Well as I sit in my office, the scent of paint wafts through the air. The sanctuary is finally getting painted! So I suppose that is one thing that has been accomplished in this New Year, but what else is going on? That is a question I was recently asked and so this is one of my intentional efforts to provide more insight into some of the things that are going on at the church, the Presbytery and/or the community.
On Monday, in a partnership of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the St. Joseph’s University Institute of Catholic Jewish Relations ( on whose board I serve), we convened the Clergy Study Group of pastors and rabbis. During this three week session we are studying various texts of the New Testament which focus on the Parting of the Ways, the time in which Christians and Jews began to go their separate ways. The text that we are using for this study are found in the Jewish Annotated New Testament, a version of the New Testament put together by Jewish New Testament Scholars. (yes, there are many of them!) This is a three week study that will conclude before Easter and Passover begin. It is fascinating!
In November of last year, I shared a rather powerful witness that is occurring in West Philadelphia with the potential combination of three worshiping communities into one Presbyterian presence. On Tuesday of last week, the Administrative Commission, which is the group that the Presbytery has assigned to this help the communities in this endeavor, met for the first time. I am honored to be a part of this conversation. It was a very positive meeting as we talked about our vision and the work that lies ahead of us. I would ask that you keep the commission and the communities (First African Presbyterian Church, Calvin Presbyterian Church and Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church) in your prayers.
Wednesday, as we battened down the hatches and looked to survive the Nor’easter, I was on two conference calls. The first was with the American Israel Friendship League, who sponsored the recent trip to Israel. As a leader of the trip, they wanted my reflections of the journey, what worked, what didn’t. The second call was with a foundation that is active on Jewish issues who helps to support the work of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, a group within the denomination that is seeking a centrist agenda that promotes reconciliation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. We spoke about the recent trip to Israel and began to plan out a strategy looking ahead to the General Assembly which will be held in St. Louis this summer.
Thursday was a day of reading and catching up, things like printing bulletins, preparing Annual Report, finalizing plans with painters. I was finally able to finish Israel Matters by Gerald McDermott. Dr. McDermott is an Episcopalian professor at Beeson Divinity School. Israel Matters is a “simple” book that offers a way for Christians to view Israel through eyes of faith. Simple in that it is straight forward, not as in easy. Dr. McDermott steers a path between Christian Zionism on the right and the Replacement Theology that we are seeing more and more on the left. For those interested in a short read that provides for a good perspective on the issue, I would recommend it.