06/02/2021: Sharing in the Sacrament

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 
and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me’.”
(1 Corinthians 11:23-24)
This Sunday, we will observe a liturgical ritual that was handed to Paul, who handed it on to his churches, who in turn handed it down — from church to church and age to age — to everyone who breaks the bread and shares the cup in remembrance of Jesus Christ. For over a year, we have observed the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as best we could. Our tables may have been separated by time and distance, but as the bread was broken and the cup was poured, we were still connected by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Many of you will continue that virtual practice this Sunday, because there are still many risks associated with COVID-19. Some of you still feel vulnerable for a variety of very legitimate reasons, and you are just not quite ready to return to crowded places. While we continue to miss you (or, speaking for myself, I cannot wait to meet you), we honor and respect the decisions you are making for your health and for the safety of others. Moreover, even those of us who will gather in the sanctuary of Larchmont Avenue Church on Sunday will see that certain modifications are still needed in order to share the bread and the cup safely and responsibly.
My main point, however, is this: no matter what differences we may perceive, no matter what adjustments or adaptations may be necessary, none of it will hinder the real gift of the sacrament. Wherever we may be, we will all still be bound together by the power of the Holy Spirit and by the love of Christ, “which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14). As we share the gifts of God together, blest be that tie that binds!
Blessings,
Peter

5/27/2021: Gifts for Leadership

Above all, maintain constant love for one another… Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.(1 Peter 4:8-10)

 

One of the things I love about the church is that it is governed by people working together in community. In important decisions, everyone has a voice. And, even when it comes to more mundane decisions, the church has always been careful about how choices are made… and who should make those choices. The later epistles of the New Testament show just how seriously the early church took the task of choosing leaders with steady faith, level heads, and upright character.

Although I have only been with you for a month, I have already met with many of LAC’s committees and working groups, including all three of your governing boards: the session, the board of trustees, and the diaconate. Even at this stage, I am joyfully confident of one critical truth: LAC is represented by men and women who not only meet but surpass the high standards for leadership established by scripture and Presbyterian tradition. These people are “persons of strong faith, dedicated discipleship, and love of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.” Their goals are to serve others with care and thoughtfulness, to discern and guide the church with scriptural fidelity, and to strengthen and nurture the spiritual life of this faith community. Perhaps most importantly, they pursue these ends with joy, light, and love for one another.

This past Monday night, as I closed with prayer my first meeting as moderator of your session, I looked around at the faces of the gathered elders. In that instant, one overwhelming sentiment blew through my spirit like a refreshing breeze. It was gratitude – gratitude that God has called me here… gratitude that I would be so richly blessed to share leadership with such lovely, faithful, and genuine people… gratitude that we get to be the church together.

I am excited about the next chapter God is writing in the life of Larchmont Avenue Church, and I pray that our whole community will continue to embrace the faith, hope, and love of your elected officers.

5/19/2021: Opening Our Doors

“… pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word…

(Colossians 4:3)

As the world continues to discuss the reopening of all kinds of doors that have been closed and shuttered over the past year, two hopeful signs emerged at LAC this past week. First, the diligent work of a number of our members to have LAC’s longtime community presence recognized on a broader scale finally came to fruition, as the church was officially approved for listing on both the National and State Register of Historic Places. To read more about this important designation, follow this link to https://www.parks.ny.gov/shpo/national-register/. Thanks to all of you who had a hand in getting LAC on the map – literally!

 

And, just yesterday, we opened these historic doors in a new way in our community. Hundreds of Larchmont residents came to Russell Hall to cast their votes in the 2021 School Budget Election. Once again, this congregation offered a warm and supportive welcome as a true “community church.”

 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is about opening doors – doors to grace, forgiveness, growth, and love. It is a beautiful thing to see those blessings being shared through our open doors here at LAC. May we continue to look for opportunities like these, as doors around our village and beyond start to open again.

 

Blessings,

Peter

05/12/2021: Joy and Gratitude

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 122:1)

There was a great spirit in the sanctuary this past Sunday, as LAC opened the doors of the sanctuary for the first time in a while. As your new pastor, it was a wonderful blessing to experience the warmth and faith of this community’s worship, and I am grateful for the welcome that many of you extended to me after the service. In our time with God and one another, we were able to celebrate the gifts of mothering and parental love, and also the amazing musical gifts that Douglas Kostner has brought to this congregation.

Along with many others, I am grateful to those of you who worked so thoughtfully and cautiously — but also hopefully and joyfully — to attend to the safety protocols that are required. Rest assured that we will continue to prioritize health and discretion however and whenever we gather in person. We will also work to maintain varied options for engagement and connection as each person determines his or her own level of comfort with social interaction.

For those who are ready and willing, I hope you will join us this coming Sunday as the organ sings, the Larchmont Symphonia performs, and the Word of God is read and proclaimed. In person, online, or in spirit, all of God’s children are welcome to connect with us in worship at Larchmont Avenue Church!

Blessings,

Peter

Celebrating 15 Years at LAC

This Sunday, as we welcomed Rev. Bynum, we also celebrated our Director of Music Ministry Douglas Kostner’s 15-year Workiversary!

Douglas writes:

“I’m flattered, honored, appreciative, and really moved by your words, pictures, and the memories you have shared! And even more, I’m inspired to continue to work towards creating something beautiful with you for the joy of worship and the glory of God. Thank you!”

Congratulations, Douglas, and blessings as you continue to share your ministry of creating music, nurturing community, and inspiring wonder!

05/05/2021: Returning to In-Person Worship

Dear Larchmont Avenue Church,
We are thrilled to be able to gather together physically in our beautiful sanctuary once again as we welcome our new Pastor, Rev. Bynum! Our services will continue to be livestreamed via our website, Facebook, and YouTube, but here is an overview of what to expect if you are joining us for the in-person service.
The following are procedures we will use as we reopen the sanctuary for worship: out of an abundance of caution, for now we are limiting sanctuary occupancy in our sanctuary to 28 households (no more than 80 people). There will be some overflow seating available in Russell Hall with a screen to accommodate walk-ins–please register for worship!
We request that you attend only if you are healthy, are showing no signs or symptoms of illness, and have not had any known exposure to COVID-19 in the preceding two weeks. If you have any symptoms, please stay home and worship with us virtually.
As we are testing out a new registration system, we ask that you plan to arrive early in order to complete the wellness survey and temperature check at the Larchmont Avenue entrance. For entry into the church, everyone will use the main sanctuary doors by the elevator side on Larchmont Avenue. Ushers will be there to greet you, confirm your good health, and help you find a seat safely distanced from other congregants, filling the available pews from front to back.
You must wear a mask at all times during the service. You are encouraged to bring your own, though we will have a limited supply of adult-sized masks should you forget yours. You will be asked to use hand sanitizer before entering the sanctuary. There will be no child care, but children are welcome to sit with their families during worship.
For a time, worship will look and sound different:
  • Upon entering the sanctuary, you will be asked to check-in and then be shown where to sit. You will not be able to simply choose your “usual” pew. Families will be able to sit together. Children must stay with their families in the pews.
  • Pews will be marked off to maintain social distancing.
  • To increase air circulation, we will have the windows open. Air conditioning is not recommended in closed spaces pursuant to the latest Presbytery guidelines.
  • There will be no bibles or hymnals. These have been removed from the sanctuary.
  • Cards with QR codes will be placed in the hymnal racks. To access the digital bulletin or to make an online donation, simply open your smartphone’s camera over the QR code and follow the link to access the bulletin and LAC’s giving page via your smartphone’s web browser.
  • There will be no congregational singing of the hymns.
  • There will be no physical contact with those outside family groups, such as handshakes, elbow bumps, or hugs. We will not mingle before or after service but remain in our seats at all times with masks on.
  • Following worship, you will be asked to leave the sanctuary from the back-most aisle first, leaving from the Larchmont Avenue side of the church onto Forest Park Avenue, or directly onto Larchmont Avenue by the elevator, with everyone practicing social distancing.
Despite these restrictions, we will worship God together by joining in prayer, listening to scripture, and reflecting on the music and sermon. Session approved these procedures to help us find ways to ease the isolation of our days by returning to church while keeping our community safe.
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday, LAC!
With Grace and Peace,
Your LAC Worship Staff

04/28/2021: LAC’s Mission Partners Need You!

Each year LAC’s Church and Society Committee distributes approximately $25,000 in grants to our Mission Partners, including such organizations as the Community Resource Center, the Larchmont/Mamaroneck Hunger Task Force, At Home on the Sound, the Community Counseling Center, HOPE Community Services and The Sharing Shelf. Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, COVID19 has prevented LAC from holding its annual Rummage Sale, which has historically provided a good share of the funding for these grants.
Can you help us help our partners? We have three generous donors who have offered to match the first $3,000 we raise. You can help by purchasing a Helping Hand for our Mission Partner Circle of Hope. Our goal is to encircle our mission partners in love and support and the financial support they need. One hand is $50; a pair of hands is $100. Donations of any size are welcome and can be made via Realm: simply select “Helping Hands” from the Fund menu, or by sending a check to the Church Office (Attn: Gloria Haq) with “Helping Hands” on the memo line.
Consider buying a Helping Hand for each member of your household! Donors will be recognized on our Mission Partner Circle of Hope in our weekly newsletter.
Our Mission Partners continue to face unprecedented demand for their services. Together we can support their critical work.
Thank you,
LAC Church and Society Committee
Pat Allen, John Farris, Angie Leissl, John Irving, Kim Larsen, Clark Morehouse, Kim Christiansen, Rob Hitchings

04/14/2021: LAC’s New Senior Pastor is Rev. Dr. Peter Bynum!

Beloved LAC Community,
Last Sunday was a momentous occasion for our church! Our Pastor Nominating Committee led worship and Rev. Dr. Peter Bynum preached a sermon titled “Lifted Up.” (You can watch the service here [LINK] if you missed it!) Later that afternoon, we gathered via Zoom for a Congregational Meeting where the Pastor Nominating Committee shared a full report of their search process and answered questions.
PNC Co-Chair Thea Beaver introduced Rev. Bynum:
You have already “met” our candidate during this morning’s worship, but it is my honor now to formally introduce Rev. Dr. Peter Bynum. Rev. Bynum is the Pastor and head of staff at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church in South Carolina. That church has 2800 members! Something for us to strive for?
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Davidson College and later attended the University of Virginia law school where he earned his JD. His career took a turn when he entered Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond Virginia. He received his Master of Divinity in 2009. In 2017, he earned his Doctor of Divinity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
Reverend Bynum has inspired the PNC with his energy, spiritual maturity, and leadership ability. Having already considered over 100 candidates when we first met Reverend Bynum via Zoom, our committee was immediately impressed. As we continued our conversations with him, our confidence grew. 
In early March, he visited Larchmont with his wife, Stephanie, and his daughter Molly who is currently attending Columbia University. His younger daughter, Kate who is 15, was unable to make the trip, but registered her excitement on the Zoom call when Jim & I told Peter that he was our nominee. 
When the Bynums were leaving Larchmont after the in-person interview with our committee, I told Molly that her father “blew me away.” Immediately, this 18-year old smiled knowingly and said to me, “He blows me away every single day.”
LAC voted unanimously (93 votes in favor, 0 opposing) to call Rev. Dr. Peter Bynum to serve as our next Senior Pastor. He will begin on April 28th, 2021, and his first Sunday leading worship at LAC will be May 9th, 2021. We look forward to welcoming Rev. Bynum and his family into our community!

04/07/2021: Congregational Meeting on April 11

Beloved LAC Community,
Christ is risen, indeed! Hallelujah! This Eastertide is buzzing with exciting news for our Church! In case you missed Sunday’s special announcement (check out the full service here [LINK]), our Pastor Nominating Committee has found someone wonderful to serve as our new Senior Pastor! The candidate will preach this Sunday, April 11th, during our online service, and there will be a special meeting of the congregation of the Larchmont Avenue Church at 1:00 p.m. via Zoom to receive the report of the Pastor Nominating Committee and to vote to call our new Senior Pastor.
Your participation is crucial! In order to conduct the business, we need a quorum of 57 members, preferably on separate devices in order to tabulate votes from multiple-member households.
Please plan on joining us on ZOOM!
Sincerely,
Clark Morehouse and Leah Griggs Pauly
Co-Clerks of Session

03/31/2021: On Proclamation & the Arts

Dear LAC,
During Advent, we talked a little bit about the arts in worship as a type of proclamation as we prepared for this year’s Dancing Magnificat, and as we look forward to another arts-based service for Good Friday, it seems like a good time for a recap:
In our Reformed tradition, proclamation (κήρυγμα / kerygma) is the heart of our worship. We believe that there is something transformative that happens when we gather as a community and read scripture together. The Holy Spirit is at work within us and within the Word of God to lead us to understanding, wisdom, and insight. This act of communal engagement, transformation, and illumination of God’s Word is called proclamation. We are familiar with proclamation happening during the sermon; however, we also experience these moments of transcendence during other parts of worship–from choral anthems that help us to hear God’s Word in a new way to stories of how our mission partners are living out the gospel during the moment for mission.
This Good Friday, we will hear the story of Jesus’s arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death as told in John 18-19. We’ll pause along the way to meditate and reflect with art and music. Our proclamation comes in that space of reflection, where sacred storytelling, art, and the haunting refrain from “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” are woven together by the Spirit and transformed into something greater than the sum of its components.
Jesus is nailed to the cross / And on the strangest sea
A wife weeps while hugging her husband in his final moments in a COVID-19 unit at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, California.
Our art comes from Mary Button’s (the vicar of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kingston, NY) exhibit Stations of the Cross: Pandemic Hope. Vicar Button juxtaposes traditional stations of the cross with hand-drawn illustrations of hope, resiliency, and relationship as witnessed in news stories covering the COVID-19 pandemic. Each scene is paired with a stanza of Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers.” Through these multi-media collages, the cosmic story of death and resurrection, of suffering and compassion, is reflected through our shared experience of the past year. In a virtual service, Vicar Button shared:
“My interest in the stations of the cross began when I was in graduate school, exploring the connections between art and the devotional lives of Christians everywhere. I created my first series in 2010, and have created eight more in the ensuing years, each engaging with contemporary social justice issues and bringing those stories into the story of the passion.
What our holy scripture teaches us is that God is with us in our suffering, and the goal of these projects is for us to see Jesus’s suffering in the suffering of those around us. When we can see God in one another and be present in each other’s pain, we can change the world.”
To learn more, or purchase a digital download of the art and accompanying prayer prompts (a portion of all proceeds will go to RIP Medical Debt–$40,000 of medical debt has been forgiven from Pandemic Hope downloads thus far!) please visit Vicar Button’s website, https://www.marybutton.com.
Beloved, it was an honor and a privilege to work on this service. I must confess to feeling somewhat numb and weary as we have passed the one-year mark of online worship, but something broke open in my heart while editing, and I felt a deep sense of both grief and hope. I hope this Good Friday worship experience will be meaningful for you, and will leave you feeling ready to change the world. You may download a bulletin here [LINK] and join us for the livestream at noon on Friday via Facebook and via our website.
With Grace and Peace,
Marranda Major
Church Secretary, Communication Coordinator, and Video Editrix

03/24/2021: COVID-19 Update

Dear LAC,
Spring is in the air! More and more folks within our community are receiving their COVID-19 vaccinations, and schools are preparing for fully in-person instruction. What does this mean for Larchmont Avenue Church? Are we ready to return to worshiping in-person?
The short answer: not yet. Our Elders on Session will continue to carefully discern and to prepare in order to make the transition from pre-recorded to livestreamed in-person services as smooth as possible. LAC’s worship will continue to be online throughout April.
While Sunday worship will remain virtual, LAC is testing out hybrid in-person/Zoom gatherings for both fellowship and ministry:
  • You may have noticed in your bulletin that our boards and committees are beginning to have hybrid meetings with some folks gathering in-person (socially-distanced and masked) in Russell Hall and others joining via Zoom.
  • For early risers, we will join with our church neighbors for an ecumenical sunrise service on Easter morning. Greet your friends and neighbors and celebrate the Risen Lord at 6:30 a.m. in Manor Park near Umbrella Point.
  • With schools resuming in-person instruction, our youth groups, TGIF and SHIFT, will return to hybrid Zoom/in-person meetings on April 11th.
  • LAC has continued to support Midnight Run throughout the pandemic, our youth will help pack and deliver supplies on April 17th.
  • On April 18th, LAC’s students will gather for an in-person Sunday School playdate at 12:30 p.m. at Chatsworth playground.

 

We are excited about some of the events that move us toward in-person worship. Although we are not resuming services in the Sanctuary at this time, we are shifting thoughtfully and carefully toward more in person opportunities, and we appreciate your support and participation in these efforts.
With Grace and Peace,
Your LAC Worship Committee