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Special Offerings’ Between 2 Pulpits podcast makes a return engagement

The Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson joins Katie Snyder to offer up something special to listeners

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Jonathan Meyer via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — Between 2 Pulpits, a podcast put on by Special Offerings that’s been on hiatus for nearly a year, is once again available thanks to the efforts of the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder.

Wilkinson, a longtime pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has since spring 2023 been director of Ministry Engagement and Support, in which Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog belong. Snyder is a certified Christian educator and project manager for Special Offerings’ Digital Fundraising and Interpretation.

In the first edition of the Between 2 Pulpits reboot, which can be heard here, Wilkinson and Snyder introduce themselves and talk about the Peace & Global Witness Offering, which many PC(USA) congregations will receive on Oct. 1, World Communion Sunday.

“We are in a season of thinking about Matthew 25, which is very resonant with what the Peace & Global Witness Offering is about,” Wilkinson said. “As a pastor, those leader guides always provided me great resources to get me started.”

Asked to tell a funny or memorable story from three decades in ministry, Wilkinson recalled that during his time at Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, worship occurred outside the sanctuary for about nine months during renovation. Most Sundays, Third Church shared space with a Lutheran congregation, but that wouldn’t work on Easter Sunday, he told Snyder. Instead, Third Church rented the 2,400 capacity Art Deco Eastman Theatre on the campus of the University of Rochester to hold services that Easter Sunday morning.

The Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson

“I felt a little like a TV evangelist preaching on that stage,” he said, “but it was a real boost in the arm for us in the middle of the building renovation. The memories are still really strong and positive, but we were glad it was over when it was over.”

Snyder told the story of leading a children’s time during worship in a church she served, also on Easter Sunday. She divided the children into boys and girls, and the girls got to go to the “tomb” — otherwise known as the baptismal font — first. The guest preacher popped out to read the appropriate Scripture, and then the girls ran back so the boys could have their turn. “That was the best part,” Snyder said, “because kids never get to run in the sanctuary.” The boys then ran to the tomb “because they didn’t believe the girls.”

Then Snyder made a bit of a tactical mistake, saying the biblical women had gone to the tomb to pour ointment on the body “because dead bodies stink.”

At the conclusion of the children’s time, “every single child went back to their parent and asked, ‘Why do dead bodies stink?’” she said.

Katie Snyder

Wilkinson and Snyder also swapped missional stories. A Chicago church Wilkinson served had “a very active mission engagement” with a large public housing complex, while Snyder’s church provided a bookmobile for children at a nearby elementary school.

“The intergenerational possibilities for these Offerings is evident,” Wilkinson said, adding his hope for the church is “that it can live into its hopes and not into its fears.” For Snyder, it’s “that we don’t let fear hold us back … We can embrace the possibility of now by seeing where God is and how we can join in.”

Presbyterian Peacemaking’s Carl Horton is the first guest

The Rev. Carl Horton, who leads the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, had so much to say that Between 2 Pulpits divided his appearance into two segments, which can be heard here and here.

PPP is celebrating 40 years of the Commitment to Peacemaking, which can be found here. About 5,000 PC(USA) have signed the commitment, Horton said, adding, “Once you sign it, you’re always a peacemaking congregation.”

Sadly, “the priorities of the Commitment to Peacemaking are kind of unchanged,” Horton told Snyder and Wilkinson, although recent work has more of a focus on migration and immigration, on refugees and “congregations that want to attend to those issues as part of their peacemaking work.” Many congregations and mid councils have a focus on gun violence prevention, he said, as well as on mitigating militarism, poverty and racism.

“Our peacemaking congregations have been doing Matthew 25 work all along,” Horton said. “We’ve always allowed congregations to identify what peacemaking work looks like to them.” With their 25% share of the Peace & Global Witness Offering, “congregations get to decide: what are our passions and what are our commitments to peacemaking?”

Horton relayed ministry ideas congregations have undertaken with that 25% share. Some have joined community groups in anti-violence programs. Others provide resources for refugees. A few are offering after-school tutoring, and a handful make beds available to people living in poverty.

The Rev. Carl Horton (Photo by Rich Copley)

“It’s all about relationships,” Horton said, citing diverse work including growing community gardens, opening facilities to houseless people during the winter months, and doing anti-bullying work in the community.

Wilkinson told him, “All those examples might say to people, ‘I could see our congregation doing that.’”

The 2023 International Peacemakers have fanned out across the country and are scheduled to appear in 43 presbyteries before their witness to congregations and mid councils is completed next month.

Horton said part of the 1980 document “Peacemaking: The Believer’s Calling,” among the program’s founding documents, still resonates for him. Its three straightforward affirmations:

  • The church is faithful to Christ when it is engaged in peacemaking.
  • The church is obedient to Christ when it nurtures and equips God’s people as peacemakers.
  • The church bears witness to Christ when it nourishes the moral life of the nation for the sake of peace in the world.

“We are, inside and outside the church, in times of transition and times of uncertainty. That’s a heavy load, and it makes us anxious and nervous,” Horton said. “My hope for the church is that in tumultuous times, whether internal or external tumult, that we continue to be the church and be faithful to our mission in the world.”

“We don’t operate perfectly, and we have our own issues and problems,” Horton said. “But I do think God is at work in us and through us, in large ways and in small ways, in ways we can notice and in ways we will never notice.”

“It was no uncontroversial thing 43 years ago to make the statement that we made, and then try to enact it in the life of the church 40 years ago,” Wilkinson said. “I’m grateful to have Carl’s stewardship to that legacy and that we have this Offering that we can invite people to support it.”

Learn more about Special Offerings here. Information about the Presbyterian Giving Catalog is here.

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