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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Poignant Synod School band offering reminds worshipers God makes beautiful things out of dust and out of us


‘We are bound together in distinctive and delicate ways,’ says Synod School preacher DeEtte Decker

September 26, 2023

Synod School musicians delivered a stirring version of Michael Gungor’s “Beautiful Things” during Monday’s worship service. (Photo by Mike Ferguson)

Closing with “Beautiful Things” by the artist Michael Gungor as performed by Synod School musicians, a recent worship service held in Schaller Memorial Chapel at Buena Vista University explored how Creation came about and what an act that occurred 4.5 billion years ago means for us today.

“A lot happened in those seven days, and it’s fast-paced movement,” said conference preacher the Rev. DeEtte Decker, communications director for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

After telling the first Creation story to the children attending the conference, Decker said it can be hard for some believers to even hear that Genesis contains two Creation narratives. But although details are different in the two, truths are found common to both. One, she said, is that the second three days of the story build on the first three days and aren’t possible without God’s work during those first three days.

“The very voice of God calls the world into being. It leaves me to wonder: Maybe the way of God with the world is the way of language. God’s speaking initiates a reality, a movement toward unity, harmony, trust and gratitude, and it’s overwhelming in this poetry we call our Creation story,” Decker said. “This story affirms we are fully and gladly and goodly, if there’s such a word, the Creation of God.”

She recalled an introductory class called Theological Understanding she took at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. “It was a crash course on conversations [pastors] might have that could be controversial,” Decker said. “We even took a field trip to the Creation Museum.”

Students began talking about the Big Bang, evolution and Darwinism. “We were getting into the mud and the muck of, ‘How did this happen?’ We wanted to answer that age-old question, was there anything before Creation? After a while, our professor stopped us,” Decker said. “She said, ‘Hey, all of this is well and good. These debates need to happen. But the most important thing you need to remember preparing to be a pastor is that the story of Creation is simply a story of God’s steadfast love for us, and for all of Creation.”

Some people can see beauty even in the most incongruous creations. (Photo by Mike Ferguson)

Creation “is a beautiful thing,” a lesson that the Synod School’s artist-in-residence, the Rev. Tim Mooney, can drive home with just a pencil and some paint, Decker said, “sort of like this here,” Decker noted, pointing at an unusual lamp/trombone/end table combo that had been placed on stage. “What is this? It was a trombone at some point in its life.”

The beautiful thing about Creation is “it’s all intertwined, all interconnected,” Decker said. “Some creator looked at this and said, ‘It is good!’ When I saw it, I thought, that’s something! A creator lovingly created this and even said, ‘Let there be light.’ A piece like this cannot exist without the other parts. That’s good. That’s interconnectedness.”

Or, as Professor Walter Brueggemann put it, “God and [God’s] Creation are bound together by the powerful, gracious movement of God toward that Creation. … This text announces the deepest mystery: God wills and will have a faithful relation with Earth. … The binding is irreversible. God has decided it. The connection cannot be nullified.”

“We are bound together in distinctive and delicate ways,” Decker noted, “and that is the beginning and the presupposition of everything else that happens in the Bible and in our family stories.”

As she did earlier in Synod School, Decker once again invited those attending to consider two questions:

  • How does interpreting the mystery of the Creation story in this way impact your view of God and the kin-dom of God?
  • How might this interpretation provoke and propel you to live in relationship with God and others?

“Friends, God loves us just as we are and desires a relationship and a connection with us so much so that we have all of Creation,” Decker said. “God’s saying it, creating it and affirming it. Know that you are loved. You are good and there is nothing, nothing that you could ever do to make God love you any more or any less. Thanks be to God.”

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Rev. DeEtte Decker, Synod School conference preacher speaks on creation

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Terri McCurdy, Operations Specialist, Presbyterian Foundation
Kimberly McElroy, Dishwasher, Stony Point Center, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray

Dear Lord, you have given us all we could need, and so much more. Help us to remember all the gifts that you present to us every day, from big opportunities to flowers poking their faces up to the sun. Help us to remember to praise your name for every blessing you place in our lives. In your name we pray. Amen.