Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968


Too few of us have completed a deep dive into what we could/should do about Dismantling Racism and Privilege in ourselves, our community, our nation and our world.

Today’s Blog Space… please read a Letter from a Birmingham Jail Found Here

Here are some resources that might help further the conversation:

Be Still and Know

Blog Post by Rev. Robert Jensen
Bridge Presbytery Leader


Last Wednesday, as the mob siege of the US Capitol was unfolding, I sat transfixed in the presbytery office in shocked grief like so many people.  And as I traveled home that evening, these words kept passing through my mind and heart: 

…though the earth should change, though the mountains shake, 
though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble. 

Clearly our world was shaking and so was I.  And in this state of mind, even though I knew the words and knew I had shared them with countless people, at that very moment, I could not remember the rest of the quote or where they came from.  

When I finally arrived home, I was, of course, embarrassed to be reminded these words are  from Psalm 46, prefaced by a most sure promise:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 
Therefore we will not fear… 

I guess I really needed to “be still and know that I am God!” (v. 10) in that moment.  

In a time where it feels as though we are living with multiple assaults in the form of a relentless disease, a tremendous lack of will toward defeating it, intractable racial injustice abounding, an economy cratering in the face of the pandemic, a safe and legal election threatened, and on and on it goes, this promise from the psalmist is an important word of comfort.  Or, as Martin Luther put it, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.” 

When our world is shaking, it is easy to forget the promises of God, the one who walks with us even through the valley of the shadow of death.  So it is important for us to lift up this good news at a moment like this. 

Yet it is not enough.  It is never enough. 

Besides accepting and celebrating the promises of God, we are always called to do something, to be something, as people committed to following Jesus Christ, the one who came not to be served but to serve.  Its why the Matthew 25 initiative is so important to me, enlisting us to be at the forefront of building vital congregations, dismantling structural racism, and eradicating systemic poverty. 

I have long loved the three stories that make up Matthew 25.  They are so simple in their claim, yet profound in their effect.  Be prepared, use what you have, focus your efforts on those whom society forgets or rejects. 

A quote often mistakenly attributed to Theodore Roosevelt says, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”  It’s a bit of folksy wisdom, but one that can have profound consequence. 

It is easy to become immobilized by the sheer magnitude of the needs around us.  Dismantle structural racism?  Eradicate systemic poverty?  Me?  Impossible! 

But the quote won’t let us go that easily.  You can’t do everything for justice?  Do something for justice!  You can’t solve poverty?  Do something about poverty! 

For me over the past year this has meant working on preparation like the 10 bridesmaids, taking time to learn more about privilege and how it has influenced not only the opportunities afforded me in life, but how it has influenced my thinking and actions, as well.  I still have a long way to go.  But I am committed to learning and to listening. 

I’ve also been blessed to being involved in a congregation-based ministry working with Belleville-area families in crisis. 

Neither of these will dismantle racism or eradicate poverty.  But maybe they can begin to dismantle my racism and ease poverty where I am.  

This is the call of the gospel in uncertain and difficult days.  Hear and be comforted, yes!  But also hear and be moved to action. 

Rev. Bob Jensen
Bridge Presbytery Leader
rjensen@glpby.org

 

Wading into Pandemic Technology

Blog Post by
Janice McMillen
Presbytery Communications Associate


When the COVID19 Pandemic hit, our presbytery was ready. In the summer of 2019, the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy began utilizing Zoom Web Conferencing to host meetings. They decided it was important to allow commissioners, congregant guests, and pastors, from a geographical distance, the ability to join meetings remotely and still feel connected and heard, as if they were present in the meeting room. I am now thankful that our presbytery made that decision.

In late February of 2020 it became clear that for the safety and health, to avoid COVID19 spread, we needed to change our mission and ministry in a larger spectrum. In our journey of 2020, we had reached the gravel bar of a deep stream. We could sink, attempt a dangerous jump over or we could wade right in.

In chaos, in challenges faced, and in fear unchecked we can become overwhelmed. That is easy to do, and I am guilty of doing that myself, but it also forces us into making a choice of either attempting to jump the stream, or wade right in and get wet. I, in my adult years, am not that athletic so wading into the stream was my only option. I am thankful to our congregations who joined us in the stream and those who will in the future.

The congregations of our presbytery are diverse in many ways, so the challenges they face technologically are also diverse. In some churches there is little, slow or no bandwidth, some have no consistent week to week pastoral leadership, some have financial challenges that make purchasing technological resources outright, almost impossible, and some were uncertain their age allowed them to successful learn how to use new technology.

Zoom, audio/visual elements, live streaming cameras, Facebook and Instagram Live, etc. are useful tools that have allowed us to meet, worship, fellowship, study and support one another in a variety of ways. Creativity and passion have been crucial, as well as the presbytery technology grants.

The presbytery in two waves, made technology grants available to our member congregations, so that they could maintain and sustain their relationships within their congregation and community. Below, and in the coming weeks’ newsletters you will find a brief statement from one congregation on how those grants helped their ministry and mission.

We continue to pray for all our congregations’ mission and ministries into 2021, and though no doubt the year will be filled with challenges, it will also be filled with testimonies of overcoming those challenges with unity, strength and purpose.

Let us wade into 2021 together….

“The past year has been a challenge to every church, but, with the help of several volunteers from the congregation and a technology grant from the presbytery, St. Mark rose to the challenge. We created an online video devotion that runs three days a week called The St. Mark Spark. We also expanded our video capabilities in the sanctuary and are now able to perform multiple shots of pastors, liturgists, and musicians. This helps to make the service look more professional and has allowed members and guests to feel like they are in this sacred space even as we must remain separated. St. Mark is very thankful to the presbytery for this grant and for helping us to share Christ’s love in new ways.” St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Ballwin, Missouri

Peace,

Janice McMillen
Communications Associate
jmcmillen@glpby.org