Write-bites from our 2018 contributors:
When I left my job last summer to return to school, several people asked me where I would go to church. “Ginter Park," I'd reply, "it’s my home.” I was grateful that I could be sure of those words.
For this Good Friday, Alfred Walker and I invite you to watch this scene [from the video of the youth’s production of “Godspell”] again or for the first time. Like GPPC itself, it’s faithful and strange and beautiful and a little messy around the edges.
One of the basics of the Christian faith is that God made us good and loves us thoroughly. I preach that all the time, but, if I’m honest, I struggle to believe it and feel it in my everyday life. When I see someone who’s living into that love for themselves enough to claim who they are, despite a world that may give them pushback because of it, I am reminded and inspired to do the same: to know myself, and to love myself more truly.
from “God Loves You. The Bible Says That, Too” - written for the Side by Side blog and shared on ours - by Carla Pratt Keyes
On Epiphany this year, what word star did I get from the church basket? “Transformation”. Really.
…. I was amazed at the transformations already taking place in our group. We’d only been in Haiti 24 hours, adventure upon adventure, strange language, no phones. Already we were feeling the rhythm of the place and the people. There was every reason to embrace hesitance, fear, or frustration in not knowing “what will happen next?”, but no one gave in to that. Everyone demonstrated courage, openness, kindness and awareness of others. I was proud of the flexibility and trust that emanated out from us. Trust encourages dignity, on both sides of a relationship…. We are forever grateful for the generosity and trust that our congregation showered us with. You gave us the opportunity to be forever transformed. And Jesus smiled!
In Carla’s sermon last Sunday, she said that “knowing we have time – cultivating practices that remind us God gives us time – can make us more attentive to needs around us. It also can open us to opportunities around us.” Guess what I was doing when I first read the letter asking me to serve on Session for the next thee years. It was afternoon nap time for James and rest time for me. With that soft head resting on my shoulder, in that quiet, peaceful moment, I felt like God was telling me the time was right to go back on Session.
On July 21, 2014, I started on a journey to a better way of life. I do not find it ironic that a couple weeks before my fourth anniversary I was able to travel to Haiti with GPPC followed by a trip to Colorado with a dear friend to celebrate his third anniversary. What I’m saying is God made me who I am and I am an addict. Through this addiction and, now, recovery I have been able to do and see some wonderful things…. It is an amazing feeling when a person sees something in you that you are blind to. That has happened twice now since I returned to GPPC – once with Sunday School and now with the Session. It has been an honor and pleasure to serve the church in both departments and to look forward to helping our continuous progression.
When I was in college we spent a year studying the first two questions of a catechism with the children’s class at the church where I volunteered. Every week we would ask the children, “Who are you?” They would respond, “I am a child of God.” “What does it mean to be a child of God,” we’d continue. “That I belong to God who loves me.”…. Almost twenty years have passed, yet those questions are always in the back of my mind…. I try to look at each person whose path I cross and say to myself, “they are a child of God and they belong to God who loves them.” I can specifically remember doing this with a lonely regular in the coffee shop, a bullied teen in youth group, a patient who was dying, a person scanning my groceries, people who have broken my heart and disappointed me, people I hear about on the news, people who’ve come to counter-protest where I protest. When I’m able, I ask them who they are and listen as they share their stories and passions…. Embracing a person’s value as a child of God does not mean I have to condone their behavior, back their rhetoric, or agree with them on anything. It’s simply a reminder that at their core, they too belong to God who loves them.
From the beginning of my childhood memories, church was just a part of my weekly routine, like school or eating dinner. Every Sunday, the Walker family got up, ate breakfast, and arrived for Sunday School or worship approximately three minutes late. I participated in Wednesday afternoon choir and games, and later, youth group. Many of my friends are at GPPC, and so is my adopted family. Though I was vaguely aware of these gifts of the church community, I began to appreciate them more as I involved myself more in activities in and through GPPC.
Of particular interest to me [at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico] would be the worship experience; the expectation of listening, examining different viewpoints of biblical passages, and making connections between God’s plan and my daily activities would all be central to taking advantage of these offerings. Another important part of all of these would be attempting in all things to discern God’s will. My hope would be that overall, focusing on body, mind, and spirit would not be a solitary pursuit but would be in concert with others.
Margaret Lucas Jacobs
I’ve been fixated on Genesis 1 lately. Well, always—many of you know my passion for learning about and taking care of the environment. But I’ve been particularly focused on Gen 1:2, the part where earth is a formless void and darkness covered the deep… the part about confusion and chaos.
Everything feels confusing and chaotic lately.
I preached my senior sermon down the street at the seminary recently on this very topic: how my faith is deeply rooted in God the Creator, and how following God through new creation after new creation means sometimes going through dark, formless voids.
“Where do you find meaning in your life and at GPPC?” My response was – “helping others, especially the needy.” …. Reflecting upon these experiences causes us to think about Abraham Maslow’s work about the hierarchy of human needs. At the bottom of the pyramid are the homeless and hungry striving to survive. At the top are volunteers, who passed through lower levels of needs and now seek fulfillment that can come from helping others. In a sense, each group is helping the other. Each has a fundamental need that the other can help to serve.
“. . . in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
The current Presbyterian Church of Venezuela (Iglesia Presbiteriana de Venezuela – IPV) is small in numbers and has two synods, but it is strong in theological impact and witness. Due to the national economic crisis and extreme food insecurity, even situations of famine, the Venezuelan Church has opted to prioritize the church wide mission of feeding programs that include food pantries, food deliveries, and eating halls in church buildings. Every congregation of the IPV is involved in this ministry. With funding from our Endowment Foundation, GPPC is expanding our support of world missions - through the Venezuelan Mission Network - between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the IPV.
What I have realized …. is that WE are the kingdom builders. That is OUR call together. We are called here to love one another NOW. We cannot wait for a leader who acknowledges that call. We must continue to be a light for the marginalized. We aren’t called here to be comfortable or free from conflict. We aren’t called here to be free from anger or obstacles. We are called here, to this corner of Chamberlayne and Walton Avenues, to show a radical love like the world has never seen. We are called here to shake things up. To put more chairs around the table.
This may be the most unforgettable Love Feast in history.
Thanks to all who shared their stories in 2018. We look forward to the stories we wil hear in 201.