March 19, 2021

Dear friends,

Each year I try to use Lent as an excuse to become more like the Christian that I’d like to be. I give up some indulgent luxuries and try to wake up earlier and pray more. Sometimes this works, the commitments stick, and the discipline teaches me something about God and about myself. Most times, it doesn’t. Life is hard already (especially this year), and a deliberate choice to make life a little less comfortable by setting my alarm an hour earlier or not eating Taco Bell after church on Sunday is a hard pill to swallow.

Thankfully, God has been kind to me this Lent. Six days a week (I take Sundays off), I wake up in the morning and sleepily walk to a little chair where I open my Bible and begin to sing. Each day I chant a psalm, chant a chapter from the book of Mark, and then chant one more psalm. I imagined that this practice would cast a mystical spell on my spirit and my home, leaving my home perfumed with a heavenly vibe. It hasn’t. More often, I feel extremely goofy. I struggle to chant through a throat congested by a night’s sleep and pollen allergies. I struggle to chant while my dogs whine for their breakfast.

It truly is a struggle, but I’ve come to love it. Most of the time, when I read the Bible, I’m developing arguments in my mind. I’m thinking about seminary classes, theological debates, and sermon ideas. But when I’m chanting the Bible, the text softens. It goes to my heart instead of my head. Seminary enlivens future pastors to the cognitive complexities of Scripture – and that is an important dimension to explore – but the chanting has reopened the emotional truth of Scripture to me. As goofy as I may sound in the mornings to my dogs and my wife, setting the words of the Bible to pitch and rhythm has helped me to get back in touch with the heart of Christ. That emotional connection to our Creator and Friend is something I need more of.

If you’re interested in giving chanting a try, I highly recommend Cynthia Bourgeault’s book Chanting the Psalms. Let me know if you’re interested – I’d be happy to share my copy with you!  

Peace and blessings,
Alex
Westminster This Week – Quick Links


Worship on March 21 – Fifth Sunday of Lent
Join the Westminster CROP Walk Team to Fight Hunger 
An invitation from Neil McElroy

Hello, Westminster Friends! This is Neil McElroy with an important message. It's that time of year again – well yes, March Madness – but I'm here to talk to you about the 47th annual Durham Crop Walk for Hunger. The Crop Walk is an annual event that raises money and awareness for the hungry individuals here in Durham and for those throughout the world. Like last year, this walk will not be an in-person event as a congregation, but will be at your own pace, on your own time, and for any distance from April 10-18.

Sign up as a walker on the WPC Durham team or make a donation today to this wonderful cause! In past years, Westminster Presbyterian Church has led the charge in donations, and we are hoping to raise more than $10,000 in 2021. We can't do it without your help, so please click the button below to support CROP Walk as a team member or as a financial supporter. Thank you!
Holy Week at Westminster
From Palms to Passion ~ Join the Journey
Sunday, March 28, 1:00-3:00pm, WPC Campus

On the liturgical calendar, the Sunday before Easter is known by two titles: Palm and Passion Sunday. This day begins with the bright exuberance of processions and palms, yet shifts rapidly to the shadows of Jesus’ journey to his death by crucifixion. On Palm/Passion Sunday, come to the Westminster campus any time between 1:00 and 3:00pm where you will find a number of outdoor stations to help you reflect on the stories of Holy Week. Each will offer a brief Scripture, a question for reflection, and a simple activity. A guide for young children will also be offered so the whole household can participate together. Bring new socks and underwear for men, women, and children for donating to Urban Ministries of Durham. Pick up all of your supplies for Holy Week and Easter at the final station. Those who have trouble walking or are short on time may choose to just drive through and pick up a complete set of supplies at the Preschool entrance. Our program staff and WPC members will be on hand to greet and guide you. We look forward to seeing you!
Film Discussion: The Mill & the Cross
Sunday, March 28, 7:00pm, Online  

This powerful movie focuses on a dozen of the many characters depicted in Bruegel's painting, “The Way to Calvary.” The theme of Christ's suffering is set against religious persecution in Flanders in 1564. Watch the movie ahead of time, then join the online conversation to explore the connections to Christ’s call to follow as we do justice and walk in alignment with the vision of the “Kin-dom” of God.  Sign up now 
Maundy Thursday, April 1, 7:30pm, on YouTube 
Remember the intimacy of the upper room, the Last Supper, the words Jesus gave us, and his final hours on the cross.

Good Friday Worship, April 2, 12:00pm, Courtyard
Join us for this quiet in-person worship service of prayer and meditation. Capacity is limited to 40; online sign-up is required.
Easter Sunday Events

Flowering the Cross & Easter Story Stations, 8:15am - 1:00pm (floating), Memorial Garden  
Come adorn the large cross in the Memorial Garden with spring flowers from your yard. Children may follow the path to read 'Twas the Morning of Easter, filling their Easter basket with a spring surprise at each station! (No sign-up needed)

Easter Sunday Worship, 8:30am, Courtyard
Worship the Risen Lord with your Westminster family. Capacity is limited to 40; online sign-up isrequired.

Easter Sunday Worship, 11:00am on YouTube  
Resurrection of the Lord, Communion Sunday, and special music
Our Easter Offering for Urban Ministries of Durham & One Great Hour of Sharing
Update from the Local Missions Committee

Urban Ministries of Durham – “UMD” or “the shelter” as it’s often called – at the corner of Queen and Liberty Streets in downtown Durham, provides food, shelter, clothing, supportive services and hope to some of the neediest in Durham. In keeping with Westminster’s focus this year on giving for the most basic community needs, the local portion of the Easter offering will be given to UMD to support its food programs. UMD now serves three “to-go” meals each day to over 700 brothers and sisters in Durham. UMD hopes to re-open its Cafe soon for in-person dining. When COVID restrictions are lifted, UMD’s Food Pantry will also re-open and resume offering the opportunity for an individual or family to shop (once per month) for their food needs. In the year before the pandemic struck, UMD’s Food Pantry served nearly 500 families.

Half of the Easter offering will go to One Great Hour of Sharing, an ecumenical effort by the PC(USA) to provide relief to those affected by natural disasters, provide food to the hungry, and assist in helping to empower the poor and oppressed.
 
You may give to the Easter offering on our website or through your myWPC account. Or, text WPCDURHAM Easter and the dollar amount you’d like to give to 73256 to donate to the Easter Offering fund using your text messaging (standard text messaging rates may apply). You may also mail a check to the church office or drop it into the church’s locked mailbox (next to the parking area by the Courtyard). Be sure to write “Easter Offering” on the check memo line. Thanks!
Nominations for Elders and Deacons 

The Nominating Committee has begun its quest to identify five new elders (four adults, one youth) and eight new deacons (seven adults, one youth) to serve in the class of 2023. Elders compose the Session, the main governing body in the Presbyterian Church, and are responsible for worship, programs, finances, and facilities. The Diaconate largely guides WPC's mission life and the way we care for each other. Both work in partnership with the staff to discern and lead the mission and ministries of this place as we seek to follow Christ together. This is an important opportunity to serve the church in meaningful ways and be a part of God's vision for Westminster. Individuals who have an interest are invited to self-nominate, and the congregation is invited to submit nominations; please email them to nominations@wpcdurham.org. Members of the Nominating Committee are Kim Garcia, Geoff Vaughn, Jami Howell, Bo Ferguson, Rachel Chang, Duck Rufty, and Rayner England. Please reach out to committee members directly if you have questions about Elders, Deacons, and the nominating process.