Encouraging, Challenging and Equipping Congregations to Thrive Spiritually and Be Apostles for Reconciliation

Encouraging, Challenging and Equipping Congregations to Thrive Spiritually and Be Apostles for Reconciliation


Win Nothing Instantly . . .

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Win Nothing Instantly . . .
Those words were on the underside of Snapple bottle lids – a humorous mockery of the ever-popular scratch off lottery tickets and peel off stickers promising a free diet coke at McDonalds. Basically, it asserted this: you drink Snapple because you enjoy it, not because there is a prize under the cap.
           Alas a perfect description of what we do in ministry. We win nothing instantly. If you are in it for the quick fix, the perfect program, the young pastor that will solve all the sustainability issues, the young family craze, the church spruce-up, then you will most likely be disappointed.
           Ours is a labor of love, perseverance, consistency and faith. We repeat the liturgical calendar, we worship, we engage our community, we plan and pray in the hope that our efforts yield a harvest that we may or may not see immediately. In the Presbytery we are looking at the vision, the staff alignment, the ministry of the Center, our finances and our march to the 2020 General Assembly. This process started last year and will continue into the future – the operative word being “process”. 
           I trust as you try new things, expand your outreach, experiment with worship, learning, fellowship and make new friends, your church and ministry may see growth in wonderful and surprising ways. As the Presbytery leaders match our vision with our resources, energy and needs of our congregations, we believe our corner of the “reign of God” will thrive in these changing times!
      As we wrap up Lent, remember we do this, because we love God! And that love always wins.  

We all drink the Koolaid of Our World View

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We all drink the "Koolaid" of our own world view . . .
Yesterday Governor Inslee from Washington State declared his candidacy for president. His platform is Climate Change which he believes is the root of many of the world's economic, political and social problems – which is why that is his only platform issue.
I have been thinking about PCUSA’s world view in general and the Presbytery of Baltimore’s in particular. What kind of “Koolaid” are we drinking - if we are drinking the same beverage at all? For the most part we are all in line with the basic tenets of the reformed faith. We use the Book of Order for most things and we support our long-standing traditions of forming committees!
However, we are becoming more contextualized in our ministries and what was a "given" about support of the Presbytery (tithe, time and talent) is now shifting (as J. Herbert Nelson would say) from “Institution to Movement”. Congregations save many of their resources, human and otherwise, for the work in their churches. Our Presbytery’s collective work, though impressive, is being accomplished by fewer and fewer people.
At the intersection of the rank and file, creeping congregationalism, competing world views and the emerging need for a different type of community engagement, is a call for a revised vision for our Presbytery. Even if we drink from different glasses, it should be the same flavor! 
I am not proposing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but look again at whether our vision statement:
1) speaks to our congregations
2) asserts what is really happening, and
3) is a realistic reflection of our work in these times. 
We start with the question: what do you need from your presbytery



Black and Presbyterian

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lack and Presbyterian . . .
When the book of the same title was first published in 1983, written by Dr. Gayraud S. Wilmore, it asserted without apology that there indeed was such a thing as African American Christianity. By virtue of the fact that many African Americans came to Presbyterianism through colonization, it would stand to reason that those Africans in the diaspora, imported via slave ships, brought with them a religion not based in Judaism. That was not acceptable to some. Somewhere in the slave’s orientation to Christianity, there was an assumption if not an assertion that the African traditional religions were somehow substandard if not all together wrong; meaning the white folks’ religion was the “right one”.
Fast forward to today. We are living in a time when racism is cresting with a vengeance. The wrongness of brown people, both in person and in practice is once again being promoted, like immigrants coming from “{blank} hole” countries, says Trump or brown people from Central America identified as “invaders”. Needless to say, some of these folks bring rich cultures and religions that have roots farther back than Christianity.
At the intersection lies the question: how does the Church of today speak to those who have been told that their color, way of life or religious traditions are wrong? We ask people to adopt our faith – in favor of what? An institution that in some ways is in danger of collapsing upon itself because of our dogma, fear and refusal to adapt? A place that is resisting stepping out of the doors to see who lives in the community? And what is our deepest hope? Are we wanting to make disciples or Presbyterians? And disciples of what or whom; Jesus or merely the institution, the same one that is struggling with its own racism and phobias?
I am Black and I am Presbyterian and I am asking myself these same questions. I love our Church and I want to be part of its reformation…you know, Church reformed…always reforming….
Happy Black History Month
Posted by Robert Smith