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A Letter from the Associate Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

Truth, Community, & Communion
September 29, 2016

On October 2nd, Christians across the globe will celebrate the Lord’s Supper on World Communion Sunday. World Communion Sunday was inaugurated at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in 1933. Shadyside Presbyterian Church will celebrate its 150th Anniversary that morning. The First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh will also be observing its 200th Anniversary on October 2nd.

And on the same day, from 6:00-7:30 PM, there will be a rally gathering at the Hicks Memorial Chapel at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary to celebrate the passage of the overture that was originated in Pittsburgh, and adopted by the 222nd General Assembly, to address the plight of the African-American male.

This rally will also honor the legacy of the Rev. Eugene Freedom Blackwell as we kick off the initiative named, “Freedom Rising: The Presbyterian Church (USA) Reaching Out to Young African American Men.”

(And, by the by, Pittsburghers, the Steelers play a home game that evening at 8:30 PM.)

There may be other events of importance to our churches that day I have missed! It is unlikely that all of us will be able to attend all of these significant events. But that does not minimize the importance of how our shared history interacts with the present and the future.

We are living through unsettling times. Our congregational anniversaries are significant in a time when regular church attendance and even belief in God are waning. But the times have been unsettled before.

As Christians, we are the light of the world; we are the city set on a hill. As Christians, we seek the truth in every circumstance. It is especially important that we do so in times of social unrest and change.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote these words about how our history is created by the ways we live into the present:

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

The prophet Jeremiah warned about spreading untruth about the way things really are: “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11)

When we all come to the Table this Sunday, we will come to remember our Lord Jesus Christ who is the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” We cannot and will not have either genuine communion or community if we cannot and will not speak, and hear, the truth spoken in love.

In this highly charged political season, when our nation is again tense and polarized, we, who know that we are not so much good people as we are God’s people, we, who have been saved by grace through faith, we need to speak the truth in love to one another, even when that may lead us into uncomfortable and challenging discussions about who we have been, who we are, and who God is calling us to be.

“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” (John 8:31-32)

I don’t know where the Holy Spirit will lead you this coming Sunday, October 2nd. Please take a moment to pray for First Pres downtown, Shadyside, and for the “Freedom Rising” initiative and rally.

Pray that communion, and community, and truth, will become for us so much more than words. It will take all the “energy, intelligence, imagination and love” we have to offer.


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

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