Thursday, January 31, 2008

Souper Bowl of Caring

Happy Thursday to all of our Braes Interfaith Ministries congregations.  By
this time your plans for Sunday's Souper Bowl of Caring activities are
probably well underway.  We join you in hoping that it will be as successful
as preceeding years thanks to your generosity.

There is an article on page A3 in Wednesday's Houston Chronicle that is
particularly poignant in light of this generosity.  The title of the article
is "Starving Haitians Eating Dirt Cookies".  The article goes on to describe
how Haiti's poorest depend on dirt cookies, made from yellow dirt, salt and
shortening, for food.  Dirt to make 100 cookies costs $5.00!  Further, the
article states that "about 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than
$2 a day.

God bless all of you.

Carolyne Fisher, Volunteer
Eloy Montez, Director, Braes Interfaith Ministries

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Congrats to Kyle Coughlen

Congratulations to Kyle Coughlen who received his Eagle Scout award at a beautiful ceremony in McPhail Hall on January 19, 2008. Several church members were among the large crowd who witnessed this milestone on Kyle's life.


Suggested Reading on Islam

As we continue with our Interfaith Dialogue, here are a few books on Islam recommended by Bob Hughes.
If anyone reads one of these books and wants to offer a review, we would be glad to consider it publishing in the Flashlight.

Concept of God in Major Religions
There has always been a question in the minds of people about the
existence of God. All major religions have believed in one god or
another. Thus, believing in a supreme being that is omnipotent and
omniscience is essential to the existence of mankind. This full-colored
book tackles the issue of existence of God from a different perspective
including starting off with how different people view God. It first
categorizes the belief of the major religions into 5 types of religions.
Then, it describes the concept of God for world's several major religions.

Islam The Religion of Peace

These days many books are being published about Islam, some in defense
of it and many more in its offence. This book briefly but precisely
points out how all the religions are the same and how they are different
from each other. The teachings in basic remain in the doctrines but in
the name of liberalism, these are changed in practice. For example,
sexual relationships outside of marriage are forbidden in every
religion, but what is happening everyone knows.

Qur'an & Modern Science - Compatible or Incompatible?

Al-Qur'an, the main source of the Islamic faith, is a book believed by
Muslims, to be of completely Divine origin. Muslims also believe that it
contains Divine guidance for all humankind. Since the message of the
Qur'an is believed to be for all times, it should be relevant to every
age. Does the Qur'an pass this test? In this booklet, I intend to give
an objective analysis of the Muslim belief regarding the Divine origin
of the Qur'an, in the light of established scientific discoveries.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Ash Wednesday Feb. 6, 7:00 p.m.

Our Lenten journey toward Easter begins with our Ash Wednesday Service in the sanctuary at 7:00 P.M. on February 6, which includes the traditional Ash Wednesday liturgy with the imposition of ashes.

Ashes are a rich symbol rooted in ancient customs and practices of biblical people. The Bible speaks of using ashes as a sign of penitence. Ashes suggest judgement and humiliation; they also suggest cleansing and purification.

Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop

You are invited to a
Centering Prayer Workshop
at St. John's Presbyterian Church
on Saturday, February 2, at 9:30 A.M.

This workshop will introduce you to a method which will prepare you to receive the gift of opening your mind and heart – your whole being – to God, the Ultimate Mystery. The Workshop will deal with consenting to God’s presence and action within; preparing you to cooperate with the gift of contemplative prayer; practicing the method; and dealing with distractions. Centering Prayer is drawn from the ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, especially the English spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, and taught by Contemplative Outreach, Ltd. The leader of the workshop, Mrs. Shirley Berger, is a certified presenter by Contemplative Outreach Ltd.

Centering Prayer is a
“wordless awareness
of our oneness with God.”


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Hanging Out at St. John's Presbyterian Church

Rabbi Amy Weiss posted the followed column in her Houston Cronicle blog after her visit at St. John's last Sunday evening ...

A local woman rabbi offers unique perspectives on all things Jewish

"Can you explain the Reform movement's outreach program asking people to convert and also how do Jews feel about Christians proselytizing to Jews?"

Well. I hadn't been in a Q&A like this for some time! The folks at St. John's Presbyterian Church on West Bellfort invited me to speak about Judaism as a part of their Outreach series to teach church members about other religions. Each and every one of the church members were welcoming, kind and respectful in asking questions, furthering our conversation and comparing our traditions and beliefs.

Dr. Jill Carroll from Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance opened the series two weeks ago and if you have never had a chance to hear her, I suggest you check the calendar to see where and when she is speaking next. Next week St. John's series continues, give it a try--they even give you dinner!

By the way, the Reform movement's outreach program to non-Jews is designed to provide education about Judaism to whoever wants to participate. Colleagues have told me they have hosted Girl Scout troop leaders who have Jewish girls in their troop and want to learn more about their faith, or grandmothers whose grandchildren are Jewish! But no one ever asks anyone to convert. When a Reform Jew asks someone to convert (a rare occurence) it is because their mate or loved one has lived a Jewish life for many years but had never converted. Often, when these people are asked why they never converted they will say "No one ever asked me."

We don't really ask people to convert, respecting their beliefs and faith.

And in turn, my response to the nice lady at St. John's was this: "Thank you so much for your concern, but we are fine. I understand that your faith asks you to do this, but we respect your faith and would never ask you to change your beliefs. We ask you to do the same".

Nice people, nice evening. Check it out.

Last Sunday night St. John's Presbyterian Church on West Bellfort

6:00p Interfaith Dialogue - Guest Speaker, Dr. Alp Aslandogan, and Supper


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Friday Night at the Movie - Feb 1

Showing on the BIG screen in McPhail Hall will Shakespeare in Love (1998). Don't miss this opportunity to see this 7 Oscar winning movie! Pizza, popcorn and drinks will be served.

St. John's Breakfast - Saturday, Feb 2

On Saturday, February 2, we will hold our monthly St. John's Breakfast. Please come at 8 am for a delicious breakfast, and then at 8:30 am we will welcome our speaker, Mr. Al Bennett from Fire Station #48.

Souper Bowl of Caring - February 3

St. John's youth invite everyone to participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring. This will be the 14th year that St. John's had participated. In addition to taking the collection as the congregation leaves the Sanctuary, the youth will be serving soup in McPhail Hall. One of the soups will be a "stone soup" created from donated items from the congregation. Bring your favorite fresh or canned ingredient to the kitchen before church to be added to our vegetable stock.

All proceeds from the collection and the soup donations will be directed to Braes Interfaith Ministries.


Mardi Gras Party - Tuesday, February 5

Join us at 7 pm for a Mardi Gras celebration featuring the Johnny Dyson Band (A band for listening and dancing) in McPhail Hall. Music for all generations will be played with party refreshments being served. Bring your friends and enjoy a night of music and fellowship.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

2008 St. John’s Session Ministries Goals

Christian Formation

  1. To have a youth and children's teacher training event beginning August 2008, and provide follow up check in every 6 weeks through the school year
  2. The Youth subcommittee will write a job description and develop funding by July 1st to hire a youth staff person – planned for part time 12 to 15 hours per week.
  3. To have plans for Vacation Bible School completed by May 1st including topics and dates.

Congregational Life: Caring

  1. To have a new pictorial directory in 2008.
  2. To take ownership of the sponsorship of new members.

Congregational Life – Fellowship

  1. To increase the committee by one healthy male who can lift.
  2. To develop and implement a new fellowship program for year 2008. (i.e. Fellowship X Four)
  3. To continue "Trunk or Treat" to make it an annual tradition.

Mission – Evangelism

  1. Membership of St. John's Presbyterian Church will grow to 300 by December 31, 2008. Current numbers are 287.
  2. Increase the rate of growth of new member by 20%. In 2007, we had 15 people join. In 2008, our goal is 18.
  3. Conduct one Natural Church Development survey in 2008.
  4. Begin a Sunday School class studying books on evangelism which will meet at least four months of the year.
  5. Host two community outreach events in 2008.

Mission – Outreach

  1. To continue and build on the strength of the current outreach efforts by highlighting ministries in the Beacon, on the website, having a clear leader with a high level of permission to run the ministry.
  2. To integrate youth and young adults more fully into outreach ministry by meeting with the youth team quarterly and resulting in at least one outreach ministry where youth and young adults are the key leaders.
  3. To present educational series to reach out to the community intentionally.
  4. To develop new ministry in 2008 that is a regular hands on ministry for St. John's members.
  5. To grow together in fellowship and faith by meeting for fellowship each month and including Bible study and prayer in each meeting.


  1. To reseal the parking lot.
  2. To install restroom(s) in McPhail Hall.


  1. Budget and Finance – to operate within the budget in 2008.
  2. Stewardship – to develop a reasonable list of the needs of the church for pre-stewardship season communication to assist in decision making.
  3. Administration/Personnel – to conduct an annual performance review for each staff member and provide contact information to them to voice concerns


  1. To double participation in the worship oversight committee by 2008. Five are participating now, the goal is at least 10.
  2. To increase worship attendance by 10%. Average attendance in 2008 has been 140, which would be an increase of 14 to 154.
  3. To increase participation of elementary aged children in worship. The goal is 6 children.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Pastor's Faith Statement

Statement of Faith

Rev. Dr. Jon Burnham

June 3, 2007

God's love enjoys expression within the metaphysical reality of the Holy Trinity, as the Father pours divine love into the Son; the Son pours divine love into the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit pours divine love back into the Father, in what may be envisioned as a divine dance that creates the energy that sustains each quark in the universe. Without this divine dance all life would cease and desist, there would be no more love, and there would be no more laughter.

God's love continually works through an evolutionary process to create the diversity of life in the world as we experience it today. Every species of life expresses the abundant fullness of God's creative love. We can know God in a general way through science and nature. Our Presbyterian tradition encourages education as a means of exploring the richness of God's general revelation through creation. We celebrate diversity among and within species as a sign of the wildly creative nature of the Holy Trinity.

God's love is most clearly revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. From his birth in a barnyard to his death on a cross, Christ exemplifies elegant humility. The church relives the life of Christ from his birth, life, death, resurrection, to his ascension into heaven, by means of the liturgical calendar. Each cycle of the liturgical year invites us into a deeper and fresher experience of the risen Christ.

God's love moves today through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit spreads the love of God into our hearts through the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. God's love challenges each person to respond to God's loving invitation and each human being will be judged by Christ according to their personal response to God's loving invitation. The good news is that our judge is our redeemer. This does not guarantee us anything but it does give us a solid basis for hope. Our relationship with God is based not upon fear of retribution but upon our own response to God's compassionate love for us and for all creation.

God's love is revealed in the Bible. The Biblical narrative tells the story of God's love for humankind. Over and over again, God acts in history to redeem God's covenant people: Israel and the church. Time after time, God's covenant people are lured away from God by our programs for self glorification. Our craving for security and survival, power and control, affection and esteem, work against us and deny us the freedom of resting in God's love.

God's love reaches out to the world through the church which is the body of Christ. God's love reaches out to all humanity and all creation. God works through the church today to fulfill Christ's mission of preaching good news to the poor and release to the captives. God's love invites us to work with God for justice in human affairs and in all creation.

God's love breaks down barriers that separate human beings from God and from one another. Christ dwells within all baptized believers, bringing salvation to all whom God chooses. God's love wills that all people should be redeemed. We, the people of God, are called by God to share this good news with all people everywhere. We are not responsible for how people react to the good news. We are responsible for whether we share the good news. The good news is that God is love. This loving God, expressed as Holy Trinity, disclosed in the Bible, revealed most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ, invites us into a relationship.


Upcoming Events

  • Annual Congregational Meeting: January 20 during worship
  • Interfaith Dialogue: January 20 & 27, Sunday evenings at 6:00 P.M., McPhail Hall
  • Inquirer's Class: January 27, Sunday after worship
  • Confirmation Class: February 3 - March 2, Sundays after worship
  • Centering Prayer Introductory Workshop: February 2, 9 AM - Noon
  • Centering Prayer Lenten Study: February 10 - March 16, 4 - 5 PM


Word - Share - Prayer style sheet

READ: (Copy & paste here today's lectionary text. or another Bible passage of your choice.)

Here is how to use word - share- prayer to begin and end a meeting:
  • Begin the meeting in silence.
  • Have participants choose a word or phrase from the text and reflect on it as they write their response to the questions below. Have a few people share what they wrote if they wish.
  • Conclude the meeting with prayer using the prayer request from below. After a prayer request is read, all respond to a concern saying: "Lord hear our prayer." All respond to a celebration saying: "Thanks be to God."

What stands out for you in this passage? What “speaks” to you?

Do you notice any connection to your own life, to our ministry together, or to the St. John’s congregation?

Jot down any prayer requests you may have. These may be related to the passage or they may not be. We will pray together at the end of our meeting.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ministry Teams vs. Committees

Jon gives a brief explanation of the difference between a "Committee" and a "Ministry Team." Click the "play button" in the video to watch it.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Inquirer's Class - Sunday, January 27

Pastor Jon Burnham will teach an Inquirers Class on Sunday, January 27, at 11:45 AM in the Session Room. The class will address what it means to be a Christian, a Presbyterian and a member of St. John's. Those who take the class may become members of the church.

Ministry Day - Saturday, January 19

Have you marked your calendar for the first committee meetings of 2008? A Continental breakfast will begin at 9 am. See you there!

Interfaith Dialog - Part Two

January 20 - Rabbi Amy Weiss
"The Jewish Perspective on Interfaith Dialog"

Join us in McPhail Hall at 6 pm as our series on "The Necessity for Interfaith Dialog" continues. Rabbi Amy Weiss writes a blog for the Houston Chronicle on Judaism. She is the executive director and founder of "The Initiative for Jewish Women". Dedicated to making liberal Judaism accessible and exciting to Houstonians, Rabbi Weiss is an ardent teacher and lover of middot, Jewish virtues and values.

2008 Confirmation Class

Sundays 11:45 A.M. - 1:30 P.M.

St. John's Presbyterian Church

Instructions for Students

1. Attend every session. If you are sick and cannot attend a session, notify Jon or Lynn in advance and make an appointment to make up the session.

2. Attend Church School each Sunday.

3. Attend worship each Sunday.

4. Write a paper each week based on the previous week's class discussion.

Class Schedule

Session 1: Who is God? / February 3--No paper due. Lunch with congregation in McPhail Hall.

Session 2: Who is Jesus Christ? / February 10--Paper due: "My Idea of God" (about 150 words = about one full page) Sean Coughlin's parents provide lunch for 6.

Session 3: What is a Christian? / February 17--Paper due: "How I Think of Jesus" (about 150 words) Patrick Harrel's parents provide lunch for 6.

Session 4: What is the Presbyterian Church and how do we worship? (about 150 words) / February 24--Paper due: "My Idea of a Christian" Mitch Sawyer's parents provide lunch for 6.

Session 5: What are my spiritual gifts? (about 150 words) / March 2--Paper due: "What the Presbyterian Church and worship mean to me" Zach Sponberg's parents provide lunch for 6.

Session 6: Review & Examination by Session
Review (9:00 A.M.); Examination by Session (10:00 A.M.); Confirmed (10:30 A.M.) / March 30 : Paper due: "What I feel is required of me as a church member" (about 150 words)

Members of the confirmation class who choose to confirm their faith may be confirmed during worship on March 30, 2008.


Invitation to Dance

My beloved, will you dance with me?

Be the gentle melody I hum to sooth broken and fearful hearts.

Be the flowing steps I choreograph into acts of justice and peace.

Be the responsive rhythm I create, sometimes swirling, sometimes standing still, to meet the needs of my children.

Oh, my beloved, will you dance with me?



Congrats to Will Harrel

Will Harrel was selected as the 2008 Bill Archer Student Intern! Will will represent St. John's School this March as part of Congressman Culberson's 7th District delegation, spending a week in Washington D.C. studying the workings of the federal government. Congrats to Will and all the Archer Intern finalists!

If you know of other church folks we may congratulate, please email the news to the church office.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Adult Class Schedule, Jan. 13 - March 16

For Everyone” Bible Study Class Schedule: 1 Timothy

Jan 13, 1:1-7; 1:8-11, with facilitator Mary

Jan 20, 1:12-17; 1:18-20, with facilitator Bill

Jan 27, 2:1-7; 2:8-15, with facilitator Evan

Feb 3, 3:1-7; 3:8-13, with facilitator Mary

Feb 10, 3:14-16; 4:1-5, with facilitator Ann

Feb 17, 4:6-10; 4:11-16, with facilitator Kathie

Feb 24, 5:1-8; 5:9-16, with facilitator Hilda

Mar 2, 5:17-25; 6:1-5, with facilitator Evan

Mar 9 ,6:6-10; 6:11-16, with facilitator Suzette

Mar 16, 6:17-21; wrap-up

The book, Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters, by Tom Wright is available in the church office. Everyone is invited to join the class (room 203, 9 am) as your schedule allows. See you in class!
Suzette Harrel


Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Necessity of Interfaith Dialog - January 13, 20 & 27

Interfaith dialog is a process of coming together with people committed to their respective religions and spiritual paths for the purpose of mutual understanding, appreciation, enrichment and cooperation.

January 13 Speaker: Dr. Jill Carroll
"Creating and Environment of Dialog and Tolerance"
January 20 Speaker: Rabbi Amy Weiss
"The Jewish Perspective on Interfaith Dialog"
January 27 Speaker: Dr. Alp Aslandogan
"Noah's Pudding: A Muslim Outreach to Others"

A light supper will follow each presentation
Meet at 6 pm in McPhail Hall
(5020 West Bellfort, Houston, TX 77035)


Experience an Interfaith Service - 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.

Special Invitation - January 19

Kyle Coughlen will be receiving his Eagle Scout award as part of a Troop 740 Court of Honor on January 19 at 3:30 pm in McPhail Hall. All interested members are invited for the ceremony and brief reception following.

PYF Parents Meeting- Sunday, January 13

All parents of St. John's Presbyterian Youth Fellowship (PYF) are invited to discuss upcoming PYF activities for the year. Don't miss this chance to be involved in planning and programming. Meet in Room 203 after church.

New Wind Reunion - Saturday January 12

"We're getting excited about the upcoming New Wind Reunion. We'd love to see you! We're not limiting this to just New Winders - it's also for your parents, and other supporters over the years, etc. A special invitation to everyone to join us for the Potluck at 5 pm in McPhail Hall.

Call up old friends and invite them." -Julia Alejandre (Dobbin)