Blog Space of Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D, pastor at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, Ellicott City, MD

Monday, April 27, 2020

Fire Safety (Rev. Cindy Maybeck)


Our online service from this past Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church can be found here.
A transcript of the sermon and prayer is available here

Rev. Cindy Maybeck writes today’s post. Rev. Cindy is a great storyteller. She presents a weekend retreat about prayer and discernment at Bon Secours, in Marriottsville, MD, my favorite local retreat Center.

“What will you do if there is a fire in your house?” Miss Brady asked her class of third graders. We learned that hiding under the bed was the wrong answer. She taught us all about fire safety and assigned the homework of drawing a map of our house with a family plan about how we would escape a fire.

Here’s the problem. My bedroom was in the attic on the third floor. I determined my little brother could jump out of the window from his second-floor bedroom into bushes. He had already proved to be a pretty good jumper off high things like stone walls and garage roofs. I suspected he would be hurt but not killed; boxwood bushes would break his fall.

As for me, the only exit from a bedroom with flames leaping up the attic stairway was to fall three flights down to a paved driveway. My eight-year old head would be smushed for sure. I badgered my parents all evening. Should we construct some kind of ladder? Should we move my bedroom to the safety of the first floor? Should we put a giant trampoline in the driveway each night before I went to bed? I just couldn’t let it go.

Finally, after being told 17 times to go to bed; after being promised I would be safe, I would be rescued, I would be saved, I cried to my Dad – “but HOW? What will happen if there is a fire?” Dad brought me up to my bedroom, tucked me in and sat on the edge of the bed as I wept.

He calmly explained that after Steve and Mom jumped out of windows to safety, Dad would come upstairs to the attic. (I pictured him wearing a Superman cape and running up flaming stairs unscathed.) He would sit on my bed. (Just like he was in that moment.) And together we wait for the firefighter to come to the rescue. Together we would climb down the fire truck ladder. Together we would get to pet Sparky, the fire dog.

I took a deep shaky breath. I wiped my eyes. I leaned my head on his shoulder for a moment. That was the truth I needed to hear. More important than the specifics of a plan was the promise that I would not be alone while waiting to be saved.

Our news cycle spins with new information, updated precautions, images of pandemic and the destruction it will cause. But in the midst of your preparations, social distancing, or self-quarantine, remember the spiritual comfort of being held in safety and love.

Listen well, dear friends. You will not be forsaken, forgotten or forlorn. Arms of love will hold you through this crisis.

For some music: Fanny J. Crosby's hymn “Blessed Assurance.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, our God, for promising to walk with us, no matter what may come our way. Continue to guide us through our current situation, we pray. Amen.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Everyday Holiness (by Rev. Becca Crate)

Our online service from this past Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church can be found HERE. A transcript of the sermon and prayer is available HERE.

In these difficult days, I like to see what my fellow pastors are writing about. Here's a reflection from Rev. Becca Crate, who is the pastor of Springfield Presbyterian Church, in Sykesville, Maryland.

“As our traditional sacred spaces of sanctuaries and chapels close the doors due to the pandemic, we are called to find a new way to experience the holy. It is in uncertain times like this where we remember again and again that the church is much more than a structure, a building, a place of bricks and mortar. The church is a faithful group of people journeying together, lifting each other up, and learning how to translate what they know of God into their everyday lives.

These three pictures are places in which I have found holiness
The first image, the isle of Iona, entrench me in reminders of the saints who built an abbey in the 900s, with stone and masonry, leaving something for generations of faithful who would flock to the island. When you turn from this viewpoint, you are surrounded by bare beaches and land untouched, which reminds me of the wonder of God’s creation.

The second image is an alley in Boston, and even there in the unexpected, we find the sacred. In the dumpsters, the urban landscape, the very grit of people working and living together in tight quarters. It is also an alley in a busy part of the city, so taking a moment to step into the silence and the quiet in the midst of busyness is a reminder for us to sidestep into the holy spaces.

 The third image is my backyard, in rural Maryland, as you look out to my neighbor’s barn, the small stream that runs through the brae, and the sun that beautifully shines on the trees. Overhead there is usually a hawk, sometimes an eagle, and more often then not you find God’s creatures of all kinds in this landscape. This is a reminder that outside my door, if I stand still, the holy and sacred places are right there. 

We may miss the fondness of stained glass windows, of organ pipes, and of pews, but may you know that the holy isn’t entrapped in that place. You can find the holy and sacred wherever you go, if you stop and look and wait and watch. In the green hills, in the breath of the wind, and in the symphony of the city streets, God is waiting. You ultimately have the opportunity to decide what is sacred and what is holy. Go, find the holy and rejoice.”

For some music “When I Look Into Your Holiness.

Let Us Pray: Generous God, I come before You now, seeking Your presence and the comfort of Your Spirit. Lead me, guide me, and turn me towards the sacred and holy, where I experience a joy, a peace, a solace like no other. Amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Empty Church Easter


It was an unusual Easter this year. Because of the pandemic, most churches stayed closed and were as empty as the empty tomb was on the first Easter Sunday. I had prepared my service and placed it on YouTube. (Here

It was encouraging throughout the day to receive email comments from people who had watched it online. Earlier in the week, I had led a bible study on my computer from home and on Maundy Thursday held a 'Live” communion service from the manse over Facebook. For sure it is a strange new world!

I have nothing but praise for those who are out there working on the frontline. Our hospitals and medical services are strained to breaking point. Many are finding it hard to get the resources they need to fight this battle. Our retail workers are having to deal with their own fears, as well as bewildered and anxious customers. Many people are not able to work. Others are having to change the way they are working.

Others are facing economic uncertainty and, as always, this crisis seems to be hitting hardest those who have the least. Food banks are seeing more and more folk needing their services in the face of dwindling supplies. Everybody has been affected in some way or another. It is a similar story all around the world.

On Easter Sunday morning I came over to the church for a brief time of private prayer and intercession. I pictured what the place would have looked like had we been able to meet. I imagined the swell of the organ, the joy of our music, the voices of the children enjoying an Easter Egg hunt, the conversations of our fellowship time. I both prayed to God to help us travel through this time and thanked God that these days will not last forever.

On the way back to the manse I walked passed the amphitheater and saw that an 'anonymous someone' had placed a white cloth on the Cross to symbolize Christ's resurrection. The sight of that cross, and the thought that somebody had taken the time to drape it in white, gave me great hope. I sat on one of the benches and just gazed at the scene for a while.

Although we are in difficult times, it is those special moments, prompted by the thoughtful actions of others, that can give us cause for hope. Hard times can often bring out the best in people. That is a message that lies at the heart of the Easter story. The betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus cast a shadow of darkness over the lives of His disciples that they never thought could be removed.

But on Easter morning, should we gather in our thousands or be confined to our homes, the message still rings out. “Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed!” The light has shined in the darkness, and the darkness cannot, and will not, overcome the light that is Jesus Christ.

For some Easter music, a rousing version of "Christ The Lord is Risen Today"

Prayer: Lord our God, we continue to lift up the nations in prayers as we together fight against this coronavirus. Bless those working towards an antidote. Bless those seeking to maintain social order. Bless those in our medical services faced with such an overwhelming task. Bless our retail workers, suppliers and emergency services. Bless those who have suffered loss. May we know that Your light still shines and that the darkness will never have the last word. Amen.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Community of the Long Haul

This past Sunday at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we held an online "Patchwork Palm Passion Sunday Service." Here's a link to the YouTube service. And here's a link to a transcript.

For some thoughts, as we go into another week of uncertainty, here is a meditation by Andrea Springer. Andrea is a regular speaker at the Bon Secours Retreat & Conference Center in Marriottsville, MD.

“Not too long ago a wise colleague introduced me to the phrase, community of the long haul. The words struck me then and over these last two weeks, I find myself returning to them again and again. It occurs to me that we are members of the community of the long haul.

We’ve always been really, part of a human heritage that endures hardships and lives to tell. Think of the settlers and explorers heading into unknown territory knowing that life will be different. For us, it is abundantly clear that the words community, long, and haul mean even more today than yesterday.

The words we use are important and go beyond our personal understanding and experience so I turned to the Oxford Dictionary for new insights into those three small words; community, long, and haul.

Community: a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. This seems particularly appropriate as we may not be physically close to one another but locally, and globally, we share commonalities based on a small but mighty bug.

Long: lasting or taking a great amount of time. The unknown duration of our physical separation adds to our feeling of isolation. Distance also comes into play as we are reminded of social distancing, and suddenly six feet seems a lot longer.

Haul: pull or drag with effort or force; a distance to be traversed. These days it takes some effort, and often sheer determination, to keep a routine and move through the day. This reality is a distance to be traversed.

Individually these words can emphasize our separateness but together, what an image! Community of the Long Haul reminds us of what we’ve been all along and are most especially today. We are people of togetherness, commonalities, and endurance. We may not be hugging and shaking hands, but we’re reaching one another through acts of kindness and love that don’t need a physical touch; phone calls, music, prayers, and videos, and journals.”.

In these difficult days... let us rededicate ourselves to being active participants in the Community of the Long Haul. For some music, 33 Miles sing “Hold On”

Prayer: “Lord, we surely need Your strength and guidance for the living of these days. We pray for those on the front line of this crisis. We pray that people will heed instructions that prevent the spread of coronavirus. We pray that when all this is over, we will remember the lessons these days have taught us. Amen.