A More Light Congregation

Bethany Presbyterian Church

Pastor's Note

Reverend Debra McGuire

April 2020

Warm greetings to all of you,

Did you know that you can purchase caterpillar kits on Amazon? I’m banging my hand against my head in disbelief. A pastor I know did this and almost everyone in her congregation is watching a caterpillar grow during Lent and it’s a big hit, and a fabulous hands on way to experience all of lent and waiting, and the emergence of a new life.

I wonder what would happen if the caterpillar needed to remain in the chrysalis longer than usual? Waiting and reflecting on the inner life is great in theory, and certainly even something to do more often than most of us do. But when waiting goes beyond theory and we are forced to rely on within longer than usual, it is disorienting and can be scary.

I am very lucky. I have the perfect job. I am not only allowed, but encouraged to reach out to people, stick my nose in their business, because in my role as your pastor I may have something to give. I am lucky because I have someplace to focus all of my helpless feelings. I am staying home except for essential services. But part of my essential work is you, and for that I am blessed. Sometimes after a pastoral call, I realize that the person has been a huge gift to me with their presence and with their stories of how you care for one another. I was recently checking on several folks to be sure they were connected. The first person I called had already been in regular recent contact with a few of the people on my list. I left the call reminded that the Church is one body. I am the pastor but we are all ministers. I give thanks for you.

I want to remind you that your love and care for others is still alive and well, and you too have a role where you have something unique to give. Think about who you love and where they are, and if they are far, recognize the heartache of being away. And if the people in your life are near, I give thanks. I hope with you that all of this restraint from contact is temporary. God is a life-giving creative God who will help us through this. God will put people and ideas in our life that will work for good through all of us. Lazarus was raised from the dead, into the abundance of his life. But with the resurrection of Jesus, new life was to a completely new way of being. We will be raised from our current worries and anxieties into a new world with new ways of being together, and new ways to care for others, and with any luck, a more gentle world. It’s up to us.

Please stay safe, stay home, and ask for help.

As always, I want to learn more about how I and/or Bethany can meet your needs and bring you joy.  I encourage you to call the office at (650) 589-3711 or reach out to me at dmcguire@bethanypcusa.org for any reason.

Blessings, Pastor Deb

March 2020


As I head into my third month here at Bethany, I’m looking forward to sharing the season of Lent with you.  I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of you more and more.  I’m hoping to continue to meet folks I’ve never met before and discover who you are.  I want to learn more about how I and/or Bethany can meet your needs and bring you joy.  I encourage you to call the office or reach out to me at dmcguire@bethanypcusa.org for any reason.

While Lent is not one of the most upbeat seasons of the church year it can be one of the richest.  Lent has been described as one giant waiting period.  Lent is traditionally a time when people of faith remember the suffering of Jesus.  We’re reminded that we came from dust and we will return to dust, and that Jesus died for us.  Many people spend the season of Lent in long periods of self- flagellation and misery.  I would suggest that we buck that tradition, and look instead to the suffering of Jesus as a sign of hope for us, that Jesus shared what happens in our lives.  Jesus died for us but it is not our fault or our sin that caused Jesus to die.  Lent is not a time for guilt and more suffering.  It’s a time to be aware that our suffering happened even to Jesus.  It’s a time for self reflection and reflection as a community to possibly discover where we can do more, or where we can do something different.  It’s always a good thing to look for ways to give up bad habits, or stop doing something you love for a time to see how it feels to do without.  But rather than make Lent something that we only do for a season, let’s look for what can we do in Lent that becomes a part of our new way of life.  Lent as a period of waiting can lead to heartfelt generosity toward ourselves and others for a lifetime.

Contemplation of suffering is not a bad thing or a sad thing necessarily.  Suffering happens all the time, and I would hope that we wouldn’t look for ways to add to that part of our lives.  But rather, find a depth to ourselves that only comes from serious tugs at our hearts.  I once had a caterpillar in my room in college that I kept in a round globe-like dish with a stick and milkweed.  I loved to watch it crawling on the stick, or see that it had eaten some greens.  I watched it all the way through the cocoon time and it was amazing to see the butterfly wings unfold and watch it take off!  What was equally amazing was just before the cocoon was being built, everything was so still.  The caterpillar didn’t move for days.  Then he hung from the middle of the stick and was still for days.  It was if there was silence before the silence.  That’s Lent to me.  It’s the opportunity to prepare.  We can even prepare to wait.

I hope you find your way through the season of Lent with your Bethany community; beginning with Ash Sunday on March 1st, through every Tuesday night Lenten study on the Lord’s Prayer, and continuing into April as we get closer and closer to Easter.  Let us live these pre-Easter days with each other, and with a deep search for our own Lenten story.

Blessings, Pastor Deb