The View From Croagh Patrick

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Although it tops out at only 2,500 feet, it is still an impressive mountain.

It’s called, Croagh Patrick.

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Located on the west coast of Ireland, the cone-shaped, rocky mountain is rich in history and legend.

Historical evidence has revealed that the summit was once a frequently visited location for pre-Christian pilgrims. A ring fortress, encircling the summit, was discovered that may date back hundreds of years before Christ. Additionally, the remnants of a small, stone building—called an oratory—has also been discovered there, and most scholars have linked it to the age when Christianity swept across Ireland. It is likely that the stone enclosure was a place of retreat for early monastic Christians.

Less certain is the connection that the mountain has with the patron saint of Ireland--St. Patrick. As the story goes, St. Patrick spent 40 days on the mountain for a Lenten ritual of fasting and prayer. Furthermore, it is widely believed that St. Patrick banished all of Ireland’s snakes from atop the summit.

Because of this history, and out of devotion to St. Patrick’s Christian witness, nearly a million individuals hike to the summit of Croagh Patrick each year. ‘Croagh’ means stack, hill or mountain. It is a pilgrimage site where the faithful from around the world journey to immerse themselves in a wilderness experience as Jesus, himself, once did.

Like the path we trod in our daily lives, the pilgrimage hike to Croagh Patrick requires a significant investment of time and energy. It is not an easy ascent. The most penitent hike the trail barefooted.

Although it is unlikely that I will hike it without footwear, I plan on reaching the summit of Croagh Patrick sometime during the first week of March. I will be in Ireland for a week doing research on the history of the Church in Ireland—often called Celtic Christianity--for my Doctorate studies.

My first semester at Campbell University Divinity School this fall exceeded my expectations. As many of you are aware, I made frequent trips to Buies Creek. My classwork consisted of readings, presentations, dialogue and debate. As my grades will attest, I’m proud to say that I have successfully removed the cobwebs from my academic skill set and have a good strategy in place as I make plans for my Doctoral project, or dissertation.

This semester, my time at Campbell is cut in half. Instead of eight trips, I will only make four. My class load is the same as the fall, but one of my classes is an advanced elective. In addition to the exegetical class I’m taking in Buies Creek, I am working with a faculty member to design a class that will serve as a building block for the project that I will execute in the fall of 2019. I have crafted this independent study so that I can do a historical examination of the early Church in Ireland from the 5th to the 10th centuries. As my readings are already making clear, there are things our modern church can learn from the Celtic expression of the Christian tradition.

I will be using my week in Ireland this March to help me to see, touch and feel the legacy of Christianity in a unique and fascinating context. I will visit the ruins of ancient churches and monasteries, see the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin and peer out on the western plains of Ireland from the summit of Croagh Patrick to where the Saint first began his evangelical pursuits.

When I return, I will be sharing with you what I’ve learned about the origins and legacy of Celtic Christianity. I will be offering a three-week presentation and study—complete with pictures and firsthand recollections from my research trip—about the Church in Ireland in May. I look forward to sharing my interest in Celtic Christianity with you.

I am most-grateful for the chance to study and to be stretched both academically and spiritually. The cohort of colleagues that I am a part of has blessed me greatly these last months and has proven to be a source of encouragement and accountability. What I especially love, however, is that the Doctoral program is designed to be a blessing for the congregation that the minister serves. My studies and my project are all intended to help and encourage our church and the Church Universal.

So no, I don’t expect the hike up the face of Croagh Patrick to be easy. But I know I won’t be traveling alone. 

Take a Hike

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Join us for a hike on Sunday afternoon, January 28! Enjoy God’s creation and the gift of fellowship as we hike in our beautiful mountains. Everyone is invited to join us on the path. 

The hike will last no more than 90 minutes and will have gentle terrain and little elevation gain. A water bottle, snack, hiking stick and weather-appropriate clothing are all that you might need. We will meet in the church parking lot at 3:00 PM and will return no later than 6:00 PM. 

In keeping with our theme of Path: Walking Humbly With Our God, we will be taking a monthly hike together throughout the year. If you have questions, contact Jeff. 

Introducing Darren Beebe, Pastoral Ministry Intern for the Spring

Darren Beebe will be a pastoral ministry intern with us this spring. Please join us in welcoming this seminary student as he seeks to learn and serve alongside us. 

"Joyous greetings, First Baptist Church of Sylva!  It is with great enthusiasm and gratitude that I introduce myself to you all as your pastoral ministry intern for the spring!  I am a divinity school student at Gardner-Webb University starting this month, so I am very excited to serve the Lord and learn more about ministry through hands-on experience at your church. 

I will be serving in a variety of areas in the church to garner a more comprehensive learning experience.  Having settled on an internship contract with Jeff that focuses on learning and serving, I will attend worship and Bible study with you all on Sundays and Wednesdays, and will disperse my time among the various classes and age groups.  Likewise, I will lead a few Sunday School lessons and Bible studies.  I will also accompany Jeff and other church members on a few pastoral visits.

Here’s a little bit about me:  I was born and raised in Boone, NC, but decided to attend the better mountain school in Cullowhee instead of that other school back home.  I graduated from WCU with a bachelor’s degree in history last semester.  There, I was very active in the Baptist Student Fellowship, serving in numerous leadership roles.  I attended Cullowhee Baptist Church for my entire undergraduate career, and interned with the pastors there this past summer.  It was these experiences in college that spurred my Christian faith to grow and aided me in discerning the call to ministry.

I am excited to be serving the Lord alongside you all this coming semester!  I look forward to getting to know the FBC family better. As such, feel free to come say hello if you see me around!  I am grateful to Jeff, the rest of the FBC staff, and the entire congregation in having me as your intern!  I can’t wait to serve and learn together!"

Grace and Peace,
Darren Beebe    

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New Year Message from Pastor Ernesto in Cuba

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"Beloved brothers and sisters from First Baptist church of Sylva,

For this year, we wish for you guys to start the year with health and peace. We are living through some difficult times at the moment, which we have to place in the hand of God.

We are praying for all of you, asking God that you all are well, and that if there’s anything going on with your family that God will take control of the situation and guide you to a solution. This new year, our church is going to focus on family, in which we include you.

I found out from Pastor Jeff what happened to the wife of one of your former pastors. This news is very sad and difficult to manage. We are praying that God will give you wisdom as you grieve their loss and respond with kindness and support. When difficulties and tragedies occur, put your energy into what can happen next so that God’s redemptive power can spring into action. 

We love you and will remember you in our prayers during the coming year, and will hope alongside you that 2018 will make our love for Jesus Christ stronger."

A hug,
Ernesto and Marisol

WMU Missions Extravaganza

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 2018 Missions Extravaganza

The WMU of North Carolina Missions Extravaganza will be held Friday and Saturday, April 27-28, at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

This is a wonderful event and opportunity to meet missionaries, choose from a wide variety of break-out sessions that are sure to encourage, challenge, and equip you for the mission field God has placed before you. 

To learn more about Missions Extravaganza, check out this website: http://www.wmunc.org/me2018

A group will be going to this event from First Baptist Sylva. We’d love to have you join us. We have reservations for Friday night in Winston Salem at the Comfort Suites-Hanes Mall. The Registration Fee for both Friday evening and Saturday is $55.00 per person if received by February 1, and $65.00 per person after February 1.

If you would like to go with us, please email Linda Phelps at linda.todd@wku.edu or text or phone Linda at 270.784.2547.

RAs and GAs Activity Weekend

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May 18th - 19th we will be have a Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors activity weekend. 

GAs will be having a sleepover at the church in the Mission and Fellowship Center beginning at 5:30PM and will need to be picked up by 8:30AM on the 19th. Girls of all ages are invited to stay, however we do ask that girls Kindergarten - 2nd grade be accompanied by a parent. Also, we will need some female chaperones. 

RAs will be going camping at The Davidson River Campground. We will leave the church parking lot at 5:00PM and will return no later than noon on the 19th. Boys of all ages are invited to go, however we do ask that boys Kindergarten - 2nd grade be accompanied by a parent. Also, we will need some male chaperones. 

Please sign-up for both events here: https://goo.gl/forms/lph51eXhs25lDorr1