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.
We are making a generational shift in our family this year. My wife, Kathy, is not teaching school for the first time in thirty-three years. Our grandson, Dylan, started preschool. So there is at least someone in the family in a classroom this fall.
My first days of school were in Mrs. Williams’ kindergarten. I remember one of her challenges with me was trying to teach me to spell my name. She insisted it was spelled Gradye. I insisted that it was spelled Roy, because if that was good enough for my Roy Rogers lunch box then it was good enough for me. She eventually won.
As Presbyterians we talk about education a lot. We try to follow our foreparent, John Calvin, who started a school so people could read the Bible for themselves. Calvin’s school was tution-free and open to all, two things that were generally unheard of in Europe at that time.
In Jeremiah 31:33, God tells Israel, “… I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” It would seem an unsecure place to leave a word. The human heart is so fickle. It is both capable of loving another human for decades and of road rage. It can get all mushy at a baby’s baptism and hate the new carpet in the sanctuary. Why would God want to write on such an unpredictable vessel?
I learned how to read a few years before I learned to love to read. It began when I was in a split 4th and 5th grade. Mrs. Martin did not like idle hands or heads. To ensure against the creation of mischief she had a well-stocked library. I read through the shelves that year and have not really stopped since.
If we are to honor Calvin, we need to go all in. We need to use our whole mind and our whole heart to discern what God has in store for us. It might take some extra homework but the graduation is spectacular.
My grandson is at the age where my and mine can become rather loud. He also is very committed that whatever he is eating is shared by everyone else. If you don’t mind the sticky hand that is offering goldfish crackers to you, it can be a sweet learning moment.
As I look over the monthly columns that I have written in the past twelve months, I realize that a fourth of them have been about racism. The latest public incident is the murders at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church (Mother Emanuel) in Charleston, South Carolina. Mother Emanuel is another in a long tragic list of African American churches that have been bombed, burned, shot up, and defaced.
People like to use numbers to measure. Your doctor wants to know your blood pressure, your dentist wants to know how many times you floss, and your spouse wants to know on what temperature the thermostat is set. In the church we tend to count two things: how many members and how much money. In some sense we are counting how much have we gathered in our fold. But what if we counted a different measurement?
If you go to a university that is known for the song “Rocky Top,” then it would seem likely that you might study geology. Geology met my science requirement. So I have some understanding of how the earthquake in Nepal happened. The Indian subcontinent plate pushed against and under the Eurasian plate. The constant crashing of the two plates formed and continues to form the Himalayan mountain range. There is already Internet speculation on how the earthquake might have changed the height of Mount Everest.