We asked our bloggers to share why they are Presbyterian. These are their responses.
As I was discerning my call to ministry, a mentor asked me to consider what tradition I would want to serve in. This question felt surprising, and I had been taking the answer for granted: I was born and raised Presbyterian. So I spent time thinking about other denominations and where I fit. I knew enough from time spent with my Baptist peers in high school that I didn’t have much in common with that tradition’s set of beliefs. I pondered some slightly more progressive denominations and wondered if I might be drawn there. But eventually, I realized that my answer to the question was obvious. I am a Presbyterian through and through.
There are many traditions that focus on God’s grace. But it was definitely my understanding of the gift of God’s grace that helped me know I was called to serve in the Presbyterian Church. I have given my heart to the idea that God’s grace is given to us freely and undeserved. I believe that even faith itself is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I preach over and over again that we do not earn God’s grace, favor or love by what we do or don’t do. On the days when my faith wavers, I come back to these ideas. I remember how much they speak to me and how much I trust them at my core.
If God didn’t give grace in this way, I don’t know that I would have much use for faith. If we had to earn our way into God’s grace by saying the right set of words, believing exactly the right set of ideas or behaving in exact ways, I would not be convinced that there was anything so special about this God people spoke of. That is the way things work here on earth: We toil and strive and try to please our teachers, our bosses, even our families. Even the most unconditional human love occasionally comes with strings attached. I trust in God because God is able to work in a different way. God doesn’t need anything from us in order to give to us. That’s amazing news! That’s news worth believing in. That’s news that frees us to respond in thanksgiving.
The title of the children’s curriculum from the PC(USA), “Growing in Grace and Gratitude,” helps me articulate my sense of what it means to be Presbyterian. It is God’s grace that has formed my understanding of Jesus Christ and how I am called to live in the world. But I’m not sure I always knew how to name what it was we humans were called to do in response. As a young person surrounded by folks who seemed so sure that our role was to get other people saved, I felt shaky about what God wanted from us. But when I realized that our response to grace is simply to offer our gratitude, it was both a lightbulb moment and a moment of relief. Giving thanks to God is what we are supposed to be busy doing in our faith as we live that out through service, praise, and work toward justice. Our gratitude naturally follows God’s gift of grace. We show our thanks because we can do no other in the face of so much love.
Sometimes, it feels like Presbyterian theology doesn’t have enough rules for folks who are looking for exact instruction about how to live a life of faith. (Luckily, our polity can often make up for a lack of rules elsewhere). But the simplicity of Presbyterian faith and the freedom it brings are also mighty attractive, once folks understand them. A God who loves you no matter what and accepts you as you are? That is a gift we rarely find in our day-to-day lives! God’s grace and my gratitude are the cornerstones of my faith in Christ. I rejoice that I share these gifts with so many other faithful Presbyterians.
EMMA NICKEL serves as interim pastor at Beulah Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. She is passionate about congregational ministry, trying new recipes and keeping her baby’s naps on schedule. She lives in Louisville with her husband, Matt, and their young daughter.