Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Persistence of Memory (10/09/16)

One of my favorite seminary professors was famous for asking the question, "What is God doing in this place?" This was a question about the present. But you can't do ministry in the Mon Valley without confronting the history of this place and what it used to be in the 1950s and 60s. This sermon looks at the tension between a beloved past and a less-than-perfect present, and how these scriptures speak into that tension. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Welcome to my new blog!

Welcome to my new blog! I am now serving as the Interim Pastor for Rehoboth Presbyterian Church in Belle Vernon, PA. To be precise, the church is located in Rostraver Township. I decided to call this blog Pastor_Al for two reasons. First, because some of my friends know me as Al. Second, Rostraver Township is a place that used to be rural; people thought of it as out in the country. Now it’s more like a rural suburb. Where there used to be lots of working farms, now there are lots of housing developments.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this area, the Mid-Mon Valley (Mon comes from the Monongahela River), it includes communities such as Monongahela, Charleroi, Monessen, Donora, Webster, Belle Vernon, Fayette City, and many smaller municipalities. Most of these communities were mill towns—there were steel mills and coke plants up and down this section of the Monongahela River. And for many years, there were also glass factories in the Mon Valley. The glass factories closed in the late 1940s; most of the steel mills closed in the 70s and 80s. Yet the region is still very much defined by its industrial past.

One of the reasons I took this call at Rehoboth Church is that I have deep family roots in the Mon Valley. My dad lived the better part of his life in Rostraver Township; my grandmother, too! My grandfather was from Donora—the other side of the river. Although none of my close relatives were members of Rehoboth, I do have a couple of distant cousins in the congregation, and there are several members who knew my dad and my grandmother.

My dad died in 2013, and I’ve been feeling a bit disconnected from my own past. This call to ministry at Rehoboth is a way to examine some of my own family history, and perhaps regain a sense of being connected. In a similar way, this blog serves as a way to increase the connections with my congregation and with my friends and with anyone out there who’s interested in my sermon content. Of course, those of you who know me will catch the irony of my subtitle for this blog: a simple, country pastor. I’m anything but simple. Likewise, Rostraver Township isn’t exactly the country anymore. Yet the Mon Valley is still steeped in its past. This is the intersection where I serve in ministry. I hope you enjoy and engage with my sermons!