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Presbyterians believe that baptism envelops our lives as Christians. As part of the covenant community, we baptize children as they grow into their faith. Believers are baptized as they make a decision to enter the covenant community and to follow Christ. When Christians die, we say that they have completed their baptism in death.
Does coming of age in a particular era decisively shape people’s values, habits and personalities? Yes, say some analysts.
Dr. Anthea Butler was stopped for driving while black in her late-model luxury car. As a flashlight shone on her boyfriend’s pale face, the police officer asked, “Did you pick her up somewhere?” The officer assumed that the car could not have been hers, and that her presence next to a white male implied sex trafficking. He overlooked the Ivy League professor of color in the driver’s seat to speak to her passenger.
When it comes to conversations about church, most of us imagine sitting around a table and engaging face-to-face. Maybe it’s in a church basement, conference center, coffee shop, or a local bar. But lately Presbyterians have been gathering for a weekly conversation around their phones or computers, using Twitter and a common hashtag.
Who could be more vulnerable than a young girl in first-century Palestine, unmarried, and told that she is soon to be the mother of the Son of God? Who could feel more helpless than a young man who discovers that his soon-to-be wife has been made pregnant through the Holy Spirit?
Reconciliation is at the heart of Christian faith. It is arguably the most radical and transforming work done by God and practiced in our own lives. In 2 Corinthians 5:19 the apostle Paul teaches us that through Christ, God was “reconciling the world to himself” and calls us to a ministry of reconciliation with each other. But what does reconciliation mean? Does it mean we forgive and forget? Or convince others that we are right?
Sometimes the simplest questions give rise to the most interesting conversations. That is what I discovered one morning at Southminster Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia.
St. John’s Presbyterian Church in San Francisco wanted to grow. So it hired the Rev. Theresa Cho as an associate pastor with the idea that her presence would help attract young Chinese families who were settling in the neighborhood. After three years, however, growth hadn’t happened in the way some people expected.
As an adviser for the Unglued Church, a program in Pittsburgh Presbytery for help with church change, I encounter a lot of churches at the end of their rope. It’s a time in a church’s life when it’s important to emphasize the importance of thinking beyond survival, and how the congregation might imagine leaving a legacy for God’s ministry and mission.
Moving from a 9-to-5 job to a lifestyle without a clock may not be as easy as you might suppose. It’s about finding perspective and balance, planning, and setting realistic expectations.