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It was an honor like no other for Army Brig. Gen. Kenneth “Ed” Brandt. For the past 30 years, Brandt, an ordained PC(USA) pastor, has been serving as a military chaplain, providing enlisted men and women with a sacred space to make sense out of a sometimes-senseless world.
When the Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer tried to come back to North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta six weeks after his 22-year-old son died by suicide, he could barely function.
During Lent, a new pastor asked the Christian education committee to keep the children in the sanctuary on Easter morning rather than leaving after the children’s time for church school. After the pastor explained how beneficial it was for children to see adults worshiping and hear the Easter hymns and prayers, the committee agreed. But when Easter came, a Sunday school teacher led the children out of the sanctuary for their own separate time.
Theologian Emil Brunner famously stated, “The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.” This didn’t quite sink in until I heard Darrell Guder, former dean and missiologist at Princeton Theological Seminary, put it more clearly for me: “The church does not exist primarily for the benefit of its own members. Instead, it exists for the benefit of those outside its walls.”
Calvary Presbyterian Church has had a heart for mission ever since a group of friends gathered in 1944 seeking to have a church closer to their home — in what was then a growing suburb of southwest Wilmington, Delaware. Today, the long legacy of helping neighbors continues with partnerships with organizations like Meeting Ground, a local group addressing homelessness, and Friendship House, which offers transitional housing, a clothing bank and “empowerment centers,” providing those in need with a place to regroup, work on resumes, have a cup of coffee and connect with others. But Wilmington is a big city with lots of opportunities to help others. So, Calvary Presbyterian created what is called “Second Sunday Sharing,” in which the congregation helps one local nonprofit.
God-given greatness isn’t something one achieves; it is something inherent to being human. This is the core message that the leaders at Elmwood United Presbyterian Church in East Orange, New Jersey, are instilling in their youth. These mentors hold fast to the belief that if a person is to be successful in the Christ-abundant life, he or she must take complete responsibility for that greatness and protect it.
As pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Missouri, my job is to make things happen that are sometimes out of the box — like starting a food pantry for musicians.
I wouldn’t mind if church membership dwindled to 12 people, if those 12 were on fire for serving Christ, kept their eyes on Christ — and were able to pay the pastor’s salary.
According to Karen Linnell, elder of First Presbyterian Church of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Michigan, “It’s not often that you get to see a dream come true, especially when it turns out to be more meaningful than you imagined.”
For many children, a week at summer church camp meant a time away from parents. It was a space to be yourself, to connect with friends new and old, to spend a week in the outdoors, kayaking or splashing around in the pool. There might be some religion, like daily Scripture lessons or Wednesday night worship, but that was secondary to the games and crafts held throughout the week.