GREETINGs FROM CHRISTINE LONG, EXECUTIVE PRESBYTER
Olympia Presbytery E-News – July 2017
Summer greetings to you!
So far I have been blessed this summer with a fun vacation in Disneyland with my immediate and some extended family. Following that I continued on to join other PCUSA brothers and sisters at Big Tent, the national gathering in the year we do not hold General Assembly. At Big Tent we gathered together for three days of worship, Bible study, plenary sessions, workshops, Holy Conversations in St. Louis churches, and of course good food and fellowship. Our location and housing was at the beautiful Washington University.
This year’s theme at Big Tent was, “Racism, Reconciliation, Reformation.” This theme captured the challenges not in only in the PCUSA, but the church worldwide, and particularly our country at this time. Reconciliation, the idea of making and living out peace always sounds good but in fact, can be a challenge to truly embody in our everyday lives and even in the church setting.
I was blessed by the workshops I attended:
Changing Face of Ministry in which we took a long, hard look at the demographic of those considering entering ministry, those staying or leaving ministry, and the age of our denomination in general.
Disrupting Racism: Building the Intercultural Community in which we both listened and engaged in conversation about experiencing, noticing, and dealing with racism in our communities. We spent time examining our own experiences related to race, power, and privilege.
Communication Justice: The Right to Speak and to Be Heard in which we considered that injustice takes many forms, including the inability to communicate: to remember and tell one’s story. The eye opener for me was reflecting on the fact that all of creation is God communicating to us…consider that we (humans) are God’s communication to existence that God is love. So often we take the role of communicator but first, we are that which is being communicated by God. Think about that for awhile! Also, we were challenged to consider all our communication to be a spiritual exercise.
I was blessed to meet so many of our PCUSA servants who work in our denominations agencies. They are gracious, lovely, joyful, and helpful saints! They are eager to serve our churches and are available to us.
I was also blessed by those I met at Face to Face, time set aside for those seeking ministry positions and those seeking for pastors to meet in person. This was hosted by the CLC (Church Leadership Connection) staff who also provided workshops on how to better utilized the church and pastor search process.
I look forward to sharing more with you about Big Tent and continuing to serve each of you and your churches with what I learn so that together, we can be effective witnesses for God’s love in Christ in our worship, our fellowship, and our mission to our communities and the world.
Peace to you!
GREETING FROM CHRISTINE LONG, EXECUTIVE PRESBYTER
Olympia Presbytery E-News – May 2017
Dear Sisters and Brothers of Olympia Presbytery,
I am one month and a few days into my call as your Executive Presbyter. I am honored to serve you and to be serving God together! I have jumped in with both feet and have spent the last month seeing many of you in our various ministry meetings and worshipping with you. I had a lovely Easter Sunday worship with Lakewood Grace, one of our New Worshipping Communities. I worshipped with Mission Woods and broke bread with our brothers and sisters at Packwood Community Presbyterian. Thank you all for your gracious welcome and your prayers! You are a blessing!
I pray that each of your churches and ministries is finding great joy in living into and through the hope of the Easter message: Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Yes, Easter is a culmination of our Lenten journey of examining our need for God’s grace but Easter is also a launching into the call to be Easter people, bringing God’s amazing love and hope in Christ to our communities.
In moving my office from Westminster, Olympia to my home I ran across some notes from a Festival of Homiletics conference I attended in 2013. My notes contained an invigorating and challenging message I heard from Lauren Winner. Regarding the church she said, “We have one job: to love God and love Scripture in public.” Lauren is Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Duke Divinity School, is an Episcopal priest, and vicar of St. Paul’s Episcopal in Louisburg, N. C. She has authored books that include: Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath, A Cheerful and Comfortable Faith, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, and Wearing God.
In brief, Lauren expressed what many of us have been saying for some time now, that being and doing church seems so difficult these days. We face decline in numbers, decline in the interest of studying about faith matters, and that generally, people are unimpressed with the church and seem to need their weekends more than God…or do they? Lauren claims that if and when people do make it to church it is because they want to encounter the truth. People still want to hear the truth about human life, the truth about a God who loves and cares, and all because maybe, just maybe, encountering the truth in a place like a church might help us recognize the Truth when we are out and about in the world.
Lauren reminded listeners that people do want to hear the truth if they come to church. They want to hear about/want:
SIN: yes, people are very aware that humans need help.
WE ARE MORTAL: death sometimes gets pushed aside; people need help coping with death in a truthful way.
SUFFERING: People long for a God who knows, understands, and comforts suffering.
PERMISSION TO BE VULNERABLE: people long to have a place to tell the truth…truth about their lives, their fears, their needs, their joys.
HOW TO HEAR FROM GOD: We hold the image of God to share in our prayers, our worship…people want to hear the truth about prayer.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED: People long to hear the truth about the divine story of God and their place in it. They want to belong.
Lauren asserts that churches can get overcome by fear of being irrelevant to the culture around it. The danger is that trying hard to correct our relevance can become the goal above all else and we forget the one job we have…..to love God and love Scripture in public!
Therefore, be bold sisters and brothers! Be bold in your very public love of God and love for God’s word. Be bold in your truth-telling about Christ’s grace and the power of the Spirit.
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;
and you will know the truth,
and the truth will make you free.”
Grace and peace to you!