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The Long farewell

The Rev. Dr. Kimberly Bracken Long concludes her service with the PC(USA) Office of Theology & Worship

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Kimberly Bracken Long

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Dr. Kim Long is “is leaving our [community], and we want to send her forth with our prayers and ask God’s blessing upon her.”

So begins the “Blessing of Departing Members” provided in the 2018 edition of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Book of Common Worship (BCW). This pastoral liturgy is one of countless contributions that Long has made to the life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through her service in the denomination’s Office of Theology and Worship. Long will conclude that service in at the end of March.

“I have so much gratitude,” Long said. “Working with wonderful colleagues in ministry in different contexts has been such a blessing.”

Long joined the national staff of the PC(USA) as associate for worship in 2006 as associate for worship and editor of the quarterly journal Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching, and the Arts, published by the Office of Theology and Worship in partnership with the Presbyterian Association of Musicians. In 2007 she took a teaching position as a professor of worship at Columbia Theological Seminary, continuing to serve as editor of Call to Worship through 2011.

At Columbia Seminary, Long garnered a reputation as a beloved teacher and mentor, highly sought-after preacher and worship leader, and respected scholar and lecturer. In this time, she published The Worshiping Body (WJKP, 2009), The Eucharistic Theology of the American Holy Fairs (WJKP, 2011), the six-volume Feasting on the Word Worship Companion series (WJKP, 2012–2015), Inclusive Marriage Services (WJKP, 2015), and From This Day Forward (WJKP, 2016). She was also co-editor of the Book of Common Worship (WJKP, 2018).

In 2017, Long left her teaching position at Columbia Seminary in order to spend more time in research and writing from her home on the Chesapeake Bay. At this time, she began a second term as editor of Call to Worship, serving in this role from 2017 to 2022. Long was also the Psalms editor for the nine-volume Connections commentary series (WJKP, 2018-2021). She directed the Just Worship initiative of the PC(USA), participating in conferences in Atlanta (2018) and Austin, Texas (2019) and producing a 33-minute documentary film.

As Call to Worship editor, Long was responsible for the publication of 35 issues of the journal, including the annual Lectionary Aids edition, which provides liturgy and music suggestions for every Sunday and festival in the Christian year, as well as three thematic editions per year that examine contemporary topics in the theology and practice of worship. Recent thematic issues addressed “Poverty and Liturgy,” “Worship in the Time of COVID” and “Dismantling Racism in Worship.”

“The Call to Worship work has borne fruit,” Long said. “While continuing what we’ve done traditionally — to educate and encourage church leaders in liturgy, music, preaching and the arts — we’ve been able to look at important societal issues and how they intersect with what we do on Sunday morning.”

Long will be succeeded as Call to Worship editor by the Rev. Sally Ann McKinsey, a pastor, artist, and liturgical scholar in Cookeville, Tennessee. Bi-vocational, as leader of the UKirk campus ministry at Tennessee Tech, where she teaches in the School of Art, Craft & Design. McKinsey is honored to begin working on the CTW journal.

“Having also served in a smaller suburban congregation and larger urban church, I understand how CTW’s lectionary aids issue can be important to worship leaders and planners in many different contexts,” she said. “In CTW’s thematic issues I hope to bring a balance between scholarship about liturgical issues and practical support for ministry issues. Having conversations about issues and topics that are relevant to the way God is transforming the church now — and in the future — will be important.”

“I’m so excited for Sally Ann and all the gifts she will bring to the CTW editorship,” Long said. “She’s intelligent, has intellectual curiosity, and is perceptive about people, the church, and the world.  She’s a professional artist and wonderful preacher and liturgist. Plus, she asks good questions, which is crucial for this kind of work.”

In this next phase of her life and ministry, Long looks forward to pursuing her growing interest in ecological liturgical theology and praying with creation. She also plans to spend more time with her newfound passion for weaving.

“I’m going to breathe a little bit. Not having deadlines will be a nice thing,” Long said. “I do have book project I’m working on. Ministry continues. I’ll do some teaching and preaching. I plan to be active in the life of the church in a variety of ways.”

As the BCW “Blessing of Departing Members” concludes, “God has blessed you and made you a blessing in our life together. We will miss you but rejoice that we remain part of one body and continue to share in Christ’s ministry.” Amen and thanks be to God.

The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell, Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology & Worship, contributed to this article.

Excerpts from the “Blessing of Departing Members” are from the PC(USA)’s Book of Common Worship (WJKP, 2018), page 434.

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