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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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May 1, 2015

May 2015 - Do the holy work required to end racism

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.

Dr. Lung S. Chan of the University of Hong Kong said, “Earthquakes dissipate energy, like lifting the lid off a pot of boiling water. But it builds back up after you put the lid back on.”

These geological stories can frame how we look at Baltimore. The forces of poverty, hopelessness, and race crash into institutions, economic disparity, and racism. Another Black young man dies in an arrest. Protests turn violent. The National Guard trucks arrive along with all the television vans. Statements are made, promises are given, prayers are lifted, and the lid goes back on the pot. Dr. Chan went on to say, “After an earthquake, the plates resume moving and the clock resets.”

Yes, the clock resets and all of the ingredients for a situation like Baltimore resume.

I had an English teacher in high school who gave a spelling test every Monday. I would routinely do poorly on it. We would swap papers with our neighbor, who would grade your test. Then you had to give your score out loud when the teacher called your name. The image is still burned into my head of her hearing my score and leaning over her lectern and shaking her head with a look that said, “Are you ever going to get this right?”

 I think she would do that today about racism. I think she would assign us all extra homework until we greet the day when we live with each other as equally valued children of God. The day when we cast the pot aside and walk into a common future of hopefulness for every child. That day can’t come unless we work at it. It is holy work.

인종차별을 종식시키기 위해 필요한 거룩한 일을 하자.

Se requiere hacer la tarea santa para acabar con el racismo.

Tags: baltimore, civil unrest, earthquake, nepal

April 1, 2015

April 2015 - The big great surprise

[한국어] [Español] 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.

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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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