August Reverend Reflections

Hello First Presbyterian Church,

On Sunday, August 14, we will be holding a congregational meeting to discuss a variety of topics. I do hope that you will plan to stay. Childcare will be provided in the nursery, for the littlest ones, and in the gym, for older children, in case that is any incentive!

I don’t want to steal any thunder from that meeting, but one of the “various topics” that we will introduce to you is the partnership that First Pres. has entered into with Sager Classical Academy (SCA) for the 2022-23 school year. SCA’s upper school—7th-12th grade—will be meeting in the downstairs classroom and gym space this academic year, and we are excited to serve as their host and partner in the work of educating children in the classical tradition to love all that is good, true, and beautiful. The Dean of the Upper School—Christine Norvell—will be present on August 14th to introduce herself and the school to you in case you are unfamiliar with SCA, in particular, and the classical tradition, in general. 

Also present will be our own Jennifer Heathcote, to share with you the practical necessities of sharing a building with a school five days a week. From parking spots to closets to room reservations, this new relationship will require us to think differently about the space that God has given us to use in ministry. At times it may prove to be inconvenient and that will be a really good experience for us. Notice that I did not call this building “our” building, because it is not “ours.” This building is one that God has given us to use for ministry—his ministry.

We have said in our vision statement that we want to cultivate our presence in the city of Siloam Springs and one obvious way to do that is to fill the building God gave us with people during the week. From Sunday to Sunday the building largely sits empty outside of the occasional meeting or small gathering, but emptiness means there is an absence, which is the opposite of the presence we seek. We are shooting for fullness, not emptiness. We want people to fill the space God has given us and we want to bless them with our hospitality and generosity. 

“People” is spelled i-n-c-o-n-v-e-n-i-e-n-t. “People” means we can’t park where we want or that we have to pick up after ourselves or that we have to put up with some noise. But Jesus loves people—so much so that he left the Father to become like one of us for all of eternity. He knew people meant inconvenience and yet it was the price he was willing to pay to be near us and to show us love. If we want to be present with people—which we have said we do—then we’re going to have to put up with a little inconvenience in order to be like Jesus and be true to what we claim to be about.

The payoff  is that we get to partner with a school that is shaping children’s hearts and minds and forming their character through the cultivation of virtue. The benefit of our inconvenience is measured in the lives of the children whose voices will be heard in the hallways throughout the week. I am excited for them and for First Presbyterian Church as we enter into this relationship.

I do want to be clear that our partnership with SCA in no way softens our commitment to the Siloam Public Schools and our partners at Bright Futures. We remain committed to ministering alongside Bright Futures as they provide students with school supplies, food, and coats in the winter time. You can still keep an eye out for ways you can contribute to the good work they are doing in serving the families of Siloam Springs. Our partnership with SCA, rather, is a “filling out” of our pursuit of presence. We want to go out into the community and we want to invite people into the space God has given us. It is God’s space, and I’m excited for us to learn how to share it.

Grace and peace,
Jonathan +