Dear Friends and Members of First Reformed Church of Bethlehem:

“Home grown and locally produced” are words often displayed over farmers market booths.  They attest to healthy plants and animals; and because of simplicity in handling and packaging, there is an economic savings as well.


On Friday evening, January 19, the First Reformed Church of Bethlehem hosted the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (RCS) High School Jazz Ensemble and Harmonics Choral Group in their eighth annual Community Concert.  This church-packed event was a spectacular Home Grown and Locally Produced performance!


We have the privilege of providing a place for our young people to perform, and the joy of hearing them make great music.  There is such great talent right here in our community; gifted instructors who develop this talent and gifted students who respond and deliver amazing music. 


As I watched and listened, I started thinking what came before this evening --little children singing way off pitch, blowing into odd looking horns and getting acquainted with stringed instruments, and let’s not forget the drums!  There was an awesome process, complicated and rigorous, going on for over a decade, culminating in this night.  We didn’t have to import the professionals who fill theatres in our area.  These young men and women stepped out their back doors, into cars for a short drive to this place, to this performance -- Home Grown and Locally Produced!



Two conclusions have been nagging at my awake dreaming and my night dreams.  First, we of the RCS School District may appear to be an average community, but the truth is that we have a great wealth of talent and skill, right here — Home Grown and Locally Produced! 


Sometimes congregations, businesses, and even school districts get a dose of insecurity.  STOP IT!  Home grown means we have a treasured resource right here to cherish and nourish and bless. 


The second conclusion that was awakened for me is the reminder that our spiritual growth depends on the very things these young people were given --teachers, mentors, families, and friends working together over a long period of time.  No one walked into the practice room Friday night and joined the Harmonics or Jazz Ensemble having never sung or played an instrument before. 


Yet many of us are not prepared for the great spiritual battles that need to take place if we are to handle life’s many challenges.  We have not become comfortable to develop essential spiritual practices.  When the crisis comes, the challenge is before us, and we may feel like the person given a violin and asked to go on stage, having never seen or played one before.


So here is a simple spiritual practice to help us begin again to strengthen our spiritual lives.  I’m inviting you to find one time during the day or evening when you gather with your family and pray the Lord’s Prayer together:


  “Our Father who art in heaven,

  Hallowed be Thy name.

  Thy Kingdom come,

  Thy will be done,

  On Earth

  As it is in Heaven.

  Give us this day our daily bread;

  And forgive us our debts,

  As we forgive our debtors;

  And lead us not into temptation,

  But deliver us from evil.

  For Thine is the Kingdom

  And the power

  And the glory, forever. Amen.”


And then, share the Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ with one another as we do each Sunday in our worship service:  “The peace of Christ be with you.”  Each person responds with “And also with you.”


And if you are living alone, perhaps you might invite a family member or soul friend to do this with you by phone or even email.   This will not immediately turn us into saints, but you may be surprised how such a simple exercise will grant you wisdom and peace in life’s challenges. 


“We do not want to be beginners.  But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life.”  (Thomas Merton) 


Home grown and locally produced.  Let’s begin again!  Let’s do it together! 


The peace of Christ be with you,

Pastor Harlan E. Ratmeyer

Harlan E. Ratmeyer, Pastor

38 Church Rd.

Selkirk, New York