Given the chance, I jump at the opportunity to tell people why I love the Presbyterian Church.
I can go on and on about polity, theology, critical Bible study and so much more. During a recent family gathering, I found myself explaining some of the major theological differences between Protestants and Catholics. For as much as I love the way our process works with shared leadership in our committees, time for everyone to share their voice and formal votes to agree upon things, it sometimes holds us back from really doing the work of Jesus in the world. We can (dare I say it?) be so decent and in order we forget what following Jesus is all about.
In 2019 my hope for the church is that we would learn to love more fully without getting caught up in our own process. While it rightfully takes years of process to change our constitution, it should not take us a series of meetings to respond to people in crisis. Yet even loving people seems to have been hijacked by politics in our world. We hear more about liberals and conservatives when we talk about loving people than we hear about Jesus. It only takes a short look at the official PC(USA) Facebook page comments to see how far we can stray from following Jesus. A post about helping others quickly becomes a heated debate with labels being thrown out like insults. I am not convinced this is what Jesus asks of us.
To love each other well is no easy task; it takes commitment, prayer and open hearts. To love well we start in our personal lives, then we expand into relationships in our local church, which expands into relationships with the broader church, relationships with our communities and with our neighbors. All of these relationships offer us a place to love one another. Relationships allow us the chance to learn and grow and respond to the brokenness. They also allow us a chance to humble ourselves and look at the needs of others in our lives and in our world.
I dream of a church where we long for and work toward the good of many over the good of one. It is so easy to look at things and see what other people should be doing to solve a problem or to blame others for creating a problem. “The PC(USA) is shrinking because (everyone has a reason… insert your favorite here).” This year I hope not to blame anyone but dream and love my way into the future. I hope to not use polity as an excuse to not love fully and deeply. I hope that collectively as a church we can love this world into healing and wholeness!
REBECCA GRESHAM-KESNER is pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Medford, New Jersey. Outside of church and family life, you can find her in nature, finding fun ways to be creative or asking awkwardly deep questions of people she just met.