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Stated Clerk's Column

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Written by Gradye Parsons

Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.

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April 1, 2015

April 2015 - The big great surprise

Well it seemed impossible even on March 22nd, but it does appear that Spring may arrive after all. Back in Tennessee we could still have a succession of mini-winters, but we soften the blow by giving them names like redbud winter or blackberry winter. In South Carolina, my son-in-law has already mowed his yard. In Chicago they still have their snow shovels working. We are in the same season but not in the same way.

This could be an apt metaphor for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). We are in the same season of our church life but not in the same way. Some people are very happy, some are not, and some are otherwise occupied. It would be amnesia of history to say we have always had disagreements and yet stayed together. I shudder to think what our historic arguments would have looked like if modern social media had been available.

So I will not appeal to history. I will not appeal to the various letters of Paul to divided congregations. I am going to cling to Easter, and here is why. There is no sense from the Gospels that the disciples were one hundred percent convinced that Jesus would pull off the resurrection. The stories read just the opposite. And while Thomas is singled out for his doubts, he was at least brave enough to walk in the streets when the rest were hiding out. They all doubted because the facts in front of them were hard.

But they were wrong. Jesus, like a teacher that won't give up, returns to his students for another lesson. The disciples become transformed not because of what they knew but because of who knew them. Easter is the big great surprise that claims all of our joys and doubts. That claim binds us all to God. And since we are all being held by the same Godly hand, shouldn't we try to hold each other’s?

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Tags: doubts, easter, gradye parsons, monthly column, seasons, spring, stated clerk

March 1, 2015

March 2015 - Bound together

There is something about snow that binds together a neighborhood. I noticed on my street that the first driveway cleared was the house of the widow of one of our more colorful characters. She never touched a shovel. People helped each other push their cars out of icy ruts. As our streets became more narrow, folks did the dance of who went first with some grace. Without any discussion we agreed to only attempt the hill at the entrance one at a time.

“The Brief Statement of Faith” says this:

The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,

sets us ...

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February 1, 2015

February 2015 - Questions open us to new possibilities

There is this space between the Baptism of the Lord and Ash Wednesday when we return to ordinary time in the church calendar. In ordinary time there are still plenty of extraordinary occasions. There is this general sense of leaning into the New Year. We get a lot of ordinary questions during these days. Questions such as “what is the proper order for committee reports at a congregational meeting?” Questions like “which is better, a pipe organ or electric?” Or, “can I count the Smiths on our statistical report even though they never joined?”

In a season where the church ...

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January 1, 2015

January 2015 - Tear down walls by building relationships, advocating for justice, and listening

If you ever watch any show on HGTV you know that every remodeling project will involve a wall coming down. The homeowner usually takes a few swings with a sledgehammer for show, and then the pros take over. The reasons these walls come down vary. Usually it is about creating greater flow, or better entertainment, or a more spacious feel. Whatever the reason, it is the opposite reason of what a wall does.

Tracy Kidder wrote a book titled House. It followed the construction of a house from acorn to last nail. He states that walls define a room's purpose. I have often thought about that when I am faced with walls that attempt to define people.

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December 1, 2014

December 2014 - Link daily toil and holy quest in a deeper, earthier way this Advent

A barn with cattle and horses is the place to begin Christmas. After all, that’s where the original event happened, and that same smell was the first air that the Christ Child breathed.Paul Engle

It is probably fair to say that those candle shops that do a big business at Christmas don’t have candles that smell like barns. Before anyone goes on the offensive, I have been around enough barns to know that a farmer worth his or her salt keeps a clean barn. Engle does make the point that the rarified air of our elaborate nativity ...

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