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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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October 1, 2013

October 2013 - Music Makes a Community

It was initially a desperate idea. How could we engage our middle school youth in good “ole” VBS? We realized that all of these youth were participants in the school band program. So our wild idea was to have them form a band led by our choir director.

The first Sunday they accompanied a hymn was, well, painful. The hymn took twice as long to sing and it was hard to determine if they were all playing the same one. But they were determined to get better. The youth recruited friends to fill out the band. They practiced more. The congregation never murmured a word.

About five or six years later these young musicians had all grown in their skills. All were first chairs in the high school band. All had achieved regional or all-state honors. The high school band director credited the congregation’s nurture and encouragement for their accomplishments.

This is congregational life at its best. The care, support, encouragement, and reconciliation lived out in the lives of real people of faith. I don’t want to underplay the importance of music to this story. This shared experience of people playing hymns for the first time and people singing them for the thousandth time created a very special bond.

We have been gifted in the PC(USA) with a new hymn book, Glory to God. It is a rich feast of music we know and music we will learn to love. The introduction has some aspirations of the committee.

This we hope:
We hope the cover imprint fades from greasy fingers.
We hope the pages become wrinkled and torn from constant use.
We hope our children will sing from this hymnal—
We hope our grandchildren will too.

Music is core to a vital congregational life. It has the power to transform grief, doubt, fear into hope, faith, and love. It can span generations and, on a good Sunday, even reach the heavens with sweet praise. Flat notes, squeaky notes, unique notes are all welcome. Let us make a joyful noise.

Tags: glory to god, gradye parsons, hymnal, monthly column, music, stated clerk, vacation bible school

September 1, 2013

September 2013 - Church communities are stronger through conversation, diversity and respect

Thomas Edison said “The body is a community made up of its innumerable cells or inhabitants.” This sure sounds like Paul to the Corinthians. It is interesting to think of the body as a community instead of a mass of cells and organs. A revisit to Paul’s image of the body in 1 Corinthians 12 can lead us into an understanding of community. The body parts in Paul’s metaphor—feet, hands, ears, and eyes—are talking. It is not nice talk but it is conversation.

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August 1, 2013

August 2013 - “A Change Is Gonna Come”

August 28 marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. A young, 34-year-old Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. set aside his prepared notes to declare “I have a dream.” That dream seems to have been realized in part—but not anywhere near the whole—as events this summer have shown us. Memories of other long-ago summers bring to mind my son and his best friend in high school, who played in the band and did many teenage things together. Even before cell phones were prevalent, they could always easily both be found either in our house or his. I never really thought about his life as an African American being any different than my son’s.

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July 16, 2013

Reflections on “reasonable doubt”

“Beyond a reasonable doubt” is a fundamental right of the American justice system. A person is presumed innocent until the prosecution can prove the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt” of a “reasonable person.” This right was exercised in the George Zimmerman trial, and he was acquitted. This right was not extended to Trayvon Martin when he entered that neighborhood on that tragic night. The lectionary gospel passage for Sunday, July 14, was the story of the Good Samaritan.  It is a story where innocence is not presumed, nor any reasonable doubt exercised. The man lying by the side of …

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July 1, 2013

July 2013 - The National Elders Conference

Cindy Bolbach accomplished many things in her life. Not only was she an accomplished attorney and business executive, let’s not forget that she was also elected Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) in Minneapolis. The appointment of a woman—raised a Lutheran in the land of Lutherans—to the highest elected position in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is no doubt one of God’s little jests. Yet among all of Cindy’s many achievements and accolades, what she was most fiercely proud of was her role as a ruling elder.

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