Greetings from the Moderator AUGUST 2020
Breaking Out of the Cocoon
One of the side effects of the continuing coronavirus pandemic is a mind-set of “cocooning”. The longer I stay at home (except for weekly trips to buy groceries, pick up carry-out, and limited gatherings with one or two friends), the easier it becomes to avoid the outside world. When worship is online, I don’t have to get up early on Sunday morning. Zoom meetings don’t require a mask, nor must I leave home and drive, perhaps 15 minutes, perhaps over an hour each way. Of course I miss friends and family, but FaceTime and Skype calls are starting to seem normal instead of poor substitutes. Since the virus, I’ve even had more WhatsApp texts, voice messages, and video chats with friends in Cuba.
The downside of cocooning is the temptation to become more inwardly focused. It is increasingly easy to become desensitized to the constant barrage of statistics about virus cases, reports of long lines at testing facilities, debates about if and how schools can resume this fall, peaceful protests and violent destruction in reaction to racial injustice. Much of it seems far removed from daily life in my cocoon - and by extension, from my personal responsibility.
It is easier to float than to tread water, and easier to tread water than to make an effort to go somewhere. As water flows downhill, so we humans gravitate toward the path of least resistance - and that is dangerous for us as Christians. God does not call us to complacency or silence in the face of discord and injustice.
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; … Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate!” (Amos 5:14-15, NASB)
“Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24, NASB)
“Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22)
Perhaps the most convicting challenge to complicit silence in the face of evil is this:
“Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, “See, we did not know this,” does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?” (Prov. 24:11-12, NASB, emphasize mine)
What, then, is my responsibility today? What is God calling me to do at this time, in this place, in relation to these and other, perhaps less publicized, issues?
Executive Presbyter Dan Williams wrote in the February CFP Connections that Central Florida is a Matthew 25 Presbytery, committed to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor, consistent with Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40, NRSV) (http://www.cfpresbytery.org/news-from-epsc-2-2020.html) The Matthew 25 initiative focuses on three areas of commitment: becoming vital congregations, dismantling structural racism, and eliminating systemic poverty.
CFP is now training facilitators for the Vital Congregations Initiative and looking for congregations that want to participate. The purpose of the initiative is “to work alongside leaders of existing congregations continually assessing, discerning and living into faithful actions that increase vitality through intentional spiritual practices that take them deeper into following Jesus Christ, so that their own lives are changed, congregations are transformed and the mission of God spreads throughout particular communities and the world.” (http://www.cfpresbytery.org/church-transformation.html emphasis mine) I don’t know how many congregations have signed up so far, but I do know that the facilitators are excited!
CFP already has a history of working to end poverty. One example is PATH (Presbyterian’s Answer to Hunger), which includes both financial contributions and hands-on volunteer activities such as gleaning with Society of St. Andrews. Many of our member congregations support food banks, volunteer with ministries addressing homelessness, and engage in other work to fight poverty. Our PATH offerings also feed hungry people in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Madagascar.
Because we are a Matthew 25 presbytery, CFP Council recently commissioned the development of a statement on racial injustice. The committee working on the statement plans to present it to Council in August and to Presbytery at the September Stated Meeting. Council also directed development of a presbytery policy, anti-racism awareness, and training, under the leadership of the Compassion, Peace and Justice subcommittee of Mission Development.
I urge you to read and study the statement when it is completed, and to intentionally engage in conversations about race with others in our presbytery. Check out the new Anti-Racism Resources on the CFP web site at http://www.cfpresbytery.org/anti-racism.html . Take advantage of opportunities like FISH on August 22nd, where one of the topics is “Courageous Conversations About Race”. (http://www.cfpresbytery.org/equip.html)
It takes effort to break out of the cocoon - and it involves risk. Discussions about racism are uncomfortable, and there are no easy solutions. But if we can’t discuss tough issues among ourselves, as Christian brothers and sisters, how can we be light and salt for a world in such desperate need? Jesus is among us when we gather in His name (Matt. 18:20), so there is no better place to share our discomfort and seek God’s leading. Listen, study, and pray to find how God is calling you to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Learning to be uncomfortable in order to be more faithful,