Regarding ruling elders: called as partners in Christ’s service
When I became a ruling elder, I recall the constitutional questions for ordination and installation that really resonated with me were those that speak to being partners in Christ’s service:
- “Will you in your own life seek to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, love your neighbors, and work for the reconciliation of the world? ...
- “Will you pray for and seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?” (Book of Order, W-4.4003f, h)
A few years after my ordination, I was asked to give the message during stewardship season. In addition to a primary theme of my baptism since baptism speaks to who I am as a member of my family and God’s family through the church, I also chose the Bible verse that speaks to me regarding how we are to live as God’s children:
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 8)
Both Micah 6:8 and the PC(USA) constitutional questions are a call to be in service with others. As we learn about social injustice, we respond with love and kindness. The response is expressed in multiple ways. We can roll up our sleeves and engage in direct “hands on” service. We can exercise a ministry of presence by taking time to pull up a chair and listen to those who are shunned by others. We can advocate for change with word and action.
When ruling elders strengthen their relationships with each other, they can also build relationships that support Christ’s service with others. As ruling elders learn who they are, who their congregation is, and who their neighbors are, Christ’s service comes naturally. Acting on these happens individually and corporately.
Ruling elders in my congregation have shared their passion for issues within our community and have mobilized others in the congregation to act alongside each other. Within the multifaceted issue of poverty, we have been active with the mobile food truck that serves our community. As we discern the best response to homelessness in our county, we have become one of the hosts for a rotating homeless shelter. Looking beyond the borders of our county, our ruling elders are always aware of communities across the nation that are receiving support through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). We may have only traveled once in recent years to a PDA site, but we continue to Give, Act, and Pray in response to the needs of our brothers and sisters affected by disasters.
Back on the Sunday that I gave the message during stewardship season, I asked our choir director to include the singing of What Does the Lord Require of You during worship. Not the arrangement that was in the blue Presbyterian Hymnal in the pews at the time, but the arrangement by Jim Strathdee, sung as a canon or round, which I had come to love from camps and conferences. Just as individuals come together in service, when this is sung as a canon, the blending of the voices and the strength within the simple words exemplify our call as partners in Christ’s service.
What does the Lord require of you?
What does the Lord require of you?
walk humbly with God
To seek justice, and love kindness
And walk humbly with your God.
Sallie Scheide serves as ruling elder and clerk of session at First Presbyterian Church, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She is also the assistant director at the Center for Student Opportunity: Service and Leadership Initiatives at Alma College in Alma, Michigan.