Mid Councils Newsletter October 6, 2014
The hills were alive, not so much with the sound of music, but with the sounds of peace and quiet. My husband and I were lucky enough to spend a short weeks in Vermont with a few of those days spent at the Trapp family Lodge. Yes, the von Trapp family from theSound of Music. It turns out that they really did kind of escape from Austria just before the Second World War since they could not support the Nazis. It was not quite as dramatic an escape as in the musical, but an escape nonetheless. They came to America to continue what they had already been doing—touring as a singing family. During the 1950s they were the biggest draw in concert venues around the country for a time. They also bought a farm in Vermont and built a lodge there. People come for the beauty and to “walk where Maria walked.” We went for both things. After all, when I was in fifth grade I wore a white dress with a blue satin sash and sang “My Favorite Things” in front of my whole school. We spent some of our time hiking. At the Outdoor Center where you have to check in before you hike (I guess they want to know if they need to come rescue you!) we told the young man that we live near sea level but are pretty fit and asked him for a suggestion of a hike. He told us about a pretty strenuous one to a cabin. Something like 5k there and back and a steep incline for a large part of it. We set out and made it, to the astonishment of some people working on the roof of the cabin. We were also a little astonished, since about three quarters of the way there we were wondering if we could actually finish. The people on the roof told us to be sure to drink water so that our muscles would not cramp. I guess the sweat pouring off of us in 60 degree weather was a little hint of how hard we had worked.
Along one of the paths we saw the rock in the picture accompanying this note. Look at it. A big “ole” piece of Vermont granite; not the best place for new growth. But look more closely. Those little trees and other plants are growing right on top of the rock. Will they all survive? No. Will some of them? Undoubtedly. Will even the ones that don’t survive throw off seeds and spores that will start new growth in other places? Yes.
Maybe the rock is a little like our denomination and the various congregations in the presbyteries you serve. Looks a little dead; very hard to move (who said anything about change?); not a very good place for something new to start. But in spite of all of that, there are signs of hope and new growth.
So, the next time you want to beat your head against this rock, remember the picture. When you visit a session at their request because they want some ideas about how to change and then they reject everything you say, think of this picture. The next time you plan a presbytery meeting whose focus will be a new vision of how to work together and all they want to do is amend the amendment, think of this picture. When your staff spends most of their time talking about how great things used to be, think of this picture.
After all, our faith teaches us that we cannot predict where God’s new life will break out. We are the people of an empty tomb that reminds us that God will always surprise us with hope and wonder and new life.
Today many denominations face similar challenges, and many are finding creative solutions to engage in ministry that is relevant and responsive. The Office of Ecumenical Relations, under the leadership of the Reverend Robina Winbush, is seeking to connect Presbyterians with resources and tools that help solve internal issues, as well as help us turn outside ourselves and give visual expression to the unity we have in Christ. To help facilitate this sharing of information, you recently received an email from the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations asking you to designate an ecumenical liaison, and many of you have responded. Please take a moment to review the duties of an ecumenical liaison and prayerfully consider who in your presbytery would be a good point of contact for ecumenical relations.
Attached to this part of the newsletter, you will find a link to a resource that will be widely disseminated across the denomination. It is an encouragement to Presbyterians to participate in “Giving Tuesday,” which is a response to“Black Friday”and“Cyber Monday” by charities, churches, and other not—for—profits. As you will see, people are encouraged to use that day to make a contribution, in this case, to their congregation, their presbytery, or many other avenues for supporting the whole mission and ministry of the PC(USA).