After the death of Moses, the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant:
“Moses my servant is dead. Get going. Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people. Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel. I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses…… It’s all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! Joshua 1: 1-9 The Message*
As I continue this journey into retirement and the church adapts to the transition, I am grateful for the support you have offered Sally and me and compliments you have given me. I am especially touched by the compliment individuals have offered when they say; “You will leave big shoes to fill”. Thank you. I know I stood in the large footprints of many before me! (By-the-way mine are only size 9 ½.)
The compliment awakened in my mind the Biblical story of Joshua. You remember, Joshua who fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. He was the wise and able leader who followed after Moses died. But still he had to follow in Moses footsteps, he had to fill Moses’ shoes or sandals. The Bible says there never was, “a prophet in Israel like Moses”. (Deut. 34:10) But, Joshua and the people still had to move forward. They had to claim the Promised Land. There was God’s work still to do and God’s will to serve. So onward, forward they must go.
But here is the great part. They did not go alone. They had the promise of God to go with them. “I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength!”. So, the Lord promises! So, the Lord delivers! Now I am no Moses, not even a Joshua. But the same promise of God’s presence is ours to claim and accept. With the promise of God’s presence there was also a reminder, an order even, given to Joshua and the people – remember the Commandments, read the Book of the Law, make study, prayer and worship a priority. In this way God’s promises and presence is woven into the very fabric of the nation’s life.
The word of encouragement and the order given to our ancestors in faith is ours to follow also. The church is bigger than an individual. It is bigger than me! The session, deacons, Ladies Aid Society, the Sunday School committee, the Men’s Club are working even now on plans for the future. There is mission and ministry waiting to be done in the community, Worship services will still be held every Sunday. There is work for you as individuals to do also. Your continuing support and presence are necessary for the church to move forward as it always has, as it must.
Hear again God’s words; “In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul.
A lesson from our own history will suffice to end this letter. Pastor Ferdinand Kohler was Pastor here from 1901 until 1938. No other Pastor had served as long or work as hard, probably no other ever will, not even me. But, after he retired and left the church, the church continued to thrive. Several pastors were called to serve their time, to fill his shoes, and they did!
There are many in the life of the church today who will remember Revd.’s Jenkins and Doxsey. They will remember how it felt when Pastor Jenkins left for a pulpit in NYC and when Pastor Doxsey died unexpectedly. But here we are, these many decades later, worshipping, facing the future, crossing the river together, following the leading of God’s Holy Spirit, seeking to follow in the faithful footsteps of those who came before, to serve Jesus Christ in this community.
We too hear God’s words to Joshua;
“Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”
With love and affection;
The Rev. Donald M. Pitches
*The Message, Kenneth Bailey
Commissioned Lay Pastor's Message
“I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11
As I write these words this last week of August, Pastor has moved to his new condo, and now all of the coming changes seem very real to me. September 1st is just a few days away, and on that day, I will begin working as a Commissioned Lay Pastor at the church. While this is such a wonderful time of excitement, yet it is a very serious time of great responsibility. God has given me this work to do, and for that I am deeply grateful.
As some of you may know, I came to this church as a second grader back in 1963. My teacher in Sunday School was June Schuler, and I just adored her. I often think that it was because of her kindness and gentleness that I came to love this church. I continued in Sunday School, and was confirmed here in 1969 by Rev. Doxsey. Then I took my turn as a Sunday School teacher for many years. As I grew older, I entered Rutgers University and continued to teach. Around that time, I was asked to become a Deacon.
I felt the call to ministry, and after college I was accepted to Princeton Theological Seminary. The fellowship that I thought would be evident between the seminary students was not the case at all. I lasted there for only a month and returned home as my father was diagnosed with Paget’s disease, which had affected his pelvis. He was unable to walk. Contrary to the doctor’s advice, my Mom and I decided to care for him at home, rather than placing him in a nursing home. Yet, I still felt the desire to go to seminary. I then applied to New Brunswick Theological Seminary, which has an evening program. I worked full-time, then traveled to New Brunswick for classes, arriving home at 11 at night. Then my Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and I had to leave seminary to take care of them both.
I went on to become an Elder, and eventually Clerk of Session. When Pastor had surgery many years ago, I preached at a Worship Service, and since that time, I have filled in for him during his vacation and when he went to Camp Johnsonburg with the Confirmation class. One of the ministers that I knew at the time told me about the opportunity to become a Commissioned Lay Pastor, and I took classes at both Princeton Theological Seminary and Union Presbyterian Seminary. I became a Commissioned Lay Pastor in November of 2017.
I have given you all my background and brought you up to date. Now, I am just a few days away from becoming a Commissioned Lay Pastor in the church where I grew up. My emotions have been very strong as this week continues. I know that God will lead me in the path that I should take, and I know that all of you will be supporting me along the way. This church has been my home for 56 years, and I will give thanks to God every day for this chance to lead this church into the future. God has been very good to all of us at the First Presbyterian Church of Carlstadt for 150 years, and I pray that God will grant us all wisdom and courage as we go forth in faith to face the future.
“May God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give to all Christians peace and love with faith. May God’s grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying love.” Ephesians 6:23-24
Grace and peace,