Pastor Nate Phillips will be sending monthly letters to the congregation to include a combination of musings, calendar highlights, accolades, and prayer requests. He is calling the monthly letters Stay Warm.
You'll find the letters below:
Stay Warm – September 2017
As summer comes to a close and we set our eyes on a new program year at Kirk in the Hills, I am reflecting on my first five months as your fifth Senior Pastor. It has been a wonderful five months in my family’s life—a healthy new baby, a beautiful new home, and a place of depth, hope, and meaning to continue the work of ministry. Thank you for the honor of serving alongside you. I wholeheartedly agree with the long-time parishioner who I recently overhead say, “Our congregation is in such a good place right now.” In our brief time together, we have…
Since we have had these staffing changes over the last few months, I wanted to send this update to help make everyone more familiar with all of our leaders (see the Fall Preview @ The Kirk enclosed)! I hope you can see that this is a great time to be part of mission and ministry at the Kirk, take this opportunity to invite someone new to come join us, and come on back if you haven’t been with us lately!
September 10 – Homecoming Service and Picnic, 10:00 a.m. September 17 – Installation Service and Reception, 10:00 a.m. September 24 – Rally Day and new worship schedule begins, 8:00 a.m. (Communion in Cedarholm Chapel), 9:15 and 11:00 a.m. (in the Sanctuary) September 27 – Mid-week adult series begins October 1 – World Communion Sunday October 6–8 – Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Theologian in Residence October 15 – Generosity Sunday October 20–22 – Men’s Retreat October 29 – 500th Anniversary of the Reformation November 12 – Brigadier General K. Edward Brandt preaching, veterans’ luncheon to follow November 19 – Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan, 70th Anniversary of Kirk in the Hills
Stay Warm – August 2017
I hope you have had a chance to do a little reading this summer. After all, our Summer Reading Sermon Series was supposed to inspire that! I have loved hearing about your reflections on our favorite devotional books and I look forward to finishing the series this month with one of my all-time favorite authors, Frederick Buechner.
That said, I’m guessing you have found a few other ways to occupy the mind this summer. Maybe you have spent some time fishing, or gardening, or painting, or golfing, or playing tennis, or listening to baseball, or watching a few episodes of your favorite television show. For some of us it has been more than a few episodes! Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and the like have made it so easy to pick up on the next chapter of our favorite cliffhanger. They even have a word for this kind of show—binge-worthy.
One such binge-worthy show, Dr. Who (a show, I confess, that I have never watched), has garnered some recent attention. Evidently, the show is centered around a Time Lord who travels through time exploring the universe in something called a TARDIS—a time machine that looks like a phone booth. As tempted as I am, I guess I shouldn’t poke fun here; one of my favorite shows is Lost and that is no more realistic!
However, the attention being given to Dr. Who these days has nothing to do with its far-fetched plot line. Evidently, in the newest season of Dr. Who, the Time Lord—previously played by twelve different men over a fifty-year period—will be played by a woman. And, with that, the Internet erupted.
Social media fights broke out about how this was just another example of how the world is in a downward spiral. Bloggers burned hundreds of words on the rightness and wrongness of such a move. Tempers flared on chat boards and Facebook feeds. Remember, this is all about a television show. A television show.
Is anyone else a little concerned that we get too fired up too quickly these days?
Is anyone else a little concerned that we are constantly dividing us and them, and only one of us can be right—as if there is no nuance in the world?
Is anyone else a little concerned that we don’t raise eyebrows anymore—instead, we raise fists?
I hope we, as Christ’s letter to the world (2 Cor. 3:2), can represent something else.
Which is why we…
…regularly gather for worship and join our hearts in gratitude to God. This fall, beginning on September 24, we will have a slight change in our worship schedule. We will have an 8:00 a.m. service in Cedarholm Chapel with weekly communion, a 9:15 a.m. sanctuary service with concurrent children’s Sunday School, and an 11:00 a.m. sanctuary service.
…celebrate what is special about life. On Sunday, September 10, we will celebrate Homecoming at the Kirk with a church picnic on the front lawn. On Sunday, September 17, we will celebrate my installation as the Kirk’s fifth Senior Pastor. Craig Barnes, Princeton Seminary President, will be preaching. We will hold one service at 10:00 a.m. on both of those Sundays.
…serve outside of our comfort zones. This fall, Pastor Fernando will be working on a menu of mission opportunities to better engage us in the work being done locally in Pontiac and beyond. Our Rally Day is Sunday, September 24, and on that Sunday at 9:15 a.m. we will commission those who serve in choirs, as Sunday School teachers, and the like.
…commit to our own Christian Formation. On October 7 and 8, we welcome to the Kirk one of the foremost voices in Biblical Theology, Walter Brueggemann. He will offer lectures and preach that weekend. More information can be found at kirkinthehills.org.
…center ourselves in prayer like this one, from St. Teresa of Avila:
Let nothing upset you,
Let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins all it seeks.
Whoever has God lacks nothing:
God alone is enough.
P.S. The Adult Ministry Committee, through Witte Travel, has planned the trip of a lifetime to the Holy Land, May 16-26, 2018. Brochures will be available and registration will open on August 20!
Stay Warm – July 2017
I wish I could write you with some announcement of a new baby this month!
I really wanted to start this letter with, “Baby Lucy was born on June 20 (my grandmother’s birthday) and she was 7 pounds 6 ounces. Mom and baby are doing well!”
But, as of my writing, we are still waiting. I hope that, by the time this letter reaches you, she has appeared. I will be sure to let you know all of the details in my August letter.
In any event, I am happy to report that my family has arrived in Bloomfield Hills and everyone is settling in. Thank you for your prayers and thoughtfulness in welcoming them here, especially the children. Moving away from family, friends, and familiarity is one of the greatest challenges that a young person can face. And yet, there is so much to love here, too…
This is how life is, isn’t it? Joy never comes alone. There is always some aspect of loss that comes with it. It is the same with fear, or loneliness, or heartbreak. The negative is always accompanied by something rich and meaningful. Some people call that a silver lining.
The trouble is, our brains are wired to cling to the hurtful things in life. It is why we can get twenty wonderful emails, but find ourselves shattered when one negative letter comes in the mail, or text shows up on the phone, or message comes through the inbox. This peculiarity is actually supported by science.
Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward (a book in our Summer Reading Sermon Series), relays from a neuroscientist friend of his, “We can now prove in neuroscience that anything that is negative, fearful or hateful, the mind immediately attaches to like velcro. But here’s the opposite, anything positive—happy, joyous, loving, grateful—those are like Teflon. If you have a grateful, positive, beautiful moment you have to savor it for a minimum of fifteen seconds or it does not imprint on the brain. The negative imprints instantly.”
Amidst the challenges of life—challenges that come with change, or illness, or heartbreak, or whatever—we have to learn to savor joy. We have to, as Rohr says, “intentionally and consciously love things for a minimum of fifteen seconds”for that good moment to change us.
In a few hours or days(!), I will be holding a new baby in my hands. I promise to savor that moment. I hope you will join me in savoring the joyful things this month—to intentionally and consciously abide in the beauty of summer, the laughter of an old friend, or the kindness of a neighbor.
Here at the Kirk, we have many good things to savor. Here are a few:
Alongside whatever challenge or negativity you face in life, I hope that this month, you will find some time to savor something beautiful—at the Kirk or elsewhere! Be encouraged to hold on to it for at least fifteen seconds, and let it find some imprint on you.
As you do, don’t forget to…
Stay Warm – June 2017
On June 4, we will celebrate Pentecost at the Kirk! I hope you will join me in wearing something RED on that day! Many churches have this little tradition as a way to remember the fire of the Holy Spirit on the first church community.
Do you remember the Pentecost story?
The Acts 2 community was only moments from the ascension of Jesus; they had only just looked to the sky with the bittersweet bon voyage on their lips when the day of Pentecost came.
They were all together in one place.
Suddenly, a sound came from heaven.
But this was no ordinary sound.
The Greek used here is the word ἦχος (echo) and it is a word used only three other times in the New Testament.
It’s used by Jesus in Luke as he describes the end of time. The writer of Hebrews uses it to recollect the voice of God in the burning bush. Finally, it is used to tell how the news of Christ spread, directly after he cast out his first unclean spirit.
So, again, the ἦχος is no ordinary sound. It is no shout, it is no ring, it is no clang—the ἦχος is a cosmic roar. Can you imagine how that was experienced by the first community gathered together in one place (Acts 2:1)?
So much of our lives are lived in noise of one kind or another. On any given day it might just seem like we live alongside the Acts 2 community—it might seem so loud like things are breaking open and coming loose all around us...
I am thinking of the month ahead for me and for my family! They will finally arrive for good in early June. The kids will be excited to hear about new schools and sports teams. My wife, Ari, will be trying to settle into her new home before the baby arrives. Lucy, as we have decided to name her, is due to arrive on June 22. These are exciting times, but they are noisy times, too! Please pray that I will hear God’s ἦχος through all of it.
The same can be said of our ministry at the Kirk. It will be a cacophonous month. Our beloved friend and colleague, Pastor Jess Hauser Brydon, will preach and say goodbye on June 11—her last Sunday with us. The following Sunday we will begin our summer schedule with our Garden Service at 9:30 a.m. and Sanctuary Service at 11:00 a.m. Our Belize Mission Trip takes off on June 24. Finally, on June 25, our new Pastor for Mission, Fernando Rodriguez, will arrive for his first Sunday—and our Summer Carillon Series begins that Sunday as well!
That is a lot of noise for one month! But it is no ordinary noise! Let us not confuse that with the noise of the world—the kind of noise that brings anxiety, argument, and despair. The noise you hear at the Kirk is the Pentecost ἦχος, the cosmic roar! It is the kind of noise that reminds us that the world and everything in it belongs to God. It is the kind of noise that encourages us to follow its first hearers and go out and tell everyone about it!
In Acts 2, after the ἦχος comes, we are told that they were amazed and astonished and “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.” I can’t wait to see what the cosmic roar will have us doing in the weeks, months, and years to come!
Pastor Nate Other dates to keep in mind: July 31–August 3: Vacation Bible School September 18: Senior Pastor InstallationOctober 6–8: Walter Brueggemann, Theologian-in-Residence
Learn more about Rev. Fernando Rodriguez
Stay Warm – May 2017
When I introduced this informal monthly letter last month, I shared that I would be calling it Stay Warm. My hope was that it would serve as a regular reminder to stay positive, hopeful, kind, encouraging, and compassionate. Either my letter carried tremendous weight or you have always been that way, because I have seen an extraordinary amount of warmth from the Kirk in the Hills congregation in the past month.
Our Palm Sunday and Easter services were warm highlights for many. The pews were filled, the choir was transcendent, and a real spirit of family was palpable in the place. The services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, along with the concerts on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, were exceptional in their own right. If you missed them, I hope these special events can make your calendar next year! In addition, one of our own was ordained in April. Jasmine Smart, who serves as our Director of Adult Christian Education, put on the stole on April 23—and we rejoiced with her! By the way, if you haven’t liked us on Facebook, I encourage you to do so. We post pictures from events on our Facebook page, and it is a great way to keep up with life at the Kirk!
The staff has been intentional about staying warm, too. You should know that, as a staff, we are dedicated to making the Kirk a house of prayer. Every weekday at 11:00 a.m. sharp, we—every member of the staff—stop our work to meet in Melrose Chapel for scripture reading and daily prayer. We are committed to staying centered in the will of God as we do the work of leading the Kirk. We pray for the world, for one another, for friends, and for all of you! I invite you to take time at 11:00 a.m., drop what you are doing, and say a prayer, too. I set an alarm! Maybe you will too!
Speaking of staff, we are making headway on filling the position left open by the departure of Rev. Troy Hauser Brydon. His work at the Kirk was exceptional and it will be almost impossible to replace him, but we are working on it! I wrote an update for the worship service on April 23, but have included it in this letter in case you missed it.
This month we look forward to a sermon series I am calling Together in One Place (April 30–June 4). It is based on the lectionary passages from Acts where we learn about how the first church launched—and allow that to inform how we launch a new season of ministry together. Confirmation Sunday is May 7, and Pentecost is June 4—and I invite everyone to wear RED on that day!
Other dates to keep in mind:
On Saturday, May 6 at 5:30 p.m., we have our auction event, Let the Music Begin, with entertainment by members of our Chancel Choir and the children from Accent Pontiac. I recently visited with these children at Whitman Elementary in Pontiac, and they are so excited to come to our church and play their instruments for you. Their parents are coming, too. Please come and support these children, their parents, and this program. Tickets are $75 ($20 is tax deductible) and may be purchased at kirkinthehills.org or by calling (248) 626-2515, ext. 205.
On the morning of Saturday, May 20, we welcome Dr. Jason Brian Santos for a workshop on intergenerational Christian formation. Jason is Mission Coordinator for Christian Formation at the Presbyterian Mission Agency at the denomination’s head office. We are going to use this time to consider Sunday School, Adult Education, and Small Groups, in light of the newest church research. If this is something that interests you, please RSVP by emailing Jen Morris at email@example.com.
That is enough for this month! See you soon—and stay warm!
Bulletin Insert on Sunday, April 23
This insert is intended to provide a brief update on the process for filling the pastor opening left by Rev. Troy Hauser Brydon. For the record, I’ve texted him relentlessly to see if he could just come back!
There are two ways to fill a pastor position in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
First, there is the installed position. Rev. Tres Adams is an installed pastor at the Kirk—and I will be installed in September. Installed pastors come by way of a nominating committee and a congregational vote.
Most churches bridge the gap between installed pastors with some sort of temporary supply pastor. Temporary supply pastors are elected by the session, as opposed to the congregation, and the nominating process is generally less complicated.
In the Presbytery of Detroit, there are two kinds of temporary supply pastors. First, there is the interim version of the temporary supply. Interims (such as Rev. Bob Sheldon) enter a church system to ask tough questions and undertake specific transitional tasks.
In our case, the session has decided to pursue the second type of temporary supply pastor—called the assistant pastor. The assistant pastor serves on a two-year contract and, at the end of that time, the assistant pastor is permitted to become an installed pastor only by a congregational vote. In other words, the assistant pastor should be highly motivated to do a great job and, if we find a great fit, we can keep the pastor long term! If it is not a great fit, we can begin the process for an installed pastor nominating committee at any time.
I wholeheartedly concur with the leadership of the session. We are not in need of an interim pastor to fill our open position—we need someone to come to the Kirk and hit the ground running. We need someone who will get to work right now and really help us to become more invested in relational mission—especially as we try to connect to the schools in Pontiac.
A search committee has been assigned by the session and a job description for this position has been approved by both the session and the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry. So, the search is on! Please be praying for the search and, if you know of exceptionally talented ministers who might fit the bill, have them e-mail their information to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully, we will have someone here soon!
In the coming weeks, session and the personnel committee will be addressing the impending loss of Rev. Jess Hauser Brydon. She, too, has rebuffed my pleas to stay at the Kirk! It turns out she wants to live with her husband! Please know that our leadership is working diligently to make sure that the Kirk has the leadership it needs to grow.Rev. Nate Phillips
Stay Warm – April 2017
To my new friends at the Kirk,
By the time this letter arrives in your mailbox, I will have arrived at your church!
I could spend some time in this letter offering another introduction, but, instead, I would encourage you to peruse our church website, kirkinthehills.org. There you will find just about everything you could ever want to know about me! Of particular interest might be the Ask Nate video series—they were a lot of fun to make, and you will meet my kids there, too!
It will take some time for us to go beyond introductions and really get to know one another. I hope that this monthly letter will help with some of that. I intend for it to go out near the beginning of every month and include some combination of musings, calendar highlights, accolades, and prayer requests. The idea is to keep the letter informal and relational—something you will enjoy reading.
I am calling the monthly letter Stay Warm. You may have noticed that I’ve used that as a sign off in my letters and some of my videos. There are at least three reasons for this:
First, Michigan has a reputation for being cold. Someone recently asked me, “Where are you moving again, Wisconsin? I know it was one of those cold states.” Don’t worry, Kirk, I’m from Maine, I can handle it!
Second, churches have a reputation for being cold. I have not experienced the Kirk to be cold—quite the opposite. You are a warm and welcoming bunch! I want us to continue to extend that warmth until we reach the last home on the last road.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to lift up the idea of Staying Warm as a nod to the Kirk’s great benefactor, Colonel Edwin S. George, who penned this poem:
A winter day is a glorious sight,snow white,sun bright;A perfectly woven flawless dress,A mantel bestowed with a soft caress;But there are those that otherwise hold,Who with a shiver sense only the cold.And so it is throughout this life,Some see only the cold and strife;While others find in their path of duty,The warmth of sunshine, love and beauty.
These are wonderful words to live by as we begin our life together—and it promises to be quite a beginning!
This month brings Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. We have a variety of services on those days, and I will be preaching at all of them. I really hope you will come and bring neighbors and guests. I know that special plans are in the works for the children’s Easter Egg Hunt on Easter morning, and we can all look forward to that! My sermon series after Easter will be called Together in One Place (Acts 2:1). It will be drawn from the lectionary passages given to us from the book of Acts; these texts describe the launch of the early church and are very inspiring as we consider launches of our own.
Other calendar items to note: The church is closed on Easter Monday, Jasmine Smart will be ordained on April 23 at 4:00 p.m., the Chanticleer concert is on April 25, and the Kirk Women’s away retreat is April 28–30. May 6 is the Legacy Dinner and Auction in support of Accent Pontiac. It will be a good month to invite people to the Kirk who are new or have not been here for a long time!
With all of that, I’m sure I will see you soon.
But, until then, Stay Warm!
April 9 – Palm Sunday, 9:00 and 11:15 a.m.April 13 – Maundy Thursday, 7:00 p.m.April 14 – Good Friday, 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.April 16 – Easter Sunday, 6:45, 7:00, 9:00 and 11:15 a.m.April 17 – Easter Monday (Kirk offices closed)April 23 – Jasmine Smart’s Ordination Service, 4:00 p.m.April 25 – Chanticleer Concert, 8:00 p.m.April 28–30 – Women’s RetreatMay 6 – Kirk Legacy Dinner and Auction, 5:00 p.m.