Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

March 26, 2013

A look inside First Presbyterian Church

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Snow has never spoiled the story we’ve heard many times, that of the day Christ rose from his grave.

Do all Christian denominations believe the same thing? If so, then how are the beliefs of members of one church different from the one down the street? I asked that question of the Rev. Bob McAulay, interim pastor of First Presbyterian Church on the square in Greensburg. I also asked about predestination because I had heard that Presbyterians believe in it. Then I asked what challenges he believes churches face today.

McAulay grew up in Martinez, Calif. His family has been Presbyterian for generations. He went to Long Beach University, to Fuller Theological Seminary and to San Francisco Theological Seminary. His grandfather was a Presbyterian pastor in Orange County, Calif.

Before moving to Indianapolis, McAulay served 17 years as the installed pastor of an Illinois church and later at a church in Arkansas. His wife Ondrea graduated from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis and from Butler University. They are the parents of two high school students.

When he moved to Indianapolis, he decided to serve as an interim pastor for a church wherever Presbytery sent him. He found it rewarding to fill in until the members of the church found a full time pastor. He enjoys the challenges of meeting new people of faith and working closely with them, ideally to help them and their church grow in faith.

Asked if would explain the difference between the Presbyterian Church and other protestant denominations McAulay said the main difference is the way the church is organized.

Presbyterians derive their name from the Greek word Presbyteros, meaning elder. It is representative of a democracy. The church is governed by elders, teaching elders, ruling elders and sometimes a church also has a board of deacons.

What about Presbyterians and predestination? He explained that Presbyterian beliefs come out of the reformed tradition. Its roots go back to Scotland and John Calvin whose words about the subject of predestination have been misinterpreted. It is often thought of as fatalism, meaning that our lives are arranged by God for good or bad, but what Calvin meant was that God chose us even before we were able to choose God.

What are the challenges of organized churches today? “Disinterest,” said McAulay. There seems to be no real trust in the institution of the church, and often, the institution has forgotten what its purpose is. Sometimes a church mistakenly emphasizes maintaining itself instead of being in a relationship with God.

The challenge to churches is not to get caught up in things that aren’t primary. The primary purpose of the church is to love God. Love God – Love your neighbor. It strengthens a church to spend more time loving our God and making disciples.

He believes it is true that conflicts between outside activities and church programs might be a problem. “The time is gone when the church served as a meeting place where people had connections, friends and family. That has had an impact on churches but I believe that people want to have a relationship with God. We just need to reach out to explore our faith.”

Members of First Presbyterian are busy. The Family Fun Night on Wednesday evenings usually has about 25 young people from elementary grades through ninth grade. Some belong to the Presbyterian Church and some don’t. They eat, learn and have fun and sometimes take part in the Sunday morning service. Renee’ McClintic, Matt and Gia Westhafer are the leaders.

Sunday mornings before church they hold Sunday Conversations which might be about any current event or topic. Another adult class is directly Bible scriptures.

Grade school students have their classes on Sunday mornings. All members have been given Bible verses to read during the 90 days leading to Easter. Members are encouraged to stay after the church service for coffee hour which presents the opportunity to get to know new members and guests. There is a Confirmation Class once a year.

Women of the church meet once a month for lunch at Friendship and Talent, and once a month for Bible Study. The Mission Market offers items made by members of SERRV International which provides income to craftsmen in third world countries. In addition the members give time and assistance to local organizations such as Human Services, Cheer Fund, Bread of Life, the Kids Closet and other organizations that assist families in the community.

The Sunday bulletin welcomes guests and states that if the person isn’t involved in a local congregation First Presbyterian is a place where you can worship, learn, find fellowship and serve.