• Outlook Features 12 hours ago

    General Assembly: Looking Back (poem)

    General Assembly: Looking Back (poem)

    by J. Barrie Shepherd
    John Calvin would be lost here. John Knox would be hard put to find a place to rest his shaggy head, and even Eugene Carson Blake might be a bit bewildered by the way things have developed in this mean time. All these badges, pins and placards, signs and symbols signifying little more than who you are aligned with, who against. The shuttling, hustling functionaries, bearing papers, ipads, cell phones, all secure in secret knowing they have been elected to do vital work on something … not sure what. Flocks… continue reading...
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  • Outpost Blog 12 hours ago

    The art of people care

    The art of people care

    A friend, recently installed as a deacon at our church, reflected with me how many times my name, as associate pastor of spiritual formation, appears in the deacon handbook. The handbook offers steps deacons may take to address congregational needs. If deacons exhaust those steps and still struggle to meet a need or feel inadequate or unable to meet that need, the last instruction is to “Call Pastor Rachel.” The instruction makes good sense. After all, I went to seminary and took a class on pastoral care. I visit people… continue reading...
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  • Outlook Features 1 day ago

    Hoping the world will listen

    Hoping the world will listen

    by Leslie Scanlon
    Where it all leads is another question, but no one can accuse Presbyterians of not caring or being afraid to speak. Late into the night, the commissioners at the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) parsed and amended and substitute-motioned their way to crafting position statements on social justice issues — speaking out, hoping the world will listen. Here’s some of what commissioners chose to say: Drones. The assembly approved a resolution — an amended version of a measure brought by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy… continue reading...
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Using spiritual gifts to build up faith (July 27, 2014)

James Brashler

Scripture Passage and Lesson Focus: 1 Corinthians 14:13-26 Making proper use of the spiritual gifts God provides proved to be a challenge for the Christians in Corinth. Some members of the congregation had the gift of speaking in tongues, a form of ecstatic prayer to God. Others had the gift of prophecy, the ability to encourage and console others with inspired speech. Unfortunately the variety of spiritual gifts received by believers in Corinth had evidently become another divisive factor in the life of this fractious congregation. Therefore in chapter 12:4-11 Paul emphasizes that all spiritual gifts come from the same Spirit — God’s Holy Spirit. The variety of spiritual gifts within the body of Christ should not lead to dissension. On the contrary, Paul urges all members of the congregation to hold each other in high esteem no matter what spiritual gifts a person has. Paul’s main point is found in 14:12, “ … Since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for … [Read more...]

Political and religious leaders denounce European anti-Jewish outbursts tied to Gaza

PARIS (RNS) Amid mounting protests in Europe against the Gaza conflict, political and religious leaders in the region have sharply denounced anti-Semitism within their borders. “Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies,” the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy said in a statement Tuesday (July 22) from Brussels. Fears of escalating unrest are perhaps sharpest in France, home to Europe’s largest populations of Jews and Muslims. Many have roots in North Africa, and violence in the Middle East resonates strongly here. Thousands defied a government ban against Paris-area protests over the weekend, staging pro-Palestinian rallies that degenerated into violence. “We have had eight synagogues attacked. We have had shops attacked,” said Roger Cukierman, head of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions. “We have heard crowds shouting death to the Jews — not death to … [Read more...]

A ban on new church construction angers Sudanese Christians

(RNS) Christians in Sudan frequently face arrests, impromptu questioning and expulsion. But this month, conditions worsened after the government announced a ban on the construction of new churches. Shalil Abdullah, the Sudanese minister for guidance and religious endowments, made the announcement on July 12, sparking criticism from top Christian clerics who warned of shrinking worship space in the mainly Muslim and Arab north. After South Sudan’s independence in 2011, many Christians moved to the newly formed country, which has a large Christian population. But a sizable number remained. Abdullah argued there is no need to grant plots of land for new churches since the existing ones were enough for the remaining Christians. The Rev. Kori Elramla Kori Kuku, general secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, said the government’s intentions were shocking and misleading. “We (Christians) have the right to have new plots of land and building of new churches,” he said. “We … [Read more...]

WCC expresses concern over exodus of Christian community in Mosul, Iraq

GENEVA (World Council of Churches) In an official statement issued on July 21, the World Council of Churches' (WCC) general secretary, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, expressed deep concern over the exodus of the Christian community from the Iraqi city of Mosul due to threats from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Tveit called these developments a “tragedy” for both Christians and Muslims. According to local reports Christians have been told by those in control of Mosul to either convert to Islam, pay the Jizya(poll tax for non-Muslims) or leave the city. On failing to take these steps Christians are faced with threats of execution. Due to this situation, the Shia community in Mosul is also feeling compelled to depart. Currently a number of Christians have taken refuge in neighboring monasteries and villages, as well as in the Kurdish region of Iraq. “It is with great sorrow that we see the apparent ending of a Christian presence in Mosul, present there … [Read more...]

General Assembly: Looking Back (poem)

BarrieShepherd-1312

John Calvin would be lost here. John Knox would be hard put to find a place to rest his shaggy head, and even Eugene Carson Blake might be a bit bewildered by the way things have developed in this mean time. All these badges, pins and placards, signs and symbols signifying little more than who you are aligned with, who against. The shuttling, hustling functionaries, bearing papers, ipads, cell phones, all secure in secret knowing they have been elected to do vital work on something … not sure what. Flocks of lost and wandering observers looking for food and souvenirs, greeting old pals, wondering what, if anything, comes next. And the commissioners themselves, eyes glazed from lack of sleep and scanning screens and pages, tongues weary from discussion and dispute into those wee small hours, lips thirsty for the cool, sweet taste of laughter that is shared with song and joy, fingers fumbling for the touch and clasp of fellow seekers, fellow hopers yes, believers, here … [Read more...]

Tagged With: GA221

The art of people care

Rachel Young

A friend, recently installed as a deacon at our church, reflected with me how many times my name, as associate pastor of spiritual formation, appears in the deacon handbook. The handbook offers steps deacons may take to address congregational needs. If deacons exhaust those steps and still struggle to meet a need or feel inadequate or unable to meet that need, the last instruction is to "Call Pastor Rachel." The instruction makes good sense. After all, I went to seminary and took a class on pastoral care. I visit people when they are in crisis. I pray a lot. Surely, I will know better than the average congregant about how to manage a difficult family situation, a death or a surgery. Without ill intention, the instruction bolsters the assumption that I, as a "reverend," know more than my congregants do about how to care for others and that I'm better at it. The truth is, in my first five years of ministry, I have encountered numerable crises and complex situations that I felt … [Read more...]