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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

September 2010

Kicking Off

 

Can I talk about football without feeling like a hypocrite?  All my life long, I’ve claimed the Steelers as my team.  The mat at my back door is a rectangle of Astroturf from the old Three Rivers Stadium.  Through much of my childhood, Lynn Swann’s face was as familiar to me as the face of the guy behind the butcher’s counter at our local grocery store.  In fact, as a child, I might not have been surprised to see Swann himself behind that counter, wrapping the meat in white paper and string, calling my mother “Mrs. Snyder.”  Before you ever learn to distinguish TV from real life, grownups are just grownups, and the most famous Steelers were just prominent adults within my sphere.  Sadly, I had to do an Internet search to be reminded that Dick Thornburgh was the governor back in my elementary school days, and yet, I recall clearly that Terry Bradshaw was the most famous man in the state.  Mean Joe Green could have been our school bus driver; it never occurred to my brothers and me that he wouldn’t know us by name if he saw us in the street.  Even during those late high school years, after my family had moved to Canton, Ohio—deep in Browns country—I still voiced my support for the Steelers.  I wanted them to shine.  I still do.

 

Just…don’t ask me to sit down and watch a football game.  I’d much rather hike the trails at Raccoon Creek, or read Dr. Seuss books to my kids, or spend an hour on Facebook.  I’ll support the Steelers, win or lose, but if you invite me to a Super Bowl party, please don’t be disappointed when I play with the dog then drift off to sleep.  It’s not that I don’t care about the game, and it’s not that I don’t care who wins; I just don’t care how they go about it.  If I were a true fan, I wouldn’t get bored when they show the same fumble three times in slow motion.  A true fan wouldn’t groan inwardly when the game goes into overtime.  But I probably don’t qualify as a true fan.  Mostly, I just want my team to win while I’m not looking.  And if I really think about it, I only want them to win because I think it’s so good for Western Pennsylvania—my native place—to be cast in a positive light on the national scene.  It feels like affirmation.

 

Football would be a sad sport if all the “fans” were like me.  As I was preparing to leave my former congregation, a woman who rarely participated in church life asked us to dinner.  In the course of the evening, she confessed, “I really wish I’d been more involved when you were our pastor.  I love our church, and I enjoyed your ministry.  I guess I was mostly just happy knowing that the church was in good hands so that I could do my own thing on Sunday mornings.”  Aha!  A person who is to her church what I am to my football team!  The difference is that sports franchises—unlike churches—always have supporters to spare: the diehard, the halfhearted, and the in-between.

 

In churches all across the nation, the Sunday after Labor Day is known as “Rally Day.”  Here at Bower Hill Church—in the heart of Steelers country—we prefer to call it “Kick-off Sunday.”  It’s the beginning of a whole new cycle in the life of the church: new classes and many new friends for our children, relevant study and activities for our youth, and outstanding educational opportunities for adults.  This year, too, it’s the beginning of a whole new pastorate…about which I am (naturally) very excited!  This is a day of new beginnings, with new dreams and visions for the years ahead.  Come and take part in the new things that are happening here at your church.  It all starts on September 12 at an 8:45 breakfast.  The door prize: a rectangle of Astroturf from Three Rivers Stadium.

 

~Brian