Pandemic Ponderings of the Transitional Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley

June 29, 2020

Dear Friends,

The 224th General Assembly of the PCUSA wrapped up its work late last Saturday afternoon. Many thanks to our faithful commissioners Lin Veasy, Rush Watson, Kathy Reed, and Lou Ann Sellers, and to YAAD, Annabelle Beavers and TSAD, Patrick O’Conner.  We look forward to hearing their report on the assembly at the August Presbytery meeting! (Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Outlook is providing excellent coverage if you just can’t wait.)

The theme of the assembly was, From Lament to Hope, based on Lamentations 5:20-21. “Why have you forgotten us completely? Why have you forsaken us these many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old – unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.” The theme asked us to dwell for a bit in raw, unvarnished anguish. And so we lament:


  • We lament Covid19 and all that it has taken from us – plans, family gatherings, dinners with friends, vacation, travel, peace of mind. And life. The number of cases continue to climb in our state and around the country and with it the number of hospitalizations and deaths in a complete vacuum of coherent leadership. Wearing a mask – proved to reduce transmission of the virus – is somehow a political issue when lives are at stake. People of color are disproportionately affected. The elderly are especially vulnerable to grim outcomes. As churches are beginning to re-open their sanctuaries for worship they grapple with issues of safety. We grieve these losses and lament this pandemic. Meanwhile, here are some tips for staying as safe as you can.
  • We lament the deep injustice of racism and the sin of white supremacy which is pervasive in this country and, sadly, in this church. While the 224th General Assembly put out a strong statement on the church in this moment in history ( it also, in places, failed to practice what it preached. The PCUSA is a predominately white denomination and it is not the responsibility of our black and brown siblings to educate us to this. Will you please find 19 minutes to watch this video (by the maker of VeggieTales) as a place to start. But just educating ourselves, which is absolutely vital, is not enough. As a Matthew 25 presbytery we have committed ourselves to, among other things, dismantling structural racism. Now we need to practice what we preach.

Yes, we lament and we need to allow ourselves to feel the anguish of disease – whether corona virus or racism. Yet we cannot ultimately stay there. Hence, we move from lament to hope. Hope in the Lord to heal our wounds. Hope in God’s power to transform us individually and as a society. Hope that the moral arc of the universe does, indeed, bend toward justice. And we have been enlisted as God’s agents to bring it about. May it be so!

Special this Thursday: Our commissioners and YAAD will be joining us for the Thursday presbytery zoom gathering this Thursday at 4:00pm share their experience and insights. Please join us!

As ever in prayer,

Sue Westfall

Ps. The Presbytery of Boston in conjunction with former Co-Moderator Cindy Kohlmann have prepared a complete worship service including communion. I’ve watched it and it’s good. It can be used to give your pastor a Sunday off. Or just watch and be inspired.

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