The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II tells Presbyterian Women why they’ve always held a warm spot in his heart
January 9, 2022
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II told the triennial gathering of Presbyterian Women he has fond childhood memories of the bus pulling up to St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Orangeburg, South Carolina, the church where his father was the pastor. The bus was there to transport Nelson’s mother to PW’s national gathering at Purdue University.
“It was always a time I was grateful you were taking my mother away for a time,” said Nelson, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), speaking to the online gathering from the Presbyterian Center in Louisville. “She was the disciplinarian in the life of our house. My dad and I had a great time doing things we would never share with her for the rest of her life.”
It was members of Presbyterian Women who would “oftentimes, and not with a loud voice but behind the scenes, be the changemakers at St. Luke Presbyterian Church,” Nelson said. “We see the continued work of women stepping forward at the local and national levels,” mentioning specifically PW’s executive director, Susan Jackson Dowd, as one of the women “who guide us in many ways. I have been thankful for their support.”
Especially during the difficult times we’ve been experiencing, “I’ve seen women just step forward and do significant work over and over again,” Nelson said. “They remind us how to bring about change in the life of society, the world and even the church — and remind us that somehow or another it should be done with love. That’s a message that’s much needed in the world today.”
More and more cities, including Louisville, are suffering waves of violent crime, some being perpetuated by and against children, Nelson noted. Presbyterians “are offering ourselves as a vision and the possibility of hope in a world in need of much visioning and certainly a great deal of hope,” he said. “I believe that we will continue to see that through the active engagement of not only Presbyterian Women but men and women across the nation. We will continue to hold onto the Christian heritage we share and to walk by faith, not sight.”
With a denominational headquarters building conceived by its donor three decades ago as a potential downtown anchor, “we have some responsibility in a place where 12-year-olds are carrying guns and are part of the high murder rate we are seeing right here in Louisville. … What is the role of the church? How do we deeply connect? It is a time we have to be more vigilant than we have before.”
It’s up to Presbyterian Women and others to “remind us we still have a debt to pay — the debt of the cross,” Nelson said. “It’s about the redemption of the world.”
Nelson thanked Presbyterian Women for “lifting up the banner to be leaders in this denomination and helping us find a way to take that which seems to be a great struggle and find ways by which we allow it to be a great hope.”
“Remember — we are walking by faith in these days, in some places quite frankly we have never been before,” Nelson said. “I pray that as we talk together as Presbyterians, with other denominations and the unchurched, there is a kinship God calls us to, to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
“I stand here today proudly serving this denomination and, more importantly, being in the midst of Presbyterian Women,” Nelson said. “God’s blessing in the days ahead.”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, January 9, 2022, the Baptism of the Lord (Year C)
Today’s Focus: Presbyterian Women Gathering
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
God of all nations and circumstances, we give thanks for the startling ways by which you break into our lives. The future you plan for all peoples lies before us. May we continue to be showered with the grace needed to join with you in being a blessing in the world. In Christ’s peace. Amen.
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