Garden of Readin' - January 2019

Enjoy. Appreciate. Love. Learn. Be with. All of us need some periods of our life that are slower than the break-neck pace we usually proceed at, and in the church, thats what Advent is for. Like so many others, Lydia and I had a perfect start to the Advent season when we went to the Grinnell Choir Festival the first Sunday of Advent. As we sat there, all I felt was appreciation, enjoyment, and presence presence of peo- ple I love, and presence of God.

More than anything, though, I was struck by the sheer gift of it all. I was reminded what it feels like to re- ceive gifts gifts like the ones we should all try to give on Christmas. I knew that the people there from all the churches were singing for us, not because they were getting anything in return. I knew how much work went into organizing it all, and that it all started as a pure labor of love.In other words, I knew it was all done completely out of a love for God, music, and the community. As I sat there, I had nothing to offer, and could only take it all in receive the gift.

I also found myself enormously grateful to be the pastor of First Presbyterian watching how much the people of our congregation put into this. Al Ricks and Sara McCue were on the planning committee, we had one of the largest choir members/church members ratio, a bunch of people stepped up and filled in around the edges for things like ushering (thanks Dennis) and finding the perfect readings (thanks Sara). And, of course, Mary Fopma pulled it all together not just for our choir, which she always does, but for the whole event. Mary was the inspiration, the main organizer, the recruiter, and the backbone of the whole thing. Im sure people were amazed at her talent and her commitment, just like we are every single week. Gift true gift.

So often, I hear people talk about the true meaning of Christmas,and I often talk about how Advent is a way to not just rush into Christmas without reflecting on its meaning. How ironic that my first, and likely my best, Christmas present this year came on the First Sunday of Advent. Thanks to all of you who made that happen!

Pastor Kirsten

Garden of Readin' - October 2018

My first year at this church, when stewardship time rolled around, I had only been here a couple months. I wrote a newsletter column sharing the top ten things I am grateful for at this church. In fact, it was ten expressions of the one thing I was so struck by in my first couple months here: The spirit of generosity.

I’m going to do a re-boot of this list, because it amazes me how on the nose I was after only being here a short while (it actually kind of freaks me out a little). It is also a really great way to say “thank you” to all of you for embodying the spirit of generosity in amazing ways every single day. So, here it is, my 2005 and 2018 list of top ten things I’m grateful for:

  1. Generosity of Spirit: The open heartedness one experiences when walking through the doors on a Sunday morning at this church is almost enough to knock you over.

  2. Generosity of Time: It has been a true gift to me to watch how generous people are with their time at this church – with or without being asked. People see the church as an integral part of their whole lives. It is not just something we all fit into our busy schedules.

  3. Generosity of Money: Our mission giving continues to grow, and when a need in the community arises, people give easily and joyfully. I find myself overwhelmed and amazed each time we take an offering. It is inspiring, it is amazing and it is a wonderful witness we make to a world often imprisoned by money.

  4. Generosity of Love: Often when I go visit a member of our congregation, the person I visit tells me that someone else from our church “has just been here”, or “just stopped by with a cake”, or “just gave me a ride to the doctor”. This is not an occasional occurrence. It is the norm. It is wonderful!

  5. Generosity of Hope: One of the main reasons I love church and need church is to remind me over and over again of the hope found in Jesus Christ. I find so many people here who truly believe that all things are possible with God.

  6. Generosity of Talents: Not only do we burst at the seams with gifts and abilities, we let the seams rip open and unleash those gifts on our church, our community and our world. Everywhere I look, I see people realizing the unique and wonderful gifts they have been given by God and then finding ways to use them in service to others.

  7. Generosity of Humor: Humor is one of the best gifts we can give each other and the world, and I find it here and find it often. I laugh a lot with you all, and enjoy the way this church is serious about faith, but doesn’t take itself too seriously.

  8. Generosity of Forgiveness: If this church lacks anything, it is lacking in judgment of others. I have seen time and time again the difference unconditional love and forgiveness make in people’s lives, and believe this is an essential part of our ministry.

  9. Generosity of Worship: I have loved worshipping with you all. I leave feeling like I have connected to God’s call for our lives, and like I can, with you all by my side, take whatever the next step is in living that call out.

  10. Generosity of God: I am so grateful for God’s abundant gifts of creation, of laughter, of seasons and cycles, of song and poetry, of emotions and passions, and I am grateful for God’s gift of all of you. You inspire me to generosity and caring and for that I am truly thankful.


Pastor Kirsten

John and Dorothy Peak: Faithful through the years

At the November, 2013, meeting of the Des Moines Presbytery, John and Dorothy Peak were appropriately recognized as “Faithful through the Years” by the Older Adult Ministries Task Force. Their recommendation for this honor had come from our local Session.

John and Dorothy Peak.

John and Dorothy Peak.

Dorothy and John have been active and contributing members of our church community for over 69 consecutive years. We do gratefully acknowledge that they (and their extended family) have been among the firmest “pillars” of this church—not unlike the neo-classical white columns that once graced their beloved old Greek revival building (1907 to 1977). John and Dorothy of course loved that old building, and we invite you to look up in our 2002 church history (Leanne Harris’ A Century of Faith) the central picture of John appropriately overseeing the careful removal and preservation of those columns by his son-in law, Tom Hotchkin. They also, of course, devoted themselves equally to the planning and construction of the current building. John helped design it, worked with contractors, and donated much hard labor to the project. He and Dorothy joined others in that tearful/joyful walk to the new structure on Easter Sunday morning 1977.

One of the Peaks’ most notable contributions to all of us has been their unaffected witness to the nature of a faithful marriage. For seventy–two years their devotion to one another has been obvious in their mutual love and care for each other—the same care and love they also show each of us. We are particularly grateful for the Peaks’ generosity; their hearts are enormous, and their empathy matched by few.

They have been with us through different pastors, through good times and also some particularly challenging times, and they stand as examples of steadfast Christians who know that the church is more than the building or the pastor or the finances or any individual concerns or disagreements. They embody grace and forgiveness, showing us all what the love of Christ looks like. And though they have slowed down a bit in recent years because of physical limitations, we rejoice that they can still be with us most Sunday mornings. When we experience the firm, resolute grip of John’s hand, the undiminished twinkle in his eyes, and when we likewise see Dorothy’s gracious smile and dignified presence, we all know that we have been loved and appreciated, and we thank God for their ageless faithfulness.