March Letter

Dear Friends in Christ,
Last month's snowy weather was a reminder of how important it is to be connected with one another. When the forces of nature bear down on us as they did in our February Snowmageddon we realize how vulnerable we are to the forces of nature, particularly out here on the Olympic Peninsula. Streets were impassable for days, schools and businesses were forced to close, grocery store shelves were left bare, and some were left homebound for well over a week. Yet out of that chaos emerged an abundance of stories of people reaching out to help one another ... and later wondering why we don't do this more often.

The importance of being connected is one of the reasons I cherish life in the community of Christ, particularly as we practice our connectionalism as Presbyterians. We Presbyterians hold as central to our existence a commitment to life in covenant with one another. Theologically speaking, we believe that we cannot be faithful followers of Jesus Christ apart from one another. Practically speaking, we understand there is so much more we can do together than we could ever hope to accomplish on our own. Beyond that, our hearts tell us that life in community is good for the soul as it provides opportunities for sharing, learning, and bearing one another's burdens.

February Letter

Dear Friends in Christ,
February is one of my least favorite months. I’ll just get that out there. In the places I’ve lived, February is the grayest, wettest, coldest, most dreary month of the year. If you’re a sports fan, there isn’t much to cheer about—after the Super Bowl at the beginning of the month there is a seemingly endless gap before baseball’s spring training games, and March Madness is, well, not until March. February is like the time between the crucifixion and the resurrection; a dreary time of being in-between where the past (winter) is not yet gone and the future (spring) is yet still beyond the horizon. Where can we find hope in such a depressing month?

I think back to a past winter. I’m not sure if it was in February, but it sure felt quite February-like. I was in a particularly February kind of mood, feeling down and as if God was far away. While walking the dog I felt drawn to the pond in our park. It had frozen over and there was a fresh layer of snow covering it, beckoning me to write my prayer on the blank canvas before me. I trudged out onto the snow and ice and shuffled out my message to God in big bold letters: H o p e. There, I had done it—one part affirmation of faith, and one part direct challenge to God. Hope: God, I believe it ... now show me it’s really there!

As the days went on, the weather was quite February. The temps warmed up, though only enough to melt the snow.
The rains came. H o p e was beginning to fade. I could still make out the traces of my message on the ice, though it was increasingly harder to pick out. What was once a bold declaration (or plea) in the snow was now a faint trace of slush in a pool of water that had collected on the icy pond. So much for hope, I thought.

December Letter

Dear Friends in Christ,
We were talking at the dinner table recently about Thanksgiving, and it brought to mind the many different people we’ve celebrated the holiday with over the years. We’ve gathered with groups large and small, with family, friends, and strangers. We’ve dined on fine china and on paper plates, with silverware and with plastic service. We’ve been seated at the head of the table and relegated to the kids’ table. And we’ve eaten in dining rooms, living rooms, fellowship halls, and Lord knows where else!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of the memories of times spent in fellowship with others, giving thanks for the abundance of God’s goodness and love. The faces have become a little fuzzy to me as the years have gone by, and certainly a number of those people have gone on to the eternal feast of praise in the presence of the Lord. If some of the memories are a little cloudy, the common denominator of the Holy Spirit’s presence at those gatherings is crystal clear. Thanksgiving is the work of the Holy Spirit—bringing people together in praise and thanks for God’s steadfast love and abundant grace.

As you make your plans to celebrate Thanksgiving, I invite you to meditate on Psalm 100—a psalm of Thanksgiving—and consider the connection between joyful noises of praise, giving thanks, and being in community in the presence of God. These are the elements of true thanksgiving, nurtured by the Holy Spirit, and the common thread in the memories I’ve shared above. May they be present at your table this Thanksgiving Day.
Godspeed, Pastor Matt

matt sig

November Letter

Dear Friends in Christ,

It doesn’t happen very often, but this is one of those moments when I am at a loss for words.

What I would like to do is describe my gratitude for your gracious hospitality in which you have welcomed me, Becca, and Arie into the FPCPA family. If I could, I would put words to the overwhelming joy it is to be your new pastor. I would also be able to express how thankful I am for the ministries of Pastor Ted and Pastor Wendy and their fine leadership in guiding FPCPA to this point and preparing the way for a new chapter of ministry and service. And, if I could find the words, I would describe the blessing it was to interact with the Pastor Nominating Committee during the search, and with the staff and Session since arriving just a few short weeks ago. But, for some reason the words escape me.

When I find myself in times of overwhelming emotion such as this, I find it helpful to simply give thanks to God. For surely what I am experiencing is the abundance of God’s grace as manifest in your hospitality, Ted’s and Wendy’s leadership, the PNC, the dedicated staff and Session, and the welcome we have received from others in the Port Angeles community. So, I will borrow from the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:15 and say, “Thanks be to God for the indescribable gift of the FPCPA family!”

I am looking forward to serving Christ with you in the months and years to come.

Godspeed, Matt (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

October Letter

"THIS IS THE LORD'S DOING; IT IS MARVELOUS IN OUR EYES" (PSALM 118:23)

We are delighted to announce that God has answered our prayers for a new pastor. At a Special Congregational Meeting held on Sunday, August 26, 2018 the Reverend, Dr. Matthew Paul was elected to be the next pastor of First Presbyterian Church Port Angeles by a nearly unanimous vote of the congregation.

The Pastor Nominating Committee of FPCPA, after much prayer and discernment, and guided by the Holy Spirit, felt strongly that the gifts, vision, and experience of Reverend, Dr. Matthew M. Paul are well matched to inspire and lead our congregation in the faithful pursuit of God’s will in the years to come. We are thrilled and excited to welcome Matt to our congregation as our next pastor!

Please welcome the Rev. Dr. Matthew Paul, his wife Becca, and son Arie to our church family. They are excited about coming back to the Pacific NW, being near family and getting to know our congregation. Pastor Matt is passionate about “helping others see their lives as part of the greater story of God’s redeeming work in Christ and to become active partners with Jesus in his ministry”. He will begin his work with us on Monday, Sept. 10. All are invited to greet Rev. Dr. Matthew Paul and attend worship on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 8:30 am or 11 am.

Congratulations to the First Presbyterian Church of Port Angeles on calling such a uniquely gifted pastor in the Rev. Dr. Matthew Paul! I have had the privilege of having him as a friend and colleague for over 15 years. Matt's ministry is marked by a passion for the gospel of Christ, an astute and caring spirit, and an intellectually sound approach to preaching and teaching. I am excited for the church to step into this new season of life with the Paul family. Matt and Becca will pour their hearts into your community, and Christ will be glorified throughout Port Angeles and beyond! - Rev. Dr. Mark McIlraith, Senior Pastor/Head of Staff, Lake Grove Presbyterian Church, Lake Oswego, OR.

Matt is dedicated and devoted to Jesus Christ. He is passionate about the mission of Christ in the world but is even more excited when others find their gifts for ministry and find their calling in mission. He is a thoughtful preacher who brings both his heart and his mind to his preaching. He enjoys life and welcomes opportunities for fellowship. His family are funny, warm, and kind-hearted. I wish them and you all God's blessings! - Pastor Kyle Otterheim