April 2018


April 23: The Glory to God  Hymnal

One of the challenges of planning worship each week that I never thought about until I had to do it is picking hymns. My first church still had The Hymnbook -- the old Presbyterian hymnal from the 1960s -- so picking hymns that fit with the message each week wasn’t easy. We quickly decided to purchase the Chalice Hymnal from the Disciples of Christ. After looking at several hymnals, it was my favorite because it had old classics from a variety of traditions and some wonderful new hymns. It also had some great liturgies and prayers in it.

Choosing hymns is still hard, though. Often there aren’t hymns about the scripture lesson for Sunday in our current hymnal or hymns that fit the general theme. That’s one reason I’m excited about Glory to God. This new hymnal has many more hymns that cover a wider array of topics, themes, and Scriptures. There are hymns about different times in Jesus’ life beyond just his birth and death.

Glory to God is my new favorite for reasons the Chalice Hymnal used to be. It has many traditional favorite hymns from a variety of traditions that aren’t in our current hymnal that I grew up singing, like Rock of Ages Cleft for MeBe Still My SoulLeaning on the Everlasting Arms, and In the Bulb There Is A Flower. It also has some new favorites I love like My Soul Cries Out With a Joyful ShoutFor Everyone Born, and We Are One in the Spirit. I’m constantly discovering new songs I love in this hymnal.

Glory to God will enable us to sing more hymns that fit the overall theme of the service while singing old and new favorites. We’ll delve into our music past and pull out old favorites and explore new songs that will enhance our worship.

Starting Memorial Day weekend, you’ll have the opportunity to donate a hymnal in memory or in honor of a loved one. Once the new hymnals arrive, you’ll be able to take home one of our current hymnals -- perhaps one you gave in memory of a loved one years ago.

I invite you to join me at 11:30 am Sunday, May 6 to learn more about the Glory to God hymnal, hear and sing some of the songs, and explore it for yourself.

In common calling,

Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker

PS: Want to know more about how the Glory to God hymnal came to be? Read this


April 16: Resurrection Glow

I’ve had the good fortune to visit many art museums. I’ve noticed that while artists have imagined Jesus very differently as a baby, as an adult, and on the cross, there is a general theme for the resurrected Jesus.  Many artists depict Jesus with a glow around his face or his whole body.

It caught me off guard when I saw it as a teenager at the Louvre, Jesus with this big ole shining face. Why was he shining? Did they think Jesus glowed in the dark?

I don’t think the artists thought Jesus would literally shine, but then again, maybe they did. They were trying to show that Jesus was resurrected, not the same as before, a challenge for any artist.

I remember after “committing” my life to Christ in high school, people said, “We had died and now we have been raised with Christ. Set your mind on things above.” 

I tried to think what that meant. After you have been raised from the dead, you do not look the same, sound the same, talk the same, behave the same, so who was I now?

I went to school on Monday morning wondering, “Is anybody going to know that I’ve been raised?  Should I dress a little better, should I gel my hair a bit? Do I talk another way?  Do I throw in a verse of scripture now and then? Do I say Godly things? Should I wear a big cross around my neck or get a new Christian wardrobe full of cheesy pop culture Jesus shirts?"

At wrestling practice, will everyone say “Well it looks like Stephen has been raised from the dead! But he certainly hasn’t gotten any better at raising himself up off the mat!”  

A church in Colossae tried to show they were raised by being ethically rigorous. They tried to dazzle people with their intense religious fervor, but the Apostle Paul told them they were just doing their own thing and calling it “being really religious.”

Paul told this church not to put on a religious show. Instead, put on compassion, kindness, humility, forgiveness, peace, thanksgiving, and love. That’s what’s been given to you from above; that’s the Easter gift.

Should we try to be more religious than other people, get some rules and regulations, speak with a holy vocabulary, and do a lot of unusual things so others will say, “Wow! They must be devout Christians! I can tell by the bumper stickers, the giant Bible, and the words they use.”

Or are we to show in the normal course of our lives that we are people of the resurrection through our compassion, our kindness, our humility, our peace, our thankfulness, and our love?

If somebody took your picture as someone who has been raised with Christ, would you literally glow?  Of course not! 

But, then again, if somebody took your picture as a child of the resurrection, living into the hope of Easter…would you glow? 

In common calling,

Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker


April 10: Choose the Children and a Vigil for Victims of Gun Violence

After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida I felt I had to do more than offer prayers to protect the children of my and our communities. I didn’t have easy, concrete answers, but I had a desire to help create communities where children are safe.

I quickly found other individuals who had a similar desire, and we created a community group called Choose the ChildrenChoose the Children has members of Derry, members and staff of other local churches, and others. Members are gun owners, including me, and people who have never held a gun. Republicans and Democrats come to talk about how to create safe communities for our children, and I believe we are better because of the diversity.

Choose the Children gathers to discuss ways to support local law enforcement, schools, and other groups like “We Matter” in an effort to prevent gun violence while creating supportive communities. We talk about working with local gun stores, shooting rangers, and gun instructors to offer gun safety classes to parents and children to reduce the chance of accidents.

We also want to host “Three Practices Groups.” These group events are designed to bring people of different ideologies together in an exercise of conversation and questions to foster dialogue without debate. Our hope is to really listen to each other to bridge the “difference divide.” This kind of group will keep us in the room with difference and broaden our perspective by building relationships and dialogue with those who have different experiences and views than us.

Choose the Children agreed to participate in a vigil at 7 pm Friday, April 20 at ChocolateTown Square for victims of school shootings. This event is not a protest or a demonstration, but an opportunity to remember the lives lost and reflect on the cost of violence in our communities.

Everyone is invited to the vigil, which will feature youth and adult speakers -- including various clergy from our community -- and the naming of schools that have experienced shootings since Columbine (April 20 is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting).

Everyone is asked to bring a package of diapers to the vigil. As we lament the loss of young people to school children, we can do something positive for our youngest and most vulnerable children. Many parents in our area cannot afford diapers for their children, and local missions have expressed a need for diapers. I hope this is one way we can come together and choose the children by providing for a very real need.

If you are interested in learning more about Choose the Children or the vigil, or have questions or concerns, I invite you to speak with me. I’d love to talk with you, hear your perspective, and share more about Choose the Children.

In common calling,

Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker