunday she will start the month long Listening for God on Broadway series with the musical, Beauty and the Beast. The summer’s worship projections follow below. See you at the sanctuary/ballpark/theatre!

Pastor Lew

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April 2019

Hope Lands

One of my favorite theologians talks about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead as the dent in the ground left when a giant meteor struck. We missed the action of the fiery rock falling from heaven, but we can see the evidence that it struck. There is no YouTube of Jesus tearing off or bursting out of his burial clothes but there they are lying neatly folding on the slab in the tomb (John 20:6-7), as if the former occupant says, “no thanks; I won’t be needing these.” The tomb is empty. Grieving friends and family suddenly act joyful; frightened persons make audacious claims about the reversal of Jesus’ fate. A church of believers, not in Late Jesus but, in Lord Jesus is born. The world is changed forever on that “third day”.

Hope lands. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in history. It introduces a new possibility, the unheard-of possibility that the “last enemy” itself is subject to almighty God’s overriding might. “Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55), Paul gloats. And we can gloat right along with him. Please join me in the worship this Easter season as we unfold the ways resurrection hope animates believers, makes them serious players in God’s mission, and compelling witnesses in a culture hungry for authenticity. See you in church!   Pastor Lew

April 28 (Easter 2): Hope Lands, Part 1: Boldness (Acts 5:27-32)

May 05 (Easter 3): Hope Lands, Part 2: Change Sides (Acts 9:1-20)

May 12 (Easter 4): Hope Lands, Part 3: Summon Life (Acts 9:36-43)

May 19 (Easter 5): Hope Lands, Part 4: Puncture Preconceptions (Acts 11:1-18)

May 26 (Easter 6): Hope Lands, Part 5: Contagious (Acts 16:9-15)

June 02 (Easter 7): Hope Lands, Part 6: Perseverance (Acts 16:16-34)

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February 2019

No Matter What Happens in St. Louis

Permit me to rework a wise observation from another religion. The great Buddha once observed something like this: “before my great awakening under the Bodhi tree, I awoke from sleep, slurped my coffee, walked the dog, took a shower, got the kids off to school, and headed out for work. But after my great awakening under the Bodhi tree … I awoke from sleep, slurped my coffee, walked the dog, took a shower, got the kids off to school, and headed out for work.”

For several months now we have been studying the special session of General Conference to be held in St. Louis on February 23-26. Along with our conversations in Sunday school, church, and meetings we have been blasted with media and social media news and comment. We have talked to friends in the connection. We have stoked one another’s anxiety level as we indulged in worst case scenario thinking.

I personally hope the One Church Plan passes. It will allow conferences the choice to ordain clergy who are in committed monogamous homosexual relations or not to ordain them. It will offer local congregations the option of receiving such clergy as their pastor —or not. And it will allow pastors and congregations the choice of hosting the unions of such persons — or not. The One Church Plan offers the possibility of welcoming a constituency that has always been there but kept in the shadows. It also offers those who are adamantly opposed to any positive recognition of homosexuals the possibility of voicing and voting their conscience.

But whether One Church or one of the other plans (Traditional Revised, Connectional Conferences, Simple) passes, there will certainly be a period of shake-up following the General Conference in St. Louis. Even if there are no changes to The Book of Discipline the frustration level has reached a critical level. I anticipate expressions of anger and separation from the right and left.

I am helped at the connectional level by remembering that the Church is of God and transcends any one historical expression of it. The church goes on; the church of our memory often does not. And I am helped at the local level by the hint from my friend the Buddha. Before General Conference 2019 Calvary Church gathered to worship God, read the Bible together, fed the hungry and clothed the naked at Manna, laughed and cried together in Christ, and kept the saving station red L-E-D ten-foot cross lit high on the Market Street bell tower. But after General Conference 2019 Calvary Church will … gather to worship God, read the Bible together, feed the hungry and cloth the naked at Manna, laugh and cry together in Christ, and keep the saving station red L-E-D ten-foot cross lit high on the Market Street bell tower.

With you in the journey, Pastor Lew

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December 2018

Love Came Down at Christmas – Please!

I want to write poetry like Christina Rosetti (1830-1894) when I grow up. I want to stare down the harsh environment of people hurting people, of Machiavellian politics, of cruelty to children, of cold indifference to the earth’s balance, of the addictions that pass from generation to generation. I want to name the bareness of a world without love.

In the bleak midwinter,

frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

water like a stone;

Snow had fallen,

snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Because if I were a poet like Christina Rosetti, I also would be capable of lifting my eyes from “bleak midwinter” to the hope that comes from above: God’s sending into the world a man who would personify God’s character as a love that overcomes obstacles.

Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, Love divine;

Love was born at Christmas;

Stars and angels gave the sign.

I invite you to join us in the worship this advent and Christmas season which begins Sunday, December 2nd. We’ll remember the love that came down at Christmas as named in the prophets and the gospels. We’ll search for Best Practices and Next Steps in the Love Chapter of the Bible, First Corinthians 13.

Perhaps you are like me these days. I find it easier to sing “frosty wind made moan” than “Love all lovely”. All the more reason why we should gather, and in the strength of our company, search the Scriptures for words of hope from the Lord for us and for our neighbors.

Advent & Christmas Blessings!

Pastor Lew

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