Please keep members of our
Church Family in your prayers:

Bob Cross
Lucy Diener
Philip & Roseanne Frye
Bev Grant

Olga Kehoe
Natalie Klohck

And any prayers
you may have in your heart


Consider this—
God our Shelter, be a strong presence in the lives of neighbors who, having survived the winds and rains of Harvey, now face grief, uncertainty and weary days. May our generosity in prayer and in tangible signs of support overflow more than floodwaters, to sustain your work of healing and rebuilding and bring comfort and strength to those who suffer.

Rev. Leonard Sponaugle receives the charge during his installation


Sermons & Prayers


of Sermons, Guns, Mental Health, the Bible, and the Lost

One of the most useful things a church member has ever told me was that when a preacher is preaching all the members of the congregation can do is listen. He wanted me to know that in worship there is a power differential between the preacher and congregation because the congregation cannot respond. So when a preacher says something that makes your blood boil all you can do is sit there. Because of that, I try to say controversial things in one on one settings, or in small group meetings. Of course, there are times when controversial things must be said in a sermon. Two Sundays ago I did address the recent school shooting in Florida, but there is more to be said.

The right to bear arms is not unlimited. The Supreme Court in the Heller Decision made it clear that firearms can be regulated. Therefore, if the two main purposes of gun ownership are hunting and self-defense, there is no reason for an ordinary person to have and use a military grade weapon. There is no reason to hunt with an assault weapon, and if a foreign military force attacks our country it will be our military that defends us.

Some of the shooters have been beset with mental health problems. Understanding mental illness and diagnosing it is a combination of science and art, so it is very hard to get it right all the time. What is clear is there are not enough easily and quickly accessible places to go to if you are having a mental health crisis. For example, some time ago a person contacted me late on a Friday evening in a highly agitated state; she needed a mental health intervention! Our local emergency rooms would not help because it was not a physical crisis. The best I could do was to get a phone intervention from the county's on call social worker— and that was after hours of effort. Because the person was not suicidal or homeless, all that was offered was a referral for a con-tact during regular work hours on the upcoming Monday.

That leads into my great concern about what is being referred to as the opioid crisis. It had its origins in the 90s as a more aggressive kind of pain management was encouraged. It has gotten out of control. The peo-ple who are caught in the throes of this type of addiction desperately need mental health intervention, and there is not enough of it.

The simple way guns, mental health care, and the opioid crisis can be tied together is that as a country we are losing people— by the hundreds of thousands! Think of the 14 kids and three adults mowed down last week, the people who love them, the shooter and the people who love him, and add to it the similar losses from the other mass shootings. Now consider the thousands of lives lost to opioid addiction. Simply put, confining mil-itary grade weapons to the armed services and standing up a mental health care system that meets the needs of all our people will result in lives saved.

You at first have noticed there is not a quote from the Bible at the top of this article, as there usually is. That is because I could not think of an appropriate one for this article. Obviously, I wanted to write something in response to the recent school shooting in Florida. Of course, I wanted first to focus on guns. Guns were invented well after Biblical times. Although there are references to weapons in the Bible, and some with considerable mental gymnastics apply them to the various thoughts and feelings about guns, but there is not an obvious and relevant Scripture to use. But I kept coming back to the people we are losing to gun violence. Then I began thinking about how mental health care is connected to so many of the shooters and how the lack of it is hampering our ability to respond to people in ill mental health. From there my mind went to the opioid crisis and the losses there. The Bible is clear that lost people matter to God, "For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost." Luke 19:10.

We are living in wild and wooly times, and it is hard to know how to be faithful. Let us ground ourselves in the call to help the lost— because lost people matter to God.

Thoughtfully & Faithfully,
Pastor Leonard

Email for Pastor Leonard:



37 S. Market St., Johnstown, NY 12095
Ph: 518.762.8263 Fax: 518.762.2981