Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nice weather for birds

Photo of cardinal in an apple tree with rain and sleet, Lower Burrell, PA, Jan. 28, 2009

I am suspending judgment on whether this storm will turn out to be all that the forecasters have predicted. I can tell that there is poor visibility, but I didn't expect to see this cardinal in the apple tree outside my window on such a gray day.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Can there be common ground in the midst of our differences?

Detail from a mural at the Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Monroeville, PAOn Saturday I attended a listening session sponsored by Pittsburgh Presbytery at the Cross Roads Presbyterian Church in Monroeville. The 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) sent a number of proposed amendments of the church constitution, along with four ecumenical statements, to all of the presbyteries for their votes. The Assembly recommended that presbyteries use a listening process in voting on these amendments.

Pittsburgh Presbytery has formed a task force to prepare recommendations to the Presbytery on each of these matters. That task force scheduled six listening sessions in order to hear from ministers and elders about each of the issues. I decided that I would try to get to the three that were closest to me in order to hear from people in the presbytery.

Logos banner reading "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" hanging at the Cross Roads Presbyterian Church in MonroevilleSaturday's session was held on a cold day, but the temperatures did not stop 21 people from coming out to listen and be heard. The Rev. Tom Moore led the session that morning.

Those in attendance identified proposed Amendments 08-B, 08-E, and 08-F, and ecumenical statement 08-K as the ones about which they wanted to speak.

The majority of our time was spent discussing proposed amendment 08-B, "Ordained Officers: On Amending G-6.0106b, G-14.0240, G-14.0450." The energy expressed around 08-B primarily had to do with the amendment of G-6.0106b. The thrust of the amendment is to replace a reference to a specific standard with a more general, but specifically Christ-centered, standard for officers "to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church ...."

As I listened to the statements people wanted to make both in opposition to this amendment and in support of it, it seemed to me that the major division we were experiencing had to do with our differing interpretations of Scripture. For some the proposed constitutional change seemed like a relaxing of clear teachings of Scripture; for others the same change seemed like a move towards greater faithfulness to Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. With such great differences of perspective, is it possible for us to find common ground? I continue to hope so.

When we discussed Ecumenical Statement 08-K "Ecumenical Statement with the Roman Catholic Church on Ratifying a Common Agreement on Baptism" many were pleased at the prospect of formalizing agreements that that some of us had assumed were already in existence. Yet even as we looked with favor on this statement, there were some who were still concerned about the fact that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Roman Catholic Church have different understandings of justification. Should a disagreement on justification (not addressed in this ecumenical statement) be a sufficient reason for disapproving an agreement on eight points where there is no dispute? I don't think so.

I plan to attend other listening sessions that are reasonably close to me, to continue to hear the thoughts of others in Pittsburgh Presbytery. I need to know how these potential changes affect them. The people with whom I may have disagreements are all recipients of the same grace that God has shown to me in Jesus Christ.

Mural showing elephant, giraffe, camel, and bird under a rainbow. at Cross Roads Presbyterian Church in Monroeville

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year everybody!

photograph of ice sculpture for 'Celebrate Westmoreland 2009'Last night I rang in the new year at 'Celebrate Westmoreland 2009' - a free set of events held in and around the campus of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. The falling snow and the frigid temperatures did not deter a large crowd from participating in the festivities.

There were many activities for all ages - and more than anybody could possibly attend in one evening. A synthetic ice skating rink was set up on Academy Hill Place, and it seemed that there was a constant crowd of people skating on it.

Inside the museum there were art activities for children (sponsored by such groups as Greenlight Engage) as well as interactive science activities sponsored by the Discovery & Interactive Science Center. (I liked the percussion demonstration.)

A smorgasbord of musical performances were happening inside the museum, in the auditorium of the Greensburg-Salem Middle School, and at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral. I enjoyed two performances by young people from Stage Right. The first was a somewhat impromptu set of audition songs that various students had been working on; they put this together when they learned that another group was not going to show up. The second was a medley of songs performed by the Stage Right Sensations.

The galleries in the Museum were open for anyone who wanted to browse the exhibits. I made a promise to myself to come back and explore the exhibits further when there was not a karaoke contest happening in the next room. 2009 will be a good year for further visits because this is the fiftieth anniversary for the museum.

photo of statue with falling snow at night

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