Note: Included in these amounts are apportioned costs for personnel, administration, and property.
At Paoli Presbyterian Church, God has called us to End Relational Poverty: to invite all men, women and children to life-changing relationships with God through Jesus Christ and to connect in authentic relationships with one another.
Achieving this vision costs us approximately $1,065,000 per year, all made possible through the generous giving of our membership. We want to continue growing all areas of ministry, allowing more and more people the opportunity to Pull Up a Chair to Jesus’ table.
To do that, and to account for others being unable to continue giving, we ask that each member and family please consider a 5% increase to your estimated giving for 2020. Your increased giving will allow continued growth of vital ministries of worship, discipleship, and mission for the year to come.
(Estimates of giving are based on the calendar year of 2020.)
My family and I recently started attending Paoli Presbyterian Church. We had attended several community-related events that Paoli has held over the years and we were always left feeling very touched and inspired by these events.
Over the summer, we felt that we were being drawn to the church so we decided to attend a few services to see if it was a good fit for our family. We were blown away by how genuine the welcome was from the church and how moved we were from the messages during the service. So many people reached out to us, answered our questions, and genuinely hoped we would find a church that was a good fit for our family. We also were feeling drawn towards serving others and were so impressed with all of the opportunities there are to serve at Paoli.
Our children had the same experience with their Sunday school teachers and classmates. They immediately felt connected and comfortable in their classes and now they thoroughly look forward to Sunday school, children’s time during the service, as well as time with Ms. Felicia in the children’s choir. As parents, we simply loved how Paoli ends the children’s time message and the smiles our children had when they first heard the words, “You’re beautiful. God loves you and we love you too.” I cannot find the right words for how excited and touched we are that our children are excited to go to church each Sunday and to attend church events.
We wanted to find a church where each member of our family could grow in their faith, feel connected, and begin serving others like Jesus wants us to. At Paoli, we are each getting just that.
For forty years, I free-soloed. Cumulative existential threats (parental passings, job insecurity, an autistic son’s stressers, careless drinking, a calamitous health issue, an emotionally distant adult life spent crafting oh-so-precious rationales that God is an abstraction) had pried nearly all my fingers off the ledge.
But at a 505 service, God dispatched an emotional wave that Paul would appreciate. It said, “Let Go. I Am. Be Still.” An invitation delivered, but in truth, I just misplaced the original, the one nailed to a cross. Yet still, even now, a place, an empty seat, my seat, awaited, with Jesus holding the back of the chair.
The way I came to faith as a child is a perfect example of the Reformed theological idea that God finds us, we don't find Him. God found me amid a crisis in my family life when I was 8. My mother gathered up my sister and me and fled from Ohio to seek shelter with my Grandad in Pittsburgh. I never had been to church. But Grandad popped me into his church: Second United Presbyterian. There, I met loving disciples of Jesus who taught me not only that God loved me, but that they did, too. I don't recall an "ah ha" moment. God, over time, simply steeped me in the faith like tea in a warm cup. I thank God for that church, and for a faithful grandfather, and I praise God that I get to continue that path of faith through Paoli Presbyterian Church.
If it was Sunday morning, we went to church - No Exceptions. Growing up it was Sunday school, church, then youth group. It was my routine, my habit. I got married, had kids, joined Paoli, and the habit remained the same - if it was Sunday, we went to church.
At age 38, I joined a smaller group which started meeting on Sundays, then Wednesdays at church. After that, we continued gathering at our house for Bible study for more than 20 years. God became more of a choice and less of a habit. The folks with whom I met weekly were accepting, encouraging, and somehow made me see that my relationship with God was more than just a Sunday morning thing.
A couple of interesting things about that group: We met for more than 30 years altogether. They never once made me feel like my faith wasn’t up to snuff or that I was wrong for questioning. And, they were all teenagers!
God invites us using many methods, including a bunch of high school kids.
I’ve always been pretty strong in my faith: going to church every Sunday with my family since I was little, participating in Sunday school, and then youth group, and many other events on top of that. I found church to be a warm, comfortable place where I could be myself without any judgement. From coloring in the pews to really understanding the deep meaning behind each week’s sermon, I have seen my faith continue to flourish.
However, my faith really took flight on the day my family walked through the doors of Paoli Presbyterian Church. I instantly felt a positive, welcoming energy, and immediately knew that this was my new church family. I have made so many new friends with people who love Jesus and those around them so deeply. The members of Paoli show this unconditional love day in and day out, which is so inspiring to me. Because of this - because of the amazing, uplifting community that Paoli is - I have claimed this to be my church family, and this church to be “my place” - exactly where God wants me to be.
I recently heard someone say that, according to Jesus, sin occurs most frequently not in the places where people are weak and trying; but rather where people are strong and not bothering. Think about the Good Samaritan - the Levities were strong; but they didn’t bother.
In my early adult life, there was a time when I stepped away from the table. Not because I lost faith, but because I wasn’t ready for what I thought being at the table would require of me. I thought I had to be there 52 Sundays a year, give 10%, sit on 3 committees, teach Sunday School, and never miss a men’s breakfast.
What I’ve learned and teach my children is that it’s not about being the prefect Presbyterian (no one is). It’s about trying to live in the ways Jesus called us to live; to bother to do the best you can when you can.
One snowy afternoon in 2010, at the quiet apartment of my future husband, I spotted a copy of the Bible that I had seen there many times. Tom had gone to an all-day seminar, so I had planned to spend the day reading a book from the library. But as luck (or God) would have it, I never did. Instead, I opened Tom’s well-worn Bible and began reading the Book of Matthew.
For perspective, Tom was a lifelong Christian and had grown up in the church. I was not and knew little about the church. I read for hours and was grateful when Tom later offered to lend me his Bible.
In the following months, I began attending church, prayed, and felt the presence of God for the first time. I gave my life to Jesus and sat down at His table, feeling so thankful and blessed that I had finally arrived.
My first time worshiping at Paoli was in the spring of 2014. I was getting ready to graduate from college, unsure of my future. I wanted to stay in the area after graduation, and finding a church home was a priority for me. While I was in college, I spent my Sundays "church hopping" with a group of friends. I loved experiencing how other churches worship, but what I was missing was relationship with Jesus and relationship with others.
When I attended the 505 service for the first time, I remember re-dedicating my life to Jesus at the end of the service. I felt Jesus' presence and I wanted a deeper relationship with him. The loneliness and heartache I was feeling at the time, was filled with hope. As everyone gathered after the service to mingle and eat delicious pizza, I remember telling someone that I wanted to come back. Thrilled, they also invited me for coffee. It was in that moment I knew this is where I belonged.
Paoli Presbyterian Church is my family, and as I reflect on the past five years, through ups and downs, successes and failures, the people at Paoli stood by my side with outstretched arms. My relationship with Jesus deepened and I made lasting friendships with those around me. I am blessed to be part of this community. I see Jesus in everyone I interact with and events I attend. It is a "come as you are" community. We don't need to have it all together for Jesus or anyone to love and accept us; We are loved and accepted for who we are.
I have always been “churched” but my trip to the table of Jesus has been gradual, with help along the way from pastors, books, the Paoli 113 Bible Study Group, our Paoli K Group, other friends, and my wonderful wife. I think my greatest lesson is realizing that we are all “a work in progress,” learning and growing as we go, and that a seat at the table of Jesus is not a destination, it is a journey. Sometimes we need help along the way and sometimes we help others along their way. Am I there yet, have I arrived? Well, I’m still on that path, the path without end, but I have a chair.