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Pastoral Letters

When SWAT is a good thing.

A couple of years ago, one of our elders at First Presbyterian, Jefferson City, invited me to a meeting of a group of Presbyterians representing social witness teams and committees from Presbyteries within Missouri.  This statewide group has been convened in Jefferson City by Missouri Union Presbytery’s Church & Society & Peacemaking Mission Team since 2010.  I was invited to this meeting just to bring greetings from our church.  Before I knew it, Elder Debby Howland had me signed up to be on the SWAT Team- Social Witness Action Team.  This group includes folks from the four Presbyteries with representation in Missouri:  John Calvin, Heartland, Missouri Union and Giddings-Lovejoy.  We have explored issues such as racism, poverty, health care, economic and legislative barriers to equality and our Christian response to these issues.  The group includes decades of experience in legislation, civil rights, health care reform and I am awed by the wisdom, passion and determination of the group.  It has been a great way to see the gospel imperative of Jesus Christ to “care for the least of my brothers and sisters” come alive within a group of modern day disciples.  I have learned more about the legislative process, social witness groups throughout the state, ecumenical partners in social outreach, and the interface between politics, economics and faith.  And, I have a group of friends who feel a common calling not only to be hearers but also doers of the Word.  So, thank you Debby for the invitation to bring greetings to a group of strangers who have become my brothers and sisters in faith.

Rev. Dr. Rob Erickson, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Jefferson City

November 2012

 

WHY I ENJOY SERVING ON THE CHURCH AND SOCIETY MISSION TEAM

Rev. Ron Roberts

For a variety of reasons I have gotten myself way too involved in Presbytery, especially for a semi-retired pastor. I will not bore you with a lengthy list of my involvements at the Presbytery level. It is enough to say the list is longer than it has ever been in my 50+ years of active ministry and longer than anyone with a modicum of sanity would tolerate. Still, I cherish my service on the Church and Society Mission Team for a variety of reasons.

 

  • It is a joy to serve on a committee that is truly led and energized by laity rather than clergy.  The clergy on this committee are cheer leaders and enablers for the lay leadership.  That is a refreshing reality.
  • I have always believed that the words of Jesus that we are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God was not only a theologically adept answer to a challenging question, but a word of instruction to his followers. As a Christian, I am persuaded that part of our calling is to speak truth to power and as a Presbytery that headquarters in the Capitol city of our State, we dare not ignore the role our State government plays in the lives of the people of this State.
  • As a citizen and a voter I have long insisted there is no “Christian way” to vote or to govern, but there is a way to vote and to govern as a Christian. At the very least, the Christian path of citizenship involves staying informed about those issues that shape our lives and the lives of our neighbors.  And in a governmental system where powerful and wealthy (and they may be synonymous) forces seek to influence the role of government, I firmly believe our Lord has insisted that the church is obligated to speak out on behalf of the most marginalized and least represented of our neighbors.  To do this is a very tangible way of loving our neighbors which is tantamount to loving God.  The Church and Society Mission Team assists me to do precisely this.

 

Ron Roberts, Pastor, Climax Springs Presbyterian Church

October, 2010

 

If it is to be it must begin with me

 

This month our country marks a big turning point in our history with the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president. Hopefully history will look back on this time as one of the milestone movements in the quest to end racial discrimination.  It is never easy to be an instrument of change.  It takes a mighty patience, a steady hand and heart, a true conviction and a constant hope to remain focused on a greater vision.  Strong leadership qualities are essential but effective leaders can do little without people who have the capacity to hear, the vision to catch the dream and the courage to do what is necessary to be a positive force in following the course set down by leadership.  At times this means personal sacrifice.  At times this means speaking the truth even when the truth is not easy to hear.

We do not know yet what all the challenges are that our nation and world will face in the next four years.  We do know that currently we face a great economic challenge and continued challenges for peace in this world.  One of the sad realities of our time, and actually all times in history, is that the most fragile among us – the poor, the sick, those caught in war – will be the ones to suffer the most.

One of the strong aspects of our Reformed tradition is that we are called to be a positive force and voice for those who are oppressed, for those who suffer.  We cannot simply expect our government and our leaders to do all the work.  At the same time, we can and should expect our government and our leaders to be accountable for the policies they put in place.  That means each of us should be ready to do our part to be informed, and accountable for our actions, when it comes to responding to the challenges our country and state leaders face, the promises they have made to the ones they represent, and the laws they enact for the welfare of this country.

Most often I look at this as almost an impossible task.  I can hardly keep track of my own schedule and personal responsibilities let alone keep up with the government.  That is why I am grateful for people who offer their help along the way.  Missouri Union Presbytery has a Church and Society Mission team that offers help at the state level.

This past fall the Church and Society Mission Team surveyed the churches in the presbytery and has determined the top four issues of importance for PC(USA) members in mid Missouri. At the top of the list is health care for the poor/working poor and their children. Second is the fiscal issues that reduce the state’s ability to meet society’s needs and third is the stewardship of the land.  This Mission team will track these issues in the legislature and report their findings on their website – http://www.fpcjcmo.org/society_mission/index.php.  I hope you will use their website as an aid to stay abreast on current issues.

The Mission Team is also planning a special seminar to be held at First Presbyterian Church in Jeff City on Tues, Feb 10 from 10 am to 3 pm.  The agenda will include discussion on critical ethical issues related to our Christian faith and state government, as well as a tour of the Capitol.  If you would like to attend please register with First Pres in Jeff City by calling 573-636-2149.

This world faces challenges of great proportions.  As Christians may we step up and do our part, not trusting in chance or in fate, but instead trusting that God will give us the mind, heart and courage to do his will in meeting the challenges.  We all bear responsibility to hear God’s call to follow and work with Christ in bringing about God’s Kingdom on this earth.

 

May God richly bless your New Year and may God’s blessing be on this great country of ours.

 

Kathie Jackson, Associate Pastor First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, MO

January, 2009

 

From My Window…

The work of the Christian life is the work of reconciliation of all things to God.  In 11 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul writes:  …we regard no one from a human point of view… if anyone is in Christ everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new… All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and  has given to us the ministry of reconciliation”.

It seems to me that this work of caring for and making whole the world has to begin with understanding the world’s brokenness.   The CHURCH AND SOCIETY task is to hold up for us, in this part of mid-Missouri, brokenness that effects the lives of neighbors.  This Task Force has been charged with the job of helping us identify areas where reconciliation is needed.   Team members seek the voice of the Presbyterian Church in defining which of the current issues before Missourians cry out for the attention of our community of faith.   In the past we have clearly identified one basic need facing poor Missourians, and those with limited resources.  That need is  ACCESS  TO adequate health care.   So the team has made information available to us concerning legislative initiatives and proposals, in order that we may decide what we wish to do.

As we seek to help, befriend, encourage and assist those in need, surely we move in the flow of the Spirit of God.  This kind of engagement in the tough issues of the day can be difficult if we do not know the issues and do not see the implications of proposals and legislation before our State.   Who to trust for this information?  This was one of the questions that generated the creation of our presbytery’s CHURCH AND SOCIETY team.

This team, composed of Elders, Deacons, members of our Presbyterian family, is at work to provide reasonable and trustworthy information about what’s happening in Missouri that is related to the ethical and moral work of the Church.

The team provides solid, dependable information that Presbyterians may then use to determine what they wish to do about the key issues we have identified.  CHURCH  AND SOCIETY team members do not “do” the action… they do not speak for the Church.  Rather are charged to bring timely information to us, alerting us, to important legislative initiatives that have a bearing on our work of reconciliation.

I am glad we have this team.  It is good Christian citizenship at work.  It speaks to the us, the Presbyterian Church, about what’s happening in the key areas we have identified.

God’s blessings on this work as we all seek to be His agents of reconciliation!

 

Rudy W. Beard, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Jefferson City, MO

May 2008