To echo the words of the Westminster Confession, the purpose of humanity is to worship God and enjoy Him forever. The truth is breathtakingly revealed on the night the angels greet the shepherds with news the Messiah is born. Since my announced retirement, people have several times asked what has brought me the most reward or satisfaction during 40 years of ministry. I do not answer the question lightly, but reflecting on the Judean shepherds, what I have treasured the most, have been the times of just being with God and knowing Christ close, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes gathered in a group, like shepherds, God chooses to visit a Christian Community, and in a miraculous way one glimpses eternity and realizes how Holy and close Jesus is. At other times in the struggles of prayer, God is so close, indescribably close. In the mundane world of “doing church” or even in the habitual movements of spiritual disciplines, God breaks in, and once again there is the jaw dropping experience that Jesus Christ is who he says he is. I have sometimes wondered if the shepherds went flat on their faces before the angels, and how the angel’s announcement thundered through their souls, and how did they drink it all in?
In a couple of recent sermons, I have mentioned the times of ministry when as a pastor you feel at wit’s end: being exhausted on a Sunday morning, dreading a tense business meeting, anxious over another difficult conversation. Yet, I have occasionally in desperation prayed, “Jesus it will be all right if you just show up.” And more times than not, Jesus has. I see a fractured, hate filled, self-worshiping world, and too many times the Body of Christ mimics a secular society, and our aspiration for a timeless Spirit molded church are discouraged and eroded by headwinds blowing from 360 degrees. But Jesus arrives. The human condition remains the same, the propensity in C.S. Lewis’ words “to be bent.” But in cold and darkness, angels speak to the almost least of these, who raise lambs to be sacrificed. I wonder if the shepherds rejoiced as out of the night they saw the glory of God, and they knew everything was going to be o.k. The joy of knowing everything will be o.k. must have overwhelmed the shepherds.
Recently I heard a pundit say: “To be American is to be lonely.” I was struck by what is obviously and an oversimplified statement, but I cannot deny the truth it contains. How in a society so wealthy and technologically advanced, so “connected” can people experience personal and societal loneliness? Partly the reason is the problem of sin, and maybe part of the sin is that in a tribalized culture we are lonely because we have grown to hate one another. Bonhoeffer writes that we only truly see each other through the experience of the cross. Maybe the same is true about the manger. If I have not entered into the Good News from cradle to grave, if I truly believe that hope and salvation are fleeting solely human endeavors maybe hate becomes easy and hatred creates the deepest of despair, isolation,
and loneliness. But if the incarnation proves nothing else, it is hope and salvation are beyond ourselves found in the grace of God who sends the Son born of Mary and held by Joseph. And God breaks into the darkness and the message is “Glory to God in the highest.” And the response is to run breathlessly to meet Jesus.
On September 17, 2022, we held our 3rd annual Festival of Hope in Plainfield CT. It was
different than the first two. In the previous years, we organized this event, as the Ecumenical Churches in the area. This year we came together as “The Body of Christ” which was my heart’s desire from the beginning.
In August, I read an article in Reader’s Digest that helped solidify my focus for the Festival. It was about the Coast Guard’s involvement with the rescues in New York City on September 11th, 2001. The article ended with this: “In a day where his efforts had helped rescue the equivalent population of a midsize city, the sound that haunts him is that of all the people who weren’t saved.” - Lt. Michael Day, Coast Guard, The Great 9/11 Maritime Rescue
“The cry of the unsaved”, this phrase really struck my heart. It has become part of my
new mission statement, for my life, my church, and The Festival of Hope. The one focus
is: “To hear the cry of the unsaved - and respond with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ,
to encourage believers, and to Glorify the Lord”
That was our plan and our goal for this year’s Festival. We had wonderful speakers, preachers and musicians. We had ministries to present and testimonies of changed lives. The weather was perfect (thank you Father!). Through some wonderful sponsors, we were able to provide the event and food, free to the public. Well, you know when you have a Godly plan, the enemy is going to try and mess it up, and he tried! For a few weeks until 1 hour before we started, everything that could go wrong, did! BUT GOD….
I love that Scriptural phrase “but God”. The head of the Christian Council of Arts, who had struggled the week earlier to put on an outdoor concert, and I came up with the phrase “Murphy’s Blessings”- Everything that can go wrong does, BUT God will triumph and be Glorified!!!” Great is Thy Faithfulness!!!
The 3rd annual Festival of Hope turned out to be a wonderful day in the Lord. God’s Word was sent for throughout the town of Plainfield with our great sound system, lives were changed, hearts were encouraged, and our Lord was glorified.
One of the participants, captured the “Vision” when she wrote this about her
"I must confess, I have a special place in my heart for this Festival. I have been blessed to be a part of it from the beginning and I love the fact that everyone is there to honor God. It is not about what church you are from but rather, it is the Body of Christ coming together to show His love. It is not a 'church performance' driven event but a Christ-centered time. And, because I have been with it from the beginning, I see that it has not changed its focus over time.
All those who put this festival together work very hard to make it the most welcoming and
nurturing time for those who come to it. I thank Father for His hand on all the organizers. It is a definite blessing" -Toni Hurshman
“It was also my first time at the Festival of Hope and let me just say Father God was very much glorified that day. The openness and heartfelt love for God were beautiful to behold. The thing that stood out to me the most was that it didn't feel like a 'church event'; but more like a family barbecue. It was a lot of fun to rejoice in the Lord's love together with you and I look forward to next year's festival. God Bless” -Joel Deeter
We already have a date for next year’s Festival, Sept. 16, 2023 (barring RAPTURE). You
are all invited!
As we go through this year our mission statement is still the same “To hear the cry of the
unsaved - and respond with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ, to encourage believers,
and to Glorify the Lord”. Great is Thy Faithfulness!!!
Rev. Linda Foye Hirtle
One of my favorite topics is chickens. Lately I have been thinking about eggs and connecting my thoughts on eggs to the parable of the wheat and thorns. Sometimes eggs don’t hatch, and sometimes the garden is overtaken by weeds. One of the novice questions I receive from would-be chicken keepers is: “Do I have to have a rooster to get eggs?” The answer is no. But a hen setting on eggs doesn’t always hatch them all, even when there is a rooster present. Sometimes eggs get addled; something occurs to stop the egg from developing or growing. The word “addled”, when applied to the human mind, can refer to “fuzzy”, befuddled”, mixed up”, and “off base.” Reading these definitions reminds me the present writer is included in them.
A further question is: “do Christians, churches, and whole denominations get addled?”; something occurs and the development stops. Addling eggs is way to control geese populations, but there is possible federal prison time for addling an eagle’s egg! I find local church histories inspiring. They usually sound something like this: “Twelve people gathered in the parlor of the Smith farm and after a night of prayer covenanted together to give birth to the First Baptist Church. With the help of a Baptist pastor, an evangelistic Sunday morning worship was established and the new church witnessed 20 people baptized in the brook. Within the next decade, nearly 100 people gave their lives to Christ. On the celebration of the church’s 50th year, it boasted 150 people in attendance and witnessed a Sunday School of 50 children. Its generosity was known through-out the county and three other churches were established by their deacons.”
Fast forward and we ask in a post-COVID world, what’s next? How come so many eggs got addled, and sometimes my own soul is one of the eggs? Lately, I have been sitting with the book of Colossians and thinking about Paul planting churches in that particular valley and how correction from the apostle was needed so soon. In the final chapter of his letter, Paul writes. “Devote yourselves to prayer and be watchful and thankful.” Prayer, awareness, and gratitude may be what protects souls and churches from being addled. Possibly the threat of being addled increases with time. Anxieties and reactions to the present world could bring about being addled. Or, could it be, and as any historian can point out, the movements lose their original purpose and finding the future is regaining the original purpose? I wonder what it was like to sit in that kitchen or parlor and pray together by candle or lamp light.
I think this is still happening, maybe not by candle light, but sometimes subtle movements go unnoticed by those of us busily getting churches to work the way they should. How can I storm the gates of hell when I am too busy revising a set of by-laws or trying to pay for the heat? I believe the Gospel is the purpose that overshadows all others.
With self-awareness, gratitude and a healthy practice of prayer, possibly our eggs wouldn’t get addled.
In Jesus name,
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." James 4:8
In the last moments of camp this summer, I shared time with the day campers on the stage. It was one young camper’s birthday; we were celebrating with homemade chocolate cupcakes. With chocolate all over our faces, I asked one young 5-year-old boy: "Do I have chocolate on my face?" He held out HIS thumb to wipe MY face. Surprised by his gesture, I smiled and said, "Thank you, but I can get the chocolate off my own face." We laughed and I let out a deep breath. 3 summer camp seasons and no Covid at camp. Praise Elohim Shomri
Simple moments at camp are special. Campers enjoying nature in the fresh mountain air, making new friends around the campfire, relationship building activities like archery, zip line, rock wall, paddling around the crystal clear waters of Dan Hole and quiet time in Morning Watch all lead to engaging with each other and drawing deeper to God through relationship.
God doesn’t speak any louder in the outdoors, it is just easier to hear God. The stillness at Sentinel helps us hear God more clearly.
Our theme this year was “Engage” with 625 campers coming to the grounds. 1 Peter 3:15 shares important teaching: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15. Revere Christ. Equip ourselves. Remember Hope. Show gentleness. Practice respect for ourselves and others.
Thank you for standing with us in mission. Your generous mission support helps build relationships and change lives. We believe camp is for everyone, that is why we never turn a child or family away from camp for financial challenges. On Sunday September 25th we will have a special day to come together to raise funds for families in need of scholarships. For more information please visit www.campsentinel.org/hope
"Harvesting Hope" on Sunday, September 25* here at Camp Sentinel. With an optional Saturday overnight, followed by a full day of programming on Sunday, this unique experience is our way of saying "thanks" for a great summer. Programming includes: silent auction, live music, carnival activities, scavenger hunt, and more (schedule found on website). We invite our partners in ministry to join us for this unique experience as we seek to further enhance and extend the reach of the scholarship fund through donations from the event.
See you soon on the mountaintop,
Kevin Van Brunt “Pk”
Executive Director, Camp Sentinel
More About Sentinel...
We are actively planning for the 2023 camp season. The theme has been chosen, staff are being hired. Registration begins October 1st. More soon!
VOICE - Your feedback is important to us. We'd like to hear more about your camper's experience this summer. Please consider this brief survey. It's a quick and easy way to help benefit camp as we look to keep doing what we do well, and sharpen areas that need to be addressed.
Winter Camp is January 20th - 22nd. Sign ups are open.
Experience the stillness of 629 acres
Sentinel offers retreat experiences for individuals and groups up to 200 people (Spring, Summer & Fall) and up to 70 guests (Winter) in our year-round rustic lodge. The Lodge has eight guest rooms sleeping up to 70 people in bunks and twin beds. We offer lodging and homemade food options for groups of 30 or more. For more information about retreats: https://www.campsentinel.org/retreats
Wixson Ministry Retreat (open year round)
"Be Still" Did you know that Pastors (and families) may stay over at Sentinel for personal and family retreats? It is so important for our church leadership to take personal time to Be Still. Jesus teaches it and taking this time makes us stronger personally and spiritually. Sentinel is here to serve our churches! Check cabin availability through our Events Calendar. or Request More Information from our staff.
Pines Camping Area: Memorial Day Weekend until Columbus Day
The Pines offers a relaxing camping experience for individuals, families and groups on 33 beautiful sites. Enjoy spending your day on crystal clear Dan Hole Pond, hiking one of our five hiking trails or simply relaxing in a hammock by the campfire. Water and electric sites are available. July and August summer worship services Sunday at 9:30am.
We ask for your prayers and support as we embrace the past and invest in the future!
Your tax-deductible donation to Camp Sentinel makes a difference in the lives of many! Thank you for your prayers and support. This ministry would not be possible without the financial gifts and hard work of many of our Camp Sentinel family.
Help send a youth to camp when you shop with Amazon Smile.
.5% of your purchase to go to Camp Sentinel’s scholarship campaign. There is no cost to you and you still pay the same price for items on Amazon. Amazon makes the donation above and beyond your purchase. Simply select Sentinel as the charity and shop as usual. Thank you for your support in helping children have a life changing Christian camp experience!
The purpose of Camp Sentinel is to create a welcoming environment for Christian relationship building and spiritual renewal. Within the stillness of God’s creation and through the guidance of the staff, people are moved from discovery into authentic relationships with others and with Jesus Christ.
29 Sentinel Lodge Road,
Center Tuftonboro, NH 03816
I am reminded of my old friend George Bullard’s description of a healthy, wholistic church. George would describe a healthy church as having “good Gospel, good faith, good community, and good works.” I would even say such is true of a regional ministry or a denominational ministry. But in the brittle times we live in individuals and churches choose which one or two of the four sides of the prism they will choose to engage and live out. It is what I have begun to call the “cut and paste hermeneutic”. We accept from Christ’s life and instruction, what we find most comfortable to receive, and place aside that which does not or does meet our word view.
Some set aside Jesus words, “I am the way, the truth, and life, no one comes to the Father but by me.” All of Jesus’ “I AM” statements challenge us to proclamation, and faith. Some set aside, “I was hungry and you didn’t feed me, naked you didn’t cloth me, in prison you didn’t visit me, and a stranger and you didn’t welcome me in.” “What you have done for the least of these, you have done it to me.” And maybe we wrestle with Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God being near and that the Kingdom of God is upon us, because to welcome the reign of Christ calls us to a greater identity, joy, and accountability then we could ever create for ourselves in this world or the next.
In our fallen and limited humanity, we purposely choose to, or drift into a “cut and paste hermeneutic”. I wonder if we cut and paste Jesus, because to aspire to live fully as a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom, we must inevitably accept Christ’s authority in our lives and churches, when our nature and our culture, idolizes individual autonomy. We are tempted to search for the Christ who is compliant with our thoughts, preconceptions, and ideology, rather than kneel before Christ as Lord of all humanity and creation. We struggle to bring every thought captive but find it convenient to allow our thoughts to simmer in their own autonomous juices, eating the apple over and over again. As Leonard Sweet aptly points out in one of his older books, only Christ is the true North Star.
The challenge in an information saturated age, where media caters to its “customer base” is to answer the question, who and what is forming Christ’s church and the souls that compose this church? I propose the antidote is the timeless, classic journey of discipleship and spiritual formation. Can anyone in the institutional church, what some call the “visible church” really argue with that? From this journey, attempting to live out our imperfect best, the future is really about having no cause but Christ, and the welcoming of his transforming presence for individual, church, and culture.
As a Christian, I have come to believe that a foundational principle is to live for the sake of others, as Christ died and rose for me. There is the timely timeless Christian ethic of disadvantaging oneself for the sake of others. I am reminded of this when I see the sacrificial lives of pastors, spouses, and even families. When I read the histories of reformers and evangelists, missionaries and saints, Christian leaders of all walks, there is a common thread of having no cause but Christ. In Luke 10, when Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God being near, he references both the blessing and the rejection of its nearness. There are people of peace who receive the Good News, the reign of Christ, and those who reject and send the 72 away. One of the challenges that face the American church is recognizing our selective rejections and acceptances. We are seduced into approaching Jesus like we do the Golden Corral.
Occasionally, I have been accused of being an ecclesiastical idealist, and maybe I am. I confess I lack patience with dawdling bureaucracy and institutional inertia, yet I believe any ministry can only be of “good gospel, good faith, good community and good works” by desiring, and knowing the fullness of Christ. Embracing this fullness, the widening of tunnel visions, the accepting all of who Jesus is, is the future’s pathway, as it has always been since the day He rose. I keep praying that Christ continues to form our historic association of churches. I trust Christ’s Spirit will make us passionate, compassionate, and faithful.
In Jesus name,
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