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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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September 6, 2011

September 2011-Monthly column featuring Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons


The Blessedness of Unity

1 How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down over the collar of his robes.

3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life for evermore. (Psalm 133)

Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings are on a concert tour these days in conjunction with Welch’s new CD. In a recent interview with Welch, the reporter noted the challenge of distinguishing between their voices in a couple of songs because of the fine harmony. She replied that the two of them had been singing together for so long, they have trouble with that, as well.

While the Psalmist paints a glorious image of harmony, other passages indicate more discord. It appears that fine harmony was lacking throughout the reign of King David. It is also difficult to imagine the disciples singing in harmony after their who-is-the-greatest squabble. In Acts 2, we see a fleeting glimpse of harmony in the early church that is soon interrupted by the Hellenists complaining of unfair treatment of their widows. The epistles are filled with one unharmonious church after another.

Singing in harmony requires balancing a dissonant chord (a chord with tension) with a consonant one (a relaxed chord). Thus, harmony happens when a balance is struck between "tense" and "relaxed" chords.

The challenge for us in the church is how to balance tense and relaxed moments. For example, congregations are gearing up for a new church school year. How do we balance the tension of having enough children for a class with the joy of watching a 7-year-old begin the discovery of God? Stewardship season will soon be upon us, as well. How will we balance the tension of having enough pledges to cover the budget with the free gift of a 90-year-old member’s volunteer hours?

How? Historically, we have had to rely on grace. And in that we have harmony.

Read the column in Korean. (PDF)

Tags: gradye parsons, stated clerk