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How to Be Presbyterian

Charles Cornwell served as our beloved associate pastor during the mid-1980s. He heard the call to Presbyterian ministry while well-ensconced in a career as an English professor at Davidson College. At GPPC, he loved leading book groups and Christian Ed classes - emphasis on “Ed”. One such class studied what it meant to be Presbyterian - Dr. Cornwell might be gratified to know that I do recall one thing he taught us: If someone asks you what makes you distinctly a Presbyterian and not a Methodist or a Baptist - it’s our form of government. We have elected, representative governing bodies at every level of the denomination.

So if it seems to you - as it does to me - that we are almost always considering or nominating or electing or installing church officers, keep in mind: it’s what we do, every bit as often as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

As I write, we are in the “considering” phase, in which we’ve been asked to share the names of potential officers with our nominating committee. That group will meet and consider potential slates for the Session and the Endowment Foundation. And when the slates have been built, the committee will contact the members whose names are on the slates and discuss their sense of call and willingness to serve.

If you are asked to consider serving on the Session, my advice is not to say No out of hand. You may be pretty sure your answer is No and you may be right - but sit with it, and talk it through with the member who contacted you and/or with Carla. These can be great conversations. They will possibly include others’ perceptions of your particular gifts of which you haven’t had the same awareness. They will probably include good sharing about directions and dreams for our church. You will not be chastised for saying No - as our former pastor Bob Pierce was fond of saying, “Nobody ever flunked church”. Even if you decide the time is not right for you, I think you will appreciate the process. If you decide to say Yes, you will be in for a faith journey that blends fellowship, prayer, and practical thinking and action. You will help implement the sometimes hard, often rewarding work of our church. In three years, you’ll be glad for a break - and you’ll miss it.

If you are asked to serve on the Endowment Foundation, my advice is to say Yes! GPPC is blessed with a sizable endowment, and thanks to a core of wise and long-serving leadership, it maintains its principal value while earning interest that funds the more expensive efforts of our church. I am in my second stint as a group member and I remain in awe of the steady expertise that guides the management of this considerable resource. I also find it a humbling privilege to cast my vote for the grant requests that come to us through the Session - well-thought initiatives that enhance our ministry in the building and in the world. The foundation meets - are you ready? - four times a year for perhaps an hour, and otherwise conducts business as needed via email. Serving with this group is a gratifying opportunity to see how we put shoes on our faith.

At GPPC, ’tis the season - well, yeah, almost always. What makes it unique is all of us.


Alfred Walker has done a bunch of stuff at GPPC, currently singing in the choir, helping post things here, and soon to rotate off the Endowment Foundation. That means there'll be a warm chair waiting for someone...

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