Ponderings of the General Presbyter of the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley
Sue Westfall
November 15, 2022
Dear friends,
I’ve been thinking about hope. Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening lately to people who are not feeling very hopeful about their own lives or the life of the world, Maybe it’s because Advent is near upon us (it begins November 27) and on that day we light the candle of hope on our Advent wreaths. We kindle the light of hope within us. And maybe it’s because we have a wonderful opportunity during the first week of Advent to gather as a presbytery and give ourselves the spiritual space to collectively kindle that hope within us.
How do we cultivate hope to face each day, even when our efforts don’t bear fruit? How do communities of faith find the energy to persevere, knowing that their efforts may not end in triumph but in a slow decline into eventual closure? For that matter, how do we pursue the work of justice, knowing that the task is too big for any of us?
These questions are the focus of Maryann McKibben Dana’s new book, Hope: A
User’s Manual. Maryann is a PCUSA pastor, coach, blogger, and author and she will be the featured speaker of the Main Event workshop on Friday, December 9 at Edgewood Presbyterian Church (850 Oxford Rd, Birmingham) from 10:00am to 2:00pm (lunch included and come early for coffee and refreshment at 9:30am) The event is entitled “Hope All the Way Down” and she describes the day in this way: It is Advent in a weary world. Join your colleagues in the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley for a day that will blend respite with generative work, for this season and for the coming year. We will explore hope on multiple levels: the stories that form our communities and the systems and structures that can either impede us or set us free for hope-filled work.
You do not need to have read the book to attend the workshop but I recommend reading it. She calls the book “a user’s manual” and the book is organized as a series of short essays followed by questions for reflection and a practice. It makes for a great Advent devotional in this year that is bleak in so many ways – wars, relentless gun violence, vitriol in public discourse, the accelerated decline of the church as we have known it, and the devastating effects of climate change that has caused pain, destruction, and death for so many areas of our globe. She reflects on what hope is not (optimism, toxic positivity, scripty-font platitudes on Instagram), what hope is (the story of God’s steadfast love we live by) and where to find hope even in bleak times. The book is available for preorder at https://thankyoubookshop.com/browse/filter/t/Hope%20manual/k/keyword and books will be available for sale at the event.
Advent is a season when we lean into hope. We look to the coming of Christ as a promise that a better world waits for us even as we wait in eager anticipation for it. In Jesus, we find hope that love will have the final word.
Do your soul a favor and join me for this day of spiritual reflection. Register at https://form.jotform.com/223175763230048. I hope to see you there!
As ever in prayer,
Tammy will be away on vacation next week and there will be no newsletter. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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