The Quarterly Newsletter - November 2020

Cedar Ridge Community Church

Trusting the Light

As we near the end of another year, we naturally look back to reflect on what we’re thankful for and look ahead with hope to what is yet to come. Looking forward at this same time last year, none of us could possibly have imagined the year we were about to have. It’s been challenging, saddening and even harrowing for sure. None of us should try to paint a glossy picture of 2020.

Yet, as I look back and reflect on our community together, I still can’t help feeling so grateful. In all of these challenging circumstances we have rallied, loved, supported, served and cared for one another. We’ve painfully lamented, grieved and repented as we’ve sought to take ownership of racism and white supremacy in our lives and in our culture. We’ve kept our vision alive with another productive growing season on our farm and as we’ve served locally with our partner organizations and further afield with our friends in Ipala, Guatemala. Through zoom gatherings we’ve met for small group discussions and prayer, and we’ve been able to gather as one community to experience worship, reflect on messages, and share communion together. I can’t tell you how much this community has meant to me personally, and I know I am not the only one. Somehow in all this struggle, with all this loss and through all this sadness we have grown to appreciate one another more deeply and treasured God’s presence with us.

As we approach the Advent season we wait and celebrate this very presence – Emmanuel, God with us. The incarnation is assurance that God not only loves us but identifies with our humanity so deeply as to actually become human. Christ is with us in the struggle, the pain and the suffering. And this divine participation in humanity is itself an invitation into partnership with the mystery, awe and wonder of divinity. That’s why we dare to dream of heaven on earth. That’s what gives us courage to be the change. That’s why we believe the world can be a better place. And that’s why we’ll never give up being agents of love, peace and hope.

This newsletter describes many of the things we have done together over the past year. I hope you enjoy reading it. As you reflect on how God’s love has carried us through, I hope it encourages and inspires you as we face the future together. Let’s not try to pretend the darkness is not there, but rather let’s put our trust in the Light of the World – God’s infinite love made flesh!

With love,

Matthew Dyer, Lead Pastor

Read the FY 20 and FY 21 Budget: Spending at Cedar Ridge

Cedar Ridge is an incredibly generous community: Members and attenders donate 85-90% of the money we spend each year. We give to finance the vision to which we are committed. And we give as an expression of our vision—demonstrating good stewardship, generosity, service, and discipleship. Below is a summary of how we spent our income last year, and our plan for spending in the coming year.

Over the last 12 months, our operating expenses totaled approximately $758,969.[1] This was in addition to capital expenses of $36,311. Our budget goal for September 2020–August 2021 is to finance the annual plan priorities detailed below through community donations of $721,115, and rental income and grants amounting to $100,040, for a total operating budget of $821,155.

Worship Services[2]

FY21 Budget $106,070

Whether we are meeting online or in person, gathering together as a diverse community is an essential way we experience more of God. Now, more than ever, we recognize the need for community, and Sunday mornings will remain an inclusive space for all of us to worship and grow together. We will continue to invest in technologies that allow us to connect, and will adapt to changing guidelines regarding the pandemic throughout the year.

Spending in FY20 $105,743

Over the last year, we engaged together in a GodQuest, explored joy in Philippians, discovered how diverse people found God to be “more than enough,” studied the Sermon on the Mount, found comfort and hope in familiar Bible stories, heard from community members how psalms and movies had helped them experience God, and looked at some of Jesus’ uncomfortable conversations. We celebrated harvest, Advent and Christmas together, and rejoiced in the power of love over death and fear through our virtual Easter service.

Children and Youth

FY21 Budget $59,712

Our children and youth leaders encourage and challenge our students to follow Jesus passionately and help make the world a better place, while welcoming doubts, questions, and struggles. This year we will focus on helping children and youth stay emotionally and spiritually strong during this difficult time, and to engage with racial justice issues in age appropriate ways.

Spending in FY20 $57,400

Highlights from last year include the fall “fleepover” and youth laser tag, engagement by children and youth in service day projects; celebrating graduates in a new, creative way with photo books and gathering outdoors; video calls to allow children to interact with their peers and leaders; and Zoom hang-out times and game nights for youth. Preschool and elementary lessons also transitioned to videos and online activities during this time.

Prayer and Healing

FY21 Budget $82,074

Through prayer, we experience the loving presence of God, which enables us to engage more healthily in the challenges, as well as the beauty of everyday life. We have held prayer-focused events for adults and families in the fall, as well as dedicated times of prayer for the elections and for racial justice. In addition, we will continue to promote prayer as an integral part of discipleship for people of all ages.

Spending in FY20 $82,846

We experienced God’s presence together through a prayer vigil for racial justice, a Quiet Day, contemplative services, and prayer practices integrated into Sunday services, as well as through individual and group prayer practices. We developed Advent, Lenten and non-seasonal meditations and made them available online. We responded to the pain and suffering of both church members and our extended community virtually and in person through prayer, counseling, and practical support.

Small Groups

FY21 Budget $9,513

Small groups provide a place to experience growth, community and servanthood. During the coming year, discipleship groups will continue to focus on encouraging and supporting members through this difficult time of COVID, polarized elections, and heightened awareness of racial injustice. We will develop materials to guide groups and provide pastoral support to group leaders as we seek to renew our spiritual lives and revitalize our capacity to engage in social justice issues.

Spending in FY20 $9,548

During the second half of last year, discipleship groups became a lifeline for many of us—providing encouragement, prayer and practical support as we faced the implications of the global pandemic. The depth of love that was shown among group members was a testament to our commitment to community, even when we cannot physically meet together. Several Lenten challenge groups also continued to connect virtually after the shutdown, with resources made broadly available via social media.

Social Justice

FY21 Budget $21,552

We will continue to hold racial justice encounter groups to promote learning and action, and to provide safe space for people of color within our community. We will deepen our relationship with Greencastle Elementary, and strengthen the social justice dimensions of our work in Ipala and through the farm. We will work with children and youth leaders to strengthen understanding and agency around social justice, and will look for ways to partner with larger coalitions and organizations that share our values for justice.

Spending in FY20 $14,488

Achievements included advocacy for increased and more equitable public school funding; an interfaith initiative that donated 44 boxes of books and winter clothing to 3 under-resourced local elementary schools; a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event focused on racial injustice in public education; delivery of 309 bags of food, 9 Thanksgiving baskets and $2,025 in gift cards to Greencastle families in need; weekly farm food deliveries in partnership with Community Food Rescue; the churchwide prayer vigil for racial justice; and a series of racial justice encounter groups via zoom.


FY21 Budget $23,157

The farm is a visible demonstration of our commitment to economic justice, and a place we can experience the mystery and beauty of God in nature, both individually and as a community serving together. We will enhance our focus on food justice issues through the farm and our celebration of the harvest. We will also continue to partner with Manna Food Center to address food justice issues in our locality.

Spending in FY20 $21,909

Pandemic-related restrictions severely reduced labor on the farm this past season. We did not hire a farm assistant this year, were unable to host students and other groups, and were only able to host two farm nights (one of which was rained out). Despite the many challenges, the farm team led our community in another successful farming season, harvesting well over a ton of fresh produce, which was particularly needed during this time when many more of our neighbors are unable to purchase healthy food.


FY21 Budget $42,740 [3]

During this time when we are unable to travel, we will focus on reviewing our activities in Ipala and ensuring alignment with Cedar Ridge’s social justice guiding principles. We will also remain responsive to the evolving situation on the ground, and provide appropriate practical support to families in need.

Spending in FY20 $45,981

Visa issues prevented members of CIDHER from visiting Cedar Ridge last year to engage in strategic planning. Plan B—for a few Cedar Ridge leaders to travel to Ipala for the planning—was in turn thwarted by the pandemic. Nevertheless, our work in Guatemala continued: we provided 54 scholarships to secondary school youth, contributed to a health fund that assists with medical needs, and twice delivered a week’s basic food to 100 families.

Local outreach

FY21 Budget $69,060

Subject to the restrictions in place at the time, we will organize safe and creative outreach activities such as outdoor and drive-in celebrations, virtual events, roadside signage and direct mailings. We will promote the use of our beautiful 63-acre property, and maintain a focus on the goal of working together for social justice, empowered by an ongoing experience of God’s unconditional love.

Spending in FY20 $75,833

Over the past 12 months we hosted a number of strongly attended and well-received events, including a Burtonsville Day movie screening, our largest Harvest Festival to date (with over 900 attendees), Advent in the Barn, an intergenerational coffeehouse, and an interfaith service day. Community festivals were cancelled this year, due to the pandemic. But we experienced a significant increase in people from our local community enjoying our property.


FY21 Budget $405,026

We will continue to rent out our facilities in ways that comply with state and county regulations, and will invest in air purification technologies to maximize safety for all occupants. The construction of a seven-acre solar farm is expected to begin in the spring, and become operational by the end of summer.

Spending in FY20 $345,220

In the last year, rental income fell as churches and schools were unable to meet as previously. We secured an additional long-term rental from a Spanish-speaking church, but saw a reduction overall going into the new financial year. Our agreement with a company to develop a solar farm on our meadow continued to advance through the necessary analytical and bureaucratic processes. Our well-maintained property provided a peaceful refuge for many people during the difficult spring and summer months.


[1] The numbers quoted here will change slightly as final expenses are received for September. The final expenses total will be available at the annual meeting, following the external review of the FY20 accounts.

[2] The figures quoted include salaries of staff members who devote time to the respective ministry areas.

[3] This figure does not include the cost of a trip by Cedar Ridge members to Guatemala, due to ongoing coronavirus concerns.

The Farm

By Ruth Campbell

When we look back on our 2020 farm season, there is so much for which to be thankful! Back in March it seemed impossible to get production up and running due to the coronavirus restrictions, but—as always—our community came through!  Huge thanks to the farm team, who worked tirelessly all season to make up for our labor shortfalls… to the families who grew seedlings in the spring… to the socially distanced volunteers who came out to weed and harvest… to everyone who donated boxes and bags… and to all who gave financially to Cedar Ridge this year—enabling us to provide 2,762 lbs of fresh vegetables and fruit to local families in this time of great need.

 We are also grateful for our partners—Manna Food Center and the soup kitchens and food pantries that distributed our food. We can take heart that there are so many people and organizations in Montgomery County dedicated to fighting the scourge of hunger! 

 In the coming year, we want to keep using the farm to not only grow food but to also grow awareness of food insecurity in our locality. In such a wealthy county and state, it is simply wrong that so many people struggle with hunger on a regular basis. By advocating for pro-poor policies, supporting local food assistance providers, being socially conscious consumers, and reaching out to help our neighbors, we can make a small but meaningful contribution to local food justice. 

Support to Local Schools

 By Ruth Campbell

Like other schools in Montgomery County, nearby Greencastle Elementary School (GCES) learned they were to close their facilities on March 13 with just one day’s notice. Thanks to the generous donations of members, Cedar Ridge was able to make a last-minute delivery of 19 bags of food to families in need on that final day of school. Since that time, we have delivered an additional 240 bags of food and 132 grocery store gift cards to support 20 families through this difficult time. 

 The food is distributed to the families by the coordinator for the YMCA’s Linkages to Learning program at Greencastle. She writes:

 My team and I are extremely thankful for the immense generosity you have had with our GCES community, but especially for stepping up in one of the toughest moments our community has experienced during this pandemic. 

 Your community church has given our Linkages to Learning families a Christmas in these past dark months. Many of the families that your constant support helped lost their jobs for many months due to the pandemic. Yet, it was thanks to your monthly commitment that Linkages clients and community members were able to bring nourishment to their loved ones’ table. 

 One of the best parts of your contribution is that they get to witness their own community partners supporting their needs. These families, many of them single mothers or large families have shown so much appreciation for what you all have done for them.

 We are truly grateful for what you have done for these families!

 In addition to monthly food deliveries, we are currently collecting winter coats, boots, hats and gloves for Greencastle students; as well as art supplies for students at Galway Elementary. Thank you to everyone who has donated so generously!

Greencastle, Galway and other local public schools serve a diverse and vibrant community. But multiple factors—including concentrated poverty—can compromise students’ wellbeing, creating barriers to learning. In addition to donations, our aim is to support schools to access the resources they need to provide all students with opportunities to learn and thrive. In the coming months we will continue to advocate for increased and more equitable state funding, while continuing to respond to immediate local needs.

By Bryan Peterson

The Scriptures portray parents as the primary influencers of their children’s spiritual development. Living at home together through the pandemic has provided families with unmatched opportunities (and challenges) to grow together in their journey of faith. Those of us who serve with Cedar Ridge Kids see ourselves as supporters of parents in this vital faith-nurturing task. At the beginning of 2019-20, that support took on a more “normal” look on Sundays, albeit with some fresh leadership and a fresh approach. Kids could interact with Jesus-centered Bible stories, expend energy with some purposeful games, and reinforce the lesson with some creative activities and songs. When the world seemed to shut down in March, we immediately took those preschool and elementary lessons online. We’ve learned some things along the way, and are now trying to provide virtually-overloaded families with easy-to-use videos that are designed to provide some important content but also to spark conversations with parents and caregivers at home. If it has been a while since you checked out our Cedar Ridge Kids virtual lessons, please do so today!

As we move forward, we want to find helpful and creative ways to support parents and share resources as they nurture their child’s faith and guide them through these unprecedented times.  We’re looking to develop age-appropriate ways to engage in justice-oriented conversations. And, as it becomes time to re-open our facilities, we’ll aim to do so in a way that is as safe and sensible as possible.

Until then, may you sense the wisdom, patience, endurance, grace and loving presence of Jesus as together your family navigates the ups and downs of this year like no other.

An Update on Cedar Ridge Middle and High School Youth

By Trish Audi

The high school group continued to gather throughout the pandemic either through zoom or on the property. A few highlights during our pandemic time have been game nights through zoom, honoring our seniors with a celebration on the property and a photobook of their time in the youth group, and our own mini harvest festival for the middle school and high school groups. We have been so grateful that the weather has cooperated for us to continue meeting on the property throughout the fall!

The middle school and high school youth leaders have tried different ways to connect with their groups over the last several months including group chats, zoom game nights and gatherings, and meeting on the property for fun and for lessons. It has been difficult at times to keep the momentum moving forward, but the youth have shown their desire to be together time and time again by showing up for planned events. The two groups have been combined at this point to increase our numbers. We meet as a large group for games and the initial greeting on the property and then sometimes split for smaller discussions. We have also had some college age students and young adults join our group which has been awesome!

In September, we held a re-launch event where each group welcomed their new members- the rising 9th graders came to the high school group, and the rising 6th graders joined the middle school group. We found creative, yet socially-distanced ways to try and make it fun including a wagon ride, using pool noodles for all kinds of activities, and having s’mores around the fire pit. The students appear to value time spent with one another in face to face meetings after spending the week spent staring at a computer. The high school group has also stayed connected with a group chat where a question of the day is presented, and students and leaders respond to the question and one another. It has made for a fun and sometimes cathartic way to stay connected throughout the week. It also allows us to see each other’s creativity through our responses! ​

​I personally value and look forward to my time spent with the youth during the pandemic. They continue to impress me with their resilience, thoughtful responses to questions, and their desire to hang out together. We have encouraged one another through our ups and downs of pandemic life and have kept each other laughing especially during our group chats. I am grateful that the group has continued to stick together and I pray that as we move into a cold winter that might keep us from meeting in person, we will continue to find ways to connect with one another, share our creativity with one another, and help each other know God’s love and provision for us.

Racial Justice at Cedar Ridge

By Rory Anderson and Matthew Dyer

Over the past few years at Cedar Ridge, we’ve grown in our understanding and struggle for racial justice and it’s now one of our highest priorities. For us it’s not a partisan political motivation – it’s a spiritual motivation. Jesus demonstrated his love for humanity through a passion for justice and calling out prejudice and inequity. As his followers, we are called to love in the same way – And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister (1 John 4:21). Love is more than reciting creeds or taking communion—it crosses racial and ethnic boundaries with tangible deeds, as Jesus described in the parable of the Good Samaritan. So engaging in racial justice is part of our living out the command to love our neighbors, in this time and place. We’ve always had two main objectives: to grow in our understanding of racism (and how we participate in it) and to take action (personally and together as a community) to bring about justice. But this past year with all the public racist rhetoric, the systemic violence perpetrated against black people and the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people of color, our awareness has been abruptly heightened and our commitment to action has been energized even more.

The Racial Justice Team have been leading the way and in June coordinated a poignant Prayer Vigil for George Floyd that created vital space for us to mourn, lament, repent and renew our commitment. Since then we have been hosting regular Racial Justice Encounter Gatherings via Zoom where scores of people from Cedar Ridge have dug deeper into the reality of white supremacy and our participation in its systems of injustice. It’s been painful and challenging, but in breakout groups during the zoom gatherings we’ve heard story after story of how we are growing, becoming more aware, changing our own perspectives and behaviors and becoming more empowered to take action.

We’ve also run a support group specifically for people of color in our church community, addressing healing from the ongoing burden and oppression of racism. We mobilized (through postcard writing and phone calls) against voter suppression in the recent election, understanding that a disproportionate number of people of color are hindered in voting. We’ve also continued our work for racial justice in education, and earlier this year we took a series of actions (including meeting with public officials in Annapolis) to advocate for greater funding in public education that would lead to more racial equity.

Looking ahead, we are developing plans to help all of us at Cedar Ridge continue to grow in our personal understanding and awareness and to empower our church community to take action against institutional and structural racism.  Specifically, we have renewed our commitment to racial justice in systems of law enforcement and have developed a sub-team to lead us forward.  These actions for racial justice are our part in building ‘the beloved community’—God’s dream of what Israel should be; what the early church was; what we could be. We read of this beloved community, but it only comes to pass when we actually live it.  Join us on this journey of love, a journey that is personal, collective, and shared, as we build our beloved community in this time and space.  If you would like to get more involved please contact Rory Anderson or Sarah Clark.


By Bryan Peterson

As with all the other areas of church and life, the Guatemala Team’s plans for 2020 did not include dealing with a global pandemic. While the coronavirus has altered our course, we have tried to respond to the subsequent needs and opportunities as best we could. Cedar Ridge had intended to host all seven members of our partnership team in Ipala, called CIDHER, here in Maryland, giving an opportunity for them to meet the congregation, see our vision and values in action, and have an extended period of time with church leaders to plan for the future. 

Unfortunately, the team was unable to secure visas, and our efforts to instead send a small planning team to Guatemala were halted due to the pandemic. Despite the disappointments, our ongoing efforts and relationships in Ipala remain strong. We continue to provide financial scholarships to 54 resilient, intelligent, low-income middle and high-school students. These students have continued their studies remotely as the town has been relatively successful in keeping the coronavirus at bay. We also provide funds to meet the medicinal and testing needs of patients referred to CIDHER.

While the community has been in various stages of lockdown, CIDHER remains a compassionate presence. They discerned a need amongst numerous families who became food insecure due to the pandemic. CIDHER proposed providing a supply of essential food items to these families, and in partnership with a non-profit started by one of Cedar Ridge’s members, we have funded three rounds of emergency food aid, providing a supply of food for over 300 recipients. We will continue to monitor the expected needs and respond as we are able.

Though unable to visit in person, we remain connected to our partners on the ground in Ipala, either through Zoom or other means. We look forward to continued discussions with them as we work together to set priorities for building a just, sustainable, and empowering partnership for the people of Ipala in the years ahead. Please join us in praying for the continued development of our relationship, and for the health, wisdom, perseverance, and thriving of our neighbors in Guatemala.