Dear Members and Friends of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church:
I write to you filled with both gratitude and sorrow, with the ache of endings and the hope of new beginnings.
The Congregation met yesterday, Sunday, September 15, 2019, and voted “to request the Committee on Ministry of the presbytery to appoint an Administrative Commission for the purpose of dissolving the Rock Spring Presbyterian Church on a date to be determined.” This official language means that the congregation has voted to conclude our ministry together and close the church. The final piece is the concurrence of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta which will be forthcoming.
No date has been established for the final worship service. You will be informed of that day and we will celebrate what God has done with us for over 148 years. Before then, we will meet as always, at 11:00 a.m. on Sundays, to worship our Creator, Savior, and Sustainer, the one Triune God, in whom we all live and move and have our being. Please join us for these weeks of honoring what God has done and looking forward to what God is doing.
Further practical matters you may be interested in:
An information sheet will be distributed to members regarding an inventory of the church’s furnishings, etc. and how those items are to be retained for ministry by churches, offered to other agencies, and/or returned to members who may have a particular interest in those items. Please note that all the property within these buildings has been offered or purchased for use by the RSPC, for the ministry of the church, to the glory of God and that dedication of the real property is the initial guideline for future uses.
If you have any historical or administrative documents, and especially pictures, at home please begin returning those to the church as we will want to use these treasures for final displays and celebrations of the great ministry of this church.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12: 1)
Soon we, the members of this church, will meet to discuss the next moment in the historic life-giving ministry of Rock Spring. As we prepare to do so, let us celebrate the joy of the past year in mission. We:
• declare praises for God’s healing and protective touch over those on our prayer list
• rejoice in having helped people of Atlanta find housing through the Intown Cooperative Ministry or stave off hunger with a brown bag lunch twice a week at our own doors.
• celebrate the welcome Georgia State-Agnes Scott-Emory students will receive from the UKIRK campus ministry we support.
• are grateful for the people who have received medicine and medical support though Mercy Care because of our support.
• offer gratitude for being part of a denomination that has an international disaster response ministry that serves communities long after others have left town to which you have contributed.
• give thanks for 149 years of worship in Atlanta, and thousands of people who have gathered in our sanctuary, our classrooms, and our lawn to glorify God and enjoy God always.
Pondering the end-of-life is never easy. Certainly many of us have endured that sorrow with those we love; and; doing so with our beloved church family is no less grievous. Like all families, we take stock of the life we have lived and wonder if we have fulfilled our purpose and made a difference. The few examples listed above are a small portion of the gospel we have shared with the world for the glory of God. Regardless of the difficulties we face that bring us to this moment, nothing can detract from more than a century of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ from the Rock Spring Presbyterian Church.
Now we come to a crossroad and must still listen for the voice of Christ who has always called to...
“the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”
After many deliberations and through faithful service, the elders of the church have discerned that “losing our life for the sake of the gospel,” actually means letting the old, beloved church pass away so that God’s new thing might spring forth (see Isaiah 43: 19; 2 Corinthians 5: 17). As the elders, deacons, and members have followed the vision and mission over the past year, each step led to innovative new avenues of ministry. And each demonstrated more clearly that we had approached the time to pass the baton to a teammate we have not yet met, much less imagined.
The elders rejoice that we have the opportunity to pass on some very concrete gifts as legacies of this church to commemorate these 149 years of service. Those gifts, the ones being handed over, are the members whose service will continue in new places of life-giving mission, funds that have been entrusted to the use of the church for the glory of God, and a blank canvas in the shape of the building itself as new disciples discern the mission of the “gospel at the Rock.”
Many people will weigh in from many different communities surrounding RSPC. But, the members of RSPC remain focused on God’s ongoing vision and mission for us:
Alive in Christ Finding Common Ground for the Common Good,
even though it means losing our life for the sake of the gospel.
We do not know what the future holds as we stand at this crossroad; but, this we do affirm: in life and death, we belong to our faithful savior, Jesus Christ.
The details of the two gatherings for members are as follows:
September 8 -- 5:00 p.m.: Potluck Supper and congregational Town Hall Meeting
Members will have the opportunity to discuss the ministry and the future of the church. NO vote will be taken at this meeting.
September 15—following worship: formal Congregational Meeting
Members will participate in a business meeting and will vote on the unanimous motion from the Session to dissolve the congregation.
The motion reads as follows:
request the Committee on Ministry of the presbytery to appoint an Administrative Commission for the purpose of dissolving the Rock Spring Presbyterian Church on a date to be determined.
Alive in Christ, Finding Common Ground for the Common Good
Rev. Beverly Friedlander (she, her, hers)
Interim Pastor, Rock Spring Presbyterian Church
“What are you giving up for Lent.” There’s more to Lent than just foregoing something enjoyable for six weeks.
Several years ago I bought into the Konmari plan for decluttering. Clothes were scattered across the floor from closets and rooms all over the house. Eventually the books were in piles in the living room. And with every new task, I found that recognizing my joy was coming easier and easier.
If you are not familiar with Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning out, it is a defined process to rid your home of anything that does not “spark joy,” and thus to clear away from your life all that would suck the joy out of living. Ask me. Yep, it works!
If it is appealing to you to remove the clutter from your life, then this is your holiday season: Lent. If you are spiritual but not religious, this season is tailor-made for you!
Lent is better understood as a short time to put all your life out on the floor and take a look at it. Pick up the pieces of your life and hold them for a moment. Then ask yourself one question:
Does this part of my life and identity produce good fruit--love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
If you would like a day-by-day guide for this journey, you can access a “Lenten Calendar.” In our tradition this calendar is coupled with a fish bank offering for kids and the collection is offered on Easter Sunday in a special church-wide offering to help others.
Join us in sacrificing a few minutes every day to de-clutter and rediscover your joy.
After the month of Febraury are we as well versed in the history of Africans in the USA, their enslavement and subjugation, their resilience, their accomplishments, as we are in the history of European settlers and descendants?
We are still woefully behind in acknowledging the reality of white history as well.
I am so glad I have friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who, as people of color, have not given up on “educating Beverly.” While I am proactive in learning our whole history, and facing the present, to disentangle from my own racism, I am aware that I have blind spots to my benefits from white privilege. I need these willing neighbors to call me out.
They don’t have to. In many ways, they shouldn’t. Thankfully, they do! And it is not easy when they do. I get defensive, I admit. AND, I really try to stop talking and actually listen. Thankfully, my friends have been willing to wait with me to get on board.
Like a jazz band, that give and take, that listening and responding to the notes of the others, makes the music of life so much better!
I invite you to commit to a path of discovery and recovery from the racism that is the demon of our national inheritance. Love is the only One who can cast it out. Let’s love each other enough to transcend our dif-ferent skin tones in order to realize, and share in the creation of,
A week ago we heard from the President and then from so many other commentators about the status of the nation, I thought I might as well weigh in.
Here are my thoughts about what makes America great, though some of these things are missing, and, therefore, the state of the union is not great, but it is alive and well…on our way to reclaiming, reviving, renewing—one person to another, one meeting at a time.
At RSPC, we serve sandwich bags to people who have little money, no housing, and no place to use the bathroom. The state of the union is inhospitable when we cannot find in our common purse a way to make sure everyone has a roof over their heads and food to eat. Thanks be to God for the charitable contributions of religious institutions and other non-profits which share the abundance of creation with others in acts of justice. One which we support is Intown Collaborative Ministries.
At RSPC, we meet men and women asking for help with buying medicines and who are clearly in need of medical support. The state of the union is cruel when we cannot find in our common purse a way to make sure everyone has the basic healthcare they need and access to the medicines that cure or mitigate symptoms. Thanks be to God for the many non-profit hospitals and clinics that serve the uninsured with mercy and support from charitable contributions and grants. One which we support is Mercy Care street medicine services.
At RSPC, we celebrate diversity. Through our newest advocacy and educational program we are learning the gifts and needs of our immigrant neighbors. In additions we have chosen to affirm and celebrate the gifts of our LGBTQIA+ neighbors. The state of the union is inhumane when we cannot find the common humility to afford human rights to all without regard for nationality or gender identity, or sexual orientation. Thanks be to God for the work of so many individuals and agencies who advocate and provide for people in need, whoever they are. One which we support is Presbyterian Disaster Assistance refugee ministries.
At RSPC, we believe that finding common ground for the common good is not just a nice slogan; it is a vision and a call to join together to create a state of the union that is better today than yesterday and tomorrow will be even better. We believe that common ground is not the lowest common denominator; it is the highest human connection. We believe that the common good is not a redistribution of wealth making people poorer; it is a sharing of abundant resources that makes everyone richer.
At RSPC, we rejoice in each other. Because we have found that differences are not insurmountable, our similarities are not binding, and our intentions are benevolent. The state of the union includes all these things as well. We must quit hiding it behind the fear-based malevolence we so often hear about in social media, in the news, and face-to-face. We do not downplay the brokenness of our union. It is real. We simply believe it can be overcome, wherever 2 or 3 are willing to gather and listen and trust in the underlying good that dwells in each of us. That is our vision. That is what keeps us coming back together when failure stares us in the face.
In 2018 we have come Alive in Christ in many ways!
Strengthening our faith and devotion to God:
Hello Neighbor: Isn’t it strange how watching someone on television can make you feel loved? Mister Rogers loved me. Maybe I’m showing my age! I was actually a little too old to be watching his show and I never wanted any of my friends to find out. I think, given my later college work and first career choice, I was initially intrigued by the use of puppets and humans and the writing that gave inanimate objects like the trolley a personality (you’re not buying that one are you?). There is no doubt I was hooked into the discoveries and visits Mister Rogers made with his neighbors, whether living or puppetry beings and the way he cap-tured my curiosity and made me feel alive in his neighborhood.
We can expand this line of thinking to the impact a television show can have on scheduling. Before VCRs (early version of DVR for you millennials). We had to watch everything live. I remember sitting in the sorority house with everyone to find out who shot J.R. The show Dallas had created a community much like the soap opera General Hospital had done during the Luke and Laura period. Soon it was Cheers, and Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more recently Orange is the New Black and Scandal. Rather than watching together in these later years, we chat during a coffee break. The way entertainment gives us something to discuss with colleagues and strangers points to the human need to find connections with one another.
To be human is to seek connection, community, friendships, and family.
The state of our nation is fractured, disjointed, isolating, and uprooted. There is no better time than now for our particular church to be declaring that with God’s help, we are finding common ground for the common good. The question before us is can our faith in a loving creator be strong enough to empower us to love our neighbors? Can we accept God’s love for all with enough ardor that we share Christ’s love our enemies? Can we allow the gift of liberation received from the servant Christ to free us for serving friend and foe?
This week – this week in particular – I admit, I am not sure I’m up to the task. Mister Rogers is dead. What if God is? What if all that love that came to me through virtual technology when I was younger has evaporated? What if that in-the-flesh Jesus ascended to heaven and never looked back?
On the other hand, what if the spirit of Mister Rogers lives on, and so does the Spirit of Christ? I’m pret-ty sure I’m not going to find it on television anymore. I’m more than certain I won’t find it by myself. I’m human. I want connection, community, friendships, and family. And it would be even better if the different things that we believe, and the things that make us unique, could bring us together. I’m not ready to give up on that possibility.
“Won’t you please, won’t you please, please won’t you be my neighbor?”
Are you “Alive?”
As pastor of Rock Spring Presbyterian Church in Atlanta Georgia, I am wondering about you. About the deeper part of yourself beyond a great night out with friends or the kickball championship your team wins at the local park. I’m wondering about the life you feel when you wake up every morning and choose to get out of bed.
What makes you get out of bed and go to work every day? Are you driven by the need for a paycheck?
Are you pushed because you need money to enjoy the fun things that make you feel good for a few hours every day or so? Are you a young parent who had no idea a child could cost so much?
Or does your paid work give you a sense of usefulness and meaning?
What moves you toward your unpaid daily labors? What gets you up to make breakfast? Or drop off the kids for daycare? Or rake the leaves and clean the gutters? Or clean up the pile of dirty dishes, empty wine glasses, and clothes strewn around your home?
What is the point of events and activities you look forward to?
I suspect more than a few of you thought, “to have fun, it makes me happy.” Is there more to being alive than fun and games, than doing what you want to do, when you want to do it? Some of my elderly friends and more than a few of my hospice patients have challenged this. Their question, after a lifetime of “having fun,” is, “is this all there is, my whole life has come to this?”
This question focuses us on a common aspect of being human: the search for meaning. This search distinguishes the human and animal spirit. Animals live for the moment. They rest, they hunt or gather. They reproduce. They die. Humans seek inspiration, emotional enlargement, accolades, growth. They, we, seek meaning and purpose in our resting-hunting-reproductive lives.
There was a successful businessman who asked the teacher, Jesus of Nazareth, how can I live forever? He already had a fortune. He was already known to be a strictly moral man obeying the law. Jesus (also known as Christ) said, “give up your holdings and come with me.”
To be alive, even eternally alive, is to be “alive in Christ.” To be alive is to be rooted in a life that connects with people not property. To be alive is to be able to choose a way of life that is rooted in something other than what you own, or what owns you. To be alive in Christ is to look at someone and love them and join together on the journey of life.
As Rock Spring church engages it’s new vision we are just getting started toward discovering the way of eternal life. It’s a journey. But not a journey of owning, gathering, holding. It’s a journey of giving, going, and gaining.
I hope you’ll join me and the church as we strive to follow Christ, come alive in new ways, and find common ground for the common good.
Welcome to the new Rock Spring Presbyterian Church! We are
Alive in Christ, Finding Common Ground for the Common Good!
This week an article appeared in the AJC Intown Living magazine highlighting the difficult decision many churches face to sell property in order to stay financially viable. But the author missed one extremely important point about us:
The MINISTRY of Rock Spring church was, is, and will continue to be ALIVE IN CHRIST—not because of money, but because of God!
Granted, we were not yet using those words when the author visited. This is the new articulation of God’s Vision for our ministry. After several years of consultations and evaluations, retreats, and untold prayers, the Session is excited to share with you a new revelation of this vision of who God created us to be and continues to call us toward becoming.
In the highly polarized culture of this decade, Rock Spring can attest to the difficulty of being on opposite sides of an issue. Indeed, from the earliest years of its existence, our history is a fascinating tale that includes topics as timely today as they were then. Race relations, sexual misconduct, changing neighborhoods, even use (or misuse) of funds, and many other typically divisive concerns have all been part of the past which members have had to work through while walking with each other in faith. More than that, and even with the challenge of selling property, members have always worked for the greater good of the community through it all.
Rock Spring PC has provided a preschool, choral space, self-help groups and community space, community service, global mission, and excellence in theological lay education. The church has been at the forefront of women in ordained leadership, media and religion, becoming an inclusive LGBT community, and acknowledging the difficulties of our own racism, heterosexism, and xenophobia.
Sometimes these conflicts have been pushed underground only to rise up again in conflicts that force us to find common ground and pledge ourselves again to working for the common good. In other words, we have been practicing something for nearly our entire ministry that the world, especially our social and political spheres of influence, desperately need right now.
Rock Spring is here today celebrating the approach of our 148th birthday by claiming our history as a gift for the future of our community. We have experience in sticking together and working through difference. We have a story to tell. We have a mission to serve. And we are ready, willing, and, with the help of God, able to become more fully:
Alive in Christ, Finding Common Ground for the Common Good
If you have a hope for the world to find ways to get along better, Rock Spring may be for you. Come and See!