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Sabbath Day under the Big Tent

July 3, 2011

Sabbath Day: Rest and re-creation; enjoyment of God’s goodness as given to us as pure gift; receiving God “without why or wherefore” (Meister Eckhart).

Every other year the Presbyterian Church (USA) gathers all of it’s networks, affiliations and ministries under a “Big Tent”: a weekend of being ‘church’ together in a way unrealized by any local congregation. It is a multicultural, multilingual, beautiful gathering God’s children involved in the work of gathering and sending, calling and commissioning, praising God and committing ourselves to the practice of justice. In our opening worship service, theologian Serene Jones referred to the Big Tent as what an experience of The Great Quotidian: life in the cosmos as it was intended to be; the phrase comes from John Calvin. In our final worship service together, J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Office of Public Witness, called the Big Tent a Presbyterian Holy Ghost Party. I am grateful I was a part of it for three days (and grateful to my friend Robin who suggested that in order to enjoy a true sabbath day, I might unplug and post my weekly sabbath day post after the event was over).

I spent most of time at the Tent with the Presbyterian Multicultural Network  exploring power dynamics within, and the stewardship practices of, multicultural congregations.  My thoughts kept returning to the role of race and historical racism, especially as it continues in multicultural settings. Regarding race, I learned that the phrase “we don’t need to talk about it” usually means “I don’t want to own up to my responsibilities” or more particularly “I don’t want to own up to how much I benefit from, or am comfortable with, the current silence around race”; regarding money, the insistence that stewardship also included time and talent, and not just money, almost always means “I don’t want to talk about money!” 

I appreciate the time I got to spend with our friends from Presbyterians for Earth Care, a topic for which there is a growing interest at White Plains Presbyterian. And I am very grateful that The Rev. Peggy Howland has been attending Presbyterian Peacemaking offerings, so that she can report back and interpret for us the peacemaking work of our denomination (on which we will have an adult education program in November).

I am most thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with Presbyterian colleagues in a setting in which we were not working, and to make some new friends. Some of these friends were met at the conference; some I have been following on twitter or reading their blogs.

I come home tired, inspired, recommitted, and with renewed vision for serving Christ. As we heard during worship on Saturday afternoon, “There is no death in this church, only resurrection waiting to happen.”

Now … as we prepare to celebrate our own independence tomorrow, I am particularly prayerful for the people of Southern Sudan, expectant and anxious over their own independence, which will take place this week on Saturday, July 9.  Read here a call to prayer for Southern Sudan. Pray also for the three mission co-workers to Southern Sudan who were commissioned this weekend at the Big Tent. A happy, prayerful, thoughtful Independence Day!

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