From Every Tribe and Nation

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


I’ve been able to catch glimpses of the impeachment. I saw the house managers make their case for impeachment. Now I’m watching the defense state their rationale for acquittal. I know what the results will be, even before the vote is taken. When we live in a partisan world, people tend to stick with their tribe.

The Senate is showing me something. Even though most of their minds are made up, they sit and listen. They show respect. They disagree with a level of decorum.

I also noticed that I am far more interested in what one side says than the other. I watch news shows for one side, far more than I do for the other. I realize that I too am part of the partisan spirit that has engulfed our country and the world.

We live in the waters of partisanship. We take sides and we believe our side is right. I have come to accept this reality. The challenge is how do we navigate a course with people on both sides of a divide? How do we come to an agreement that both sides feel is fair and has the potential to live into what God wants for this presbytery, and the various institutions and churches that are affiliated with it?

Each presbytery gathering, I struggle with the question of capacity. Do we have the emotional capacity to make difficult decisions in a respectful way? Do we have the maturity to recognize that even though we are on different sides of an issue, we are able to listen, speak, and vote with class and decorum; we are capable of coming to a bipartisan solution?

At the February 6th gathering we will discuss and vote on the An Apology to Our African American Sisters and Brothers for the Sin Of Slavery and its Legacy, which is being submitted by Dismantling Racism and Privilege Team. We will vote on overtures for the upcoming General Assembly. We will have other business of the presbytery to vote and discuss. What will our spirit be during these times of conversation, debate, and vote?

In spite of my expressed anxiety, I am watching this presbytery evolve and grow. The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy is claiming its identity as a diverse body of believers who are spread across the spectrum of theology and faith. We are a large tent that seeks to include conservative and liberal, LGBTQIA+ and straight, all people of color including white, urban and rural, wealthy and poor. We are the vision of God’s kingdom, where all are welcome to the table where Jesus Christ is host.

This is why we will gather, we will pray, we will worship, we will learn, we will fellowship, and we will vote. The more we gather, the more we can see Christ in one another, as we love each other with the love of Jesus Christ that passes all understanding.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Sugar

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


Last year I received a health scare. After my semi-annual physical, my blood sugar levels spiked. Diabetes runs strong in my family. My Mother died of renal failure related to complications from diabetes. Each of my brothers are diabetic, and now so am I. The truth is I’d been diagnosed as pre-diabetic for years. But I didn’t take it seriously. I was in a weird form of denial. I figured that if I didn’t pay attention to my diabetes, nothing would happen and my numbers would decrease, and all would be well. Last August that myth was shattered.

My first response was to change my diet. Actually, my first response was a weird depression, sadness, and belief that my life would end with blindness and the loss of limbs! Once I got over my apocalyptic drama, I focused on what I can control. After talking with my brothers (they are the greatest brothers a brother can have!) I learned more about diabetes than any doctor could tell me. Perhaps it is because people who love us know how to talk to us in ways we can listen; ways we can hear with compassion what they are saying.

Back to the diet! I watched sugar and carbs. I no longer drank soda or sugary drinks. I watched my alcohol intake. I began a serious exercise program. I walked after dinner and worked out 3 – 4 days a week. I did weights and cardio. I sweat, a lot! And I began checking my blood sugar levels. I learned how my body works, when my sugar rises and when it falls, how it responds to food and exercise. I learned that the biggest contributor to a rise in my blood sugar is stress (I now take Bible reading, prayer, and meditation more seriously). By Thanksgiving I’d lost 25 pounds! My glucose levels were within normal range (my next A1C is February and I’ll know for sure). So far, I’ve kept the weight off.

I must give a huge shout out to the Board of Pensions. Through their Livongo plan I am able to obtain a blood sugar kit with an endless supply of strips and lances. The plan connects to my Call to Health monitoring as well. All of this is free. I know many of you are part of Call to Health. 46% of our eligible members participated last year. I would like to get that number up. I would like to see more of our pastors and Board of Pension members get involved with Call to Health.

I still love sugar! Just ask Ruthie down at Fisk Presbyterian church. I couldn’t resist her apple pie on Sunday after worship! My eating is a lifetime choice, a choice I make daily, and sometimes meal to meal. I am aware that the loss of sight and limbs may not be avoided, but I hope to do all I can to live a full and abundant life for those I love and myself, with the help of God.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

Paradigm Shift

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


I can’t wait to hear Jennifer Harvey at our next presbytery gathering! I am looking forward to participating in worship and her workshop on February 6th at St. Mark. Jennifer is the author of the book, Dear White Christians. The presbytery will be reading the book throughout the year. Several of you are already into it! Second Presbyterian even had a class on the book (Go Second! Go Second!). Jennifer is challenging the church to shift from a paradigm of reconciliation to a paradigm of repair.

This shift is a challenge for me as well. As I read her book, I felt a shift in my own thinking and expectations. And it troubles me.

My way of understanding anti-racism has been shaped and formed in me since childhood. From kindergarten to fourth grade, I attended all black schools. From fifth grade through college, I only knew white majority integrated schools. My first day in a white school was my first school fight. I was raised to believe that if we can learn, work and live together in the same neighborhoods, and even worship in the same churches, then we can remove the scourge of racism from our society. This model of integration and reconciliation has been my underlying way of thinking.

What Jennifer helps me to see is that racism creates scars and wounds in people of color. These wounds are soothed and healed by other people of color living together in the same community and worshiping in with one another in the same church. This is why 11:00 remains the most segregated hour. Not because Blacks and Whites can’t worship together, but perhaps because Black people choose to worship where they find dignity, agency, and strength.

I still believe that integrated worship is still a sign of God’s power and a strong witness in our racialized society. I do not want the white congregations in our presbytery to give up on attracting Black people to worship. But now I value churches of color that are separated and able to express their culture in worship without justification or judgement. I get it.

If Jennifer Harvey can help change my thinking (being the old dog that I am!), I believe she can help the presbytery take steps toward racial healing and repair.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

 

Continuing Education

Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


Happy New Year! The beginning of the year can bring hope and possibility. It is a grace from God to try again, afresh, and anew. I pray that each of you have a vision of improvement for your mind, body, and spirit. I pray that you find ways to connect to your community and make a difference with a focus on hope and justice. May we as a presbytery help fulfill Zachariah’s prayer for the child Jesus when he said, “Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.” Luke 1:78 – 79.

One of the gifts each presbytery minister has are funds for continuing education (con-ed). The minister uses these funds to enhance their working knowledge, feed their spirit, and nurture their ministry. For some ministers this means a class or a workshop. Each year I use a portion of my con-ed to meet with a consultant. I, along with a small group of presbytery executives are given personal help and inspired by ideas to lead our presbyteries into the future. I enjoy going to lectures by authors I’ve read as well. In 2018 I attended a lecture on the Trappist monk Thomas Merton presented by Richard Rohr.

Ministers take workshops on music, painting, or other ways to express their creative side. Sometimes churches cannot see the connection between how a minister uses their con-ed, and the work of the church. This is because sometimes the connection is indirect. An inspired minister is a better leader. A relaxed and de-stressed minister is a better leader. A minister who has their creative spirit opened through photography, may find new ways of understanding a text, or solving a problem.

I want to encourage all ministers to take advantage of their con-ed. Be it a biblical class, music workshop, writing seminar, or finger painting, do something that will stretch your soul or build upon the gifts you already have. Sessions and boards should make sure each minister is improving their craft. Quality leadership is one of the keys to a vital congregation, and ministry setting. I encourage all minsters to plan and schedule their con-ed for 2020.

Rev. Craig M. Howard