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

May 24, 2021


Dear Friends,

With lots of fiery red and, in some cases with tongues of fire dancing from the rafters, yesterday the church entered into the season of Pentecost. It’s not technically a season but the coming of the Spirit warrants more than just one day in the liturgical calendar if you ask me. A friend of mine is fond of pointing out, “Christmas is God with us. Easter is God for us. Pentecost is God in us.” Pentecost is God in us. Pentecost is when the church became (is) animated by the very life, the substance, the spirit of God. The reason it deserves more than one day is because we can spend a lifetime learning what it means for the Spirit to live in us like that and for us become God’s agents for making this world, wherever we have been placed, more like the kingdom of Heaven.

Last week at the presbytery meeting, we had quite a lively conversation about the church expressing its conviction that racism – in all its forms – was contrary to the will of God and certainly antithetical to the Kingdom of Heaven we are called to be building. Thus, to be filled with the spirit throws us head-long into the struggle for justice. We did not pass any pronouncements at this meeting (look for some coming in August and thank you to the anti-racism committee) but what we received was even more powerful. It was a prayer drafted by Leanne Pearce Reed (Pastor, Shades Valley) on behalf of the Anti-Racism Committee. The prayer was so honest, so deep, and so real that it dove right down into our spirits, animating them anew. I share this prayer with you here and invite you to pray it every day until our lives express our sacred summons.

Prayer offered by the Anti-Racism Committee

Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, May 20, 2021


Holy One, whose Spirit is poured out upon all flesh,

whose children you empower to prophesy,

whose youth see visions and whose elders dream dreams,

we cry out to you.

Where else shall we go, O Savior? All else has failed us.

You alone have the words of eternal life.

You came that we might have life more abundantly,

but that abundance eludes too many of us, O God, and hate and bigotry are ever present.

Our news cycles are filled with despair.

We see surging violence against Asians and Asian Americans — women shot down in the workplace in Atlanta, elders assaulted on city streets from San Francisco to New York.

We see continuing violence against unarmed Black citizens and the systemic injustice that undergirds it. We speak two of the most recent names: Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant.  We add their names to the ongoing litany: Breonna, Ahmaud, George, Eric, Sandra, Jordan, Trayvon, Tamir, Emmett, and the many others in far too long a list. This great cloud bears witness to persistent injustice.

We confess that we are slow to confront our complicity and investment in white supremacy and dominance. We live in a world in which Indigenous, Black and Brown siblings are expected and compelled to offer forgiveness at a discount. Far too often, life continues as if nothing has happened while gaping wounds are still open. When the cheeks are turned, they are met with another hand to the face, gun to the head, or knee to the throat.

Forgiveness is too infrequently met with repentance.

This, O God, we name as sin. It is our sin.

Many of us lament and strive against that sin.

Help and empower us to continue that work with diligence and faith.

Show us how to follow in the footsteps of those who came before us, who have shown us the way. Especially we remember with gratitude the Freedom Riders, including those from our own number, who with courage and at great risk sought equal rights for all.

When our eyes do not see the gravity of racial injustice,

Shake us from our slumber and open our eyes, O Lord.

When out of fear we are frozen into inaction,

Give us a spirit of courage, O Lord.

When we try our best but say the wrong things,

Give us a spirit of humility, O Lord.

When the news dies down,

Give us a lasting spirit of solidarity, O Lord.

When it becomes easier to point fingers outward,

Help us to examine our own hearts, O Lord.

In this way, let the fires of uprising give way to the fires of your Spirit, where your people hear the Good News of your kingdom, hear it with joy, and make haste to take part in it.

Let us release our attachment to our current world order and walk bravely into the world you intend for us, even and especially when it costs us something.

Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.




As ever in prayer,


Sue Westfall

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