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Message On a Bottle

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Summer in St. Louis is not for the faint of heart when it comes to heat and humidity. It can actually be down right dangerous if you are not careful. Well, I happen to be one of those crazy-types who love the heat and humidity. Don’t get me wrong; air conditioning is a modern-day convenience that I take extreme advantage of throughout the summer. But I love to be out in the heat.

For those of you who know me, you are likely also aware that I love to run in Forest Park. Since moving to St. Louis from Chicago in the late ‘90s (don’t worry, I am NOT a Cubs fan), I have run the Forest Park loop relentlessly. The park is truly a crown jewel of our region, and even after nearly 20 years of running it, I have yet to lose a sense of awe for its historic beauty. Whether it be a snow-covered morning in January or a sultry summer afternoon in July, the grandeur of the park captivates me on every run.

I love the heat, and I love to run. And I love to run in the heat. Take a journey back in time with me to the early summer of 2006. My wife Debbie and I had been married about two years, and we lived in a condo in the DeBaliviere Place neighborhood just north of the park. On one particular steamy afternoon, I decided to go out for a run in the park. It was a classic humid afternoon in St. Louis, and toward the end of the run I was really feeling it. A water fountain could not come soon enough. And just as that thought ran through my head, I turned a bend on the trail and saw a group of people ahead handing out water to runners passing by. This is not uncommon in the park. Many running stores and running groups have water stations set up during the summer. As I approached the group, they looked a little bit like the mirage seen from a cartoon…slightly blurry due to the heat but oh so welcoming a sight! I was curious to know who they might be this time; some of the stores handed out Gatorade and I was selfishly hoping for that. An ice cold Gatorade sounded absolutely amazing. The group had about seven or eight people handing out drinks, which was a little unusual. But they were a joyful bunch, smiling and offering encouragement and greetings to the runners as they came through. When I got to them, they handed me a bottle of water. Rats! No Gatorade. But water would certainly do the trick. I exchanged a few niceties with the group, and went on down the trail toward home…and the air conditioning.

After finishing the water, I was about to throw the bottle into a nearby trash can when I noticed an advertisement on it. Trio? Huh. What’s that? I read a little bit more, and realized that it was an advertisement for a local church. I felt a little tiny tug of the Holy Spirit in me as I read it. You see, Debbie and I had been searching for a church to call home for the entirety of our two years of marriage at that point in time. We were both believers then, and our marriage was generally healthy. But we were thirsty for a church family, and we both knew that the lack of church community was becoming a challenge for our newly married lives together. I took the water bottle home and showed Debbie. We looked up the church online. The following Sunday, we attended our very first worship service at Trio, the 5 pm service of Central Presbyterian Church.

Ten years later in 2016, and it is impossible to imagine life without that providential encounter in Forest Park. To say that Central has changed our lives for the better would be a dramatic understatement. I could write pages upon pages of the myriad ways in which the Lord has used Central to grow our faith, to equip us for ministry, and to provide us with a community that we were in such desperate need of.  Our three wonderful children have been baptized here; two of them now attend Central Christian School. At a very young age, they already have a deep knowledge of who Jesus is and what that means in their lives. Six years after becoming members, I became a staff member of Central. I’m taking classes at Covenant Theological Seminary in response to a sense of call to ordained ministry. Life without Central is impossible to imagine.

Friends, Debbie and I might never have encountered the beauty of Central were it not for a few faithful people that were out in Forest Park on that summer afternoon. They were there trying to reach people like Debbie and me, people searching for more in life and in need of the type of community that is found here in this place. We were people searching for the gospel, and we found it at Central because someone was out there to make it known.

There are spiritually thirsty people all around us, waiting for a proverbial cold bottle of water in Jesus’ name. As Easter approaches, I wonder what we might do to invite them here. Is there a friend or neighbor in your life that could be spiritually thirsty? Invite them to Central this Easter. You never know what the Lord might do as you offer them a cold bottle of water, in Jesus’ name.

An Amazing View

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Mesmerizing. That is how I would describe it. Clinking glass. Mechanical harmony. Vintage precision. The potion goes in. A cap inexplicably finds its way tightly atop the glass sculpture. A banner is wrapped around it, artfully proclaiming the goodness inside. As I found myself pressing up against the window, I am not sure who was more entranced – my 6- and 4-year-old children or me. We sat down at our table with mom and baby brother, gleefully sipping on our bottomless glass of Fitz’s root beer.

If you have been to Fitz’s in the Loop, you know this experience quite well. At the back of the restaurant, children from ages 1 through 99 line up to watch the bottle works at work.  It is truly a sight to behold and marvel over. When I pick up a 4-pack of Fitz’s ginger ale or root beer from the local grocer, I never see it the same having watched the production in living color.

In my role at Central, I get a similar view of our ministry “bottle works.” As your Executive Administrator, I get to see first hand on a daily basis all that goes in to the amazing work of our Heavenly Father in and through Central. Every Thursday morning, I get an up close and personal look in a very unique way. That is the day of the week when I review checks going out to make ministry happen. Like every bottle rolling through Fitz’s mechanical wonderland, I get to see how the money that you give to Central is making a huge difference.

This past month, for example, I had the privilege of reviewing our quarterly payments to myriad missionaries and mission agencies around the world. For the fourth time this year, we sent more than $125,000 out to make the gospel known. Representing more than half a million dollars annually, this money is touching lives from France to the Philipines, from Honduras to Hungary, from India to Argentina. More than 50 missionaries worldwide receive support from Central’s annual operating budget. Over 25 local mission agencies receive support as well. We make significant contributions to ministries like Thrive and their ministry to the unborn; Promise Academy and their ministry to the disabled; Mission Gate and their work to restore recently released men and women from jail; Sunshine Ministries, Urban K-Life and so many more. Nationally, we support the Gideons, Emmaus, Lay Renewal and others. As I watch this money go out from our operating budget, I am utterly amazed at how much Central is doing to make the gospel known in so many areas near and far.

When I walk the halls of our church campus, my view is even better. One of my favorite “windows” is our kitchen. Julie Kraus and her band of merry-makers are seemingly always there preparing the next big meal for the next big event. I can barely throw together a bowl of cereal for myself – seriously - so to watch this team do what they do on such a large scale is mind-boggling. Many of you have volunteered with Julie and you see this first-hand. With just a little more than $50,000 from the operating budget each year, Julie is continuously turning water into wine and helping us all to maintain our winter warming weight. It is an inspiring and fruitful ministry.

The other night I needed to find a quiet corner in the church to finish a few bits of paperwork. I sat down outside of the sanctuary and began to type away on my laptop. Yes, I always have my laptop. It’s kind of like a security blanket for me. And just as I did a heavenly chorus quietly and magnetically filled the lobby with the most beautiful sounds. Have you heard our choir recently under the direction of Matt Mazzoni? Truly beautiful, and it is art that stirs the heart of even this task-oriented administrator to places of wonder and awe. Our budget keeps the choir outfitted with the technology and materials needed to help us worship well together.

And then there is that magical wing of our building just through the choir room to the south. I love walking through our nursery and early childhood wing, especially on a Sunday morning. Our children, from the earliest ages, are being fed the word of God from teachers who really care and from curriculum that engages the hearts and minds of these little ones. My family and I were members of Central for a number of years before I joined the staff, and our children have experienced the blessing of this side of Central’s ministry since they were in diapers. I never cease to tear up at home when one of them just randomly rings out a memory verse that they’ve learned. How beautiful and formative is it that our children are having the word of God built into their hearts at these early ages? Whatever we are paying our nursery workers and teachers, it is not nearly enough. Not to mention so many of the faithful and talented volunteers! Speaking from firsthand experience, this is truly one of the most special facets of Central’s ministry.

Two of my children are now school-age, and they both attend Central Christian School – our school – across the street. I cannot speak well enough about the wonderful things that God is doing at our school. I have the pleasure of dropping my kids off each morning, and as I walk out the doors I daily find myself giving thanks and praise to God for all that He is doing in that school. Our children are growing up with a biblical world view, and in an academically excellent way. These young ones will undoubtedly be a force for the gospel in the world no matter where God calls them because of how they are being equipped now. In St. Louis, we like to ask each other where you went to high school because it is a sign of so many things. It is the wrong question, friends. The right question is where did you go to elementary school! That is where our children begin to build on the firm foundation that is theirs in Jesus. Did you know hat Central contributes nearly $300,000 every year to our school in the form of cash, staff resources, and building maintenance? Did you know that the building belongs to the church, and creates a rent and debt free environment that allows us to keep tuition affordable? The root beer that comes out of this machine is some of the finest we make.

In the same way that I could stand in front of Fitz’s window for hours, I could write so much more about what I get to see here through the proverbial “windows” at Central. We have a team of talented and committed staff that pour their hearts and souls into serving you and the broader church. Our student ministry is growing and flourishing in its new building. We are investing in better audio for the sanctuary, website improvements, and new ways to communicate. Evangelism is an area where we are making new investments to be more intentional about making known the gospel to those in our nearby community. We are doing new things to make Central a more welcoming church. We have a new ministry to widows. The list could literally go on and on.

Friends, my view of what you make possible at Central is truly amazing. I see it daily, in living color. Be encouraged. Your generosity to Central has a profound, daily impact for the gospel.

Posted by Tim Page

A New Chapter

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We are about to begin a new chapter at Central Presbyterian Church. In a matter of days, our new parking garage and student center will be open for use, and this provides new potential to be a powerful blessing to our current congregation and to the community around us. Just as the best hammer in the world is only as effective as the craftsman who wields it, the extent of the blessing hinges in large part on how we as a congregation choose to use the new facilities.  In an effort to steward these resources for maximum benefit, we are honing our philosophy and policies which will guide the use of the new facilities.

The Parking Garage: Sundays vs. Weekdays

For the first time in our history on this property, we will have a place to park that is "on campus." The garage provides nearly 100 parking spaces. As a result, we need to be smart about how we utilize the garage for our different events. Generally speaking, there are two distinct scenarios: 1) Sunday morning, and 2) Weekdays.

Sunday Mornings are a special time at Central. Our campus is teeming with activity as we worship the Lord together, attend classes together, care for children of all ages, and enjoy times of fellowship together. This makes it critical for us to think strategically about parking on Sunday mornings. The new garage doesn't replace any of our existing options (outlined below), but rather supplements them. These options allow us to think “missionally” about how to use the new parking garage. The temptation will be for all of us to flock to the new garage because it is so convenient (and nice looking!). But that would be an opportunity missed.

In order to make Sunday morning as accessible to those who need it most, the new parking garage will be prioritized in the following manner:

    1. Guests: How many times have you invited someone to Central, only to have them frustrated by the parking situation? The new garage gives us a new way to improve our guest experience, and to make the Gospel more accessible to the world around us.
    2. Disabled and Elderly (age 70+): The new garage provides safe and easy access to this important segment of our congregation. 
    3. Families with Young Children (5th grade and younger): Parents with young children will have a much safer way to get their families into the church.

If one of the above 3 categories does not describe you, we ask that you NOT use the garage on Sunday mornings. 

This is ok, because we can still have all of our traditional Sunday parking options:

    • Along Hanley Rd. in the designated areas near Central
    • In the Central Christian School garage
    • In the parking lot behind th sold Layton's (7930 Clayton Rd.)
    • In the old Schnuck's lot at the corner of Hanley and Clayton
    • In the Davis Place neighborhood between the hours of 8am and 1pm

Weekdays are a completely different dynamic. The new parking garage will be able to serve the needs of just about every program we have at Central. Come and experience the convenience and beauty of the new garage anytime between Sundays, without restriction. This is also the case for Sunday evenings and Saturdays.