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Friends in Christ,
On Ash Wednesday, I shared with you a list of Lenten “Fastings and Feastings” written by Pastor Greg McDonell of Austin, Texas. I had the privilege of serving as a pastor intern years ago under Greg. Several of you asked for that list, and I thought I would share the list here.
As we move toward the glories of Easter, the empty tomb, and the Risen Lord, may the Lenten season be a time of earnest preparation for you. I hope you find this list helpful in that. Have a meaningful and blessed Lent.
Lent is a reminder and an opportunity, as Greg writes, to:
Fast from worry, and feast on divine order by trusting God.
Fast from complaining, and feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives, and feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures, and feast on unceasing prayer.
Fast from hostility, and feast on tenderness.
Fast from bitterness, and feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern, and feast on compassion for others.
Fast from idle gossip, and feast purposeful silence.
Fast from judging others, and feast on the divine within them.
Fast from emphasis on differences, and feast on the unity of life.
Fast from greed, and feast on generosity.
Fast from thoughts of illness, and feast on wholeness.
Fast from words that pollute, and feast on the phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent, and feast on gratitude.
Fast from suspicion, and feast on truth.
Fast from the thoughts that weaken, and feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from problems that overwhelm, and feast on prayer that undergirds.
See you Sunday!
Pastor Mike Ulasewich
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I have truly been enjoying our sermon series this past month on “Seek…” I hope you have, too. It’s been a real joy to ponder what we are seeking in life and from our lives of faith together. I hope we’ll continue to discuss how FPC can be a place for people to grow, to connect, and to serve (remember those 3 P’s—personal growth, people and purpose).
In February, we’ll move into the season of Lent. We wanted to build on our “Seek…” series by offering a series on spiritual practices. What better way to grow, to connect with God and to listen for the Lord’s purpose for our lives than to practice some of the spiritual activities that have been passed down to us. Each week, at the conclusion of my sermon, we’ll have an opportunity to briefly practice one spiritual discipline. We’ll try a different practice each week during the six weeks of Lent. One week we might try singing Taizé. Another week we might journal, or have a guided meditation or even silence for a few minutes. Our hope is fourfold. First, that this will help us to continue considering what we are seeking and how we might find whatever that is. Second, these spiritual practices will help us prepare for Easter and the victory of the empty tomb. Third, they will give us a chance to tend to our souls—offering healing and wholeness to all who partake with us. And finally, we just might learn a new practice or two that we can incorporate into our daily lives and become ever more deeply spiritual people.
I hope you will join us each week in Lent (starting Sunday, February 14) for a look at some spiritual practices.
God Bless You,
Editor’s note: You can view the sermons in the “Seek…” series below.
As Presbyterians, we acknowledge our individual and church responsibility as stewards of this earth. In large and small ways, we make an impact through our daily actions. When First Presbyterian began its journey to the 2400 Prince Street location in 199xxxxx, church leaders recognized the importance of applying practices that would limit the carbon footprint in the new building and grounds.
Our faith urges us to strive to defend and heal creation while working to assure justice for all of creation and the human beings who live in it. This call is rooted in the human vocation of “tilling and keeping” the garden from Genesis 2:15, as well as Christ’s charge to work with and for the most vulnerable.
To become an Earth Care Congregation, a church completes an audit that provides work accomplished in four areas: Worship, Education, Facilities, and Outreach. Worship actions include worship services that incorporate prayers, hymns, sermons and readings with an intentional component of earth care. FPC Conway has a prayer garden to the west of the sanctuary with the gazebo and memorial garden.
In 2013, ten trees purchased by FPC members to honor and/or memorialize family were planted and dedicated in an outdoor service. Working with local experts, native trees were chosen: four shumard oaks, two legacy maples, three alta magnolias, and one black gum. The trees replaced several large oaks lost to city street expansion. These young trees are consistent with FPC’s landscape overlay plan formed by a committee that embraces our stewardship mission into worship, facilities, and education. Church members who are also Master Gardeners participate in design and implementation.
Education activities at FPC include participation in Earth Day activities, and members have volunteered at Ecofest and Arbor Day. Our church library also has materials with an earth care focus.
Facilities at our Prince Street location incorporated geothermal energy, which is generated by the earth. FPC’s zoned HVAC systems and efficient lighting also contribute to its green efficiency. Other ways we conserve energy include church newsletter by email and online and choosing reusable dinnerware and offering water in pitchers instead of plastic water bottles. Additionally, two large water heaters were replaced with a tankless model.
Looking beyond FPC, we find many current and future opportunities to address stewardship of God’s creation. Our youth have had camping trips, and individual members serve as Master Gardeners and participate in Ecofest and Arbor Day. We also participate in Habitat for Humanity and recycling in local food and clothing drives.
What more can we do? LOTS! The FPC Green Team encourages church members and friends to participate in local environmental organizations and events. Let’s consider a community garden or volunteer at other gardens at the Conway Library and McGee Center. We can take a stand in support of alternative transportation or write our elected officials about earth care legislation. Mission trips – locally and away from Conway – can include a green component. How about sponsoring a stream clean-up or offer a recycling drive?
To learn more about FPC’s journey and how you can help, contact Betsy Gillaspy-Williams.
Each Sunday morning, following the Children’s Moment, our children ages three through 1st grade are invited to Children’s Church. An age-appropriate telling of a Bible story and related activities offer our youngest worshipers an opportunity to explore and better understand the story. We are looking to add leaders to our rotation so that the children will have the opportunity to come to know more of our adults and so that our leaders are only called on for two or three Sundays per year. If this is a ministry that you would like to explore, please contact Theresa in the church office.
I find myself these days feeling like the soon-to-be disciple Peter must have felt all those many years ago. The fifth chapter of Luke describes how Jesus first called Peter, named Simon at the time, to be His follower. Jesus was preaching to a crowd from Peter’s boat. Peter had been fishing all night and day and was disappointed in his catch. As Jesus concluded His sermon, He wanted to show the abundance that a life in Christ brings. He directed Peter to cast his nets into the water on the other side (that is, the wrong side) of the boat. Peter reluctantly did.
The haul Peter brought up was so immense he and his partners had to have another boat come alongside theirs to try to help haul in all the fish. Even then, we are told, both boats began to sink from the weight of the catch. I feel a bit like Peter.
I am here. With you. And I feel like Peter in this place of abundance. First Presbyterian Church has an abundance of spiritual gifts and resources even in times of perceived scarcity. Peter had fished all day and thought he had nothing to show for it, but a great plenitude was right there just below the surface. We might be tempted to compare our present day with our past, but in Christ there is more possibility right here and now than we could ever imagine.
I know the abundance this church can provide. Just as longtime friends of the church have provided a house for us during this season, so many of you have given abundantly of your time, effort, and money to help make this house more hospitable and welcoming to us. We are in awe of the painters, cleaners, decorators, and other gifted servants in this church who have provided food, childcare and other gifts to help us get settled into our new home.
And just when we thought we knew all about your love and generosity, it hit us just what an abundance there is here. It hit us with a mountain of cans and boxes of pasta and fruit and sauces and crackers and popcorn and granola bars and peanut butter and paper products (and more, but you get the picture). All these things you gave us to stock the pantry in our new home. Hauling them out of the church to our car, I felt like Peter trying to haul in his enormous catch of fish. I felt as if I was almost sinking under the weight of the groceries you all provided for us. Sinking, really, in the profound sense of affection, concern, kindness, and love you all have shown me and my family.
We are grateful to be here and (as I have said several times) grateful for each one of you. I will go on saying this.
But I have to admit feeling like Peter in another way. Upon realizing the amazing powers this Jesus had, Peter fell on his knees and cried out for mercy. I am truly humbled—humbled to receive such a blessing as you have given us. But even more so, I am humbled to be called to be your pastor. It is with great awe for God and great affection for you, I begin that call.
For Peter, this encounter was just the beginning. He would walk with Christ and then in the name of Christ for years. This is a new beginning for us as well. I pray that we all, like Peter, will know the mercy, forgiveness, love, power, and abundance of Christ in the years ahead.
In Christian love,
Rev. Mike Ulasewich
First Presbyterian Church of Conway, Arkansas, is excited to call Rev. Michael Ulasewich as the church’s next pastor.
In a congregational meeting on Sunday, July 12, 2015, the Pastor Nominating Committee presented information about the candidate to the congregation. A subsequent vote affirmed the Committee’s recommendation that Rev. Ulasewich be called as Pastor.
Rev. Ulasewich will start at FPC on August 10, and his first Sunday in the pulpit will be August 16. Details about an Installation service for Rev. Ulasewich will be announced soon.
Rev. Mike Ulasewich’s personal mission is to encourage and nurture others to a deeper faith in Christ through preaching, teaching, coaching, and pastoral presence. Pastor Mike graduated with his MDiv from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 2005. He also has an MA and a BA in Literature from The University of Florida, where he focused on Southern Literature. He served as solo pastor of The First Presbyterian Church of Apopka, Florida, from 2006 to 2014 and was a Resident CPE Chaplain at Tampa General Hospital before that. Most recently, he served as an English teacher at Lake Minneola High School, near Clermont, Florida.
Pastor Mike has been married to his wife, Selena, since 1999–two years after they met while they were both in the University of Florida marching band. They have three children: Rebekah is 11, Glendon is 6, and Lena is 21 months. Selena is a businesswoman, a teacher, and a wonderful Bible Study leader. Rebekah is a gifted student with a great sense of humor. Glendon is earnest yet fun. Lena is sweet and caring.
Pastor Mike enjoys reading and listening to music. He also enjoys being outside. He is a runner and cyclist and dreams of one day completing an Ironman Triathlon. He enjoys traveling and nature–particularly witnessing God’s magnificent creation. He has visited 25 of our nation’s 59 national parks and hopes to one day have visited all of them.