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

January 19, 2021

Sue Westfall


Dear Friends,

I write this on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. It’s hard to put into words just how remarkable a human being he was and what a spiritual giant. You can lift up the power and inspiration of his rhetoric, or his unparalleled social organizational skills, or how he changed the American landscape, or his vision, or his moral commitment to non-violence. I had occasion to re-read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail last week and his words seemed eerily apt today. As white Christians we are still too complacent about our racist history and about our current racism as well. We are not, by and large, on the front line of dismantling structural racism even as we are called by the One who broke down every dividing wall to do so. As I think about the events of January 6th and look ahead to the inauguration tomorrow in the nation’s capital where 30 thousand troops have been assembled over safety concerns, and as I contemplate the deep fissures in our society, I am reminded of King’s words that, “We may have come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now.” Now is the time to begin the healing of our fractured nation. But that cannot happen without telling the truth – about our history, about our society, about ourselves. Ken Burns in a recent interview with NPR pointed to what he called America’s three viruses – white supremacy, COVID 19, and misinformation – and sees this as a real crisis moment in our nation’s history. When the truth itself is so contested and “alternative facts” splash through the airwaves it is essential that we redouble our commitment to truth-telling.  William Sloane Coffin, Jr. reminds us, “The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.” Too dangerous for anything but truth. The lie that this most recent election was stolen, for example, led directly to the violent assault on our nation’s capital building. The world is too dangerous for lies. It’s too dangerous for anything but truth. And too small for anything but love.

One of the ways to build our truth-telling muscles and enlarge our circle of love is by taking advantage of this year’s Main E-vent. (See what they did there?) In previous years the Main Event was held in conjunction with the February presbytery meeting and featured key-noters, and a series of workshops. Even though more and more people are getting the vaccine (Yay!) we are still not gathering in large groups – that’s a number of months ahead yet. But the Main Event committee (Elizabeth Goodrich, Heather Jones Butler, Joe Genau, and Pat Goodman) refused to be thwarted by a pandemic and have moved the Main E-vent to the digital platform of Zoom. Over the first two weeks of February various workshops will be available. These workshops include Anti-Racism training and Healthy Boundaries Training both of which are mandated every three years for all actively serving clergy and CRE’s. Here at the Main E-vent you can knock out both of them at no cost to you. (There is typically a fee for each of these so it’s kind of a ganga deal! There is no registration for any of the workshops. All the links for the various workshops are imbedded in the main event page of the presbytery’s website so to attend a workshop all you have to do is click on the workshop you want to attend and it will take you there. Here’s the link:  One of the favorite things about the Main Event was getting to enjoy good food around a table of friends old and new. Because that is not possible this year, we are taking offerings for Love is What Love Does, an organization in Marion, Perry County that operates a food bank, serves a hot meal to incarcerated women once a month, and helps school children with school supplies. More on that later. I hope to see you at some of the workshops. And we’re kicking the whole thing off with a simple prayer service to which the whole presbytery is warmly invited. I look forward to praying with you.


As ever in prayer,


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