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A Letter from the Associate Minister for Discipleship to Pittsburgh Presbytery

Habits of the Soul
June 25, 2015

The book, Habits of the Heart, by Robert Bellah and others,was published in 1986. Habits of the Heart examined one of the core issues in American history: the conflict between individuality and community. By emphasizing individualism, they wrote, our capacity to seek the common good has been weakened.

Nearly thirty years from the first publication of this book, the message of Habits of the Heart seems just as relevant today. We have heard the expression “looking out for number one,” and “being your own best friend." These values run deep in the American character. They are not, however, Christian values.

There are other cultures in the world that are inherently more communal and co-operative. When the Christian faith takes root in those cultures, the Church often grows quickly. New believers long for the presence and support of the community of faith.

One of our challenges as American Christians is to create and sustain community that is always welcoming new people to join us. There is a tendency in our busy lives, especially over the summer months, to let certain habits slip. We may want to “take a break” from some activities, including church!

If that is true for members of our congregations, it is even more so for the larger community of the Pittsburgh Presbytery. We may well be happy to say of presbytery meetings and such: “See you in September!”

However, I want us to encourage one another to let the summer months be a time of building up our community by being together, and by inviting others to join us. It is a healthy habit of the soul to be in church to worship every week.

The Presbyterian witness in Allegheny County is deep and wide! All four of our branches have a rich variety of churches, new worshipping communities, pastors, programs, and attractive places to gather for worship, fellowship, and mission.

Let us open wide our doors and windows (unless you are among the few with air-conditioned sanctuaries!) and invite our neighbors to join us.

There are excellent reasons, including much-needed vacations, to be away from the weekly commitment to go to church. We should take those days and enjoy them. (Pastors! Take time to refresh yourself and do not spend your “vaca” time planning all of next year’s sermons!)

But weekly worship connects us to one another. We gather to pray for one another. We pause from a frenetic and constantly moving world to hear the words of Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

There will be plenty of daylight hours to enjoy summer’s delights. Take time to be with your family of faith. Let us continue to create community in the name of the God who delights in us, especially when we love and care for one another.


The Rev. Dr. Beverly W. James, Associate Minister for Discipleship to Pittsburgh Presbytery

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