Feb. 12, 2021
“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” ~ Galatians 6:9
Dear members and friends of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church,
I had a lot of plans for March 15, 2020. Some of them were normal plans for a Sunday: wake up early, head to church, lead worship for the Third Sunday in Lent. We had a theme – Wilderness – and the sanctuary was set for the next phase in building toward Easter. After church I had some silly plans. My dog, Valkyrie, and I were going to meet her siblings to celebrate their first birthday with a good run at the dog park and a “pup crawl” for refreshments at a nearby dog-friendly establishment.
Instead, on Sunday morning we found ourselves hastily adapting worship to Zoom and Facebook Live, preaching and playing music to a computer perched on a music stand instead of a congregation of living bodies. Most of the dogs’ owners pulled out of park time as it sunk in that this virus was serious. Val and I grabbed some takeout just before all the restaurants and bars closed on the governor’s orders. Our fast-moving society suddenly ground to a halt, and we’ve been in slow motion ever since. Most things are happening in half-measures – online, in abbreviated versions, in hurried encounters outdoors – or not at all.
The church has been operating so differently than usual that it would be easy to assume that we, too, have just stopped during this time. We haven’t met in the building for almost a year. We haven’t passed the peace – the signature MAPC move! – in almost a year. And yet, the church has not stopped being the church. Every time I get discouraged or begin to think that we’ve lost momentum this year, all I have to do is look at how much we have accomplished in our Investing in a Just Future initiative alone.
Just when you might have expected progress to grind to a halt, exactly the opposite has happened:
- We invested in justice within our congregation and the wider Church by completing our search for a Pastoral Resident, and hired Rebekah Nolt in October. This is an incredibly difficult time to begin a new ministry position, and Rebekah hasn’t even met most of the congregation except over a screen, but they are adjusting phenomenally and have rapidly become an important addition to the pastoral team and the church as a whole.
- We invested in justice in our community through our partnership with Cincinnati Scholar House, which opened and began to house parents and children during a time when it could not have been more needed. Despite the limitations of the pandemic, MAPC members have found ways to contribute resources, time, and skills to the residents of Cincinnati Scholar House, and we’ve begun to build the foundation of a long and lively partnership.
- We invested in justice for creation by making sustainable improvements to our building, taking advantage of the emptier facility to install highly efficient windows and a heat pump in our education and office wing, to accompany the solar panels that were installed previously as a separate effort.
While plans of all kinds went awry, while businesses closed and reopened and closed again, while church events have been limited to online, while all of us have struggled in a variety of ways with our new realities, we have still continued to invest our energy, our time, and our money in pursuing justice. We’ve been able to do this because all of you have participated in the Investing in a Just Future initiative with your contributions of energy, time, and money. In a wearying time, you have not grown weary of doing what is right.
It would have been so easy to allow ourselves to grind to a halt this year, to wait and pick up the work of justice when we can see each other again and encourage each other with enthusiastic hugs of peace. But even while that has not been possible, we have not given up. We have continued to sow the seeds and tend the fields of justice. It has been a hard time, but I think we will look back and think upon this as an exciting time as well, a time when something was growing while the world paused. I am so delighted and proud to be your pastor during this season, and I cannot wait to see the harvest that will be reaped from the work that has occurred during this time.
Grace and peace in Christ,
Rev. Stacey Midge
May 29, 2020
Dear members and friends of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church,
What a challenging time this has been for us all! Over the last three months, we’ve had to make drastic changes in how we worship, learn, support one another, and work for justice in the surrounding community – basically everything that makes us who we are as a congregation. However, one thing remains the same: our decisions are rooted in and guided by love, particularly love for the most vulnerable.
You may have wondered during this time, “How long, O Lord?” or perhaps, “How long, O Session?” We know some of you have wished for more definitive communication from the Session about when and how we will gather in person again. Love is guiding us in the decision-making process, and is part of the reason we are taking our time to come to firm conclusions. We want to love the congregation by having as much good information as possible about how to keep all of you safe, particularly those who are vulnerable to COVID-19.
Many of you gave your feedback about our future gatherings in a recent survey. We are very thankful for your time and thoughtfulness. Your comments provided us great input for our latest discussions. A more thorough report of the results will be available soon, but what we can tell you now is that most of you do not feel comfortable gathering in person even with precautions. You definitely miss seeing each other! You miss choir and congregational singing. You miss Communion. You miss the warmth of the sanctuary and the texture of life in person. But you are feeling cautious about returning to these things even while you miss them. Your Pastor and Session members feel the same!
The Session met on Wednesday, May 27 to review the survey and discuss how to go forward in worship and gathering. At this time, we do not feel that it is safe to gather in person. Current recommendations do not allow for more than ten people in one place, even with masks and social distancing. We do not have the cleaning capacity to fully disinfect the building before and after each use. Our sanctuary does not lend itself logistically to the kind of spacing and air flow that would be helpful in gathering more safely. We are led to love one another by keeping each other safe – by remaining physically separate.
Until the circumstances change enough for us to revisit this decision, we will be holding all worship services and gatherings online.
So, how long, O Session? What will lead us to revisit this decision and move toward gathering in person again? When it is more loving to gather in person than to keep physical distance, we will do so. Practically speaking, that means we are looking at recommendations for groups of 50-100 people in closed, indoor spaces. We don’t know when that will be safe, but we are being attentive to the best science we can access.
In the meantime, we have heard your feedback and are moving to enhance the ways we worship, learn, support one another, and work for justice in the surrounding community – the things that make us who we are as a congregation. We are improving the sound on the online worship services so they are as accessible as possible to all. We will be celebrating virtual Communion together online on June 7; we will ask everyone to have whatever form of bread and juice they prefer on hand, make the prayer and Words of Institution part of the recorded service, and invite those who are able to commune together on Zoom immediately following the end of the Youtube broadcast (which finishes latest of our three options). The Worship Committee is preparing for a joyful Pride Month even while in-person Pride activities have been cancelled. Your Education and Spiritual Nurture, Congregational Engagement, and Justice Seeking Committees are creating new opportunities to learn, connect socially, and serve the community even while we stay home.
It isn’t the same, and we won’t pretend it is. We yearn to see your faces in 3D, to hear your voices without a Zoom-imposed delay. But rooted in and guided by love, we will continue to protect the vulnerable and keep each other safe.
If you have any questions or concerns, both the Pastor and your Session members are available for conversation. Please do not hesitate to reach out.
Together in the love of Christ,
Pastor Stacey Midge and the ruling elders of the Session of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church:
Floy Ann Marsh
I’ve never been one to let the grass grow under my feet, and for me that has been the hardest part of the stay-at-home orders. I cancelled a hiking trip to Utah with my mom and gave up the idea of attending my niece’s graduation. I won’t be going to Baltimore for General Assembly, and the conference I hoped to attend in Spain in September has been postponed. No music festivals or concerts this summer. Staying close to home (and mostly in my home) hasn’t been all bad, but it was starting to feel a bit like Groundhog’s Day. I hate that movie. So this week I moved my Zoom portal to the woods for a change of routine and scenery.
Yes, I needed some rest after a couple of months of climbing the steep learning curve of video editing and scrambling to keep up with an entirely new way of gathering the church. But mostly I needed a joyful disruption from that scramble. I needed to go somewhere farther than the orbit around my apartment, do something different, get a little creative space to envision what’s next, as we begin to think about what it will look like to move toward gathering in person again.
If you’ve noticed you haven’t heard much from MAPC leadership about opening up the church, that’s because we’ve been moving slowly. Much of our membership falls into vulnerable categories. We are committed to gathering in person only when we can do so as safely as possible. We are also committed to maintaining a positive online presence for those who don’t yet feel safe being physically together.
Your committees – primarily Operations and Worship, as well as the Deacons – are reviewing questions that need to be answered before we can open. The Session is overseeing the whole process, using the best research and recommendations from experts to determine when we will gather and, when we do, how we will make sure our greetings, seating, music, communion, offering, and more are done as safely as possible. Since it is not currently advisable for groups of more than 10 to gather, we are taking our time and being thorough. For the rest of May, you can plan on our gatherings taking place online only. The Session will continue to keep you updated as we make plans to move forward.
In the meantime, I hope you will continue to participate in worship and other gatherings online, and pick up the phone or drop an email to each other from time to time. And although not everyone can run off to the woods, I pray you will each find a way to break up the monotony and isolation of this time and do something that brings you a joyful disruption.
Last night, the Session of MAPC met (virtually, of course) to make some decisions about our continued response to COVID-19. Informed by Gov. DeWine’s stay-at-home directive and the latest updates from doctors and scientists, we have decided to continue holding worship and other gatherings online for the next three weeks, and reevaluate after Easter.
Yes, that means we will be worshipping online for Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter. Yes, that may feel very strange and rather disconnected. But during the original Holy Week, the disciples scattered in fear, and on the first Easter, they were hidden away in a room, grieving and wondering what their lives would become, whether they were even safe. This is not the first time Christians have worshipped in isolation. With the benefit of technology, we will remember Jesus’ trials and death, and find hope in the resurrection. And when the restrictions are lifted and we are able to gather in person again, we will roll away our stones, crawl out of our entombment, and celebrate with true Easter joy – no matter the date.
For the time being, we will postpone Communion with the hope of celebrating it in person in the near future.
As long as we are worshipping online, you can catch our livestream on Facebook
(this is where you will get the best video quality, especially for music, and you don’t need to have a Facebook account) or on the Zoom Worship and Coffee Hour Room
. If you or someone you know would prefer to connect by phone, please let me know and I’ll provide a call-in number.
You can also connect during the week on our Brown Bag and Bible
study on Tuesdays at noon, and our Lenten Supper Check-in
on Thursdays at 6pm. As always, if you have any needs during this time, your deacons, a number of volunteers, and your pastor stand ready to help; just email or call.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Stacey Midge
Pastor, Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church
PASTORAL RESIDENCY AT MT. AUBURN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The Pastoral Residency at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church (MAPC) is a two-year mentored ministry program designed to equip emerging church leaders for a lifetime of effective ministry. MAPC seeks to provide recent seminary graduates a healthy church environment in which to begin their validated (not called) ordained ministry and continue developing their vocational identity. The Pastoral Resident will serve a two-year term at MAPC in a full-time capacity, paid and with full benefits. During their service, they will experience a wide range of ministry opportunities suited to the Resident’s gifts, abilities, eventual ministry focus, and the needs of the congregation, with multiple opportunities to be mentored within the congregation and by the pastor at MAPC. This is the first of three possible two-year residencies that will be offered by MAPC over the next six years as a result of a successful, large-scale fundraising campaign to enhance our ministry and mission capacity and partnerships in the wider church, community, and creation. MAPC especially encourages applications from people whose identities or history of advocacy may make it difficult to receive a first call. There is no guarantee of a resulting call upon completion of the two-year residency. However, we expect that ordination and extra training will make the search for a call more viable for the Resident.
ABOUT OUR CHURCH
The mission of MAPC is to:
- Practice heroic hospitality and care with Jesus as our guide;
- Joyfully and creatively praise God;
- Engage all ages of our community in progressive education; and
- Be a prophetic voice working for social justice.
We have been a leader in Cincinnati and in the PC(USA) on issues of LGBTQ+ equality and have seen our efforts and inspiration make a tangible difference in policies and culture. We are engaged in a number of justice concerns now, and strive to continue to be a leading religious voice in the Cincinnati faith community and in the denomination.
A successful candidate for the Pastoral Residency will be:
- A person of deep faith, a hospitable spirit, commitment to justice, and eagerness to explore spirituality and action within a progressive faith community.
- A recent graduate or soon to graduate with a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary or divinity school.
- A candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as declared by the Presbytery under whose care the candidate falls.
- Able to successfully complete an interview with the Presbytery of Cincinnati Committee on Ministry and submit a Statement of Faith.
The Pastoral Residency encourages newly ordained ministers to develop patterns of work that maximize their pastoral leadership gifts and skills, in collaboration with the installed Pastor and the Session. Residents connect their theological, biblical, and pastoral studies with the day-to-day life of a congregation. Broadly, the Resident should expect to participate in all facets of pastoral ministry under the supervision of the Pastor, including:
- Assisting with the planning and leadership of Sunday worship services, including preaching and presiding in the Sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
- Supporting church activities, special events, and projects, such as the Investing in a Just Future initiative.
- Providing pastoral care to members of the congregation and communities of the church through phone and personal contact and visitation.
- Teaching and offering faith development and education opportunities to members of the congregation.
- Assisting with new member and confirmation classes.
- Participating as a member of the pastoral team in weekly staff meetings and pastoral meetings, and by attending meetings of committees and communities.
- Engaging in regular meetings with the pastor for mentoring and pastoral collegiality.
- Representing the congregation at public events, particularly those pertaining to mission partnerships and justice causes.
- Participate in the outreach and social justice ministries of the congregation, including appropriate communication using social media and the church website.
- Officiating weddings and funerals as pastoral rotation requires.
- Participate in the governing councils of the church as required by ordination vows.
In addition, the Pastoral Resident will have the opportunity to deepen skills in an area of particular interest, taking into consideration the unique gifts, abilities, and goals of the Resident.
The Pastoral Resident will be compensated commensurate with the minimums set by the Presbytery of Cincinnati, which for 2020 is a minimum effective salary of $45,675.98 including housing allowance. The position compensation includes full participation in the Board of Pensions system, four weeks of vacation, and two weeks of continuing education annually.
PHYSICAL AND MENTAL REQUIREMENTS
The Pastoral Resident must have a valid driver’s license and personal vehicle or the ability to navigate public transportation between their home, the church, and common off-site ministry locations.
Physical requirements include but may not be limited to frequent sitting, handling of files and books, and use of computer keyboards, telephones, and other office equipment.
Mental requirements include but may not be limited to: basic math functions, intermediate to advanced reading, advanced reasoning, advanced speaking ability, advanced writing ability, and ability to function well with a moderate noise level and frequent interruption.
TO BE CONSIDERED FOR THE PASTORAL RESIDENCY PROGRAM
Application will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled.
Please send the following:
- A cover letter addressing why you seek a pastoral residency program and this one in particular, and how your background and life experiences have shaped your call.
- Presbyerian Church (USA) PIF or a suitable alternative.
Selected finalists will be interviewed via Skype and/or in person. Final interviews will be conducted in Cincinnati.
Application materials may be mailed or emailed to:
Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church
103 William Howard Taft Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45219
Third Sunday in Lent
MARCH 15, 2020 11:00 a.m.
PRELUDE Allegro non troppo in A minor Alexandre Guilmant
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
GATHERING WORDS (Responsive)
Jesus met the blind man at the city gate, and the crowds at the edge of the sea.
Jesus meets us here.
Jesus met the leper in his pain and the Samaritan woman in her isolation.
So with confidence we declare—
Jesus meets us here.
For we too are the fearful and the broken, the hurting and the bleeding.
Jesus meets our scars, our fears, our prayers, and our dreams.
So you are welcome here.
Jesus meets us here.
PRAYER OF PRAISE
O God, you are beyond the confines of space and you exist everywhere we can go. You meet us when we gather physically in a sanctuary, and you meet us when we gather in spirit from our homes. No matter where we are, no matter where we’ve been, you welcome us. So we come together now, joining our hearts, minds, and spirits to praise you, in Christ’s name. Amen.
*HYMN #410 “God is Calling Through” W Zlobie Lezy
God is calling through the whisper of the Spirit’s deepest sighs,
Through the thrill of sudden beauties that can catch us by surprise.
Flash of lightning, crash of thunder, hush of stillness, rush of wonder:
God is calling – can you hear? God is calling – can you hear?
God is calling through the voices of our neighbors’ urgent prayers,
Through their longing for redemption and for rescue from despair.
Place of hurt or face of needing; strident cry or silent pleading:
God is calling – can you hear? God is calling – can you hear?
God is calling through the music of sublime and human arts,
Through the hymns of earth and angels, and the carols of our hearts.
Lift of joy and gift of singing; days and nights our praises bringing:
God is calling – and we hear! God is calling – and we hear!
CALL TO RECONCILIATION
When it comes to our faith, we know we could learn from the Samaritan woman
who ran through the streets singing your name.
So forgive us for the times when we remain silent
about what our faith means to us.
Forgive us for the times when we choose comfort over bravery.
And forgive us for the times we shut people out,
missing opportunities to run into you.
Teach us to be brave like the Samaritan woman,
and saturate our thirst for that which leaves us thirsty.
With hope and gratitude we confess.
With hope and gratitude we pray. Amen.
Silence is kept for Personal Confession
Assurance of Forgiveness
PASSING THE PEACE
PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION
SCRIPTURE Romans 5:1-11 pg. 155
SCRIPTURE John 4:5-29 pg. 241
SERMON Connecting in the Wilderness The Reverend Stacey Midge
*HYMN #479 “Ho, All Who Thirst” Jacob’s Well
Ho, all who thirst,
come now to the water,
And all whose souls are parched
and weary, come and drink.
Ho, all who thirst, come now to the water,
And from your heart will flow
a never failing spring.
For the Lamb will be our shepherd and will guide us
To the wellsprings of the water of life.
All who come make take this gift of living water.
They will thirst no more, for they will be filled.
CALL FOR OFFERING
To give your offerings while we are not gathering physically, please use our website at https://www.mtauburnpresby.org/give/ or mail your donation to 103 Wm. Howard Taft Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45219.
POSTLUDE “Fugue in F Minor” G.F. Handel