Early memories of Peoria Presbyterian

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I wrote in my last article about the founding of our church. Fellowship Hall was built about 1964, before that time the church kitchen was the south half of the back room leading to the restrooms. A wall divided the room with the north half for the pastor’s study and the south half for the kitchen. Worship was in the now north portion of the sanctuary. A curtain closed the worship center from the south portion which served as room for several Sunday School classes on Sunday and the fellowship “hall” once a month for potluck suppers. The tiny kitchen served us well as that was all we had. Any dishes or pans to be cleaned after supper were done in the sink where the men’s restroom door is today. Water was heated on the stove. There was no refrigerator for the potlucks, there was not any leftovers as we cleaned up the good food. For tables there were several wood folding tables that were stored on the edge of a cabinet on the east wall. Not much water was used in the sink and it drained out on the lawn as there were no sewers yet and the outhouse cesspool was not close.

For a program for the evening sometimes there was a traveling missionary that gave a talk. When we arrived at church we could tell if a stranger was in our midst because of a strange old car out front. We knew who owned every car. Or we would get a mission film and would run it on our 16 mil projector.

One supper, a new family came with a covered dish…I do not know why but hardly any food was taken from their dish. My mom worked in the cleanup and I saw the kitchen ladies taking food out of the new people’s dish so they would think that their food was well liked.

On Sunday for worship, I was about ten and the ONLY male in church. Several of the men were farmers and maybe they had irrigation or were just playing hooky. When it came time for the offering, I was asked to handle the offering plates. At that time, I do not remember any time that a lady helped take up offering. Boy, I was about ten feet tall getting to collect the money.

My next article will be “You Presbyterians are Parking Wrong on Madison Street, the Peoria Police Chief”

Categories: Newsletter

Thank You

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Awards by C & L 8273 West Washington St. Peoria, AZ 85345

Awards by C&L

Dear Mr. Craig Carter,

On behalf of our Session and congregation I would like to thank you for your donation of the fifteen memorial plaques.

I understand you were a great friend of our beloved Priscilla Cook. I had the honor of knowing her and officiating at her memorial service.

First Presbyterian Church of Peoria

Categories: Newsletter

Remember our Shut Ins

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Dear Congregation

We have several members that are homebound. Pastor Terry and the deacons keep in touch with them through visits, phone calls and cards. We thought maybe some of you would also like to let them know that they are not forgotten. Here is the list of our homebound members. If you could, please pick one a month and send them a card to let them know they are in your thoughts and prayers. Their addresses are in the directory or you can pick up a complete list at the church.

Thank you,

You Church Deacons

  • Shirley Anderson
  • Cleo Burkett
  • Darlene Walvoord
  • Iris Schaufelberger
  • Leora Evans
  • Bill Champion
  • Pat Fiala
  • Lois Wisdom
  • Jan Whitmoyer
  • Lynn Schell
  • Karen Fulton
  • Joella Ryan
  • Eleanor Hill
  • Edna Sullivan
  • Cheryl Whitman
Categories: Newsletter

Session News

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Shall we start with saving the best news for first. Church treasurer, Donna Davis, reported for the end of 2018, the church finances were in the BLACK. Through a good share of 2018, we were in the red. What a blessing that our Church Family came through in December with its giving. Thank you to all. The 2018 receipts were reported and expenses were reported. Again Donna, thank you for your detailed reports. I get lost during all of her explaining.

The communion date for 2019 were approved by Session.

It was approved to give to the Basic Mission Support project for the Presbytery of Grand Canyon, The Synod of the Southwest, and the General Assembly, our national organization.

The Pastor’s, Deacons’, Treasurer’s, and all committee reports were received.

Ken Johnson

Clerk of Session

Categories: Newsletter

Deliver Us From Evil

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February 3 2019

    Words, words, words!  We are bombarded with words–from brief and clever tweets of 140 characters to rambling blogs posted by anybody who owns a computer and is connected to the internet.  We carry our smart phones  and receive emails 24/7.  We get phone messages wherever we are: on the golf course, in the grocery store,  in the car.  Text messages come to us in the movie theater and even in church!  
    Words, words  words!   And it’s not enough to watch the news on CNN.  Simultaneously,  underneath the telecast, a ticker runs across the screen informing us of other late-breaking developments.   
    But no matter how many words we are immersed in, there are moments in our lives when words are not adequate. 
    A friend loses  her mother unexpectedly, a couple we love are splitting up, our daughter has a miscarriage.  And we can’t seem to find the right words to say to express what we feel.
    So many disasters in the world simply take our breath away.  The earthquake in Haiti, the floods in Houston and Puerto Rico.  The never ending quagmire of Afghanistan– and we all wonder how it will turn out, and will the sacrifice of our soldiers have made any difference at the end of the day?  (2200 killed) 
    We become numb to the ceaseless violence here in this country and abroad.    And we don’t know how to interpret all this to our children, or even ourselves.  So much needless pain in the world.     
    We canvass our minds to find the right  words to make sense of all of this.    But no matter how hard we try, sometimes the words  stubbornly refuse to rise to the tips of our tongues.  
    They especially escape us when we are facing the evils of pain, injustice, and brokenness in any form. Jesus knew  these pains, all too well, walking and talking each day with broken humans beings in a tragic world.   It’s why, when Jesus is teaching us to pray, he includes the line: Deliver us from evil.
    Deliver us from evil. Deliver us from the times when there are no words.
    A few years ago, I faced a time when I could not find the words to deliver me from an awful situation.  After more than 30 years of successful ministry, after being pastor of the 10th largest Presbyterian Church in the United States, I found myself serving a church in Jackson, MS.   After 6 months there, I knew I should have never taken the call.    I tried everything in my power to make it work, but nothing did.  Finally, after serving in Jackson for two years, the Session  voted 11-7 to ask me to leave.  
    Some of you here have been fired and downsized, so you and I could give a clinic on the experience, couldn’t we?  I will give you the short version of the “Getting Fired Seminar.”  No matter how successful you have been in the past, no matter how robust is your self-esteem, getting fired makes you feel lower than a pregnant ant.  
    So here I was 56 years old, over the hill for a minister or for nearly any professional in this society.  Here I was without a job and without any prospects for a job.  Here I was 9 years away from blessed retirement.  (Why am I smiling when I say that?)  Here I was, having lived through an absolutely hellish ministry in an absolutely alien culture,  and feeling that I would never be  happy or fulfilled in the Christian ministry again.  
    And I, who make my living being a wordsmith, could find no words to help me.  So I found myself praying desperately to God, deliver me, deliver me, deliver me…
    To add to all that, I felt so terribly alone; I felt  I had let down my wife, who had agreed to go to Mississippi, despite profound, underscore profound reservations.   I had moments when I envisioned homelessness or selling paint at Home Depot   After all, what does an unemployed 56 year old minister do?    
    Deliver me, deliver me, deliver me….Dear God, give me the words to make sense of what is happening to me now.
    When we pray this prayer, what exactly are we seeking?  
    On one level, we are seeking the right words, that is to say, some comprehensive understanding that helps us make sense of a situation that is greater than we are.  
    But also, when we pray this prayer, we are harboring an unrealistic hope that the situation will change, that it will somehow come out right, right being what we define as right.  We are praying that we won’t have to go through the pain and travail that this situation is handing us. 
    It’s so human and so understandable for us to ask God to deliver us from pain, brokenness and evil.   To take away the cancer, end hunger, and stop wars and natural disasters.   To give us the answers.  To provide a solution.  
In our text from Romans 8, these beautiful words that the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Rome, he tells us that in the midst of our struggles, when we don’t know what to say, when we don’t pray as we ought, that the spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
    When we don’t know what to pray, when we pray for the wrong things, when we are so lost in  grief, depression, and anxiety, the spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
    The Spirit takes over and does the talking for us.
    This is what happened to me as I started searching for a new job.  I got my resume spiffed up, started applying for new jobs, and started getting some interest.  I spent a lot of time crafting a statement on why I was leaving Briarwood after only two years that I could share with pastor search committees.  After all, a search committee sees that you’ve only been in a job for two years, and they say, “Damaged goods.”  So I knew I needed a good explanation.  Here’s what I wrote, in part.  

Why I Resigned From Briarwood

    In recent weeks I have made an important decision.  It’s a decision that I have prayed about for the last nine months, and I believe it comes from the leading of the Holy Spirit.  It’s a decision that Barbara and I affirm and rejoice in.
    I have resigned as pastor from Briarwood Presbyterian Church as of July 1st.   I have done so because I believe that I am better suited for a different kind of ministry than I have here, and that Briarwood would be better served with a different pastor. 
    Why resign after only two years of ministry?  When I came to Briarwood, the Church Information Form indicated that the annual budget of the congregation was $560,000.  In the first month of my ministry, the church held its stewardship campaign, and the pledged amount was $384,000.  Briarwood was facing a $180,000 deficit from the outset of my ministry.   No one at Briarwood had analyzed the fact that the church had lost a number of significant givers (due to death and moves) over a two year period prior to my coming, and the loss of those gifts had not been replaced.  
    I came to Briarwood, in part,  because it was a multiple staff ministry.  A talented associate pastor was already here, and I looked forward to sharing the ministry with her.  When she left to take a new call in August, 2000, the Session determined that we could no longer afford an associate pastor.    That was disheartening and discouraging to me, and in my mind, changed the equation significantly.  I was now solo pastor of a church of 550 members, and with the financial short-fall still a reality, there would be no relief in sight for many years.
    Over time I began to realize how much I missed the larger church.  I recalled the joy I had in Portland (1000 members) and Lake Forest (2300 members).  I loved being there as pastor and head of staff, and I realized that my heart yearned to serve a larger, multiple staffed church.
     I came to understand, as well, that my style and approach did not fit all the people at Briarwood.   Although I’m from the South, Mississippi is part of the deep south; I have learned that it truly helps “to be from here.”   Many people who have come here from other places have shared with me their own difficulties “to fit in.”   My approach to people and issues has always been honest and straight-forward.   That approach was appreciated in other settings.  But here, it was seen by some as to direct and abrupt.  
    I have come to understand over time, that my leadership gifts and style do not match the needs of every congregation.  There is “the right chemistry between pastor and congregation.”   I have had that right chemistry in other churches.  I actually have had it with most of the congregation here, but not with everybody.    
    Given the fact that I was feeling led to seek a new call, and given the fact that “my style and approach did not fit everyone at Briarwood,” I thought it was time to resign and move on.  The ministry is not about me, but about Jesus Christ.   I feel grateful for my time at Briarwood, for in this time I have learned and grown much, and now, more than any time in my life, I am focused on what I do best, and filled with a deeper spiritual strength and serenity. 
    I believe the best years of my ministry are still ahead.  I await on tiptoe what God is calling me to next.
    Well, that’s a pretty nice spin, isn’t it?  Within a couple of months I had some good leads.  One of those was First Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, DE, a robust congregation of 2000 members.  As I was being interviewd by the committee, they  they asked me about my ministry at Briarwood.  I was ready.  I had my polished statement memorized.  But I didn’t get more than two lines into it, when something brought me up short.  And I blurted out something which I am sure was just a tad shade short of babbling.  I said, “You know, I have been in the ministry for 32 years.  I think if you will check back with my references that people will tell you that I’ve always left churches stronger than I’ve found them.    But I came up against something at Briarwood that I couldn’t deal with.  I didn’t know how to deal with the problems of the church–a declining church in a changing neighborhood.  I couldn’t deal with the cultural expectations.   I was really unhappy there, and they were unhappy with me, and the Session voted to remove me as their pastor.  You need to know all that about me, and today, as I sit here, there’s part of me that feels like a failure, and a lot of me that has been broken in this process. 
    When I got back to my motel room that night, I thought to myself, “Well that little maudlin confession was a deal-breaker, if ever there was one.”
    But you know what?   It wasn’t.  They offered me the job.  THEY OFFERED ME THE JOB.  And when I asked the chairperson why they did that, he said, “It was your telling us about Briarwood, and we all agreed that we wanted a pastor who knew what it was like to be hurt by life, and has made it back, at least part of the way.”      
    On that night, before that committee, the Spirit spoke for me.
    What I learned that night is that we have the gift of God’s eternal word,  especially when we don’t have words ourselves. And the Spirit is always, always there breathing those words when we can’t cough them up ourselves.  
    Dear God, deliver us.  
    Deliver us from thinking that our ways are always the right ways, and that our answers are always the right answers.
    Deliver us from the despair of believing that we have reached a dead end in the road, and there is no way out.  
    Deliver us from believing that when something awful happens to us that it is beyond the reach of redemption.
    Deliver us from thinking that we are alone in our struggles.    
    This powerful scripture from Romans 8, which for my money is the greatest passage in the NT, reminds us that we always have with us the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, interceding   for us.   It is THAT  word that provides our deliverance.
For neither death nor life, (nor cancer nor war)
Nor rulers nor angels (nor who is in the White House at any given time) 
Nor thing present nor things to come (nor job less nor infertility nor grief)
Nor power nor height nor depth (not addiction or mental illness nor heart ache )
Nor anything in all creation
Can separate us from the love  God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Categories: Weekly Sermon

Pastor’s Corner

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First, the facts and figures. One in 10 people age 65 and older (10 percent) has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. 16.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.

Now my story. When my mother fell and had to go into a nursing home to recover I rushed home to North Carolina to see her. One of the issues facing her was paying her bills. She had been a successful insurance agent with Nationwide Insurance and was smart and independent. She had never needed help of any kind. I asked her if I could

gather up her bank statements and if we could go over them. As I did, I found out that my mother had sizable investments that she had never told us about. I put everything together, printed it out and brought it to my mother’s room. I showed her the assets and said, “Mom, you have enough money to last until you are 119.” (After all, one of our greatest fears as we age is that we are going to run out of money.)

I left and called her later that day. In the course of that conversation she told me that she was afraid that she didn’t have enough money to pay her medical expenses. With my voice rising I said, “Mother, I just went over this with all of you.” No response on her end….and in a short time I realized the awful fact that she didn’t recall our conversation.

That was the beginning of our growing frustrations with her, our initial inability to come to terms with her memory loss. But over time, we did. As a friend whose wife had Alzheimer’s told us, “You have to meet them where they are because they can’t meet you where you are.”

Here is a poem that speaks to all of us who have or are living with an Alzheimer’s victim.

She’s still my mother, who’s standing there.
It’s still her eyes, her face, her hair.
It’s still her body, but it’s just a shell,
Of the mother that I once knew so well.
She’s still my mother, who looks at me,
Then asks the question, “Who might you be?”
Her memory’s fleeting, her gait is weak.
Loved ones long gone are those she seeks.
She’s still my mother, whose angry words,
Like a sharpened sword, my soul can hurt
She’s still my mother, who shares our home,
This one we dress, whose hair we comb.
She’s still my mother…I know tis true.
And so dear God, I turn to You.
Please give me patience, wisdom, and love,
Til the day that You take her to heaven above.
Let me return…if even through tears,
The love she gave me through all these years.
Though she often thinks that I’m her brother,
I’ll love her yet…she’s still my mother
Categories: Newsletter

We have two new members

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Session met before worship December 23, 2018, to receive into church member- ship Marilyn McKinney by letter of transfer from Desert Palms Presbyterian Church, Sun City West, and her daughter Megan McBride by reaffirmation of faith.

Megan is a former member of Christ Presbyterian Church, Goodyear, Arizona. Christ Church has left the Presbyterian denomination so Megan has been attend- ing Peoria Presbyterian for about a year and is an ordained Deacon from Glen Shaw Presbyterian Church, Glen Shaw, Pennsylvania, and feels at home here at P.P.C. Megan lives in Litchfield Park with her husband Joshua and she has two children ages 12 and 10.

Marilyn is Megan’s mother and lives in Sun City West and is transferring mem- bership from Desert Palms Presbyterian Church, Sun City West. Marilyn is also an Ordained Deacon from Glen Shaw Presbyterian Church, Glen Shaw, Pennsyl- vania about the mid 1080s. I told Marilyn we wanted her to get her “feet wet”

before we approached her for any duties at P.P.C. Marilyn is also a registered nurse which is good for the con- gregation. It has happened where someone in worship had a medical crisis and the RNs present knew what to do. Marilyn loves to sing and when the choir was singing the postlude song I saw Marilyn singing along with us. Thank you Marilyn. Marilyn lives in S.C.W. with her husband Mark.

Marilyn’s sister Mitzi, sits in the pew with Megan and Marilyn so during worship we have M & M & M all in the same row.

Mitzi, Marilyn, and Megan, we are glad you are a part of the P.P.C. Family and a huge welcome from all of us.

Categories: Newsletter

Early facts and memories

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church 1895.jpeg

I am getting my early information from the church’s One Hundred Years anniversary book. There are several books in the office to loan out but not enough to pass out for keeps. If interest in borrowing a book, call the church secretary, Kira Gibson, (623) 979-4682 and make arrangements to borrow a book. Office hours are Tuesday through Friday 9am-12pm. If you have not met Kira, call her even if you do not want a book and get acquainted. She is Super Nice and is a Super Secretary. We are fortunate to have her.

Hiram and Jennie Mann arrived in Phoenix from Kansas by train in 1889 and settled in an abandoned store building in Peoria. After cleaning out the building for the Mann’s home, the building became the first Peoria worchip center and the first Peoria school.


Peoria Presbyterian Church was organized in 1892. The present building was built in 1899 and dedicated February 4, 1900.

Look closely to the rear of the building which is probably an out house.

Drinking water was precious, as the closest well was in Agua (the “g” is silent) Fria six miles away. I am guessing it was near the Agua Fria River which is between Youngtown and El Mirage. Mr. Mann hired two men to hand dig a well thirty feet deep near Grand Avenue and Washington Street for the “town well”. Now the underground water level is several hundred feet deep. This was before irrigation wells were dug and lowered the water level.

Get a book and find out for yourself the rest of the early history.
The south part of the now sanctuary (annex) was built and dedicated in November 1921.

Ken Remembers…

I was born in 1934. My parent bought a farm on now Thunderbird Road and 79th Avenue in 1931. The night of my birth, the town Doctor brought a midwife to the house and charged my parents $15. But 1934 was one of the lean years and money was scarce.

grey-mouseMy first memories of P.P.C. are about 1940. The annex served as our fellowship hall and several Sunday School classes on Sunday. The membership was smaller and worship was in the north portion of the sanctuary. In the cut out portion of the now wall, was a curtain that hung from the top to the floor of the cut out wall. The curtain was always closed during worship or midweek pot luck suppers. Holding the curtain up was a pipe the length of the opening. ( I wrote this before, but this is for you new “kids”.) During worship one Sunday, a mouse had got stuck up on the pipe and could not figure how to get down. He kept running back and forth on the pipe, maybe hoping for an elevator to get down. I do NOT know what the sermon was, but I do know that the mouse was gray and fast. The minister might as well had the benediction early as all eyes were on the mouse.

Today look up on the roof of the building. The chimney is still standing. Fuel was either wood and maybe coal, as there was no gas or electricity in early years.

I did not get into my memories of worship in my yearly years, but watch for them in the CHATTER if interested. If not interest, just flip the page. In the next article hear about the first tiny kitchen and only one faucet above the sink. COLD WATER.

4 Ken Johnson

Categories: Newsletter

Session News

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Possibly the most important item of the future is the Annual Meeting of Congregation to be held at the close of worship on January 27, 2019. I have lost track of time, but I think this will be the first for Kira, our church secretary, to prepare the Annual Report booklet of the different church organizations and committee annual reports. We need to have the report in our hands by Sunday, January 20th. So please get your reports to Kira A.S.A.P. after the 1st or no later than January 10th.

At the December meeting, as usual, Church Treasurer, Donna Davis, had several pages of the treasurer’s report. Then she had the proposed budget for 2019. After discussion, Session approved the 2019 balanced budget. Explanation of the 2019 budget will be in the annual meeting, if needed. Thank you Donna for your detailed report. It is appreciated.

Session approved communion for January 13, 2019. The rest of the 2019 dates is forthcoming at the Session’s next meeting.

The church membership roll was reviewed. A report will be in the clerk’s annual report at the annual meeting.

A service of celebration for the member JoAnn Pennock was held December 10th. Look for a story in this Chatter. Again, the Deacons served a delicious luncheon after the service.

If you want to eat some good cookin’, show up at one of their luncheons. Thank you Deacons for always being there.

The Pastor’s, Deacons’, Treasurer’s, and all committee reports were received. Next Session meeting to be January 14, 2019.

Ken Johnson

Clerk of Session

Categories: Newsletter

A Girl Named Joe

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In the mid 1940s, there was a cute girl attending Peoria High School named JoAnn Riggs. JoAnn was a school cheerleader, leading cheers from the crowd hoping for a game win for the team.

JoAnn attended the Peoria Presbyterian Church and was active in the evening youth group called Westminster Fellowship.

JoAnn joined after high school. JoAnn left Peoria and returned about 1960 with a husband named James Pennock. James was a pharmaceutical salesman. James and JoAnn raised three children: Paul, Willie, and Patti Jo. James, Willie, and Patti predeceased JoAnn.

JoAnn joined Peoria Presbyterian on January 22, 1967 by confession of faith and adult baptism. Jo had a good voice, sang in the choir, and sang solos for special occasions. Jo just liked to sing. Jo was ordained a Deacon at P.P.C. on January 15, 1984 and served as a Deacon into the 2000s. Jo was a good and caring Deacon. Jo also was a part of the ladies sewing group.

At home there were several cats that were well fed. There were several feeding stations in the yard and in her garage. In the backyard, was a flock of chickens that were also well cared for. Jo was good to share fresh eggs with the church family. People saved their used egg cartons for Jo.

When the Pennocks went on vacation out of the area, they pulled a two wheel trailer with the words painted on the back; “Peoria, Arizona”.

After Jim died and the tree children were out of the nest, Jo lived alone with cats and the egg makers until she fell and broke bones and had to go into a care center which she enjoyed because she was able to entertain the residents with her singing.

We will miss Jo for choir practice and all church functions. As Jo joins the Choir of Angels she is not forgotten at P.P.C. Thank you Jo for your years of service at P.P.C.

Jo was also a registered nurse caring for a neighbor when he got his hand in his power saw.

Ken Johnson

Categories: Newsletter