Archive for February, 2010

February 17, 2010

Participating in Lent

My Washington Plaza friends:

Tthese are some suggested ways to make the 40 days of Lent, a time of spiritual renewal of the Christian Year, more meaningful.  Consider the following and know there are many other opportunities out there too. The idea is to do something that might challenge you as we all prepare our hearts for the JOY of the Easter season.

 SERVICE- in doing so, considering others more than yourself

  • Volunteer to make bag lunches, prepare a dish and/or serve at hot meal at the Hypothermia Shelter during our church’s night. Opportunities coming up this Saturday (February 20th) and March 6th. By doing so, you might just learn more about the needs of the homeless in Reston. See Nancy Mohl or Nancy Davis to find out more.
  • Give a couple hours of your time to sort clothes and other donated items at The Closet in Herndon.  By doing so, you’ll be providing assistance to those in our community who need basic household supplies and clothes.  Phone # (703) 437-7652
  • English as a Second Language Ministry at Washington Plaza. Come observe a session on Sunday afternoon, Wednesday afternoon or Thursday evening and find out more about how you can help those without basic English skills in our community. See Nancy Davis for more information.

SPIRITUAL ENRICHMENT- in doing so, making God’s word a priority in your life

  • Worship 11 am on Sunday mornings. Our sermons will be focused around the theme of “The Seven Deadly Sins.”  Consider reading the scriptures ahead of time so to prepare yourself for worship.


Date Sin of Focus / Scripture
February 21 Greed- Deuteronomy 26: 1-11; Luke 4:1-13
February 28 Envy- Luke 9:28-43; Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
March 7 Lust- Corinthians 10:1-12
March 14 Gluttony-  Luke 15:11-32
March 21 Pride-  John 12:1-11
March 28 Anger-  Luke 19:28-40


  • Daily Devotions: Consider doing a spiritual reading of some sort every morning or evening every day. If you have internet access, a great source of Lent specific devotions can be found at: (and the music is great so be sure to turn the volume up on your computer to hear it). 

STUDY- in doing so, making spiritual growth more meaningful

  • Consider attending the Sunday morning Bible class at 9:30 am, even if you’ve never been or haven’t attended lately. Join in the discussion with others around the table about the book of Galatians.  Though not everyone always agrees, it is safe environment to grow and explore the Christian faith.
  • Make your plans to attend- Conversations with the Pastor on three Wednesday nights in March. It will be a great opportunity to examine deeper the concept of sin as discussed in the sermons and with help from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book: Speaking of Sin- the Lost Language of Salvation. We’ll gather for Study on the third floor on Wednesday, March 10th, 17th and 24th.

SOCIAL AWARENESS- in doing so, asking God to re-shape your world view

  • On Sunday, March 14th as we talk about the sin of gluttony in worship, be watching for special plans for how you can participate in/ contribute to hunger needs around the world.
  • Eat one meal in silence over the course of at least 30 minutes. As you eat, chew your food carefully, savoring each bite. As you do, think about contents of your meal. Asking yourself: “Where did this come from? Who grew my food? Who transported my food? What sacrifices were made so that I could eat this?” As you do, consider what their lives are like now. Do some research later to learn more if questions arise. Consider: do you like what you learned?
  • Consider giving extra funds that you might spend on unnecessary items like soda, coffee out of the house, new clothes, or even a nice meal out to the missions at WPBC. This fund provides money to members of the congregation going through difficult times, grants to local, national and international ministries and also to our main ministry partner Reston Interfaith.  By doing so, you will be sharing your resources with those who need God’s love the most.

And, this is only the beginning of possibilities. Any other ideas to share for how you are going to deepen your faith during Lent this year?

Pastor Elizabeth

February 16, 2010

An Ash Wednesday to Remember

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. I look forward to greeting folks at 7 pm for our service in the sanctuary.

Back by popular demand is a blog post that I wrote in February of 2007- an experience that was my first year as a full-time pastor. Please laugh along with me (though it wasn’t funny at the time).

As a means of background, Ash Wednesday fell on my birthday this year:  a day which should be a joyous celebration of life but instead I was in charge of the prayer meeting service about this occasion — a day to remember our mortality. This was troubling to begin with, but whatever. Secondly, the senior pastor of our congregation was in Hawaii celebrating his birthday (the same day as mine) during Ash Wednesday; thus, leaving me in charge of the service (totally not fair, right?). 

It was 6:10 p.m. before prayer meeting/ the Ash Wednesday service began at 6:30. I was on the phone with Kevin on my way back to church. I knew I was running late and trying to get back to church as fast as I could. Yet, in the course of our conversation I remembered I had forgotten one important element for the service: the ashes!

Kevin offered a suggestion. He reminded me that it wouldn’t take very long to burn some more ashes. All I would need to do is go outside with a metal trash can and burn some paper in it for a few minutes. While I could see the logic in this activity, Kevin’s idea sounded a little risky to me. (My vision of what could happen is much like the picture to the left!) I thought I had a brilliant idea. Our fellowship hall has a fire place in it. I decided I’d just burn some paper in there. No big deal, right?

Wrong, because I forgot to open up the flue. Before I knew it, smoke began to fill the fellowship hall. It was just my luck that the smoke sensor was right beside the fireplace– so the church fire alarm began to immediately sound. That awful loud noise began to fill the walls of the church along with the smoke.

I quickly began to pour water on the paper burning I had begun (not thinking that I was in that moment totally defeating the point of exercises as I was soon to have soggy ashes). I thought if I could get the smoke to leave the fellowship hall, then all would be well and the fire alarm would go off.

In a few minutes, the fire alarm did indeed go off thanks to my fabulous pastoral colleague, Lonnie. He had just walked in the building when the alarm sounded and soon thereafter began calling the security company telling them that everything was ok as well as doing crowd control for me upstairs. But the first person I saw after the event was one of our most faithful deacons, Tom.

Tom, an older gentleman who came bursting down the stairs trying to see what was wrong. With panic in my voice, I admitted that I was the one who had started the fire. Yet, everything was ok; the fire was out. I felt bad for making Tom run through the church with such a sense of panic.

By the time that I cleaned everything up and make my way upstairs, I found that the fire department had already made its way to our church. Thank goodness Lonnie was there to deal with them– taking them to the fireplace downstairs, letting them know that all was well because by this time I had lost it. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t think I had it in me to go and lead the service. I wanted to go home and find some joy of this 27th birthday of mine.

But, I knew I was a professional and professionals must act as they must, not as they feel. By some grace, I wiped my tears and headed for the conference room to begin talking about the symbols of Lent, including the wet ashes. I told everyone the story of what had occurred earlier that evening and a roar of laughter came from those present (If you don’t cry, you laugh, right?).

Somehow the Joel 2 lectionary passage for the day had a whole new meeting for our group that evening: “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming.” For our alarm really did sound! What a day!

Kevin did treat me to a nice dinner afterwards. It was the best part of this crazy birthday.

February 15, 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentines to me is always about celebrating those in my life who I love on a level more than just romantic love.  It has been a day to remember friends and other dear ones, especially those who might otherwise be left out. It is a day to be thankful and remember the wonderful folks who surround me with their support throughout the year.

So, seemed like a great day for a party, the old fashion kind with red punch and cupcakes like you used to have in elementary school.

 Today, Kevin and I had the privilege of welcoming many of the congregation members to our home for a Valentine’s Day party.  As you can tell from the pictures, we had a great time. Thanks to everyone who came out to celebrate with us!

February 12, 2010

What a Week!

For those of you not living in the DC area and keeping up with Washington Plaza and me through this blog, you need to know we’ve just lived through a week to remember.

It is a week when:

We got more snow that many of us had ever seen in our entire lives.

(And, in fact we recorded the most snowfall in the history of this great town!)

We lost power. Then got it back. And then lost power again.

We had so much snow on our rooftops causing some buildings in the area to cave in (our church roof is holding up so far which is great news).

We read and watched more movies than we thought we could in one week.

We learned to make shoveling our daily vocation. Shovel, shovel and shovel some more.

At first it was beautiful. At first it was fun. But when the second storm came, there were many of us who said to ourselves, “Who is it in this town singing, ‘Let it Snow, Let it Snow?’ Let them be found and stopped!”

We learned how important the right snow tools are to one’s survival. (The Hagans become  popular in our neighborhood by owning a metal shovel that could more easily break the layers of ice beneath the snow).

At the beginning of the week, lovely spiritually focused questions like “Where is God in all of this?” seemed easily answered. (Time with family, time doing tasks we normally don’t attend to, meeting neighbors, etc).

But by Thursday, it seemed wrong to speak of some sort of providence of God to bring us closer to our neighbors in such a brutal winter. There were too many folks out there in the cold. There were too many snow plow drivers working more overtime than should be expected in one week. There were too many folks struggling to shovel their driveways that should have been inside for health reasons.

For all the snow just was, and there was nothing to do about it but live through it. 

I think sometimes that is just how life goes.

We can try to over spiritualize moments– and many pastor types try. But, does this really get us anywhere good? 

Yet, as people of faith, I believe, there is always HOPE to cling to no matter our circumstances. Hope that tells us that even if our winters are dark, resurrection is always coming in the spring. There will be light at the end of our darkest days.

Julian of Norwich reminded us a long time ago: “All will be well. In the matter of all things, all will be well.”

I look forward to gathering again as a community of faith on Sunday in Reson. I especially look forward to our opportunity of practicing again our hope in the resurrected Lord in worship. And, I look forward to be reminded again in community of the truth that in due time the mounds and mounds of snow will melt AND all will be well. 

(Maybe by April?)

February 7, 2010


I was about to writing a blog about my frustrations with this winter, but it was going no where good. Frustrations including:

Canceling church twice since December meaning the offerings needed for our survival are not as strong.

Canceling the church retreat this weekend where big plans were in the works for being more involved in community needs and missions.

Greater worries that with all the heavy snow cover our roof and brick work might not make it through the winter (hoping we aren’t like that church in MD where the roof caved in due to the weight of snow).

Extra costs (over budget) for snow removal around the Plaza.

Loss of momentum in key projects as everyone hibernates indoors and takes a break (it seems) from responsibilities.

And, for me personally, a professional development trip this week to North Carolina most likely being canceled too.


Yet, to be a grouch about the snow seems a little wrong. Don’t I often go back to the ancient wisdom of Ecclesiastes that says “there is a time for every activity under heaven?” Who I am and who are we to think that we’re in control after all?

While the volume of snow the past several weeks has put a cramp in our style as a church (and even to some of our personal plans as well), I have to say that maybe the snow is just God’s way of reminding us to see things that we might otherwise overlook?

Yesterday, after Kevin and I ventured outside to clear off our mini-driveway (again), we took a walk around the neighborhood. In doing so, we struck up several conversations with our neighbors that we’ve never met. We learned of the experiences of folks around us trying to get out of our street and being stuck.  We watched the parade of VA-DOT snowplows coming through on the main road and greeted them with waves and applause (which was a joy filled moment to see the happiness on the workers’ faces that somebody noticed them). We took pictures of the sunset peering through the trees at the park. We hurried inside and were more appreciative of a warm drink than we’ve been in a long time.  

How quickly we begin to qualify certain life experiences as more important than others.

If I could only be at church preaching today. . .

If only we could have held the church retreat as scheduled . . .

If only I could have attended to more pastoral and life tasks before we got snowed in . . .


But, who I am to think that the activity under heaven and you and I were to be about this weekend is not found in the simple moments of walking through the snow, cleaning our sidewalks, greeting our neighbors and appreciating home cooked meals? (Or in the case of those of you who lost power, the JOY of power when it came back on).

I know for me, my personal excitement and sense of internal momentum is growing for spring when we are more sure of our regular Sunday meetings together. It is good to be reminded (again) not to take moments of togetherness for granted.

So my prayers for you on this cold Sunday morning is that you would stay warm and happy in the company of your household, but also that God would give us all eyes to see the gifts this snowy winter has and continues to bring us. Gifts that begin with the beauty of creation and sharing quiet moments of rest and reflection at home. God’s peace be upon you. AMEN

February 1, 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

This past Sunday as I was preaching on the Luke lectionary text about Jesus being rejected in Nazareth, I had reason to ponder how small towns relate to their “homegrown” leaders. Or otherwise put, the how a person can belong to a community “where everybody knows your name” and still have the strength of character be true to God’s calling.

The point I was hoping to make in the sermon is that “assumed familiarity” sometimes can work against you. In the case with Jesus, the entire town missed out on their opportunity for growth because they fixated on who they knew Jesus to be in the past. It might have just been better if upon hearing Jesus’ sermon, they didn’t know his name at all.

But, is being a part of a community where everybody knows your name always a negative?

Several months ago, with health and personal fitness atop the Hagan household goals, we joined a new gym close to our house. 

We picked this particular gym because of the schedule and offerings in its group excercise schedule (because I find myself much more motivated to keep at it longer in the company of those holding me accountable).

I began to settle in to participation in a late Wednesday night class, tagging along with another friend of our who is also a member of the gym and sometimes Kevin.

It is important here to note that I’m not one to make new friends at the gym. My approach is get in there, get it done and feel good about myself as I drive home.  However, this is not the style of our friend or my husband who seek to make a trip to the gym a complete social experience.

Before I knew it on one week, I found myself lingering after class and talking to the instructor with my crew. Come to find out her name is also Elizabeth. And, she was as nice of a person as skilled as she was in leading the class. My anonymity was gone, but I didn’t expect that the teacher would remember me at the next class.

Then, the next week that I attended, I walked in the door and first thing I hear is: “Glad you are here, Elizabeth.”

Wow, this was new! I was in the gym, the place where you expect impersonal treatment and somebody knew my name.

So, I decided to make it a weekly priority to attend this particular class, going to great lengths sometimes to work my other appointments around it.

Would I have gone to all of this trouble if the teacher hadn’t made a point to greet me personally? Maybe, but maybe not either.

I actually felt really bad when an Advent class I was teaching over the course of December kept me from participating. And this was especially true when I heard through my friend (who kept participating) that Elizabeth asked about me in front of the entire class when I wasn’t there.

I say all of this because my experience at the gym led me to ponder more how this exact scenario plays out in churches every Sunday.

I’ve haven’t met a church who proclaims that “We don’t want visitors to come back.” But, what are churches doing to make sure that some first time attendees return?

Yes, some first-time guests come desiring to blend into the crowd, hoping that they can get in, get out and not be bothered. But some come hoping that somebody will see them and learn their name.

I am excited to go to my weekly class at the gym because I know my presence is noted and the leader is happy to see me. Maybe not everyone knows my name, but somebody does and it is a nice feeling.

Do people come back to our church after one visit because they feel the same way?

Knowing names is important. Making personal contacts is even more important. Levels of committment can be created with the simplest of gestures.

If you need me between 7:30-8:30 on Wednesday night, you know I’ll be at the gym. And, on Sunday morning at 11 am, if you are in driving distance of Reston and looking for a loving community with which to worship, I’m hoping to see you at our church.

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