Changing Face of Christianity

by James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

There is today a cultural war for the hearts and souls of Protestant denominations. People are drifting away from the two most centrist denominations, the Presbyterian Church [U.S.A.] and the United Methodist. The mainline Protestant denominations are no longer evangelizing the young in this country or protecting them from the erosion of contemporary culture. The more evangelical expressions of Christianity have succeeded in creating a paraculture complete with specialized ministries aimed at high school and college students. They stress “wholesome” fun, sports, warm mentoring relationships tied to Bible study and a personal relationship with Jesus. They provide a remedy from the isolation experienced by our young from the adult world. They also, and I genuinely applaud this, provide alternative models to the entertainment industry’s portrayal of adolescence and adulthood. The mainline Protestant denominations failed to recognize these needs of our young, and we did not step into the breach.

The mainline Protestant denominations need to focus on the needs of our young. Our graying mainline churches have, in the past, interpreted Christianity through the demands of peace and social justice agendas. And there is nothing wrong with these agendas so long as we don’t neglect the weighty needs of a personal salvation and relationship with Christ. Social justice and loving Jesus do not have to be in tension. Perhaps mainline Protestant churches need to initiate fresh discussions about the relation of traditional Christian beliefs to social justice issues.

Trinity Church addresses these concerns by beginning to focus on the individual child, partly out of the traditional evangelical impulse to save souls, but also out of concern for children in today’s culture. Our leaders here at Trinity are waking up to the real moral and spiritual forces of evil abroad that our young need our support to withstand. Every ministry at Trinity is trying to discover new ways for praise music to join hands with prayer book – that is to say, joining the love and merciful lifestyle expressed in the Gospel with the character formation our young need to live in the “real” world.

Trinity Church’s leaders believe that societal needs are changing in ways that call for our rethinking (and re-imaging) our understanding of Christian mission. The Christian Church has undergone a reformation of 500 years. We are on the beginning edge of the next 500-year reformation. So what we do at Trinity now will make all the difference to our future. We seek a renewed pursuit of personal salvation without undermining our corporate responsibilities of the church to society. We seek to reach more young in the McLean area and open their hearts to both the inclusivity of the Gospel and historic Christianity.

Perhaps we are living through a seismic shift in Christian history. That’s okay, provided we learn to keep a period of silence too, in order to discern God’s leading.

 

Shalom,

 

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Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor
Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

by Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

I have just returned from spending most of July on the Wesley Theological Seminary campus. As part of my path as your Licensed Local Pastor, I’ll make Wesley my home for the next four Julys, as well.

Unlike many in my class, I was able to return home at the end of the day, sleep in my own bed (not in a dorm), and could attend worship at my home church each Sunday. I was the only student in my class from the Virginia Conference. There were a few from Maryland, but the majority came from Pennsylvania, New York or Maine. The second half of the month even brought students from the Bahamas.

The classes I took dealt with Theology, Administration, Biblical Interpretation and Pastoral Care. The professors did a great job of providing us with thought-provoking topics. They also challenged us to consider issues from more than one perspective.

One of my favorite times was daily chapel. What a gift. This was one hour of time carved out of our day that forced us to just be. Just be still. And, as Psalm 46:10 tell us, “Be still and know that I am God.”

I am grateful to you, the church, for your support. And, I’m grateful to the staff for allowing me the time away. I was reminded by all the professors at Wesley that we are always learning about the greatness and mercy of our loving God. It’s a lifelong process. I look forward to next July at Wesley. Until then, I look forward to serving God through my service to you, my church family, and to all whom I meet along my journey.

 

Education

Amy Crisp, Minister of Education
Amy Crisp, Minister of Education

by Amy L. Crisp, Minister of Education

Christmas in July August?

Advent is a season of preparation for one of the holiest days of our Christian year – the birth of Christ. This year, our preparation is going to begin even earlier – in August and September.

We will put together an Advent devotional booklet for our Trinity family. It will be filled with stories of how God is at work in our lives, how God is at work in the world. We will provide Scripture readings for each day of the Advent season. All we ask is for your help in supplying the stories and prayers for each day.

This is a wonderful way to build community within our church as we share with one another and encourage one another to grow in our faith. The devotional booklet can also serve as a resource for family devotional times, fostering even more community.

If you are interested in writing a story and prayer (up to 350 words) for one or more days in the Advent season, please let me know. I have a list of the Scripture passages for you to choose from.

 


balloons_1736c1_webJoin us for Trinity Day on September 6 from 4-6:30 p.m. for a time of community building and fun! All are welcome to attend as we kick off our new 2014-2015 Education year! Adults are invited to speed-date the adult educational offerings while the children meet their Sunday School teachers and get acquainted with their classrooms. We will all come together for a brief time of worship followed by a potluck dinner.

 

Theology on Tap

Ellen LaCroix, Director of Children's Worship & Music
Ellen LaCroix, Director of Children’s Worship & Music

by Ellen LaCroix

God, beer, and good conversation: what more could we ask for? This summer I will be hosting “Theology on Tap” at McKeevers Pub, a local McLean favorite. Of course, anyone (over the age of 21) is invited to join our small group. We will gather at the pub every Tuesday night around 7:30 to enjoy a cold beer and talk about popular Old Testament stories and the theology we derive from them. This group will start with a new story each night so if you miss a week there is no need to feel like you will fall behind. We start again with a new topic each time we meet.

The idea behind pub theology is that it offers us the chance to hold our lives as Christians in tension with the world outside of our church walls. It pushes us to take our faith out into a place where God is not always the first thing on people’s minds. It also creates an environment that welcomes new friends into conversations about faith without having to take the scary step of attending a church service. In essence, we are meeting people where they are and offering a chance to engage your faith in a very new, very real way. I hope to see you there!

 

Group Singing: It’s Good for You!

by Jerry Rich, Director of Music

Jerry Rich, Director of Music
Jerry Rich, Director of Music

HOW CAN SINGING MAKE US FEEL BETTER? 1) Music provides singers with neurochemical rewards called endorphins; this “singer’s high” can also alleviate pain. 2) When we hear voices of the singers surrounding us, we receive dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with feelings of pleasure and alertness. 3) Music lowers cortisol, a chemical that signals stress levels.

WHAT ARE SOME ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF SINGING? 1) Studies have found that people who listen to music before surgery are often more relaxed and may need less anesthesia; afterward, they may find they can get by with smaller amounts of pain medication. 2) Music also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and contentment. 3) Singing may generate prolactin (released in nursing women and in tears of sorrow), whose tranquilizing, consoling effect makes us feel better. 4) Researchers discovered that a choir singing “sad” music like Mozart’s Requiem showed an increase in s-IgA, an immunoglobulin that enhances our immune defense.

WILL ALL SINGERS RESPOND? In a 2005 study, investigators found that group singers experienced the same benefits even when “the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.”

WHY SING WITH OTHERS? Studies have found that group singing releases oxytocin, a chemical that manages anxiety and stress and enhances feelings of trust and bonding. That bond helps us cope with life’s difficult situations and is experienced when we harmonize with others. As science tries to explain what singers already know, consider giving group singing a try! It’s a rewarding, affordable and accessible activity that has been shown to regulate moods, lower rates of anxiety, depression and loneliness, and amplify happiness and joy.

[adapted from Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing with Others by Stacy Horn, published in 2013 by Algonquin Books]

 

Serving Others

Nick McMichael, Youth Director
Nick McMichael, Youth Director

by Nick McMichael, Youth Director

Last semester I was able to help serve at a breakfast ministry every other Wednesday that serves the homeless every morning! Overall, my experience of Our Daily Bread was positive. I broke down many of my own prejudices about our unhoused brothers and sisters, and if nothing else came of this time, then that would be enough. However, I also learned what it looks like when someone is really, truly called by God to act. The volunteers that run this ministry reflect what Howard Thurman says in his book, Disciplines of the Spirit, “Commitment means that it is possible for a man to yield the nerve center of his consent to a purpose or cause, a movement or ideal, which may be more important to him than whether he lives or dies.” I really think that the men and women that I met at this ministry think that this is THAT important. They show up every single day, other than Saturday, to serve these people. To me that is dedication worthy of the gospel. As a result, I am often left feeling guilty about my own hesitation. These people show up every day and are filled with joy, and I can barely force myself out of bed one day every other week, to get out there and mostly just get in their way. What is it about the work of God that makes many of us so hesitant to volunteer when we claim to be devout followers of Christ?

At Wesley Theological Seminary, where I am a student, I feel there is a misconception that the poorer you are, the more you have figured out life. It is a subtle idolization of poverty that has no biblical grounding. The people at this ministry are just people. I truly cannot stress this enough. The homeless have real issues, and they are not all wise sages who have figured out life. The people who run the ministry are no different. They are all flawed, imperfect, works of God. I can see the Prevenient Grace that John Wesley talks about working in their lives. Some have been saved, and many are still wandering in the proverbial desert.

The wealthiest child in the world who is spoiled rotten is just as messed up as those adults without a home begging for food. They are the same, and I think that it is often too easy to start thinking that they are not. That can look like a shunning of poverty in wealthier communities so that they do not have to deal with it, or a demonizing of the rich to feel better about the state of poverty that the world is often in. Around the Wesley campus, I see more of an idolization of the poor, and an attempt to shame the rich. This breakfast ministry for the physically poor among us has opened my eyes to the absurdity of these claims. “That which you do to the least of these you do for me.”(Matthew 25:40) But who really is the least of these? All of these people, rich and poor, are lowly and broken before God. You and I, and everyone in the world, are all the least of these. That is the great misunderstanding. We should serve everyone, and not just stand around with those that we like better because of their circumstances and talk about how awful others are. We should serve all of these! The least of these. Everyone.

 

Honduras Trailer Update

by Dan Moore, Trinity Missions Committee

Trinity’s trailer is again accepting donations for poor people in Honduras. But there have been some changes that we need to consider.

Art for Humanity, the local ministry that Trinity has been working with for many years, has a very modest annual budget and is supported entirely by individual and church donations. Art for Humanity does not sell any donated items to generate funds. All goods go directly to people.

Art for Humanity collects donated items here in Northern Virginia from Trinity and a few other churches and organizations. The trailers of donated items are packed on a container and then shipped from the port of Baltimore to Puerto Cortes, Honduras. There, after clearing customs, the donated items are transported by truck to different parts of the country and given to families. Recently, the costs to bring donations into Honduras have risen greatly, as the Honduran government has increased the amount of duty and costs.

The recipients of your donations use the items for themselves and for their extended family. They give away some of the items to others in need. They sell some of the items. By selling some of the donations, they are able to send their children to school, build a home or begin a small business all of which secures their future. The things they keep personally help them immediately but it is the things they sell that provide them with a better future.

We know from years of experience that generosity abounds at Trinity and in our community in support of poverty stricken people in Honduras. There are so many items we have in our homes that we just do not use or need. Our used items can really be a generous offering to those in need.

Your good used items help the poor to move from dependency to self-sufficiency. Please share your love and compassion by providing only good-quality items. Shoes, clothing and household items are needed. But if an item needs repairs, we can’t use it. Damaged items are very difficult to get repaired and missing parts cannot be obtained.

Additional financial support is needed to deliver the donated items to needy families; we so appreciate your help so we can deliver your donated items to people in need. Therefore, we are asking that you to consider making a monetary contribution when you donate items to help defray the costs of Art for Humanity providing your donations to the poor. A suggested donation is $1 per pound of items given. For example, maybe a bag of used clothing or shoes could be accompanied with a $20 donation or $100 or so for a piece of furniture. This is intended as a guideline; you may give more or less. But we can no longer accept large heavy items without a financial contribution.

It costs Art for Humanity about $2000 per trailer that we fill at Trinity, so we would like to help provide those funds, as best we can.

Please feel free to leave a check made out to Art for Humanity in the offering plate to help cover the costs of shipping your donations, or visit the website www.artforhumanity.org to make a donation online.

Questions, please call Chris (571-215-2948) or Dan (703-980-5050) Moore.