A call to observe Christian and Citizen Sunday on Sept. 20

‘It is our sacred duty to vote,’ says director of PC(USA) Washington Office in a churchwide letter

By Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Office of Mission Engagement and Support — whose charge it is to provide resources that educate, inspire and encourage the ministries of the PC(USA) — in conjunction with the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., wants to ensure that congregations are prepared for Christian and Citizen Sunday on Sept. 20.

Because it is the duty of every person to exercise their right to vote, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has designated that Sunday as a time for a special emphasis on what it means to be a “Christian and Citizen.” On Christian and Citizen Sunday, Presbyterians are reminded that both Jesus and John Calvin placed a significant emphasis on the role of civic engagement as central to the life of faith.

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins is director of the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C.

“Christian and Citizen Sunday is important to illustrate that we are citizens of two kingdoms, the kingdom of heaven and the earthly one,” says the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness. “These two identities can co-exist as long as we always remember that they are not equal. Our goal is to live according to one while living in the other. We want the latter to be more like the former as a place where all are valued as children of God. We want the earthly kingdom to flourish as a place where the needs of all are met and God is acknowledged as Lord.”

To help churches understand and observe this special emphasis Sunday, the Office of Mission Engagement and Support (MES) has mailed to every presbytery and congregation a letter from Hawkins in English, Spanish, or Korean containing a list of resources on voting rights and fighting voter suppression, and a copy of the newly updated pamphlet, “Seeking to Be Faithful Together: Guidelines for Presbyterians in Times of Disagreement.”

“’Seeking to Be Faithful Together’ is a wonderful resource in this time of division and intolerance,” Hawkins says. “We have grown so far apart allowing race, political ideology and other issues to separate us into groups. Our Christian faith teaches us that we have much more in common than we do which separates us. We can be faithful and united together.”

The contents of the current churchwide mailing are all also available online, along with liturgical materials, hymn and song suggestions and other related resources.

The Rev. Rosemary Mitchell is senior director of Mission Engagement and Support.

“As we approach Election Day, we hope pastors, elders, and members will find this information helpful and useful during these challenging times,” says the Rev. Rosemary C. Mitchell, senior director of MES. “As we move through these weeks leading up to ‘Christian and Citizen Sunday,’ which was added to the Presbyterian program calendar more than 20 years ago, and Election Day on November 3, I am also deeply mindful that we are in a Season of Peace, which evokes these words from the Belhar Confession:

“We believe that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

“We believe that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands,  namely against injustice and with the wronged.

“We believe that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interest and thus control and harm others.”

Throughout this season, and during these unprecedented times — which the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s (PMA) president and executive director, the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett has called “a time of a dual pandemic, COVID-19 and racism” — it is especially critical that Presbyterians do their part to actively engage in their respective communities, across the nation and around the world.

“As Christians, we are called to be concerned about others,” Hawkins says. “As a Matthew 25 denomination, we take seriously the call by Jesus to ‘feed the hungry and provide for the sick.’ Voting determines who controls the means to be a more compassionate nation and provide for those who need assistance. Voting is key to electing leaders who reflect Christian values of love, mercy and faithfulness. We are called to be a part of the transformation of this earthly kingdom into a reflection of God’s Beloved Kingdom.”

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