Thursday, December 27, 2007

December Session Highlights

The December 2007 Session Meeting was held on the 20th with all but three of the currently serving elders present and two of the incoming class of elders also attending. Barbara Brisch reported on the Nov. 13 presbytery Meeting and on the Dec. 11 called meeting.

Kay Greer was elected Clerk of Session for 2008.

A preliminary budget was presented by Dale Parker of Budget & Finance Committee, the final budget will be approved at the January Session Meeting. A Motion for a Change in the Call of Rev. Jon Burnham also passed.

"Dream budgets" will be presented by each Ministry Team early in the fall of 2008 to facilitate making the 2009 budget.

John Freeman for the Outreach Committee reminded everyone to mark their calendars with Jan 5, 13, 20, & 27. The first date is the AED & CPR demonstrations and the last three dates are potluck dinners in the Interfaith Dialogue Series.

Lynn Hargrove announced a Mardi Gras Party on Feb. 5 with music by the Johnny Dyson Band..

Announcements were Communion on Jan 6, Ordination and Installation of new elders, Jan. 13, Planning day for Committees (Ministry Teams) and Session Meeting on Jan. 19 with the Congregational Meeting on Jan. 20.


Consitutional Questions

On Sunday, January 13, 2008, we will install new Elders to serve on the Session's Class of 2010. Here are the constitutional questions they will be asked from our Book of Order followed by the questions for the congregation. Prayerfully consider how you will answer these questions.

The Constitutional Questions to Elders being Installed

The minister shall ask those preparing to be ordained or installed to stand before the congregation and to answer the following questions:
a. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
b. Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God's Word to you?
c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?
d. Will you fulfill your office in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?
e. Will you be governed by our church's polity, and will you abide by its discipline? Will you be a friend among your colleagues in ministry, working with them, subject to the ordering of God's Word and Spirit?
f. Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world?
g. Do you promise to further the peace, unity, and purity of the church?
h. Will you seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?
i. Will you be a faithful elder, watching over the people, providing for their worship, nurture, and service? Will you share in government and discipline, serving in governing bodies of the church, and in your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?

The Constitutional Questions to the Congregation

Do we, the members of the church, accept these elders as leaders of this church, chosen by God through the voice of this congregation to lead us in the way of Jesus Christ? Do we? We do.

Do we agree to encourage them, to respect their decisions and to follow as they guide us, serving Jesus Christ, who alone is Head of the Church? We do.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Upcoming St. John's Events

Mark your calendar and don't miss these upcoming events!

Monday, December 31: New Year's Eve Party @ 8 pm
Friday, January 4: Friday Night at the Movies @ 7:30 pm
Saturday, January 5: St. John's Breakfast @ 8 am
Saturday, January 5: CPR & Defibrillator Training @ 9:30 am
Tuesday, January 8: St. John's Book Group @ 7:30 pm

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Invite a Friend on Christmas Eve

You are cordially invited to a Christmas Eve Service in the sanctuary of St. John's Presbyterian Church at 6:00 P.M. on December 24. This special service is designed for all ages and will include music by Alina Klimaszewska and Mark Swindler and a children's sermon by Lynn Hargrove. Come celebrate the birth of Christ our Lord as our young people read to us the Biblical stories and we respond with Christmas carols accompanied by organ, brass, piano and guitar. Jon Burnham will light the Christ candle and each person's candle will be lit from the Christ candle as we sing Away in Manger. The service will conclude in candle light as we sing Joy to the World. Christmas Eve is the one occasion during the year when unchurched folks are most likely to attend a church service. Come and bring with you an unchurched friend! Introduce them to St. John's during this meaningful and moving worship service.

Wanted: Your Email Address

The church is now sending out an email newsletter. If you wish to receive it, please give us your current email address. You may type your current email address and put it in the offering plate or email the church office at

Centering Prayer Books now available in Church Office

  • Jon's Lenten Course will use 40 Days to a Closer Walk: The Practice of Centering Prayer is available for $12.00.
  • The classic by Thomas Keating called Open Mind, Open Heart is available for $13.50.
  • We also have Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children for $10.00. This would make a great addition to any child's library.
  • And for a more mature Biblical, theological and historical background on this spiritual practice Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening is available for $15.25.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Blood Drive - December 23

Blood Donors: An Elite Group

Join this membership by visiting Building One Sunday Morning, December 23, 8 am to 12:30 pm. Help save a life!

Experience an Interfaith Worship— Friday, January 11

Experience Interfaith worship by attending a service at Temple Beth Israel, 5600 N. Breaswood, on Friday, January 11, for a regular service. We will meet at the entrance at 6:15 pm, or come to our parking lot at 5:45 pm to carpool. The service starts at 6:30 pm, and a rabbi or cantor will meet with us afterward. Call Linda Dobbin at 281-778-5348 if you are interested.

St. John’s Breakfast— January 5

Pastor Jon Burnham will be the speaker at the St. John’s Breakfast on Saturday, January 5, at 8 am in McPhail Hall. The topic of his presentation will be "The Christian Liturgical Year: Following Christ from the Cradle to the Grave and Beyond."

Everyone is invited to enjoy the food and fellowship and learn more about the cycle of the Christian liturgical year. Come and bring a friend!

New Wind Reunion - Saturday January 12

Please join us for a New Wind reunion! We want New Winders from all years to please came and bring your families — and this goes for all of you folks from over the years who supported us in so many different ways — the whole St. John’s family, past and present.

The dates are January 12 - 13. On Saturday we’ll meet at the church at 2 pm for games, pictures, songs, and general merriment— please bring your kids and significant others. Then at around 5 or 6 pm, we’ll have a potluck dinner. When you RSVP, please make a note of what dish you’d like to bring. Then the kids will have their own party time — movies and popcorn in Building Two with dedicated babysitters.

Sunday morning we’d love to have a reunion New Wind singing time during the service, so bring your singing voices (We’ll take 10-15 minutes for a run-though on Saturday).

We can’t wait to see you all and catch up ! Please start collecting pictures and any old memories that you’d like to bring. Please send the names and any contact information you have for anyone you remember from those years to Julia (Dobbin) Alejandre (, 512-297-9882) or Ben Carrettin ( — we want to make sure to reach as many folks as possible. This is sure to be a fantastic memory in its own right and a great opportunity to reunite with dear friends from days past.

Thirty Christmas Boxes Delivered

Thirty Christmas boxes were delivered to the Port of Houston Seafarer’s Center along with 68 knit hats and scarves. This year’s boxes were exceptionally full with the essentials: pair of work socks, shaving cream, disposable razors, deodorant, soap, shampoo, toothbrush and paste, 2008 calendar, paper and envelopes, and pens and pencils. Additionally each sailor received a flashlight, pocket comb, bandaids, dental floss, Kleenex, q-tips, lotion, lip balm, nail clippers, key chain, playing cards, note cards, and hard candy. The boxes were topped off with a game and a Texas scarf — then wrapped with Christmas paper.

Thanks to all who donated, and please keep this article so you know what to buy for next year! Bring donations anytime to the Recycle Center in Fellowship Hall. Port of Houston — Thank you

Presbyterian Women’s Program and Luncheon— Tuesday, January 15

St. John’s Presbyterian Women welcome as their guest speaker Bill Ehrenstrom, who will be talking about his recent experience in Afghanistan.

St. John’s Book Group— Tuesday, January 8

"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting." — Henry David Thoreau

Join the Book Group, Room 208, as we discuss the short story, O Yes, by Tillie Olsen. Walk-ins welcome! Books are available in the church office.

Friday Night at the Movies— January 4 @ 7:30 pm

Showing on the big screen will be Follow Me Boys (1966) starring Fred MacMurray, Vera Miles and Kurt Russell. It’s a Disney film about a simple man who decides to put down roots and enjoy the quiet life after one year too many on the road with a ramshackle jazz band. That life is soon interrupted when he volunteers to lead a high-spirited Boy Scout troop. Pizza, popcorn and snacks will be served.

CPR & Defibrillator Training— Saturday, January 5

St. John’s has purchased and installed two automatic electronic defibrillators (AEDs): one in the ushers’ closet in the narthex and the other in the storage closet in Building Two. These devices (along with CPR) are being credited with saving many lives — however people often hesitate to use them because they don’t know what they are, when they should be used or how to use them. Hesitation can cause brain damage or cost a life. We want to be sure our AEDs are used if the need ever arises.
In order to inform all St. Johners about these devices and basic CPR, Lindsey Sen-Roy of the Outreach Committee has arranged for the Junior League to hold a defibrillator instruction and CPR training at St. John’s on Saturday, January 5 immediately following the St. John’s breakfast program — 9:45 am in McPhail Hall. The entire instruction session will take about an hour. We strongly urge everyone to attend. It might be a matter of life or death.
P.S. Bring a friend or neighbor. AEDs are available for homes, and this is an outreach event.

New Year Eve's Celebration - Monday, December 31

Come anytime between 8 pm and 11:30 pm for games and snacks. Bring a snack to share and your favorite game. There will be Xbox and Wii competitions throughout the night.
At around 11:30 pm we will have a short reflection to give thanks for the blessings of 2007 and celebrate the promise of 2008.

Holiday Schedule - Church Office

St. John’s Church office will be closed Monday, December 24, and Tuesday, December 25, for the Christmas holiday. The office will also be closed Monday, December 31, and Tuesday, January 1, for New Year’s.

The staff of St. John’s wishes you the merriest Christmas and a New Year filled with hope, love and joy!

A Request from Buildings & Grounds/Property:

We have reached the point of having more members with impaired mobility than we have handicapped parking spots in the sanctuary parking lot. Because of this some members have had to skip church services because they were unable to walk from the McPhail lot, which doesn’t have all that many reserved spots either.

Rather than put more reserved spots in the sanctuary lot we would like to try this: If you are not mobility-impaired, have no problem walking from the McPhail, lot please park there and leave the sanctuary lot for the people who do have problems.

If this works there should be a few empty spots in the sanctuary lot on Sunday mornings. We will watch and if it does not work we will go ahead and add the extra reserved spots.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Session Assignments for 2008

Shirley (2008) & Barbara (2009) / Christian Formation Ministry (Formerly called Christian Education Committee)

Marie (2009) & Dave (2010) / Congregational Life Ministry (Formerly called Caring Committee and Fellowship Committee)

Wright (2008) & Suzette (2009) & Lauren (2008) / Mission (Formerly called Evangelism & Outreach)

Bob (2008) & George (2010) / Property (Formerly called Building & Grounds Committee)

Jo Ann (2008) & Brad (2010) / Support (Formerly called Administration Committee, Budget Committee, Finance Committee, Stewardship Committee)

Katie (2009) & Charlene (2010) / Worship Ministry (Formerly called Worship Committee)


Jon's Jots for January 2008

Although the weather outside is warm, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Businesses and shopping centers are bustling with songs of sleigh bells ringing and sights of ribbons and bows and electric Christmas trees. Beyond the bustle of the shopping season and our own joyful Christmas Eve service lies the quiet sobriety of New Year's Day. On New Year's day we awaken with a sense of exhausted relief that the holiday season is behind us and we are presented with God's gift to us: A new year spread before us like an empty book waiting to be written.

How will you fill your new year? I challenge you to fill your new year with the things of God. In particular, I challenge you to become acquainted with an ancient spiritual practice that has been reclaimed in recent years. I am speaking about centering prayer. This spiritual practice has transformed my life in wonderful ways over the past several years. It is hard to remember what I was like before I started practicing centering prayer. I am now more peaceful and less angry. I am more joyful and less irritable. I am better able to live in the present moment rather than being stuck in the past or worried about the future. Centering prayer rekindled my spiritual life. Since I have already come to love this congregation, I look forward to sharing this gift with you.

You will find below more about the centering prayer course and some suggested books about centering prayer. Prayerfully consider whether the Spirit may be nudging you toward this spiritual practice. It is not the only way to pray and it is not for everyone but it may be just what you've been looking for to jump start your spiritual life. Thomas Keating says silence is God's first language. Let us explore the beauty and mystery of God's first language in the new year that lies ahead. For as we find God in the silence we also find our true selves.

Jon B.

Centering Prayer Course & Books

Pastor Jon Burnham will teach a course on Centering Prayer each Sunday during Lent from 4:00 - 5:00 P.M. in McPhail Hall beginning February 10 and concluding on March 16. The class will be based on the book Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God: The Practice of Centering Prayer by Rev. J. David Muyskens.  This book and the books below have been ordered and will be available for purchase in the church office in anticipation of our study in February.

It's been said that centering prayer is like two friends sitting together in silence, just being in each other's presence, completely natural and comfortable. Yet, centering prayer is sometimes viewed as too mysterious, too escapist, too hard.

At first, it even appeared that way to the author, but events in his life and his further studies about prayer redirected his views.

Through Muyskens' insightful guidance, we'll explore a simple, biblical practice of prayer that leads to a deep communion with God and encourages a way of life motivated by the divine, perhaps untapped, Presence at the center of your being.

"Your life can be chaotic, scattered, unfocused, but in prayer you consent to a new orientation," writes Muyskens. "When I am centered, I open the eyes of my heart to perceive God's presence. I let go of my efforts to reach God and simply rest in the love of the Trinity. I surrender myself to Christ."

A simple 20-minute per day practice of contemplative prayer over the course of 40 days can lead you to closer relationship with God. As you progress through the daily scripture and meditative readings in Forty Days to a Closer Walk with God, you'll find greater understanding and fresh awareness of Jesus' promise, "I am with you always."

Another book about centering prayer that would make a terrific Christmas gift for children is Journey to the Heart: Centering Prayer for Children by Frank X. Jelenek. Centering prayer is a way of opening our whole being to God, beyond thoughts, words and emotions. It is simple and practical—a way of preparing heart and mind to receive the gift of intimate relationship with God. Jesus said, "When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:6)

Frank Jelenek shows young children just how to do that. The first guide to a contemplative prayer practice for children, Journey to the Heart both instructs and inspires. Many parents and teachers will learn from this colorful treasure of a book, as well! Until now, parents and teachers had no resource available to introduce children to the joys of communicating with God in this special, intimate way. This loving book makes it easy for children to share in the spiritual nourishment of centering prayer through age-appropriate illustrations and text that provides clear directions and encouragement in simple, fun language. Ideal for ages 3 – 10.

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening
by Cynthia Bourgeault is a complete guidebook for those who wish to learn about the practice of Centering Prayer. Bourgeault goes further than offering an introduction. She examines how the practice is related to the classic tradition of Christian contemplation, looks at the distinct nuances of its method, and explores its revolutionary potential to transform Christian life. The Forward is written by Fr. Thomas Keating.

Open Mind, Open Heart by Father Thomas Keating is the classic text about centering prayer and a must have resource for all serious practitioners. This spiritual classic has sold well over half a million copies in the English language and has appeared in 10 foreign-language editions. Open Mind, Open Heart is designed to initiate the readers into a deep, living relationship with God and provides step-by-step guidance in the method of centering prayer. Centering prayer, says Father Keating, offers those who practice it a place to go to persevere in the spirit.

Centering prayer is not presented as a substitute for any other spiritual practices such as other kinds of prayer or Bible study. Rather, it serves as an additional spiritual practice that complements other spiritual practices. Centering prayer is easy to learn and if practiced may transform your understanding of God, yourself and the world. When a group of church members practices centering prayer it may also transform a congregation. We look forward to experiencing what the Holy Spirit has in store for us and for St. John's as our congregation embarks on a spiritual journey through centering prayer.

Session Transition & Thanks

January is the time for the annual transition as one class rotates off the Session and another class rotates on. Therefore, we acknowledge with sincere appreciation the elders who are rotating off the Session: Parnell Avery, John Freeman, Mary Herlitz, Michael Leach, Dale Parker, Leonie Techonte, and Fran Urqhart. They have served with distinction during a time of transition in the life of the church. We extend to them our heartfelt thanks as they conclude their service on the Session and move into other areas of service to Christ at St. John's and beyond.

With great anticipation, we welcome the following Elders onto the Session: George Dobbins, David Nelson, Charlene Simmons, Lauren Sponberg, and Brad Urqhart. They have been called by God and elected by the congregation to serve on the Session beginning in January. They will be installed during the worship service on Sunday, January 13, 2008. We look forward to the energy and creativity they will bring to their work as leaders of St. Johns. Please keep them and the entire Session in your prayers as we begin our work together in the new year.

St. John's Breakfast on January 5

Pastor Jon Burnham will be the speaker at the St. John's Breakfast on Saturday, Janaury 5, at 8:00 A.M. in McPhail Hall. The topic of his presentation will be "The Christian Liturgical Year: Following Christ from the Cradle to the Grave and Beyond." Everyone is invited to enjoy the food and fellowship and learn more about the cycle of the Christian liturgical year. Come and bring a friend!


Christmas Eve Service at 6:00 P.M.

You are cordially invited to a Christmas Eve Service in the sanctuary of St. John's Presbyterian Church at 6:00 P.M. on December 24. This special service is designed for all ages and will include music by Alina Klimaszewska and Mark Swindler and a children's sermon by Lynn Hargrove. Come celebrate the birth of Christ our Lord as our young people read to us the Biblical stories and we respond with Christmas carols accompanied by organ, brass, piano and guitar. Jon Burnham will light the Christ candle and each person's candle will be lit from the Christ candle as we sing Away in Manger. The service will conclude in candle light as we sing Joy to the World. Christmas Eve is the one occasion during the year when unchurched folks are most likely to attend a church service. Come and bring with you an unchurched friend! Introduce them to St. John's during this meaningful and moving worship service.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Thanks from Braes Interfaith Ministies

Dear Rev. Burnham and Church Members,

On behalf of Braes Interfaith Ministries I would like to express our appreciation for your extremely generous Share the Harvest Offering contribution of $2,201.00 At this time of the year each one of us is especially aware of our many blessings and we at Braes Interfaith Ministries try especially hard to help make the season brighter for our underprivileged clients in the Southwest area of Houston. Thank you for thinking of them.

St. John's and its members are truly a blessing to Braes Interfaith Ministries. We wish all of your a blessed Holiday Season.


Eloy Montez, LMSW
Executive Director
Braes Interfaith Ministries

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Junior High Jubilee - July 6 - 10

Attention all Middle school youth! The dates for the 2008 Junior High Jubilee at MoRanch are July 6 - 10. (Still need an adult male sponsor - contact the church office if you are interested).

Youth Conclaves - March 7, 8 & 9

St. John's youth will be going to 2008 Conclaves on March 7, 8 and 9. The youth portion of the cost is $50.00. Watch your mail for the coming paperwork!

Braes Interfaith Ministries (BIM)

January is a time to focus on Braes Interfaith Ministries. You can support this ministry by:
1. Take home a grocery bag on January 6 and return a fulled bag to the church any Sunday during January.
2. Sign up between December 30 and January 6 to have our youth pick up your filled grocery bag on Sunday, January 13, between 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm as part of the PYF (Presbyterian Youth Fellowship) food scavenger hunt.
3. Put your 5 cents a meal contribution to the soup pot on SouperBowl Sunday (February 3). All amounts collected will go directly to BIM. In addition to the collection exiting the worship service on that Sunday, the youth will be serving soup will all donations going directly to BIM.
4. Make a monetary contribution to BIM anytime during January. With your contribution of $1.00 BIM can buy $20.00 worth of food from the Houston Food Bank.

Mission Trip 2008 Group Meeting - Dec 9

The first group building meeting for the Mission to Mexico team will be held on December 9. The mission group from ChristChurch will be joining us at St. John's for an Advent themed meeting. ALL St. John's youth are included in this program, starting at 5:30 pm.

Monday, December 3, 2007

St. John's Draft Day on Dec 9

The Session will hold a Draft Day on Sunday, Dec 9, at 11:30 AM. in the Session Room. We will go through our church rolls and draft each member of our church to serve in a way that employs their gifts and skills for ministry. The Draft will begin immediately
after worship. 

Blogged with Flock


A Future with Hope: State of the Presbytery

by Dick Baker, Postlude reporter

One year ago, we found ourselves facing an unprecedented financial crisis: we were $1 million in debt to General Assembly, $750,000 in debt to other organizations, and had a $750,000 commitment for copier leases. Our leadership was in anguish and despair.

As countless hours were spent by numerous people seeking answers and solutions to this financial mess, we learned that we needed to rely on God to make a way when there seemed to be no way.

Mike reminded us of the prophet Jeremiah’s lament, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” which captured the heartache felt by the Israelites who had been cast into exile in Babylon. Our African-American spiritual ancestors turned Jeremiah’s question into a powerful affirmation in “There Is a Balm In Gilead,” which had been beautifully sung during the morning offertory. We have turned from our own heartache and experienced the revival of the Holy Spirit as God led us not only into a financial house cleaning, but also to increased participation of our churches and members in balancing a transparent budget.

We developed a five-year repayment plan for all our indebtedness, fully funded our restricted accounts, covered the expenses of the outlandish copier leases and, on top of all that, now have an operating budget balanced on the increased giving of our churches and members. “We cannot be deterred from the vision and mission that God has set before us,” said Mike. “God has gifted this presbytery with an incredible array of resources for mission and ministry.”

With these resources:

  • We lead the denomination in new church developments: 18, all the costs of which are covered by our operating budget.

  • We are viewed by many as a leader in our denomination in transformational and missional ministry.

  • We have a phenomenal staff who repeatedly show their commitment to Jesus Christ and their devotion to the mission of the presbytery.

  • Our presbytery meetings have been streamlined and are intentionally informative, visionary, and challenging.

  • Our presbytery is involved in more mission than ever, not through a centralized mission budget, but through the missional efforts of our congregations.

  • We are preparing to launch an initiative for spiritual renewal and retraining of our pastors and key leaders (KEYS).

  • We have funded $120,000 in grants to advance the vision of our presbytery.

  • Our presbytery worships in at least 12 languages every Sunday. God’s plan is for the gospel to prosperin this presbytery. As long as we keep our eyes on that goal, the temporary distractions will be just that — temporary.

During a recent mission trip to Peru, Mike experienced a train ride during which the train periodically stopped, reversed direction, then stopped and proceeded forward. The train was making these maneuvers in order to switch tracks as it proceeded up a hillside. Life’s journey with Jesus Christ is not one long progression up the mountain, said Mike, but rather a series of maneuvers sometimes moving forward and sometimes backward. The critical thing is to affirm who the engineer of our train is — Jesus Christ.

The lesson of this last year in our presbytery is that, in order to get up the mountain, sometimes we have to reverse direction in order to get on the right track.

“God has a grand plan for our presbytery,” said Mike, “plans to prosper us, not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) Thus saith the Lord, our Engineer: “All aboard!”