“We live in a twisted world,” the Reverend Jan Edmiston, associate executive presbyter of the Presbytery of Chicago and Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016), told leaders of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presbyteries and synods gathered in Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2016 Polity Conference.
But God is at work to bring justice to the world, said Edmiston, who preached at a worship service on October 31 that closed the gathering.
Preaching on Habukkuk 1:1–4 and 2:1–4, Edmiston used the prophet as an example of waiting for God’s promise even in the most trying circumstances.
In Habakkuk 2, the prophet stands on the watchtower and God tells him to “write (or cast) the vision.”
“We sometimes confuse ‘casting a vision’ with taking things into our own hands,” Edmiston said. But God tells Habakkuk to wait for it.
“God is not calling us to keep our jobs. God is not calling us to perpetuate an institution,” Edmiston said. “God is calling us to show the world what the love of Jesus looks like so the reign of God expands throughout the world.”
She left worshipers with three questions: “Are we living by faith or by fear? Are we serving the vision of God our ourselves? Are we moving forward or backwards?
“If we considered these three questions every day,” she said, “we would rock this world.”
The liturgies for the opening and closing worship services of the Polity Conference were planned by 25-year-old Grace Hellweg, who is doing nine months of field education in the Office of the General Assembly (OGA). She is a first-year student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Besides choosing hymns and writing prayers and responses, Hellweg added something a bit unusual to the Sunday morning service. Following the confession of sin, worshipers were invited to take strips of cloth and markers that had been placed on their tables and write or draw a representation of God’s mercy.
“I’m interested in ways we respond in worship through tactile means,” explains Hellweg, who attended an arts high school and danced ballet for 16 years.
The strips of cloth were braided together and draped over the pulpit for the closing worship service. “It’s a symbolic representation of how God’s mercy becomes a part of our collective story.”
Hellweg discerned her call to ministry while working for three years as youth minister at Second Presbyterian Church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She has done various tasks for OGA, including talking with congregations about ministry with immigrants and about how they are using the office of deacon.
She says she is very encouraged by these conversations. She is finding that “the way we’ve always done things is not more important than the gospel we’re proclaiming with our lives. People are more interested in being faithful.”
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