How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life forevermore. – Psalm 133
It’s Sunday afternoon, Rebekah and I are in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and I have several really cool stories I could share – each one worthy of its own post.
For today, however, I’m simply going to give the highlights and share a few photographs. Maybe I can post more detail after our vacation.
I’ll start at Central Presbyterian Church, where Tim Black now serves as co-pastor with Emily Chudy. Tim, as regular readers already know, worked with Rebekah for more than nine years in Brandon; he was her colleague, her brother, and a rich blessing. He stayed another 15 months after we left, before being called to Central in Downingtown.
MIRACLE: But the remarkable Downingtown story – their miracle – had already been playing out over the previous few years. Central had been ripped apart by a terrible split, left reeling when the pastoral staff and a large percentage of the membership walked away and left the church to die. The Presbytery asked a young seminary graduate to preach for a few weeks during the summer of 2012, anticipating the end. However, instead of reading the church their last rites, she preached Jesus and believed, blowing gently on the faintly glowing embers until something new ignited.
So Emily hung around, continuing to be encouraged and to believe, while the church found hope and experienced renewed vitality. “We have the unusual distinction of being recently reborn,” the church website reads, “with an invigorated understanding of who we are.”
Central Presbyterian Church soon realized that the way forward would be well suited to a team ministry, and they were fortunate enough to find Tim. They invited Tim to become co-pastor at CPC, to help the church articulate the vision and to move into the future God has in store. For Rebekah and me, a trip to Downingtown – to bear witness to what God is up to in this vibrant, believing community – has always been our first priority for this summer’s vacation.
BLAST FROM THE PAST (and the present): This next story is completely related, yet 100% distinct. Here’s the (very) brief version:
Over ten years ago, while attending a preacher conference, Rebekah heard that she had – unknowingly – played a key role in a young man’s decision to enter gospel ministry. She told the story in church the following Sunday. Pastor Tim Black had his listening ears on that morning, and – that very evening – was amazed to recognize the same name on a name-tag at Columbia Seminary in Atlanta.
“Patrick Marshall!” Tim said; “I heard a story about you in Brandon this morning…” They became instant friends.
Patrick enjoyed a positive ministry in Nebraska before moving to the Philadelphia area two years ago; his church is just a short distance from Downingtown, and a sister congregation in Tim’s new Presbytery.
Saturday evening, when we arrived at Tim and Kelly’s Downingtown home in time for dinner, Patrick and his family were there to greet us! It’s probably been more than 20 years since we last saw Patrick (in Pensacola), but the experience of reconnection was instant and beautiful.
SO WHAT? The point of this story is how God’s goodness, and mercy, and grace achieve such positive outcomes when we live into the promise of our ongoing commitment to follow Jesus.
I’ll talk about – and link – Tim’s wonderful sermon at a later date. For now, just enjoy a few pictures from the weekend.
Peace – DEREK
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there's always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor's degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men's Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.