December 8, 2020
Advent Greetings: A Message from our Moderator
I have missed the opportunity to visit with many of you during this pandemic and I want to share a few thoughts and hopes with you during this Advent season.

What a year this has been:

  • Pandemic and quarantine and political division. Racial unrest and demonstrations across the country. Unemployment, poverty, and widespread hunger. Illness and death from COVID-19.

  • A growing acknowledgement of inequity for some and privilege for others. Using Zoom for worship, meetings, family gatherings, education, yoga. Fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness.

  • Such change in our church communities as we have used technology to continue our ministries, to study, for meetings, and worship. Some say that the church will be forever changed. Some can’t wait to return to the old, familiar ways.

We are weary and worried and we want answers. I want to know when I can hug my grandchildren and when there will be enough vaccine for everyone. All of this weariness and questioning feels like the wilderness that we read about in the Old Testament. But wait, this is Advent - how do we reconcile our despair with the promise and hope of the Christ Child? Advent is the time of waiting and watching for the birth of Christ, the light coming into the world.  
What is helping me is to continue the traditions of my faith and my family. We have hung the Moravian star over our front door and set up the manger that was my parents’, purchased in the 1950’s and given to me, their eldest daughter. Tomorrow we will decorate our Christmas tree even though our children and grandchildren will not be here to admire it. We are playing the beloved music that we cannot hear performed live. We will worship as usual throughout Advent and on Christmas Eve. Christmas will still come! 
 
It is my hope that we can all use this period of waiting and hoping for quiet reflection – time to imagine a different way to listen and respect and understand those who are different than we are – and remember that we are all God’s children, all of us. What can each of us do in the coming year that will demonstrate that we believe the promise of Advent, the light coming into the world? And, what can we do together to demonstrate that we believe the gift of Christmas?
 
For me, candles are an important symbol of joy and hope and love. I light them almost every day for dinner and fill the house with them when family and guests come. If you do not already do this, I invite you to light a candle every day for the remainder of Advent, continuing until Epiphany on January 6th. Take a few moments to pray, to listen for God’s voice, to read the Scripture or an Advent devotional.
 
I have been reading the Advent and Christmas Devotional 2020 from Presbyterians Today, entitled “Let Us Light Candles.” It uses the poem “I Will Light Candles This Christmas” by Howard Thurman. Written in 1973, it still speaks to us today. 

I Will Light Candles This Christmas

I will light candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.
 
Prayer – We are grateful that you are still our God and will always be our God. We will celebrate Christmas again this year as we always have. May we remember that the baby Jesus is a symbol of hope and love and justice for all – the Light that has come into our dark world. Let us light candles as a remembrance of this truth. Amen 
 
My prayers and wishes are with you all for a joyous Christmas season, full of light and gratitude.

- Audrey Trapp, Ruling Elder and Moderator of the Presbytery of Baltimore
#BaltimorePresbyteryLights
It's not too late to join us in celebrating Advent. Christian Educators of the Baltimore Presbytery invite your household to take part in the Advent Luminaria Devotional. Here are just a few examples of the wonderful creations being shared. Visit our website for more information, or check out the complete, ongoing gallery on our Facebook page.
Statistical Reporting Season
The Statistical Reporting Season has begun. Clerks of Session can
access the reporting portal at https://oga.pcusa.org/section/churchwide-ministries/stats/statistical-reporting-faq/  Be sure to click “accept” before moving to the next section to avoid losing the information you have entered.
Donation Deductions
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig recently issued a reminder that the IRS has “a new provision that allows for up to $300 in cash donations to qualifying organizations to be deducted from income. We encourage people to explore this option to help deserving tax-exempt organizations – and the people and causes they serve.”
 
Ordinarily, you can only deduct charitable contributions on your tax return if you itemize your deductions. This special deduction is an “above-the-line” deduction, which means that it reduces your taxable income, even before you apply the standard or itemized deduction.
 
Cash donations of up to $300 made before December 31, 2020, are now deductible when people file their taxes in 2021.
In Memoriam
Rev. Dr. Ira W. Marshall, Jr., 94, passed away peacefully on November 22. Ira was a dedicated pastor in the Baltimore Presbytery. For most of his career, he served as the minister of Hughes Memorial Presbyterian Church in Edgemere, MD where he was a beloved member of the local community. Ira also spent over 50 years as the chaplain of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital in Baltimore where he eventually retired at age 89. He had a profound love for God, his family, and his country. He is predeceased by his loving wife, Rev. Dr. Edythe Cherry (Watson) Marshall. Ira will be deeply missed.
 
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Hughes Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sparrows Point, MD. Rev. Marshall's Obituary
Upcoming Events
Christmas Concert and Silent Film
Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church
hosts popular and classical holiday music performed by organist, Michael Britt followed by the silent film short “Big Business” starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Join in-person or via live stream at 7 pm. In-person seating is limited and by pre-registration only. For more information on how to register, please visit their website.

Advent Book Club
Join Pastor Jessie and Christ our Anchor Presbyterian Church for an evening of sharing and reflecting on their theme of Advent 2020: Joseph, the father of Jesus. What does it mean that Jesus was an adopted child? Where would we be if Joseph had not said yes to raising this Child, the Son of God? What issues in the world are we called to adopt and take personally in the same way? A very short book will be used for the discussion called Faithful: Christmas Through the Eyes of Joseph (link here to Amazon), but you do not need to read the book to participate. All are welcome! Info and Zoom link  

The Normal of Now
Join Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church for an upbeat, practical Zoom seminar on mental health and wellness. Equip yourself with coping strategies for the short term and hope for the long term, learn tips and tricks on how to assess yourself and your loved ones for wellness, find out how to best support one another, and so much more at this free power-hour for anyone and everyone. Email lou.applebaum@woodsccc.org for more information. Facebook event
Finding the Energy to Move Forward
Are you feeling depleted and not sure how you will be able to continue to follow your call as we move into the hardest months of these pandemics yet? Join at 1 pm for an unscripted conversation with the Rev. Dr. Roger Gench, the new interim editor for the Presbyterian Outlook. A seasoned pastor, community organizer, theological ethicist, and author, Roger has recently written A Cross Examen: A Spirituality for Activists and Organizers which introduces contemplative practices that are life restoring. Facebook event
Drive Thru Live Nativity
Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church invites you to journey to Bethlehem to be counted for the census. Encounter the shepherds keeping watch over their flock. Wander with Mary and Joseph as they try to find a room in the crowded city. Hear the angels share the message of the Good News. Like the Wisemen, bring your gifts which will be used to offer shelter for those who have no place to stay. Facebook event
Longest Night Gathering for A Holiday Service of Remembrance & Grief
Hosted by Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church. Known also as “Blue Christmas,” a Longest Night Gathering is a safe and sacred space to share anguish, to plead with God to remember us, to pray for justice and restoration, even to hope against hope, through our doubts and tears and fears, that “God will set things right all over the earth” (1 Samuel 2:10, The Message Translation). Sing, pray, and share your grief with God and one another from your home. To fully experience this service, they suggest bringing the following supplies: a small wire or wooden wreath frame, strips of cloth, 4 candles of the same height, 1 candle of a taller height, and a black marker. For more information on how to attend, please visit browndowntown.org
For a growing schedule of Christmas Celebrations, visit our website at BaltimorePresbytery.org.

Are we missing yours?
Email fperrelli@baltimorepresbytery.org to be included.
Help Wanted
Stated Clerk
The Presbytery of Baltimore is seeking a Stated Clerk for a 3 year term beginning in March of 2021. The Stated Clerk may be elected to additional terms as noted in the position description. This is a 25 hour per week position with vacation, medical insurance, and pension benefits, but will vary depending on the applicant’s status within the PCUSA. A position description and list of qualifications can be found here.
The Presbytery offices are closed for visits or appointments until further notice, but staff and commissions continue to meet regularly online.


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