Author: AJ Langston

HART Pantry

City of Peoria lending HART PANTRY support in their mission

Two of our Councilmen, Edwards and Patena came to the PANTRY headquarters to see our operation and to present us with financial support. Their presentation of $5,000.00 will go far in purchasing food and services for our At-Risk Kids.  They viewed our weekend bag packing and stepped into help. In addition to the finances they have arranged for HART PANTRY to be able to have a place for food bags to be placed during the month of July when our schools are closed. This has always been a source of concern, that our kiddos get hungry in the summer and we had no way to reach them. This one problem being solved makes our day.

I have been contacted by the Representative of the Youth Advisory Council to the City of Peoria and will be addressing the youth in June. It is my hope that these young people can become more active within their respective schools so HART PANTRY can better identify and meet the needs of our homeless and in-crisis youth.

HART PANTRY has been invited to participate in the City of Peoria General Fund Program for 2016. This fund could provide us with additional monies through grants to further our mission.

All in all it has been an exceptional month. The PANTRY has provided, on average, 50 weekend food bags and 50-70 snack/supper bags to students in our area schools. We are thrilled to be able to present 15 graduation gifts to qualifying students. Again this year we will provide the Graduation rehearsal Breakfast for the senior class of 2016 at the Raymond S. Kellis High School. The staffs at our schools do so much for HART PANTRY and our at-risk teens, we are proud to work with them whenever it is within our mission and budget.

Have a safe and happy summer.  Ruth Langford, Executive Director

Categories: Newsletter

The Sewing Circle

The Sewing Circle meets @ 9:30 the 3rd and 4th Wednesday of each month from September until the end of May. The mission of this group is to make prayer quilts for those in our church, lap quilts and bibs for nursing homes,  pillow cases for the organization that donates new pillow cases to kids with cancer and other sewing tasks. Our new mission is to help Jean Charlton cut and crochet plastic bags for mats donated to the homeless. 

We always can use fabric for our projects. There is a box in the church for donation of plastic bags. Contact someone in the sewing circle should you need a quilt or have materials to donate. 

This group finds the sewing a way to have community and support mission of our church. All are welcome. Bring your needles and thread and join us. 

The sewing circle

Categories: Newsletter

What does an Interim Pastor do?

I would like to take this first column to talk a little bit with you about what interim pastors do.
Some duties of an interim pastor are obvious: preaching, teaching, pastoral care, and administration. That’s what every pastor is charged with doing. But there are other duties which are unique to interim ministry. In short, an interim serves a congregation best when he or she is able to get the congregation engaged in thinking together about the future. An interim asks the question, “Where is God calling us to go next?” An interim prepares the congregation for the coming of the next permanent pastor and there is a clear road map laid out when the new pastor arrives.
How do I propose to go about that? Over the next several months I would like to have a series of desserts across the congregation that everyone will attend. In small groups of twelve to fifteen I would like to get to meet you all, and ask you two questions: “What do you love most about FPC?” And “If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change about FPC?”
Armed with that information, the Session and I will begin to noodle over what that means for our road map. To be successful, the road map has to be a map that everyone understands and everyone has helped draw up.
In my next column I will tell you about the process of calling a new pastor, what you have to do to begin that process, and a possible time-table for that process.
Over the summer I will be in the pulpit nearly every Sunday. I hope you will be in worship the Sundays you are in town and that you will invite a friend to come with you. The clearest path to church growth is for members to invite unchurched friends to come along with them.
Please let me know when there is a pastoral issue. For urgent issues call me: 623 521 1711. I check my messages regularly. You can text me at that number. You can also email me:
I am regularly updating members on our prayer chain about pastoral issues I am aware of. If you would like to be on the prayer chain email June Schooley ( and she will add you.
Our Deacons and I are taking communion to our home-bound members once a week, the goal of which is to visit all our home-bound once a month.
I have always made it a practice to see my church members the morning before surgery and have prayer with them. I’m a 20 minute drive from our area hospitals, so please let me know if you or someone you love is heading for surgery.
I have a lot to learn about you all and the life and ministry of FPC. Please be patient with me when I don’t quite get it. I think I’ll get there. In the meantime I’m open to your advice and suggestions.
In recent days I have imagined those farmers from Peoria Ill who crossed the rivers, plains and mountains to come out here so long ago– those farmers who built this church. I can just imagine that they are bending over the balcony of heaven cheering us
on, praying for us.
I want to say to all of them, and to the God that we all serve: “We will try to be worthy.”

Categories: Newsletter

Prayer Chain

What is a Prayer Chain and How does it Work ?

  When a prayer request is turned into Joy Foster or June Schooley.  Joy calls 4 people and those 4 people call 4 people  and so on, until everyone is reached.  But now we also have the digital age, with emails, so we contact June Schooley and she clicks a button and the request goes to everyone who is on the church’s E-mail   So if you want to be part of the prayer chain, contact Joy or June.  We have room for all who want to join.  And I’m sure the Lord has time for one more request.

Categories: Newsletter

Fellowship of the Least Coin


Have you ever noticed the little church in the narthex?  That’s how Presbyterian Women (PW) collects pennies for the Fellowship of the Lease Coin (FLC).  Once a year we turn the pennies into FLC as do 80 other countries around the world. The funds are used to support women and children in projects, like scholarships, literacy, health, social concerns and gender issues. Who knew a penny could do so much?  Help PW support Fellowship of the Least Coin by putting your pennies in the little church.

Categories: Newsletter

A Note to the Ding-a-Lings

A Note to the Ding-a-Lings

I want to thank all of you for the lovely flowers and gift cards you surprised me with after our last ringing.  I appreciate each of you, your commitment to the bell choir and your ability to put up with me.  I love you all. 

Now keep working on your pink and blue!


Categories: Newsletter

Save the Date

Save the Date – June 20th

We are having a Fundraiser at Barro’s Pizza!  We want everyone to get together for a lot of fun and fellowship.  It is on June 20th, from 4:00 PM to Close with 20% of all proceeds going directly to the church.  Barro’s is located at 83rd Ave and Cactus.  We look forward to seeing all of you there to share in the laughs, camaraderie and of course, delicious pizza!

Categories: Newsletter

Super Sized Faith Demo

Message Delivered on February 7, 2016

Luke 9:28-36; 37-43a “Super Sized Faith Demo”

We all know its Super-Sunday, the granddaddy of all gargantuan sporting events–super-sized, America’s high holy day of the year–at least, in the sports’ world. Super Sunday is complete with celebrities, glamour, at least 10,000+ calories per serving of nachos, million dollar television commercials, and–of course–football!

The Super Bowl (we are having “Souper” Bowl to benefit the hungry) and all of the hoopla that leads up to it for weeks, is nearly a national holiday.

This year’s extravaganza will feature the stylistic contrast in quarterbacks Payton Manning and Cam Newton, with a side-order of Beyonce, Bruno Mars, and Coldplay at halftime. Behold, it is also the game’s golden anniversary, hosted by San Francisco’s “Golden” Gate hospitality. Two teams are vying for the coveted Lombardi trophy, but in many ways, it is much more than a game.

Super Bowl coincides with a biblical dazzling spectacle, that of Jesus’ mountaintop transfiguration. The transfiguration demands our attention in a way that surpasses the best football game. This year the NFL may have Manning and Beyonce, but they are no match for the celebrity posse that Jesus summons on the mountain. It is no costume change, no wardrobe malfunction, when Jesus is illumined as if a lightening bolt has struck him. Even Moses and Elijah have cameo appearances.

News flash: The 2015 Super Bowl had 114 million television viewers tune in to see Tom Brady and the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in a down-to-the-wire finish. It was a spectacle packed with food offerings, music and eye-popping pyrotechnics. It is a good thing kick-off is in the afternoon or people would be busy looking at their watches, praying the sermon will not be long. Super Bowl is an over-hyped combination of sports, celebrities and money. Super Bowl week is a seven day circus celebrating excess, tolerating stupidity and drawing all kinds of people into the mix. What is overlooked is the true cost of this event. Football players suffer brain and other injuries. Yet for all of the consequences and glory–football is just a game–even when the players lives are at stake.

Like God’s declaration at Jesus’ baptism in Luke 3:21-22, the transfiguration account discloses Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. Any doubts are put to rest. Luke reminds us that Jesus conducted his own poll among the disciples (Luke 9:18-20), but he was equally stern in admonishing them to avoid disclosing his identity. He prepared the disciples for their own transformation by reminding them of the true costs associated with being a disciple.

After sharing all of this, Jesus took Peter, James and John up the mountain. It was a game-changer, an invitation to spend time alone in prayer with Jesus. It was a prayer beyond all expectations as Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white. The brilliance of his appearance was the confirmation of his divine stature. The show continued as Moses and Elijah appeared out of nowhere. There was no celebrity emcee introducing the Old Testament heroes. The disciples seemed to understand that their appearance affirmed the important continuity of Jesus’ mission with the narrative of Israel’s faithful history.

Peter was not like many church leaders. He sprang into action to propose a building project. Habitat for Humanity would love to have people with his enthusiasm. He wanted to capture the glorious moment. God’s voice thundered, “This is my Son, my Chosen.” declared God. “Listen to him!”

Peter is invited to pay attention to what is truly transformative. It is much more than a ground-shaking religious experience. Pay heed to what happens next. The disciples go down the mountain and encounter a man who begs Jesus to heal his epileptic son. It is this healing that discloses God’s glory. All are amazed, astounded, and led to greater belief, not only because of the spectacle on the mountain, but because they have responded to God’s invitation. Listening to Jesus, they begin to let his words sink into their ears.

Like Peter, we may understand the excitement generated by “mountaintop” moments of pure, undiluted spiritual energy. There is more to this than a fireworks or special effects display. God invites the disciples to not just “do something” but to stand there and listen. It is through moments of prayer that faithfulness and courage are revealed. Paul Galbreath notes, “While faith does include defining and transformational moments…Luke connects prayer to the sense of identity and a clearer understanding of God’s call. What is essential to this particular moment is the way prayer reveals a call to a deeper understanding of discipleship.”

For Luke, it all takes place the next day when the disciples are astounded by God’s glory. The journey away from the mountain could actually be as transforming as what they envisioned when atop the mountain. The pace was different on the way home: “On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain,” was when ministry began to happen. Prayer on the mountaintop led Jesus to the encounter of a boy who needed healing. This is what it means to “Listen to him.”

It is easy to remember a touchdown at the very last seconds of the game, but what happens the next day may be more significant. It was at that moment, Luke reminds us, that the disciples were astounded by the greatness of God. It is in the work of coming down from the mountaintop and facing the pressing reality of human misery that the greatness of God shines–in Jesus, of course, but also in the faith and action of his disciples. Are you going to score any touchdowns for Jesus?


Categories: Weekly Sermon

Responding to the Call

Message Delivered on January 31, 2016

Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 4:21-30 “Responding to the Call”

As you were growing up and even now, when someone asked you to do a job that you did not like or felt unqualified to do, how did you feel? Did you make up excuses to attempt to get “off the hook?”

Imagine the prophet Jeremiah being called by God to warn the people of Judah (Southern Kingdom of the Hebrews) around 600 B.C. that they had better turn from their evil ways or face serious consequences. How does one deliver a doom and gloom message to repent–before it is too late? Jeremiah conveyed the message for forty years! When Jeremiah objected to his calling, God told him that even before he was born, he was chosen (destined) to be a prophet to carry God’s message to the people. How do you refuse to accept God’s assignment? God will equip Jeremiah and put words into his mouth as the spokesperson for God.

About 630 years later, Jesus was standing in the synagogue at Nazareth on a Sabbath, a hometown boy. All the eyes were fixed on him as he read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Jesus then closed the scroll and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.

Jesus was formally presenting the assignment he had come to fulfill on earth. The Word of God is not always pleasant to hear. It does not massage the status quo at the expense of the truth. People do not want their turf invaded, not even by a hometown boy. It has been said that “one of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea.”

The citizens of Nazareth considered themselves the favored people and they resented Jesus taking God’s Word of grace to others beyond Nazareth, especially to Capernaum because Capernaum was heavily populated by non-Jews. Dr. Bownell, a Presbyterian minister of another generation, said that “Jesus was favorably received by his townsfolk until he challenged the provincial, racial prejudice. Jesus dared to declare that the children of Israel were not special favorites of God.” The heavenly Father had singled out individuals in places like Sidon and Syria for unparalleled blessings and that caused an uproar. The people were angry and set out to do away with Jesus. The people in Nazareth fell into the error of thinking to destroy Jesus would also destroy the Word of truth. They failed to understand that truth is indestructible (Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.)

What the people heard that day was not what they wanted to hear from “their” Messiah. Even today there is often a wide discrepancy between the Jesus of Scripture and the Jesus propagated in American culture. Fast Lane magazine conducted a survey in which people were asked whose lives they would most like to emulate? Lt. Col. Oliver North placed first, President Reagan second, and actor Clint Eastwood (“Make my day!”) was third. Jesus Christ tied for fourth place with Chrysler chairman, Lee Iococca.

Today’s Scripture directs us to deal honestly with ourselves. Dr. Benjamin Spock stood up for his ideas even when they were not popular writing, “I got my most basic beliefs–in the sense of unthinking attitude rather than rational credos–from my stern, moralistic, unyielding mother. She was not all grim, though. She had a great sense of humor, was a hilarious mimic, and was invariably charming to outsiders as she was severe with her children. Her scorn was withering. During World War I my parents decided to conserve wool and I had to wear one of my father’s cast-off suits, almost black, floppy, cuff less and exactly the opposite of what youth were wearing. I said, “Everybody at school will laugh at me.” My mother replied, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself for worrying about what people will think. Don’t you know that it does not matter what people will think as long as you know you are right?” “When I was fifteen and peer pressure enormous, I did not believe her.”

It does not matter what others think as long as you are right may cause rejection. You may find yourself in the midst of controversy but Jesus handled the controversy by walking through it.

As you begin the transition and transformation of who you are as a church, and what you want to become as you search for a new pastor in shared ministry, there may be some disagreements along the way. You need to hold fast to the fact that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. In Christ hangs the destiny of us all. He is the way, the way out, the way home, the only way that matters. If you follow the way that Jesus leads you, you will be successful in following God’s plan to find a new minister and to develop your mission plan for the future. If you follow Jesus’ lead, you will grow as a church spiritually and in number. If you reject him, it can lead to nowhere.

“Come to me,” Jesus said. Jesus is not a way of escaping the world but of loving the world. We are to answer his call and follow him even though the world calls us in a hundred different directions. A poem by an unknown author sums it up well:

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out for another is to risk involvement.

To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To hope is to risk despair.

To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk


The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is


They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel,

change, grow, love, live.

Chained by their attitudes, they are a slave, they have forfeited their


Only a person who risks is free.

To that end, I say, Amen.

Categories: Weekly Sermon

Different but Same

Message Delivered on January 24, 2016

I Corinthians 12:12-31a “Different but Same”

Organ transplants have been saving lives for years and now we can check a box when applying for our driver’s license, so that our organs will be harvested upon death. Saving another’s life comes at great cost, someone has to die in order for another to have life and hope. Doctors and scientists have been working to eliminate the high costs of rejection medicines by regenerating body parts from a patient’s own tissues, thus eliminating the need for a donor and dramatically increasing the body’s ability to assimilate the new part as its own. We used to think that this was Science-Fiction!!

Scientists have been able to generate noses, ears and blood vessels in laboratories by creating a “scaffold,” a mold of sorts, in the proper shape. They place some of the patient’s own cells on the scaffold and put everything in an environment that will give the cells proper nutrition and optimum growth conditions. The cells multiply and form a new nose, for example. The results are promising with a low rejection rate and the parts function like the original part–a true replacement. Doctors are working on techniques for more complicated body parts like kidneys, lungs and livers.

Paul uses the body as an illustration for the church and seeks to find ways each part of the body will function best. In the 1960s, Avery and Marsh wrote a song: “I am the church, you are the church. We are the church together . All who follow Jesus, all around the world, yes we’re the church together.” I would combine the refrain with the old finger play: “Here are the doors and here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.”

A church is composed of many people with varying parts having various gifts. Some gifts are preaching, teaching, business sense, caring for family, homes and each member of the church.

Rather than ranking the gifts of the Spirit, Paul gives an example by comparing each member of the church to members of a body. A group of believers, according to Paul, is greater than the sum of its parts: a new mathematical equation defying the norm. We are a group of different parts assembled by God to represent Christ to the greater community. On the surface, we might appear to be a loose collection of people united by geography. It reminds me of a movie I saw this weekend, “The Replacements,” which took place during the football strike in the 1980s. A coach put together a “rag tag” team of players who were “has beens” and they went on to win a championship.

We all come to the same church every Sunday because it is close to our homes, or because we like the choir, or the minister does not usually give long sermons, or the food is delicious at Coffee Hour. We selectively get involved in Presbyterian Women, or Youth Group, or teach Sunday school, or work with the children in some way. Maybe you rake leaves, or trim trees, or decorate the church, or help with the annual cleaning of the facilities. You get involved as much or as little as you like.

When the church no longer seems to meet our needs, we disagree with the statements the elders, deacons or pastor has made and stop attending, withdraw financial support, or transfer to another church. Simply put, detach from the body and join another that is perceived to be a good or better fit. Sometimes folks feel that they do not quite fit in and are unwanted or rejected, like a body rejecting a transplant, they feel cut off from the rest of the group.

Church membership is different from a book club or gym membership. We do not just “show up” to have our needs met. Church membership is not like a loyalty card at Fry’s or Safeway. We do not join to receive frequent worship blessings. We are not stockholders whose time of service and financial investment necessarily give us a say in setting the direction of the church’s future.

Paul is demanding a deeper commitment from each of us. Our connection to one another in Christ is much more than to a grocery store or social club. We are eyes, ears, feet and hands, parts of the body of Christ, dependent upon each other. We function best when we realize that despite our differences, we all need to work together toward the same goal.

Paul had no idea what modern scientists would do to regenerate body parts but his idea still works today. Each of our individual gifts is necessary to fulfill the work of the whole body. Some of us are talkers, others thinkers. Some are planners and others are doers. Some of us find energy by reaching out to the poor and needy or ministering to the youth by teaching Sunday school or helping with Youth Group. Some are excited about the music that draws people here on Sunday morning or are inspired by the preached Word of God and how it can apply to their own lives. Some get excited by calling and visiting shut-ins or those outside of our walls to extend Christ’s love. God has assembled us into the body just the way God wants, to enable us to work together to serve Christ in all that we do.

Our Christian DNA makes us one (Different but Same). We have different gifts that come from the same Holy Spirit uniting us into one body. Our cells come together as the church and we are more than our individual selves. We are collectively part of a glorious organism that serves as Christ’s representative to the world. We may be shaped differently, but we are made up of the same stuff, created in the image of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and strengthened and renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Each of us needs to accept our role, celebrate others whose roles are different from ours, and work for the common good of our calling in the Holy Spirit of God. Rejoice in our differences and remember the gift of the Holy Spirit living in us. Let us vow to work together to share the love of Jesus with our community and beyond.


Categories: Weekly Sermon