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Mission Engagement & Support
In the late 1980s, when I was serving as a youth group leader in my local congregation, my pastor invited me to attend a gathering that I recognize now as the early stages of a new movement for youth in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Even as I was being drawn headlong into the phenomenon that was — and still is — the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, I had no idea how the lens through which I viewed the PC(USA) was about to change.
Recently, the Office of the General Assembly released the 2020 annual statistics report showing a decline in membership last year at just over 56,000, which is about the same loss rate as has been reported since 2016. For 2020, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) counts a total membership of about 1.24 million members, with the total number of congregations at 8,925.
For at least a year, if my memory can be trusted, that singular refrain punctuated our daughter’s every sentence. “Mama do.”
Once, during a rare visit to our North Carolina home from my family in New York, the precocious toddler’s words even coaxed a laugh from my usually stern father, who wondered aloud how I ever managed to get anything done.
When it comes to addressing the injustices and disparities experienced by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in the United States — laid painfully bare by the nation’s double pandemic of COVID-19 and racial unrest — the Rev. Cathi King knows one thing for certain. And that is, she knows nothing for certain.
The very first command addressed to humanity in the entire Bible is to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth and subdue it; and have dominion” (Genesis 1:28). We see humankind displaying a type of dominion when it comes to pollution and extraction of the Earth’s most precious resources with no room for compassion, dignity or respect. But was this control what God had in mind for us when this beautiful Creation came into being?
When a 12-year-old Jesus escaped his parents’ watchful eye during the family’s annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the anxious couple returned to find him at long last in the temple, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”
If even a llama loves its mama, as the children’s saying goes, what about a baby goat? Or a chick for that matter?
Sharing food is one of my great joys. I know, I know … that isn’t altogether unique, and definitely not unique for Presbyterians I know. We gather around tables for myriad reasons, and in lots of different ways. But the act of sharing food can remind us of other things we share: namely a need for food — hunger — and the interdependence it takes to make a meal possible.
Early in my ministry, I started the practice of writing thank you notes to those church members who had fulfilled a leadership position or served in some special way. I’ll never forget the time I received a call from a member who expressed to me how surprised she was to receive a “thank you” from the church. To this day, I wish I had asked her more about why she was surprised.
I am not usually a fan of a pastor or someone in my position using themselves as a good example. If pastors tell a story from their lives in a sermon, I think it should be a story about how they learned something about their faith because of a failing or a shortcoming, or a story about something funny that happened to them. I also think pastors should never use their children as examples, especially if the child is in worship. The last thing preachers’ kids need is to have more attention drawn to them.