Wondering what the PrayGround is?

Wondering what the PrayGround is in the Sanctuary? Sometimes you are very still and silent, keenly intent on absorbing God’s word to you. Other times, perhaps you’re fidgety, and possibly want to play while you pray. Maybe you’re scrolling your phone to post awesome notes on FB about St. Andrew. Or texting someone a phrase that is meaningful to you. Maybe you bring knitting to worship or a notebook to jot down your thoughts. However you worship, you were taught when to play, when to pray, when to talk, when to be still and when to be silent. Kids are not much different. They are just learning all the “whens.” So—the PrayGround is a learning ground. Everyone has a responsibility for passing on our faith. The PrayGround is one opportunity. Please follow the link for information and helps, or pick up a brochure to learn more about worshiping with children and the PrayGround.

How do we include children?
What is a PrayGround?
When can the children play?
How can you help our children?
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Mt 19: 14
Christ is calling St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
to be a beacon of peace and love
where everybody belongs. Vision—SAPC

How do we include children?

To be a community where everybody belongs means helping the youngest disciples learn and grow in faith in age-appropriate ways. We are excited to provide a nursery for the parents who bring their babies and toddlers, a Church School experience at 9:00 a.m. on Sundays, paths of participation in mission, and opportunities for older children to lead worship. We have also added a new experience for toddlers through 2nd grade as we are experimenting with how to give the little ones a space to learn during worship services.

What is a PrayGround?

This designated worship space welcomes and teaches our smallest ones about serving God through worship. In the PrayGround are age-appropriate activities for quiet play that allows them to experience the people of God praising, praying, growing and going in the Word. Children learn by listening, observing, and joining in the activities of worship. They
• hear the “language” of worship and the Word and Sacraments,
• process what they hear as something they will do because they have something to do with their hands,
• experience and enjoy the rituals and repetition.

When can the children play?

On most Sundays, we ask children to remain with their adults until the Word With Children, to learn in the pews about the rhythm of the liturgy. After the W/C, kids from toddler to about 8 years old can enjoy worshipping in the PrayGround. Third Graders up are encouraged to stay in the pews, and can use the worship bags or items they have brought from home during the remainder of the service.

How can you help our children?

• Their adults are encouraged to sit nearby to monitor and guide children to use
  • whisper voices,
  • to minimize walking the aisles,
  • ensure they can see the activities of worship at the pulpit and choir,
  • be kind to others (including the adults who are listening throughout the sanctuary),
  • recognize and rejoice that this is their church as much as it is the grown-ups’.
• For 3rd Graders and up,
  • adults can encourage them to bring their Bible to worship and find the scripture reading,
  • help them learn to use the hymnal (yes, even though words are on the screens), and
  • to stand and sit when invited,
  • recite the Lord’s Prayer and the creeds, ask the pastor about leading worship.
• Other adults are encouraged to support the parents and children by
  • getting to know the kids, offering to be a child’s adult for the morning,
  • by remembering children are learning and growing so they will act immature,
  • recognizing that we don’t know particular behavioral needs of every child so our patience is important as they learn how to worship,
  • compliment parents often for showing up and leading by example,
  • compliment the kids for coming to praise the Lord.

Please note, learning to worship God is a life-long adventure. Setting the right tone begins at a time of life when active engagement with the world is the path to learning. We want our children to have a hands-on faith and that begins with a hands-on experience of being included.

Jesus fed 5000 men plus the women and children. Jesus said let kids come and don’t hinder them. The PrayGround is one way we feed these lambs and let them come to Jesus.

Thank you for modeling the Way of Christ for the next generation. Thanks be to God for the faith of the children.



Gratitude Attitude

Do you have an attitude?

That was rhetorical. The better question is what kind of attitude do you have. Are you a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person? Do you expect the worst and hope for the best or expect the best and cope with what’s not? Do you have an attitude of gratitude?

Research into the effects of a gratitude mindset consistently show positive health outcomes and even changes in the way your brain processes life’s curveballs, routines, and joys. People have stronger relationships, healthier lives, more emotionally satisfying experiences when they practice gratitude, either in writing, journaling, sending thank you notes, or even pausing to think of things to be grateful about.

As a day on your annual calendar

Thanksgiving is a great excuse to begin a new practice or refresh a current one. This is actually an ancient practice, a spiritual means of grace, and a Biblical standard for worshipping the Lord.

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, 
for his steadfast love endures forever. 
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, 
those he redeemed from trouble 
and gathered in from the lands, 
from the east and from the west, 
from the north and from the south. Ps 107

For the next 6 weeks, from now until January 4, make a commitment to thanks giving. You might:

  • Pray at bedtime – Lord, today I thank you for ___ because _____.
  • Pause before every time you eat something and say thank you toward those who provided the food (farmers, packagers, cooks, chefs, spouse—whoever comes to your mind).
  • Get a pad or small notebook and write at least 3 days each week a list of things that made you feel thankful, or even utter the words, “thank goodness, thank God,” or just plain happy.
  • Get a journal in which to write about the experience of being happy. More than noting an event, this is an inward reflection on your body and mind and spirit’s experience of joy—what it actually feels like when happiness occurs.
  • Send a thank you note to someone twice a week.
  • OR anything you think of to put into practice cultivating an attitude of gratitude.


Stewardship of our lives is more than how much money we might donate to the church or to charity or to the kid selling candy bars for school. Stewardship is a proper self-management that allows us to be ready, willing and able to proclaim good news in a weary world. With an attitude of gratitude, we are useful to God’s ongoing mission in Christ to be a healing and reconciling people because
  • our bodies are healthier, even when ill,
  • our minds are clearer, even when coping with dis-eases of mental illnesses,
  • and our spirits are fruitful, even when coping with fear, anger, or sadness.
May this Thanksgiving holiday become more than turkeys and dressing. May it be a holy day of renewal for following the Way of Jesus Christ.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances, 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thess 5: 16-19

With thanksgiving for you, 
Some research references: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain


Too Weary to Celebrate?

Holidays sometimes feel like anything other than “holy days.”

The stereotypical jokes about family feuds exist because the family dysfunctions are real and painful. The absence of a loved one who has died, recently or a long time ago, can be an acute pain during the next several weeks. Party invitations are nice; yet, sometimes it is easier to turn out the lights and pull up the covers. Perhaps you want to honor all the mixed emotions you have, or not offend someone you are concerned about who may have conflicted feelings as the holiday celebrations begin. How do we care for each other and ourselves when the world is rejoicing and we are crying?
This is the theme for our Advent and Christmas series,

“How does a weary world rejoice?”

Throughout the season we will consider practices of faith that acknowledge the sorrow in the world and our need for hope and peace, while finding pathways to joy. The first service will be on December 3. Then a mid-week opportunity on Wednesday the 6th gathers us for a light supper at 6:00 p.m. followed by worship at 6:45 p.m. “A Service for the Weary” is not exclusive to those who dread the holidays for any reason. All of us have moments of weariness in the busy-ness of the coming weeks. I hope you will pause to take stock of the ways you can bring the life-less parts of yourself before God that the Holy Spirit might bring a new energy to your tired bones and soul.


When that dreaded conversation pops up over the carving of the turkey, and you wonder what to say, perhaps you might ask them, “what makes you weary,” or “what keeps you from the joy you deserve?” No need to fix them if they choose to answer. No need to hide your answer from them. Simply be together, wonder together, and hear the tiredness in their soul as in yours as you both speak of longing for something better.

And if you go around offering thanks, know that at my table, I will be giving thanks for you, possibly by name, but surely by the Spirit, because you, child of God, offer to the world what only you can and in that gift of self, you are the delight of your Creator.  

Happy Thanksgiving.

How Does a Weary World Rejoice, A Sanctified Art, LLC, 2024


It’s a shame.

Antisemitism, antisemitic words and behaviors are all sin. Same goes for Islamophobia and for anti-Palestinian words, and behaviors.

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”

“For God so loved the world,” that Christ lived, died and rose again that all might be saved.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
“My brothers and sisters, do not claim the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory while showing partiality…But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors…For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

“Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come…they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

From beginning to end, God is the creator of all who live. We respect God by respecting those whom God made. We are not entitled to disrespect anyone based on their faith, their place of birth or their ethnicity. Unbelievable that this must be said at all, today, again, and by Christians to Christians. But please, say it, live it, and say it again, in any way you can. It is not godly or holy to attack Jews or Israelis or Palestinians or Muslims. 
Let us not behave like any who harbor such hatred, who act in violence to injure others with sticks and stones, words, spray paint, bombs or bullets. “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Yes, we can do both by naming the sinful actions of hatred and violence and we can be a people who love. Being Jewish is not a sin. Being Muslim is not a sin. Being Israeli is not a sin. Being Palestinian is not a sin. All of these are people, God’s own creation, made to love and be loved.
It’s a shame upon the name of God when any of us is anti-any other because of their identity. Hamas is not an identity. It is a chosen affiliation and a sinful terrorist organization dehumanizing Israeli, Palestinian, Jew, Muslim and Gentile alike. It is a shame on the name of God and will be judged and condemned. May those who labor under its credo abandon it, repent of serving it, and be saved.
Lord, have mercy, for few of us know how to be merciful in this horrendous time of war and terror, from Ukraine to Gaza, and in so many other places of ethnic hatred and genocidal violence, including the neighborhoods of our own nation. Lord have mercy upon us, that we might be the United States of America, a shining city on a hill, a land of free and brave, a country where everyone enjoys the inalienable and divine rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by virtue of their humanity. May we of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church continue to be a beacon of peace and reconciliation where everybody belongs! For the glory of God and Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, now and forevermore. Amen.


Inter-religious Friendship

Dear Friends,
Our neighbors in the Dulles have quite a story to share of 15 years of friendship. With thanksgiving for their witness to the gifts and grace of our shared faith the one God who is our creator, please take time to read these words of Rabbi Holzman from the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston to Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society regarding their worship in a shared space. This article is reprinted in The Presbyterian Outlook which is linked here. You can subscribe to The Outlook to keep up with Presbyterian mission and ministry around the world. Peace be with you.


From Bethlehem–Doug Dicks

Dear Friends,
This week we hear from our mission co-worker in Bethlehem, Doug Dicks. PC(USA) mission co-worker shares an update from the Holy Land  in the Presbyterian Outlook. Doug is a fellow Virginian who has served the peacemaking efforts of Israeli and Palestinian peoples for many years. While his letter dates from October 18, I hope you will be reminded that your church, both St. Andrew and the PC (USA) are engaged in sharing the love of God in Christ around the world, and particularly this week, in the place where our faith story began. 

Pray for Peace

“Our prayer list is long,” Doug Dicks said, heaving a big sigh after I asked him how we could help and how we could pray…On Tuesday, Oct. 10, he was scheduled to go to Gaza to connect two Church of Scotland pastors with partner organizations such as the Middle East Council of Churches — a group that helps young people in Gaza seek better employment through vocational training programs. That visit was canceled …”
This article appears in Presbyterian Outlook (and you can read it there by clicking the link) or in .pdf form from the read more link above.
PC(USA) mission co-worker shares an update from the Holy Land. Teri McDowell Ott speaks to Doug Dicks, the PC(USA) regional liaison to Israel, Palestine and Jordan. BY


Only Love


When I was in 7th grade World History, there were peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Our teacher decided to help us understand by having a class debate. I was so excited. I knew that I would get to argue for the Jews. My recent reconnection to my ancestry, and my living Jewish relatives had given me a new sense of identity and pride.

My assignment was to the side of the Palestinians. I was angry. But I was also a straight A student and was not about to lose a grade over being on the wrong side. (Wow—that’ll preach one day.)

Our team researched. We learned history and culture and current events. We learned rudimentary debate skills. The day arrived.

I got my A. More than that I learned for the first time what it really meant to walk in another’s shoes. Ever since, I have paid attention to the side of an argument that opposes my own perspective. I have since then also had a great empathy for the people of Palestine.

Hamas is a different story. I have no idea how to empathize with people who do what has been done. I don’t understand the level of trauma and inhumanity that must underlie a person’s ability to kill children with such heinous and vicious disregard. I can imagine that it can only be driven by a great and horrific loss and despair that is exploited by the greed and hatred and power of others. I suspect I know nothing of what these people are thinking and have experienced. I also cannot imagine there is any path to talking and diplomacy, though I can and do hope against hope that there is.

The only power I know that can defeat such a demonized and possessed people is the power of Christ’s love. Even so, it must be a love that is beyond what most of us are able to provide.

Unless we are also driven by that same loving Spirit. For at any given time, are we not all capable of a vicious retribution fueled by despair and traumatic soul-depleting injury? “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Or as is written in The Westminster Confession of Faith, 6.084,

“As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation;

so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.”

Thus, let us join in prayer,
“By your mercy, O Lord, pour out your Spirit upon the warriors as well as the terrorists that the killing may stop. Pour out your Spirit, O Christ, upon the peacemakers as well as the warlords that the killing may stop. Pour out justice and mercy, faith and hope, and above all love, O Spirit, that the killing may stop. Inspire in me an empathy that sees your image in my enemy that I might see the enemy within myself. Draw us together that we might be repentant, resurrected and whole, a new creation, forever dwelling in peace and unity. Through Christ, for Christ, in Christ, amen.”


Three MPH


He stood in front of a crowd worried about poverty, incarcerations, all the social worries of the day, and talked about evangelism. “The gospel moves at 3 mph. Like this,” and he turned and walked around the room greeting people.

The gospel spreads the way we walk our talk. It’s a slow-moving, transforming encounter with another in which people see each other, speak to each other, hear stories of their lives, worries of their days, and dreams of their futures. The gospel is good news because those who receive it know their existence is worth noting.

Just when I think I’ve come to terms with my inadequacy of making a difference, the sacrament of communion arrives and Jesus says, “come for dinner, I’ve got a surprise for you.”

At the table I see people from a variety of places in life. We are differently abled, all ages, histories that converge and diverge, sorrows and celebrations that are common if not the same. When I remember that on World Communion Sunday, I am acknowledging that the people I see visibly represent the whole church, in all times and in all places, I am remembering that the church is not a building. I remember that I have connections to people near and far. Some I know. Others I may never meet. And wherever they are, they want the same thing I do: world peace and healthy friendships, and hope.

For every devilish declaration that destruction and chaos are winning, there are millions of people who are walking examples of good news. You are one of them.

Moving at 3 mph – with every hand you shake, smile you give, listening ear you open, dream you support, tear you catch, skill you teach, you are the church making peace in the name of Jesus Christ.

We will once again collect the peacemaking offering. This is the gospel at a dollar at a time. Your contributions have built an early warning (cyclone/flooding) system in the south Pacific nation of Tuvalu, created programs for women and girls to avoid and escape human trafficking in Madagascar, and offered training for dismantling racism in our own presbytery. This, too, is the slow-moving spread of the gospel.

Do you wonder if you are alone in your own dreams for a world at peace, or a relationship healed? Maybe there is an answer for you. The table is ready and Christ calls, “Come for dinner….”

Keep shining saints!




More than a feeling

Is the sky falling?

Do you think everything is worse than it used to be?
Is poverty in the USA:  A) growing B) stable C) decreasing?

Surprise! It is C. in 1964, 19% of the population lived in poverty. In 2014, it was 14.8% and in 2022, it was 11.5%.

There are still too many people living in poverty. Yet, if we ignore the positive movement, we might lose hope and fail to continue the necessary efforts to give more people more avenues to a life of enough, and more than enough. We must rely on more than a feeling about how the world is changing and examine the facts. Things are improving–slowly but surely.

Forgive us our debts…

Sunday, we read the story of the forgiveness of debts. What a joyful way for someone to be freed from a life of poverty and impossibility. Many of you likely have a house debt, maybe car or credit card debt, maybe education debt. Perhaps you have found ways to manage and are paying it down.

Imagine if the number was so big, it would never end. Maybe you do not have to imagine. I do not have to imagine. When I was given the gift of paying off a debt, the freedom released so much within my soul that it was life-changing.

Whether the debt we forgive is a relational IOU or a financial one, grace moves life toward the good. Perhaps you forgive debts through services like Rise Against Hunger, or Food on the Fourth. You have another super-power.

You can vote. Which candidates see a handout as a handup, too? Which candidates support the most vulnerable, usually women, children, young adults just getting started, and seniors, often people of color, migrants?

Small Change, Compound Results

Because sometimes the gift is like offering a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. In God’s hands, all offerings are abundantly compounded. And debts are forgiven, removed as far as the east is from the west!
If we spend time judging the intentions of recipients, we will always miss the opportunities to bless the positive movement of so many others. Let us not regard small change as irrelevant. Let us offer it to God and see how God forgives our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Images “The sky is falling!” by BaileyRaeWeaver is licensed under CC BY 2.0.  Mead quote by JenTravelsLife is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


“Honest Patriotism”

Appeals and Investments

My phone is getting overloaded with texts and emails. It’s political season and the fundraising has kicked in. Do you respond to some? Do candidates or their messages inspire you to invest your hard-earned cash into their campaign for authority and power to manage the republic? What does it take to move you from irritated and annoyed to committed voter and funder?

Deciding Considerations

For some time, I have been thinking about how I want to use money when I am supporting something I think of as the greater good. This has made me consider my value system. I have to take time to process what an appeal includes that is in line with the things I believe. This means moving beyond bumper sticker campaign slogans and posts on social media.
I cannot dismiss one party’s candidates in favor of the other with a quick swipe across my Instagram page. I have to pay attention to details about their policies. When I do, I can begin to see how a common ground may emerge, a starting point for connections that otherwise are dismissed by our political divides and 30-second ugly marketing strategies. (There’s a link below for some starting points.)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God,

and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. (Rom. 13:1)

My Ever-emerging Decision Process

My strategy is based on character, community, and commandments.

Character: how closely do they mirror the life of my inspiration, Jesus.

     Key aspects-
  • a broadening welcome of people no matter where they come from or who they are,
  • invitational in that options open up for overcoming histories of personal and societal failures
  • interdependent, able to articulate personal positions without diminishing those who differ (unless they’re pharisaical ways lead to murder plots!).
  • truth seeker and truth teller

Community:  what kind of society did Jesus build with his disciples, what is the nature of the promised land of Israel’s hope.

     Key aspects:
  • become more clear in what I think “on earth as in heaven,” means and discern the ways a platform seeks that outcome,
  • Diminishing poverty, ending hunger and lack of clean water, and provision of shelter at the least,
  • shared wealth that builds prosperity for all,
  • promotion of non-violent settlement of conflicts,
  • exhaustive pursuit of forgiveness and cooperation.
Commandments: The three uses of the law are to show us
  • how far we need to go toward building a heavenly peace,
  • to restrain our tendencies toward apathy for the well-being of others, and
  • to cast the vision of God’s intention for a whole and holy creation.

The 10 Commandments lay it out pretty well. The 2 Great Commandments make it even more clear: love the Divine Creator of all that is and love the creatures, including ourselves, that Creator makes.

How will you decide?

I invite you to have a conversation with your trusted friends about the actual values that drive your vote, your contributions, your investments in our political process.
If you want to read about the Presbyterian understanding of our duty as citizens in the public arena, here’s a link to “Honest Patriotism.”  It is a beginning conversation on the importance of truth and what being patriotic is from a Scriptural and Reformed theology point of view. https://www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/honest-patriotism/