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‘The promise is that we won’t be there alone’

Presbyterian delegation leads worship at Ecumenical Women and UN Commission on the Status of Women

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Jessica Maudlin of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, shown speaking at the 2019 Presbyterians for Earth Care Conference, offered a reflection on Psalm 139 Tuesday morning at an Ecumenical Women worship service during the 66th UN Commission on the Status of Women. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Morning breaks early for Ecumenical Women participating in the 66th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Ecumenical Women at the UN opens each day of the commission with a worship service led by different member organizations at 8 a.m. Eastern Time in the United States. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) delegation led worship Tuesday morning for a global audience, some far enough around the world that it was already Wednesday as the CSW choir sang “Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above.”

Click here to see the service in its entirety

In place of a homily, three Presbyterian participants in the CSW offered reflections on the morning’s scripture, Psalm 139:7-12, a passage where David reflects that there is nowhere he can flee God’s presence.

9If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me …

“The promise was not that we wouldn’t end up intentionally or unintentionally in the most hellish of circumstances,” said Jessica Maudlin, Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns in the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “The promise is that we won’t be there alone.

“For many of us, the last several years have brought loss, grief, and unbearable news, over and over and over. In the midst of all of that heartbreak, we are still advocating in the church and in the world for justice — a justice that doesn’t seem to come or is so painfully slow in coming that we can barely see it, and at times even forget how to hope for it.

“The God that David writes of in the psalm doesn’t just set the plans for our lives in motion and look the other way. This is a God that greets us each morning with fresh mercy and new opportunities, ready to go through the hours of the day with us — the joyful hours, the grieving hours, the hopeful hours, the desperate hours.”

Khyah Van Es reflected that she sees God’s constant presence in people around her.

“The things that we see are troubling, and I feel like sometimes I can bring myself into a place of trying to run away or ignore or be in denial about the things that overwhelmed me at times,” Van Es said. “But God always pulls me back with either solid or loving friends, or a burst of inspiration and hope that helps me to remind myself to be more intentional with my spirituality by encouraging me, to let myself be embraced and immersed in God’s love, and to be held by God’s forgiveness.”

This year’s commission is focused on climate change, and Van Es reflected on Creation’s role in God’s constant presence: “I feel that God is in the tea that I drink, the fruit, the vegetables, anything that grows from the Earth that I replenish my body with, I feel God’s presence. I feel God when I gaze at the moon, when I gaze at the stars, at the sunset, and the beauty of the Creation God has made.”

Kathleen Keefer

Kathleen Keefer


Kathleen Keefer, Vice-Moderator of Presbyterian Women, closed out the reflection putting God’s inescapable presence and love in the context of the crisis at hand.

“God has made us stewards of this Earth,” she said. “We are here to care for this Creation — all of Creation. But what have we done with it? We are nearing our own destruction and the destruction of all living things because of our greed and selfishness. This is our sin, and we cannot forgive ourselves of this sin until we learn to fight for Creation, to heal its gaping wounds, to come to terms with our own damaging activities and stubbornness.

“Darkness is overtaking us, and it’s time to support increased advances in fighting climate change, to do all we can as individuals, and to see to it that our governments do all they can, so that all Creation can live in the light.”

Participants in the Ecumenical Women at the UN worship service at the 63rd UN Commission on the Status of Women on March 15, 2019, prayed for the delegation from Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand after two mass shootings that day at mosques in Christchurch. (Photo courtesy of the Lutheran World Federation)

The service also took a moment to remember the third anniversary of the 2019 shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which occurred while the delegation from  Presbyterian Women Aotearoa New Zealand was in New York for the last in-person CSW.

“Three years ago, together with other members of delegations from Aotearoa in New Zealand, I experienced the love that was wrapped around us by our fellow delegates,” said Mavis Duncanson, the delegation’s co-convenor.

Duncanson recalled the comfort of a prayer composed by the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance after the shootings and read it. It said in part:

May the knowledge of your divine image, given to every living being,

warm hearts that have grown cold,

and invigorate our desire to embrace our differences

and celebrate our belonging in the whole human family.

Make the waters of our tears nourish the river that flows through the city of God,

and the tree of life that is for the healing of the nations.

It was another reminder of God’s presence in the darkness.

Earlier, Maudlin concluded her reflection, “Nowhere can we hide from the God who is always reaching out to us, inviting us to be part of God’s beloved community, where hunger and thirst and violence are no more, and the environment is livable for us.”

To register for a March 22 webinar on how women in the church are responding to climate change and environmental degradation, go here.

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Read more about Presbyterians at CSW66

‘We are not victims of the crisis, but resilient communities’

Setting the stage for gender equality

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