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.
One of the great aspects of my time as Stated Clerk is hearing about the mission and ministry of Presbyterians and their congregations. Sometimes it is ministry in its own community. Other times it is a mission trip to some spot in the world. Universally I hear how these experiences are transformative.
When I was in Cuba a few years ago almost every congregation I visited had photos of mission trips from PC(USA) congregations on its walls. Presbyterians are strong believers in helping others. They build and rehab houses. They tutor students in resource-challenged schools. They build water and solar systems. They serve food through either church pantries or community meals. It is all awesome.
Another universal part of these mission enterprises is the T-shirt. It is a required aspect of doing God’s work. I assume the disciples had some sort of T-shirt too. Several years ago we conducted a national conference with a souvenir T-shirt. One of our speakers was a well-known politician. When he came to register he was asked what size T-shirt he wanted. We were told very clearly he and his wife did not wear T-shirts! But after spending half a day at the conference and catching the vibe, they sheepishly came back to the registration table and asked for their T-shirts.
I have this idea for a grand visual. I want to invite every Presbyterian in attendance at the 222nd General Assembly (2016) to bring a mission T-shirt to Portland. I want us to all wear them on Thursday, June 23. It will be a living tableau of the vast and varied ways Presbyterians are involved in mission every day. For those of you not in Portland you can join wherever you are.
Hopefully we will have some time to hear stories about these missions and ministries. Stories will inspire us to go back home and attempt a similar mission.
I am packing my mission T-shirt. How about you?
There appears to be a math equation in this quote from John Calvin. Toleration plus pardon plus mercy equals freedom—the freedom defined as children being able to ask their parents anything. I wonder if this formula cannot be applied to our life as community.
Sustainability is a word that is used in many contexts. We talk about it with farms that have found the balance between what the soil can give up and what the soil needs to be healthy. It is used to refer to communities who have the resources they need to maintain a healthy economic life. Energy sources that are renewable also are viewed in terms of their sustainability.
There were many of us who went to see the new Stars Wars movie, The Force Awakens. Kathy and I always think back on our first Stars Wars movie when we took our six-week-old son to the $2 theater in Saugus, Massachusetts. We were struck at the kind of imagination it took George Lucas to create the movie.
The church and imagination have always been uncertain dance partners. They have stepped on each other’s toes and fought over who leads. We have witnessed the trouble a poor soul encounters when they imagine a piece of church furniture can be moved or a tradition changed. While no one wants to hear the same sermon every Sunday, whoa to the preacher who lets their imagination get beyond the congregation’s.
I can count on one hand the number of times I have spent Christmas in my own home as an adult. We have shared that day with grandparents and other family. In a pre-Amazon era, we hid presents among the luggage and spent those days on the road just like Joseph and Mary. But of course I knew that my bed was there to welcome me when it was all over.