Comings and Goings is a blog written by Theology, Worship and Education Director Charles B. "Chip" Hardwick as he travels throughout the church. God is on the move out and about in the world, working to redeem all things in Jesus Christ. As we join this mission, by the power of the Spirit we see God on the move. This blog contains glimpses of how Chip finds this to be true in his comings and goings.
You can follow Chip on twitter (@chiphardwick) or find him on Facebook (Chip Hardwick).
Saturday was my first meeting as a member of the board of the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico (ESPR) in San Juan. I am grateful for the chance to participate in this ministry since it combines two of my loves: theological education and Spanish. The seminary is supported by six different denominations (the Presbyterian Church (USA), where I serve, is one of them) and has a newly elected president Dr. Doris Garcia Rivera. This was her first meeting as well.
Her president’s report was fairly unorthodox and eye-opening. The first thing she did was hand each of us a jigsaw puzzle piece, and then ask us to work together to put it together on a table in the middle of the room. What emerged was a picture of the seals of the six denominations, plus a cross made of multi-colored hands, with the new logo of the seminary at the center. (See picture to the left.)
A former missionary, I have a feeling that Dr. Garcia Rivera knew exactly what she was doing as we embodied coming together to solve a challenge, and the resolution of the challenge not only required all of us coming together, but also bore fruit that demonstrated that we were all together. This understanding in place, she went on to talk about her vision for the seminary as one of vitality, visibility, and valuation. She challenged each of the board members to remember that we are part of the team working toward these goals.
Her report was particularly interesting given that we had just finished correcting and approving minutes which recounted several meetings leading up to and following her election as president. There had been some controversy among board members about the search process and her election was not unanimous. Yet her report drew us together and invited us into the task of continuing to strengthen the seminary. She did not draw any specific attention to the past controversies—instead focusing on the future and what God might do through our work. It was a good lesson on moving forward together when the temptation might be to rehash old frustrations. The Presbyterian Mission Agency is working to encourage transformational leaders who are (among other things, chief among them a passionate faith in Jesus Christ) trustworthy, resilient, and innovative. I was glad for the example of this kind of leadership that I saw at the meeting.
Thanks for praying with me for God’s blessings on President Garcia Rivera and this new season at ESPR!
I spent last weekend at Camp Sunnyside, a family retreat put on by Sunnyside Presbyterian Church in South Bend, IN. The retreat was held at a beautiful camp in Three Rivers, MI (see photo below, left), and I had the chance to speak three times. In this post I want to reflect a bit on my Sunday morning sermon on John 15:1-8 (called “The Fruit is the Thing”) and a conversation I had afterwards.
Over the weekend I traveled to a meeting of the Presbytery of Northern New England to present on the decisions of last summer’s General Assembly concerning same gender marriage and divestment and to preach. At lunch, I had an interesting conversation with a woman (I’ll call her “Jane”) who is concerned about the long-term decline in her church’s membership and Sunday attendance. She obviously loves her church, so it distresses her that her small congregation has 18-20 kids in youth group but only two or three come to worship. Implicit in her comments is the idea that the best measure of a church is how many people come on Sundays.
Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago in order to attend the installation service for the new dean (Dr. Ted Hiebert) at McCormick Theological Seminary. Because the support of PC(USA) seminaries is part of my area of ministry, I was eager to learn more about McCormick by meeting with some administrators, professors, and students. President Frank Yamada was very gracious in helping to flesh out my schedule.
Last week I was at the Fellowship Community/ECO conference in Dallas, TX. The Fellowship Community (formed recently from the Fellowship of Presbyterians and Presbyterians for Renewal) is a ministry of and to conservative churches within the PC(USA); ECO is the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians, composed of conservative churches who have left the PC(USA) to begin this new denomination.