Meeting the Needs of the Young

By 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 Church. These mainline Protestant denominations are not successfully engaging with the young in this country or protecting them from the erosion of contemporary culture. We need to stress wholesome fun, sports, warm mentoring relationships tied to Bible study and a personal relationship with Jesus. We need to provide a remedy from the isolation experienced by our young from the adult world and provide alternative models to the entertainment industry’s portrayal of adolescence, adulthood and family.

The mainline Protestant denominations must renew our 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 rapidly, and in ways that call for our rethinking (and re-imaging) our understanding of the Christian mission. The Christian Church has undergone a reformation every 500 years. The spiritual reformation of the 21st century is underway. 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 people 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,  Jim Sprouse

 

Self-Knowledge and God Knowledge

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

As we dive head-first into the dog days of summer, I’ve been looking for just the right beach read. I already read a lot of books that pertain to God, scripture, church and leadership. Lately I’ve been looking for something to read during a trip to the beach—something to read for fun.

No matter what other books I might take with me, I won’t leave behind Yes, and …, a book of daily meditations. It’s by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest and prolific author. I love his writing style. He pulls no punches for those of us who call ourselves Christians. He calls out our hypocrisy and shallowness. Sometimes his words can sting, but that’s only because they’re true.

In one of his devotions he speaks of our “operative God image” as being a subtle combination of our mom, dad or any other important authority figure in our life. In order for us to move past that view of God (for some that can include an image that is unreliable, scolding or punitive), we must begin an “inner life of prayer and in-depth study of sacred texts.” If we stay stuck in this early “God talk” and skip the self-knowledge and inner journey, Rohr says we remain in a “sincere pretense.”

But if we immerse ourselves in prayer and scripture study, Rohr says our lives are changed forever. “The miracle of grace and true prayer is that they invade the unconscious mind and heart (where our real truth lies)—and thus really change us!” This allows the love of God and love of self to “proceed forward together.”

Rohr also shares a phrase that he considers a foundation in our faith. It is: Your image of God creates you. I find this phrase so powerful in its truth. If your image of God is that of an earthly mom or dad, then you will assign human faults and limitations to God’s mercy and love. Alternately, if your image of God is one of limitless power, love and forgiveness, you are freed to be the people God is calling us to be.

I hope you have a great rest of the summer. When you’re in town, I look forward to seeing you in church!

 

Too Busy to Pray?

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

No worries, I get it. There is so much going on even weekly church attendance is a stretch. Because we are so busy the activity of just sitting there seemingly doing nothing feels odd. Therefore, it does not climb high on our priority list. When I was in seminary the professor from Spiritual Discipline class noted that pastors pray an average of 20-25 minutes a day. This stat came from the nineties. I bet it is much lower now. Imagine. If pastors do not pray much, how much less do lay people pray? (If I’m making a wrong assumption here, please shoot me an email.)

So, it is understandable that prayer is not the most sought out activity of the day. I get it.

But here’s the thing. Prayer does not have to be something artificial where you set aside special time to do it. Of course, it would be nice if you had extra thirty minutes or an hour a day where you could go and lift up your petitions to God. That would be so nice. And if you have the time, more power to you. Keep doing it.

However, if you are like most NOVA folks, you probably find it hard to even sit down and chat with your loved ones. Being too busy to pray is totally acceptable. However, deep inside you, there is this little voice that says, “you should pray a little bit more.”

Let me help. Brother Lawrence in his book Practicing the Presence of God makes this uncanny observation: we can communicate with God in the most common and mundane situations. You do not have to go to the desert and sit alone for years in order to commune with God. You do not have to drive yourself to a sanctuary. You do not have to set aside a swath of time and clear you schedule. You can just practice God’s presence when you are out and about doing your everyday tasks.

This insight has helped me to pray through busy times. I am in my car at least two hours a day for my commute. It has been one of the most blessed times for prayer. Yes. I pray while I drive! I do not close my eyes of course. During these long commutes, I often practice silence. Not all the time. I drive in silence and have a conversation with God. It helps me go through the day.

Too busy to pray? Try praying while you drive. Let me know if it helps.

 

Approval for New Ministries Granted

On Wednesday, July 10, between 9 and 9:30, Trinity received the green light from Fairfax County’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to continue our dream of expanding our mission into those necessary ministry areas that address the critical needs of the families of northern Virginia. God has been prodding Trinity to take action in this direction for a number of years. Finally, God swept away the current obstacles. Permission to proceed – granted! Here’s what this means for Trinity and the families of NOVA.

Trinity’s new permit will allow us to continue all of our current children’s ministries including Sunday School; Youth Group; Trinity Preschool; Vacation Bible School; and others, as well as our parking and shuttle arrangement with the Potomac School.  It will also allow us to have up to 99 students on campus at one time for potential new ministries such as:

      • Preschool before and after care (a la carte options for preschool academic program only, and/or before care, and/or after care)
      • Public elementary school before and/or after care
      • Summer camp for children of any age
      • Senior day programming for enrichment and wellness
      • Week day infant care in our Fellowship Building Nursery

And more …

Trinity is thankful for all who prayed, envisioned and worked to make new ministries possible. We hope that everyone in the Trinity community will prayerfully listen for God’s call to leadership or technicianship in any new ministry and share that call with your faith family.

With gratitude and praise to God for his work in and through Vicki, Karen, Shirley, William, Sasha, David, Wayne, Reba, Jim, Keith, Eileen, John, Peggy, Jeremy, Jim, Harriet, Andy, Jose, John and the leadership of Trinity Preschool. We are also grateful for the important assistance of Perry Swope, Dyana Conroy and Michael Van Atta through the Potomac School; Supervisor John Foust and Benjamin Wiles; Reverend Doctor Sarah Calvert, District Superintendent, UMC; Debbie Matz, McLean Citizen’s Association; Gary Davis of The Davis Law Firm; Jeffrey Stuchel, Walter L. Phillips; Brent Krasner and Kevin McMahan, Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning; Patricia Josiah, Fairfax County Land Development Services; and the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals.

With gratitude to God for a promising future, we humbly give thanks. -jcs-

 

 

Reflection on Annual Conference

By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor

Annual Conference was held in Roanoke this year and one of its highlights was catching up on the news of how things are going with pastors I have known and worked with over the years. I was a little surprised that three persons in my ordination class took medical leaves of absence this year and three died.

Former associate pastor at Trinity, Phyllis Earley, is on medical leave. Now her husband, Jim, will also be on medical leave. Former Trinity associate, Melissa Dunlap, is serving as Bi-District Coordinator for Church Development; former Trinity youth pastor Marc Mrini, returns to St. Stevens on the Alexandria District. Former Trinity associate, Eric Song, returns to Good Shepherd in Vienna. Amy Crisp, former DCE at Trinity is the youth pastor at Mt. Pisgah in Richmond. Associate Pastor Eileen Gilmer returns beginning her seventh year in ministry to our Trinity family. And … Associate Pastor Keith Lee returns beginning his fifth year. We have been blessed richly across the years.

Sharma Lewis, Bishop of the Virginia Conference, continues to recover after her fourth surgery regarding a hip replacement. Her three areas of concern remain, 1. Church attendance; 2. Church Finances and 3. Deeper spiritual formation.

The Virginia Annual Conference used electronic handsets to vote for delegates to the General Conference and Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. Voting electronically was expected to reduce the amount of time involved in making these important selections and increase the accuracy of the balloting process. The Virginia Conference elected 11 clergy delegates and 11 laity delegates to General Conference to be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from May 5 – 15, 2020. The General Conference will be trying to hold the denomination together despite global differences regarding the ordination of LGBTQ persons and same-gender weddings.

In the next three years, it’s predicted that one of every two pastors in the VA Conference will retire or be eligible to retire. This will dramatically affect the system of appointments will perhaps not having enough ordained clergy to supply all the churches looking for an appointed pastor.

These are only a few of this summer’s happenings. Don’t be scarce this summer. Have fun, enjoy your vacation time, and come to church when you’re home. Try our 8:30 a.m. service. Try our Wednesday Noon service. Try our Celtic Service. It will be great to see you.

 

The Importance of Rest and Play

By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor

Now that we are into the midst of summer, I hope you’ve either taken some time to relax and renew, or that your plans are in the works. Taking a break isn’t just an extravagance, it’s vital to our health and well-being. When we were children, few of us had to be told to stop working and start playing. Somewhere along the line, most of us lost sight of the importance of play.

Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! Psalm 149:3

The Bible mentions play, joy and celebrations many times. It also speaks of the importance of taking time away from our everyday lives and stressors. Jesus guided his disciples about the importance of time away.

He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.
Mark 6:31-32

We read of the importance of celebrating and of getting away from the noise that can fill our lives. We can find guidance in the Bible on how we are to situate our lives even during the times of rest and relaxation.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Whether you are here at home amidst your daily routine or find yourself taking some time away, I hope you’ll seek out ways to do everything to the glory of God. When you’re in NOVA this summer, I hope you’ll join us for worship at Trinity Church. In addition to our regular Sunday morning worship at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., we invite you to join us for the Wednesday noon Communion service. There’s also our Celtic worship on the last Sunday of each month at 5 p.m.

No matter which service you attend, I’ll see you at church!

 

How Curriculum Is Presented

By Keith Lee, Associate Pastor

This summer during children’s Sunday School we will have a one-room class using a camp-like format. For its curriculum I usually take a prepackaged one and alter it to suit our context and situation. This year, I went with Roar! Life is Wild, God is Good from Group Publishing because I like VBS formats in general. However, it has received criticism for racial insensitivity. For example, an article from United Methodist Insight (https://um-insight.net/in-the-church/local-church/vbs-is-not-immune-to-racism/) points out that institutional racism and the pervasiveness of ethnocentrism are so ingrained in our institutions—including Christian ones— if not careful, we pass on these harmful elements to our children in Sunday School. It goes on to point out examples of Group Publishing’s blind spots and lack of intercultural competency found in their Roar! Life is Wild, God is Good curriculum. In recent weeks, Group Publishing has provided some corrections. Critics contend that they should have completely replaced the material with corrections. I reviewed the corrected pages and I agree with the critics. To go through all the material and manually insert those corrections would take a lot of work and time.

The good news is that I always filter and alter all of our curriculum resources for our setting. Roar! is not the first one in my years of teaching that I had to filter and alter. I am conscientious in presenting theological ideas that convey the essence of Jesus and the theology of love. In fact, all early church leaders meticulously filtered out and explained troubling passages from the Bible. For example, passages in Joshua and Nehemiah were always explained. In Judaism, the stories in Genesis are so troubling, they start children’s education of the Torah from the book of Leviticus. I suspect you do the same consciously or subconsciously whenever you read the Bible or even the news.

The old adage “Don’t believe everything you read” is even more relevant today. We will be using Roar but with much discretion. We do this for all material presented in Sunday School anyway. In fact, I believe the Roar! curriculum will provide a great springboard into discussion about intercultural understanding and the need to diminish institutional racism and ethnocentrism. Looking forward to a wonderful summer Sunday School!