Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. April 2022

What a beautiful day I was blessed with on Sunday. The opportunity to celebrate the day with my personal family, and my church family, and to receive the generous gifts was indeed special. So I say thank you to those who gave me a card, or a gift. Thank you to those who help prepare the meal, and those who set up and decorated. Thank you to those who came to worship and hear an On Beyond Zebra sermon. Thank you, to all of you who shared this day with me.

Also thank you for 27 years of serving, and doing a job that I have loved. There have been lots of changes since I came to Rochester with my wife and 3 young children. The stores and the restaurants are different. We didn’t use cell phones when I arrived. My computer was not state of the art, but none really were. Internet. On-line shopping. The preschool teachers have changed. The church leaders are younger now, and many of those who led when I came to town are enjoying heavenly blessings.

On Sunday during the dinner, I think many assumed that lots of people would get up and share stories. But, I think most of us were a little bit afraid of tears, and some sad feelings. Some things are just hard to do. Still, I believe when people are close in friendships and relationships, we often don’t need to “say it.” Those who know us well, already know how we feel. I believe we have all enjoyed some special bonds of love and experiences. I have been blessed to share in your weddings, and your graduations. Our children have grown up together. We have shared in the heartaches of lost loved ones. We have “grown older” together, and have marveled at God’s great grace.

The loss of a loved one is one of life’s toughest experiences. To say good-bye to an old friend can touch our hearts. So if we find ourselves going through some feelings of grief and loss– we’re just being normal. I still believe that “God is our refuge and strength. An ever-present help in trouble.” (Ps 46). So as we go through life’s changes we need to continually turn to our source of help and strength. It’s ok to cry some, and to feel some sadness. I know I will. However, sometimes we see God best when we are at those times of weakness. I am amazed at how the Lord moved and brought us here. I am astounded at His provision, and His many blessings. Jesus’ friends grieved His death until He rose again onSunday morning.

If He has done so much for us, I am confident that He is not finished yet. He has more to in mind for you and me. As I shared last Sunday, “in the places I go there are things that I see, that I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.” (Dr. Seuss)

So we are about to go “on beyond.” The God who has been with us will continue to be here. The One who died for us, also rose again to show us that there is life, and hope, and much more to come. So it’s ok to share times of grief. But, don’t forget what is still to come– God’s great plans.

The ladies sang one of my favorite songs last Sunday. “Give me Jesus,” was sung at my ordination service on May 28, 1978.
How fitting that it be sung again. But, the message is one I hope you and I will keep holding on to. We need Jesus. We need His salvation. We need His presence, and His forgiveness. We need the hope that only He can give. We have been a “Church with a Heart for Jesus.” So, may we continue the same way. He is Lord. He is good.

Blessings. I will be back to worship with you again.

Pastor Mark

Lent-From Grief to Joy, March 2022

In John 16 Jesus is talking to his disciples, trying to prepare them for things to come. He would be killed, and there
would be deep grief, and sorrow. But as well, there would be greater joy than they had ever known.
“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (Jn 16.20). As the events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday unfolded, they came to understand what Jesus meant.

The season of Lent in the Christian tradition, is a time of spiritual preparation before Easter. It is a time of perhaps drawing closer to God, or of soul searching. Often the season is one of considering what it cost Jesus to bring us the gift of eternal life. Perhaps it is also a time of considering the grief felt by Jesus’ disciples as they witnessed His sacrifice. Perhaps it is a time when we consider how we might cause pain and offence to Jesus ? Or how we might draw nearer to Him.

But, in whatever way people today prepare for Easter today, we have the benefit of hindsight. We already know the story. We know that the victory was won. We know that Jesus rose again. The world may not know, or may not believe it, but Christians do.

As time of ministry and service to this church family is drawing near for me, there are also feelings of grief and uncertainty. I have been trying to prepare my church family for things to come. There have been little things that I have done that need to be done by someone else. Perhaps things like locking doors, turning off lights, recycling, overseeing details, etc. will get done. Leaders will need to lead without my prompting. Another big concern for me is how will we handle our grief.

Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things to do in life! We have done this at funerals, and at times when friends moved away. We don’t like it! Some hate the goodbyes so much that they just leave without saying it. Some struggle with the feelings of grief for a long time afterwards through depression, or anger, or withdrawing.

Saying good-bye will be difficult for me. You have been my family, my support, and my joy for the past 27 years. My children have grown up here. You have been there for me in the hardest times, and the joyful times. I have dedicated your children, and performed weddings, and wept at funerals. There have been challenges. Even before Covid, there have been some hard things to deal with. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3, “there is a season.” Things don’t stay the same.

And I believe that just like with Jesus’ disciples on Easter morning had the most impossible dream come true, God has a joyful future for you, and me. “Behold I am doing a new thing,” God says, (Isa 43.19). Yes, things change– but God is good! We may not like losing, and hurting, and grievingbut we sure do love Easter, and springtime, and new babies, and new friendships!

So in the next few weeks to come, let us commit to allowing ourselves the permission to grieve, and say our goodbyes. Let us resolve to cope as best we can with the changes, and the feelings of sadness that we don’t like. But, as Paul says, “let us not grieve as those who have no hope.” (1 Thess. 4). Likewise, let us not forget to celebrate our joys, and our blessings. Let us plant new seeds, and begin new friendships. Please invest your time and your heart into your church. Your spiritual family needs you, and you need them! Please take time to eat together, and laugh, and see God’s hand at work through the changes to come. Yes, things change (even when we don’t like them) but God is good!


Pastor Mark

Transitions, February 2022

When Moses and the Israelites were moving from Egypt to the Promised Land– Canaan they were guided by the Lord in several ways. Obviously they had Moses. He was their human leader. They also had elders. Seventy men were chosen to help lead and govern. They also had some obvious signs of God’s leading. Specifically there was the pillar of cloud. In the daytime it looked like a cloud, and at night it looked like fire. (Numbers 9. 15-23). When the cloud started moving the people moved too. When it stopped for days, or even years they stayed put. Eventually Moses grew old, and died before crossing over into the Promised Land.

In our lives, we don’t have the advantage of the cloud, or of a Moses who showed that he was the leader by miraculous signs. We do however have the Holy Spirit. We do have the Bible. We do have brothers and sisters in our faith who can help by praying for us, and by giving us wise counsel.

As you probably know by now, I have made the decision to retire. April 1, 1995, was the date when I began my ministry here in Rochester, so that the date is appropriate for ending. Thus, I plan to be retired on April 1, 2022. Twenty-seven years is a long time. What a blessing it has been to be part of such an amazing spiritual family. It is with mixed feelings that I am making this transition. There is guilt. It feels like I’m abandoning my post. I feel like I’m letting lots of people down. There is some grief. The same feelings that I had when losing loved ones, are here again. I don’t plan to never see you again, or that I will not care what happens. There is deep love in my heart for my you—spiritual family. There are also some feelings of anticipation. There are new adventures to pursue. There are children, and grandchildren, and a mom. There are lots of people that I need to make time for while I can. There are lots of feelings, that are mixed. But, I have come to the assurance that the time has come for me to make the change. Age, and the need for using my remaining years differently are part of my decision. I have sought some wise counsel. It is my belief that the church needs a new leader. Change can be difficult, but it is also good and necessary at times.

So as I write this article, may you know the deep love I have in my heart for you. May you also know how important it is to me that you continue in your faith and commitment to Jesus, and to this church. My role has not been to save you– but to point you to the Savior. Jesus must be Lord of all.

As well, I believe that God has good things ahead for this church. It has been here over 175 years. Through wars, through depressions, through tornados, through heartaches, and changes. God still has a plan to seek and save lost people from this community.

On March 5th the church will hold a “Pastoral Transition Workshop.” It will be held at the church from 10 am – 2 pm. It will be led by our friend Bruce Cochran, from American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. It is open to anyone wanting to attend. Finding the next pastor will need to be done with prayer, and wisdom, and God’s guidance. So, the congregation needs to be a part of this.

At the workshop, Bruce will outline some of the steps that will need to be taken. He will give some guidance to the Deaconate as they choose 7 Pulpit committee members. He will encourage the church to think of where God is leading, not just of finding a replacement. I hope you will participate in the workshop, and in other opportunities to be part of the new days ahead. They are exciting! God is up to something good.

I am confident that the same God who brought me and my family to this church 27 years ago, is more than able to do even greater things. Saying good-byes are difficult for all of us. I am not abandoning you, but my role is changing. There is a new day dawning for all of us. Let us look forward to what God has in store for us.


Pastor Mark


Seven First Words, January 2022

When I wrote my first newsletter article for 2021 I thought, “Surely this year will be better than the last!” Now as I look back at all that has taken place, I am not sure if it was better or not? There was no “lock down” from covid as there had been in 2020, but the pandemic has not gone away, nor the fears associated with it. Along with new variants, and surges of new cases, there are also conflicts over masks and vaccines. Fears and frustrations seem to abound both in public, and also in families.

I had some glimmer of hope that perhaps the new persons in Washington DC might be able to help us work together better, and to solve issues more unitedly. That was the campaign promise. But, the political landscape is just as chaotic as ever!

A few years ago, I enjoyed a whole calendar year without any funerals of church family members. Could it happen again? It did not. It has been a year of losses, and changes. Cancer and other health concerns have taken away our loved ones. As well there have been injuries, and surgeries, and lots of changes.

So here I am writing a new article for another new year. 2022! With this new year come hopes, and dreams. What new adventures await us? Young people will graduate from high school, and college! New little babies will be born! Bodies will heal from their injuries, and their surgeries. There is hope for better. The seasons will bring their blessings and their challenges.

There will be challenges, and changes. There will be more pandemic concerns– new virus strains, mandates, and health issues. Our lives change a lot over a year’s time. Often we don’t notice because we live it day by day.

I want to share Seven First Words for 2022 that may be hopeful for you and me. They may not be the first words you say, but they are words you can use as part of your spiritual walk at least.

Repeat after me: I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST! (WHO STRENGTHENS ME). There are ten words if you remember the whole passage. The Bible [Philippians 4.13], contains this confident assurance of those who believe in Jesus. The Apostle Paul, had learned to put his hope in someone more powerful than himself. We can too!

Not only is Jesus more powerful, but he is wiser, and more gracious than we are. He is ready to redeem. He is preparing a place for us in his beautiful kingdom of heaven. This is the Christ who strengthens us. He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. By him all things have been created. He works all things together for good, for those who love Him and are aligned with His will.

What lies ahead in the year to come? For me a few new things. I have two more Spencer babies due in June. (Reed and Lesley will have five children). I will likely retire sometime pretty soon? (I am 68 years old). There are some new things to do, new goals to set, and some unknown changes.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You will probably look back a year from now and say, “How did I ever accomplish those things?” In amazement, you may realize how far you have come, and what trials you have faced. When you do- bless the Lord! Praise His holy name! He is the One who strengthens us!

I am hoping in the Lord for better things to come in 2022. I am ready for some obvious signs that God is at work in this crazy world. But, my real hope is in Christ– not the new year! Not in politicians, or economy, or things of this world. As you move ahead, just remember those seven words for 2022. I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST! He strengthens us!


Pastor Mark