Specifically, this is a love letter to the Presbytery I serve.
It’s been a rough year and seven months, and it wasn’t a piece of cake even before March 2020. We have been misunderstood and blamed for the sins of Christians who have behaved shamefully. We have often wandered from the way of Jesus. We have lost trust in each other. We have let each other down.
And yet what the average person doesn’t know – because cable TV and social media don’t cover it – are the exquisite expressions of generosity and love that go unseen by the rest of the world. I want to thank you for the countless things I get to see and hear about every day because I’m privileged to serve on your Presbytery Staff.
Thank you to the rural congregations who have sent checks to the church helping the two Afghan men who have found safety in your community after escaping their home country. Thank you to the people who have collected grocery store gift cards for them and driven them around the county so that they could have job interviews and figure out how to get a driver’s license. Thank you for praying for their families back in Kabul and for making preparations to welcome them as soon as they can get here even though their faith and languages are different from our own.
Thank you volunteers who lead Zoom small groups for youth members on random weeknights. We needed more of you than we expected because more youth signed up than expected and you stepped up to ensure that isolated kids found safe spiritual places.
Thank you to the woman who “just wanted to study what the Bible said about racism” and found herself leading an online book group of 25 people from all over the state. I knew you would be fine, even with the cranky ones.
Thank you to the pastors who keep going even when parishioners criticize you for everything from encouraging mask-wearing and vaxxing to opening up the building “too soon.” And thanks especially to brave elders whose first priority was safety for your siblings in Christ as your friends threatened to “leave the church” if you didn’t do what they wanted.
Thank you to churches who’ve found the funds to subscribe to The Bulb so that your neighbors could have free vegetables. Thanks to that little church with 50 members who serves over 300 people every week and figured out a way to distribute milk and meat in addition to fruits and vegetables. You know who you are.
Thank you for the oldest generations in our congregations who have arranged to leave funds to our Presbytery for everything from supplementing the salaries of young pastors to church development grants. To their children: you will never know how much your parents’ legacy has meant to new ministers and congregations in need of technical upgrades, coaching, and mission project support.
Thank you seminarians for pursuing a calling to professional ministry although your parents wanted you to go to business school. You are essential colleagues and we need you.
Thank you to all who pay attention to the disparities in clergy salaries, the not-so-sexy needs in our cities and towns, and the people who are being excluded from the table.
Thank you to the congregations who realize that they don’t have the energy and capacity to be a Church for the next generations. Thank you for allowing yourselves to die so that something new can be resurrected after you are gone.
I have the unique privilege of seeing all these things every day. Yes, there are some discouraging things I also see. There are some heartbreaking things I see. But the overwhelming activity of The Church I serve is life-giving and hopeful and obsessed with serving “the least of these.” Thank you.
May God bless you as we remember this weekend that we are still reforming.
To God be the Glory – Jan