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Sunday, 4/30/2017

125th anniversary of Grace Presbyterian Church

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Moses is speaking to the people of Israel.  He calls them to remember the Lord.  In addition to this he instructs them to tell their children.  They are to talk about what the Lord has done both when they are at home and when they are away.  Today we mark the official observance of the 125th anniversary of Grace Presbyterian Church.  There has been much to tell and much for which we need to thank the Lord
In 1981 Grace Church called the Rev. Paul Leggett to be its next pastor.  Rev. Leggett had grown up in Grace.  His grandmother had been the church secretary.  Previously he had served the Presbyterian Church as a missionary to Latin America.  He had spent four years on the faculty of the Latin American Biblical Seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica.  The following year the church chose Dr. Donald Du Laney as its music director.  Paul and Donald have  served together in Grace Church for thirty-five years.
Over this time the church went through many changes.  Women were ordained as elders for the first time. The church became more diverse both racially and culturally.  The Presbyterian Church USA officially recognized Grace as a multi-ethnic church. One example of this is the annual Gospel Music service every spring.  Grace, which had been strongly involved in the Billy Graham Crusade in New York City in 1957, was active in the Graham Crusades in Northern New Jersey (1992) and Flushing Meadow Park in New York (2005).  Rev. Leggett served as the Chair of the Ministers Committee for the North Jersey Crusade.
As the 21st century began Grace’s emphases on Bible study, youth and missions were still apparent.  In this new context the church’s Bible studies. in addition to several live classes, also became available on line on the church’s web site.  Grace became more involved in local missions such as MESH (Montclair Emergency Needs for the Homeless), Inter-faith Homeless Network and the Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army gave Grace Church a special plaque in 2015 thanking the church for its support. Members of the church have increasingly participated in foreign mission projects, most notably in Pisco, Peru following a devastating earth quake.
As we observe this anniversary we face new challenges.   We live in  a culture where Time magazine, following up their famous “Is God Dead?” cover a generation ago, recently came out with a similar cover, this time with the question, “Is Truth Dead?” We are a part of a great heritage which for 125 years has proclaimed Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14:6). We need to praise God for the many associate pastors who have played key roles in the life of the church – Tom Teply,  Ralph Dailey, Robert Bell, James Hicks, Randall Young, Lori Kallgren, Brandi Wolf Drake, Rachel Brown and, at present, Margo Walter.  The music ministry has been a vital part of Grace’s life and over the years it has been led by Clifford Scherer, Virginia Marion, William R. McClellan, Audrey Turner Wells, David Higgs and Robert Coursen.  It would be impossible to list the hundreds of faithful members who over the past century and a quarter have given of themselves in the service of Jesus Christ in Grace Presbyterian Church.  To God be the glory!
Loving and gracious God and Savior I thank you for the past 125 years of ministry in Grace Church.  Remind me that I as a member of your church have been the recipient of the witness of a great cloud of witnesses who worked and sacrificed to bring the gospel to me.  Give me the grace to share in that tradition.  I praise you Lord in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.