Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011



Friday, May 20, 2011

Deuteronomy, Idolatry and Judgment

Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, and is Moses' final teaching given to the Israelites as they are on the verge of entering into the good land that was promised them. The theme of Deuteronomy is clear: God has freed them from bondage and chosen the Hebrews as a special people who are to honor and serve him and to never worship or serve any other god. If they honor God, they will be blessed. If they dishonor God by worshipping other gods or violating the holy laws, then they will be cursed.

In the books that follow Deuteronomy, a history is told about how the Israelites obeyed God at times but so often fell away into idolatry and violation of the holy law. And, the history beginning with Joshua and ending with Ezra and Nehemiah shows the blessings and curses that follow from obedience and disobedience. Of course, not all things work out that way in human life and history. Sometimes, a person obeys and follows the ways of God but suffers terribly. Since life doesn't always fit the pattern of history previewed in Deuteronomy, the Bible also contains wisdom literature like Ecclesiastes and Job and the Psalms as well other books and certainly portions of the prophetic books that acknowledge that there is a good bit of injustice that is just a part of life, even and sometimes especially affecting the lives of those who are devoted to God.

In the next post I will review the harsh judgments that are reported around the formation of Israel after the Exodus, and I will reflect on what we are to make of passages where God is presented as wiping out thousands in an outbreaking of wrath against the Israelites for their idolatry.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Poem by Anne Porter

A Short Testament

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,

And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near
That I've destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them. I beg you to remember them

When winter is over
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death's bare branches.

"A Short Testament" by Anne Porter, from Living Things. (Zoland Books).

Monday, May 9, 2011

March/April Newsletter at Fourth United Presbyterian

Fourth United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.
1329 N. Broadway
Knoxville, Tennessee

March/April, 2011 Newsletter

Dear Members and Friends of Fourth United Presbyterian Church:

I hope this letter finds you well. As the pastor of 4th United Presbyterian Church, I want to remember a couple of things with you and then look forward as well.

First, I want to remember that my former co-pastor, Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen served well at our church, and I want to remember that the Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen and I will always be the organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church and that you who were part of this union of two churches will always be the organizing members of 4th United Presbyterian Church.

Second, I want to remember honestly with you that it was not a very easy union as we dealt with some conflicts and turmoil in uniting the churches. And, I want to thank Bob Crawford and Jane Parker, and also Katherine Ottinger, for living up to their commitments as former members of Fourth Presbyterian Church and current members of our new church. And, I want to thank all those who came with me and Rev. Allen from 1st United Presbyterian and some who joined us along the way for enduring through people troubles and building troubles and learning to make a home in a new place. Thank you for your patience.

And, now as I look forward, I have some concerns. Although we have received generous support from the Presbytery of East Tennessee, and although we have a much improved building to utilize for the ministries of the church, I wonder about our present level of energy and commitment here at Fourth United Presbyterian. There is something difficult about moving to a new place, and there is something hard about losing a pastor, and there is something hard about being a small church and trying to keep things going year after year. I know something about that as I first began preaching at 1st United Presbyterian the first Sunday of September, 1995.

And, as I look forward, I see that we need to move in some very new directions as a church if we are to realize our calling. And, one direction I think we need to move in is developing our building as a community center, where people can come to experience something both meaningful and enjoyable. I see that we can develop in three new directions: developing new styles and times for worship; developing an even more ambitious community forum program; and opening our building to others who are able to provide needed services to the community. One new type of worship experience we will be providing is Café’ Worship, which is most likely to be held in our Gathering Hall once a month at 5 p.m. on Sundays. Our community forums are currently reaching further into social issues as we will have our April forum on ‘internet pornography: legal and spiritual consequences,” and as we hope to host a discussion featuring four candidates for Mayor of Knoxville in our May community forum. As far as other services that might be provided in our building, investigation and planning is underway. We have offered to host a fundraising concert to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. In late February, a benefit concert was held for Casa de Sara School in Bolivia, which is a very wonderful ministry for children.

This development of our church as a community center seems to be the direction we are going. Although it has been disappointing to see the lack of participation in some of our regular programs of the church, it has been very heartening to see the good attendance and sincere interest in our non-traditional church programs such as our community forums and special worship services. With the exception of Adult Sunday School, our traditional services and meetings are seeing a lower “turn-out.” There comes a time for change, and I think the time has come. We will continue to have our traditional Sunday morning service and Sunday School classes, but we are beginning to build some new programs and perspectives into our church’s life. And, there is work to be done on developing our Sunday morning service in some new directions as well.

Are you as members and friends of our church interested in what this church might become in our community? We started out as a merger between an old, traditional white Presbyterian church and an old, traditional black Presbyterian church. But, if we are to realize what we can be, I think we are going to have to move in some new directions. I am ready to move forward in the messages I feel called to preach. I feel there are many people in our community who yearn for a church that is truly free to speak and hear the truth and to celebrate the truth wherever it is found. And, sometimes to find the truth, you have to take a road less travelled. The road we are called to take has not been taken by any church in our community. We need some new people to join us on this journey. Are you open to a new way of being a church, to a new way of serving God, to a new way of experiencing grace?

If you are, you are welcome to join in this project-in-the-making which we call “Fourth United Presbyterian Church.” If you are not, then you are welcome also, because our doors are open and you might just be the kind of person we need to remind us of the importance of the old, time-tested traditions of the Church. If you are disillusioned with religion, but long for a place of peace and truth and purpose, then we welcome you to join us in our struggle to find those same things in worship, discussion, service, and fellowship.

God’s grace and peace be with you.

-Rev. George H. Waters
(865) 805-3618

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Faith and Seeking

Often faith is presented as some sort of final conclusion and view on life. But, faith as I understand it and experience it is something dynamic and alive.

Faith causes the mind and heart to seek understanding and life. Faith also opens the heart and mind to emptiness and darkness at times, bringing us in touch with parts of life that we cannot comprehend and control.

Faith causes something deep inside to believe that the One behind all things is beautiful beyond all beauty and good beyond all goodness and merciful beyond our strongest hopes. It also causes us to tremble deep inside in those moments when we become aware of a Presence too holy for us to be near.

Faith causes the mind to seek understanding and to never be satisfied with the understanding one has. Faith seeks truth and a union with truth in human relationships and with the Divine.