Category Archives: Church Life

a letter


October 30, 2012

Dear Friends,

Six years ago you and God called me to serve as one of your pastors. I came with joy and excitement about the work God called me here to do with you and this journey we would travel together. During these years we have we worshipped, worked, played, and learned together. We have seen God at work. It has been an exciting six years with many highs and lows, loves and losses: we have served God and our neighbors, we have built community, we have shared our lives. Now it is time for God to do a new thing, and so with many mixed emotions I write to tell you that I have accepted a call to serve as Pastor/Head of Staff at the Presbyterian Church of Palatine.

Our youth and children’s ministries are in capable hands with fantastic volunteers, though they may need more help from you in coming weeks and months as they transition to a new model of leadership. The Youth Vision Team will be asking for your input and help as they seek a sustainable and intergenerational approach to congregational youth ministry. And of course our worship, fellowship, and mission ministries will go on as strong as ever, thanks to a good pastor, faithful staff and incredible volunteers. I am so lucky (and yes, that’s the word, in addition to blessed, grateful, privileged, happy!) to have served with so many wonderful people here. I know they will continue to lead you into the wonderful future to which God is calling RCLPC.

My last Sunday with you will be December 16th. This will give us time to plan the transition, to say goodbyes, to celebrate all we have done together. After that time, our pastoral relationship will end (and you’ll hear more about what that means as the time nears), though I will of course hold you all in my heart and in my prayers, and hope you will do the same for me.

I am grateful for the time God has given us together. For so many reasons, you will always hold a special place in my heart! You have provided opportunities for growth and learning beyond measure. I am confident that God is not done with either of us, and the new thing God is doing is sure to be as awesome as the past. May our ears and hearts be open to hear and follow that call.

It has been a privilege to be among you as pastor, friend, and colleague. Thank you for six great years!



strange post-modern mime to top off a carboniferous day!


Friday was, of course, the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. It’s also the Merchant City Festival in Glasgow, so we saw some pretty interesting things today!

But first we headed over to the Kelvingrove Museum…it’s an eclectic collection that had something interesting for each of us. And there’s an organ recital each day on the 100 year old organ in the great hall. The recital begins with the tune inspired by the place–Kelvingrove–which many of you might know better as the tune for “Will You Come And Follow Me.” The organ has not been “upgraded” to an electric system, it’s still as it was originally built (including the pre-sets for the stops, built in in 1900!), which is awesome. It’s quite the instrument. After the great 30 minute recital (which today was Olympic-themed, complete with Chariots of Fire!), the organist led a tour of the instrument, including showing how the organ works and a chance to see the pipes and blowers behind the beautiful case! One of the coolest things about the recital was the screens that showed the organist’s feet and hands, so you could watch him play. Awesome.

Afterwards, several of us went over to the Fossil Grove, the oldest thing you can see in Glasgow. There are trees that have been standing in the same place for more than 350 million years! Well, “standing”….they were there when Scotland was part of Pangea, and was equatorial (aka tropical!). They were obviously enormous…and when they died, the insides were filled in with mud and silt that became sandstone, and the bark eventually turned to coal, and the grove was discovered in 1887 while quarrying stone for roads and parks. Rather than move the fossils, they simply built a shelter over them so you can see them in-situ, which is awesome. So, when asked how our afternoon was, the answer is “Carboniferous!”

On the way back we found ourselves in George Square, outside the hotel, watching The Big Man Walking. It’s an enormous blue puppet. It’s quite bizarre, and the people around were strangely miming different actions and conversation with the puppet. Apparently later the Big Man actually “walked” through the city to another location. Strange. We missed that because we went to dinner, which was also delicious!

Tomorrow morning we head to Iona. We won’t have regular internet access there, so you’ll have to wait for blog posts until we get home. Until then, enjoy your week!

organist playing at Kelvingrove–and on the screens at the bottom you can see his feet (on the left) and hands (on the right).

the program for today’s organ recital


fossils of scale trees, a distant (and extremely large) relative of clubmoss, in-situ where they were found.

Big Man Walking


food in Scotland


So…before we came, everyone was worried about the food. The stereotype of british food is bland and overcooked, tasteless, mediocre, and heavy on the carbs and weird stuff like mint peas and haggis. Add in that the trip leader is a vegetarian, and you have a recipe for food being near the top of the list of concerns nearly everyone had before arriving!

Well, never fear–because when you travel with Teri, there will always be good food.

Our food experience has been a pleasant surprise to everyone (sometimes even to the fearless planner!), in part because every single restaurant on the itinerary was a recommendation from one of Teri or John’s friends. We’ve focused on either local classics or places that use local produce, and several of our restaurants have been part of the slow-food movement. Everything’s fresh made and most of it is full of delicious things like Scottish cheese or beef, locally grown greens and tomatoes, and fabulous homemade breads and soups. We’ve enjoyed ourselves at the Elephant House (for the ambience, not the food–it’s a place many writers have been known to work on their latest projects, including JK Rowling), at an Indian restaurant run by a mosque (for some of us, it was our first experience of Indian food!), at a Scottish comfort food restaurant (sausage and mash! fish and chips! steak and ale pie!), at neighborhood restaurants a bit off the beaten tourist-path, a local fish-and-chip favorite, and even a vegetarian restaurant (where we joined the clean plate club, and even Steve was saying it was his favorite meal of the week!). We’ve experienced some new things–deep fried haggis bites, curried parsnip soup, steak-and-kidney sausage, nut-loaf (instead of meatloaf). We’ve enjoyed the Scottish twist on old favorites–12 flavors of mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese made with local cheddar and onions, Scottish beef burgers with brie and pineapple. And we’ve discovered the reality behind the traditional full cooked Scottish breakfast–1600 calories.

Of course, no trip is complete without some incredible sweets….whether it comes in the form of brownies with both chocolate sauce and ice cream, or belgian waffles smothered in nutella, or the traditional cranachan, or one of the oldest ice cream shops we’ve been in (in the same location over 100 years!), there’s always something for the sweet tooth too.

So the moral of the story is: don’t be afraid–try the food, it’s delicious! 🙂

(I’ll be updating this post with photos of our various food experiences if we get some of our tech challenges worked out before we leave for Iona…)

the clean plate club–at the VEGETARIAN restaurant!

scottish comfort food–sausages and mash, fish and chips…they can’t even look away from the food long enough for a picture, it’s so delicious.

what does a vegetarian eat at a scottish comfort food restaurant? a cheesy mushroom wellington in delicious flaky pastry, on top of mushroom-and-garlic mashed potatoes. oh yeah.



having so much fun, I forgot to blog!


Apologies for not getting a blog post up the last couple of days–our fun has extended into the evening and I’ve fallen asleep without getting the blog written and pictures uploaded!

So, let’s see…where did we leave off?

Monday we visited Saint Andrews, with its beautiful picturesque ruins of castle and cathedral. Of course it was drizzling too, so it was quite the right atmosphere for wandering medieval ruins! Saint Andrews is important for many reasons–among them, it was the site of John Knox’s original joining up with the beginnings of the early scottish protestant movement (and George Wishart, who was burned at the stake here), and where he was captured from the siege of the castle and taken away to be a galley slave for some time. It’s also the site of the high kirk of Scotland, the cathedral, for many years–some call it the seat of the Scottish church.

in the castle courtyard


checking out the old entrance tower

standing in front of the high altar at St. Andrews Cathedral

Tuesday we visited Stirling, including climbing up the 246 stairs of the William Wallace Monument, which is already on top of a steep hill, so it was a workout–all before lunch! We learned a bunch about the Scottish Wars of Independence (in the 12-1300s). After lunch (soup and sandwiches for most of us…or two kinds of soup, no sandwich, for Teri! You all knew I was indecisive, right? heehee) we walked up yet another steep steep hill toward Stirling Castle. They aren’t kidding when they say it’s the most defensible fortress around. On the way up we stopped at the Church of the Holy Rude, which is so far everyone’s favorite church building. Not only does it still have its original medieval timber roof, and not only was the organist practicing while we were there (which definitely adds to the atmosphere), and not only is there a ton of information AND volunteer church members to ask questions of, but it’s also the only standing church in Scotland that has been the site of a coronation. That’s right–James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England), son of Mary Queen of Scots, was crowned king of Scotland in this very church when he was 13 months old. It was the first Protestant coronation ceremony, and the preacher was none other than John Knox! It was quite a place. When we’d poked around the church a bit, it was off to the castle. We didn’t have anywhere near as much time as we’d hoped (we spent a long time at the Wallace Monument in the morning and early afternoon), but we still caught a guided tour and had some time to run around enjoying the view and the beautifully restored parts of the castle–so you can see what it would have looked like during the time of the Stewart Kings/Queens who so loved the place. You can see why–it’s awesome.

at the top of the Wallace Monument (246 steps and a hill), with Stirling Castle tiny in the background

looking out at the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, from the Wallace Monument



Church of the Holy Rude, Stirling


entering Stirling Castle

Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle


Wednesday morning we went to an early morning communion service at St. Giles Cathedral, then spent some time chatting with the Associate Pastor there. She told us more about the church building, about its history, and some about the congregation today. After a cup of tea, we walked down the Royal Mile to the Scottish Parliament, where we met with Kez Dugdale, a member of the Parliament for the Labour Party. She and her assistant Greg spent–are you ready?–TWO HOURS talking with us and giving us a private tour of the Parliament building. It was awesome. We learned so much about Scottish politics and society, about how the parliament works and what they can do, and all kinds of other things. It was one of the highlights of our trip so far to chat with Kez and Greg, and we are super grateful to Teri/John’s friend Ewan Aitken (a member of the Iona Community!) for setting that up for us.

at St. Giles, chatting with one of the pastors

it’s early morning at St. Giles…

chatting with Kez and Greg

the end of our tour


We took the opportunity for a free afternoon in Edinburgh–some wanted to visit the museum, others do some shopping, and a few of us even climbed Arthur’s Seat (the highest point in Edinburgh, an extinct volcano, with incredible views–especially on such a sunny day!). Teri even got a sunburn (which will surprise no one, of course). Then it was off to the train station to head to Glasgow for a couple of days. We’ll be here seeing the sights and learning more about Scotland…and then it’s off to Iona on Saturday!

from the top of Arthur’s Seat, looking down at Edinburgh Castle

for the Doctor Who fans among us…



10 reasons to go to church


(I came across this last week while doing some research…things to think about, and to share!)

10. Coming to church doesn’t mean you have no doubts about God or faith or religion. It means you have a place you can share with people who have their own doubts.

9.            Bad stuff is going to happen in your life. It just is. A church community cannot be everything to everyone in times of crisis, but when the bottom falls out of your world, it’s great to have a community to lift you back up.

8.            Bad stuff is going to happen in your life, part two. The time to build a relationship with God is not when life turns ugly, and you’ve run out of all other options. Attending worship regularly helps build a relationship with God and others that will give you a solid foundation when the winds blow and storms come.

7.            Not all churches are anti-something. Most of us are for people, for acceptance, for hospitality. Really, we’re out there. We just don’t get the good press.

6.            Any church worth its salt has really good food on a regular basis.

5.            churches offer paint-by-number opportunities to serve. Many people would like to help the poor, the hungry and the homeless, but they don’t know how to get involved, how to make the time to be involved, or what they can do to really make a difference. Churches offer you ways to plug in to help those who need it most.

4.            You’ve got a gift. Probably two or 10 of them. Becoming involved in the ministry of a church will help you discover and use gifts you never even knew you had.

3.            Not all churches are after your money. Good churches want you to have a healthy relationship with money. Sure, churches need to pay the electric bill and the pastor and the youth director, but money and the church is more about you than it is about the church. It’s about your own relationship with money. World events have proven that it’s much better to put faith in God than in a bank account. Church can help you with that.

2.            Taking a break from our hectic lives to come to church is accepting the gift of Sabbath. Wayne Mueller says “(Sabbath) dissolves the artificial urgency of our days, because it liberates us from the need to be finished.” We don’t take Sabbath and come to worship because we have time and have finished up everything that needs to be done. We take Sabbath because it is a time to stop, and we are designed to stop, rest and reflect. Those who don’t are destined to crash and burn.

1.            Jesus is really cool. Even if you don’t know if you can believe in the whole Son-of-God thing, even if you refer to the resurrection as the Zombie Jesus event and even though those of us already in church often do a lousy job of following him, come to church to get to know Jesus. The more you get to know him the more you’ll understand why people call his way The Way.

-Rev. Anne Russ


Why do you go to church? Add your reasons in the comments! And maybe take the opportunity to share the good news of RCLPC with someone this week!