Presbyterian Writers Guild: ‘Writing Parables that Address Racism’

Salem Presbytery joins guild to co-sponsor Big Tent workshop

by Emily Enders Odom | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Sam Stevenson (left); Robin Suzanne Oakman, PWG member; and Steve McCutchan. (Photo by Emily Enders Odom)

ST. LOUIS – As the Rev. Stephen McCutchan, an honorably retired PC(USA) minister in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a member of the Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) Board, considered some months ago what workshop he might offer at the PC(USA) Big Tent event, he immediately thought of his longtime friend and former pastoral colleague, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Stevenson, honorably retired in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The theme of the biennial three-day event — held July 6–8 on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis — was “Race, Reconciliation, Reformation,” a natural for the two friends to engage in.

The workshop designed by the two colleagues, titled “Writing Parables that Address Racism,” was a culmination of a 25-year project titled Presbyterian Inter-Racial Dialogue (PIRD) that they initiated in Winston-Salem to help heal the racial divisions in that city. McCutchan later published a book on their shared experience, Let’s Have Lunch, which takes its title from the commitment that partners in six area churches made to break bread together.

McCutchan, who entered Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York after spending two years in the Peace Corps in the Andean mountains, said, “Union enabled me to relate my faith to the poverty I’d experienced in Peru and to the racial issues that plagued our society without losing hope for the church and society.”

In their Big Tent workshop, some 20 participants were guided in writing techniques and practical exercises to develop their own parables as a vehicle to expand interracial dialogue in their own contexts and congregations. “Since Jesus taught in parables, I’m interested in learning how to tell modern parables that deal with hard topics,” said one attendee.

The workshop, which was co-sponsored by the Presbyterian Writers Guild and Salem Presbytery, also coincided with the publication by the PWG of A Progressive Feast in Parabolic Story, in which 15 writers from 13 states contributed their contemporary parables about a variety of ethical issues confronting society today.

“I’ll always be grateful to Union Theological Seminary for helping provide me a theological framework that shaped my ministry and enabled me to live with integrity and faithfulness for these past fifty years,” McCutchan said.

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