Blog Archives

Faithful Steward Award

By Jim Crowley

Chair, Church in the World Committee

 

The Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (LPTS) honored Highland Presbyterian, along with Second Presbyterian Church and Independence Presbyterian Church (IPC) of Birmingham, Alabama, with its 2016 Faithful Steward Award, which honored the three congregations for long standing support of the Seminary. Among the ways that Highland has assisted LPTS are by providing intern opportunities for students and through direct financial support to their scholarship program.

 

Other examples of the length and durability of our relationship include the two endowed chairs in honor of former Highland Pastors: the William A Benefield, Jr. Chair of Evangelism and Global Mission and the Henry P. Mobley Chair of Doctrinal Theology. Members of our church community also have strong connections with the Seminary; Susan Grubbs and Jane Welch are among several members that have served as Seminary trustees and, of course, the late David Hester and Gene March were both LPTS faculty members.

 

Louisville Seminary is one of ten Presbyterian seminaries throughout the country and Highland’s relationships extend beyond our city. Cynthia Campbell was President of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago before we were so fortunate to have her with us as our Pastor and she is also on the board of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Lee Hinson-Hasty is on the PCUSA’s Committee on Theological Education.

 

In a world that seems to be increasingly polarized, in politics, religion and civics, it is even more important to be educating and training a new generation of thoughtful, reasoned and knowledgeable church leaders. The Seminary’s vision statement puts it well, “[…] the Seminary provides theological resources for the church by striving to interpret the gospel in an ever-changing world, by extending the horizons of theological inquiry and by shaping the church’s intellectual foundation for its faith and ministry. In all these activities, our aim is to nurture the convictions, character, vision, wisdom and forms of life vital to leadership in the Christian community and the wider culture (emphasis added).”

 

We are fortunate to have LPTS in our city and are honored to partner with them. This is yet another example of how your stewardship gifts are used to support the broader church while providing support to presbyterians and Christian leaders for the next generation.

 

Read the Louisville Presbyterian Theological news story on their website.

Habitat for Humanity

By Jim Crowley

Chair, Church in the World Committee

 

On an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in late October, HPC participated in the dedication of the Habitat for Humanity 2016 “Presbyterian house”. Sponsored by 4 local churches – Highland, Second Presbyterian, Harvey Browne and img_1957Springdale Presbyterian – Habitat staff handed the keys to its new owner, Andrea Moody, a second generation Habitat homeowner and currently a nursing student at the University of Louisville. This home, and several other Habitat houses adjacent to it, are less than 2 miles from HPC on South Hancock Street in the Shelby Park neighborhood. Habitat has other houses under construction on Caldwell St., just a few blocks away.

 

You haven’t heard much about Habitat lately; Highland participated in the “raise the roof” of this house in May and, due to scheduling issues with the build-team, we only had a small number of other work days over the summer. The Church in the World Committee will be working with Habitat to try to provide more opportunities for hands on mission in addition to the financial support that Highland provides.

 

Your gifts and financial commitment made this possible and we were excited to be a part of this house, particularly as it is situated so close to our church. We send our blessings and good wishes to Andrea.

The Path of Syrian Migration, Day 6

Throughout Holy Week, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, is making the European path of Syrian Migration with colleagues from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the PCUSA Moderator Heath Rada. For the published version with visual media from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, click here. This post was republished with the author’s permission.

 

 

Easter Sunday, March 27: Samos Island, Greece

 

Today you shall be with me in paradise

The word is a rare one– used only 3 times in the New Testament, it might instead be translated “garden.” Paradise as God’s garden — a place where the scent of orange blossom is in the air, trees are heavy with fruit, the ground brings forth abundance, both in produce and beauty.

 

Such was my first impression of the island of Samos, where we flew yesterday to meet with relief workers who are supporting asylum seekers at their first stop after the sometimes perilous crossing across the Adriatic from Turkey. The scent of orange blossoms was heavy on the light breeze, and everywhere we looked, even so early in the season, trees were laden with olives, oranges, lemons. The sea was beautiful, with just a hint of the violence in the waves that has endangered so many on their crossings. Samos is a beautiful place…for some.

 

Our conversations were with representatives and relief workers from the IOCC and Apostoli, the response and development agency of the Greek Orthodox Church; with the team leader of the UN High Commission on Refugees office, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. At the camp– now a locked detention center–on the rocky hill above Samos town, several hundred asylum seekers from many countries, are no longer able to leave the camp for sundries, SIM cards or a cup of coffee in town. All time is measured here by two dates: March 20, when the EU approved its refugee return policy with Turkey, and April 4, when the deportations are set to begin. Many have already spent time in camps in Turkey, where conditions are rumored to be difficult, and they do not wish to have come so far on hope only to be returned. The aid workers describe a heaviness of depression settling over the camp as hope of a successful passage to Europe dims and their conditions worsen.

 

That heaviness was mirrored in the voices and stance of the Doctors Without Borders Staff and the UNHCR, who, according to the practice mandated by international human rights standards, they may no longer work for relief within the camp’s locked fences. “We do not support those who imprison refugees,” explained one of the physicians there.

 

At the port, small IKEA prefab houses wait for the continuation of migration– more numbers are expected even in the face of such small odds for success. It is hard to silence hope. On this Easter Sunday, we celebrate the triumph of hope over despair, life out of death. Let us also bind ourselves to the Love that death could not conquer, and in the name of the Stranger who on this holy day long ago greeted his friends by name in the Garden, believe and act as though no one, especially no refugee, will be condemned as a stranger among us, or refused welcome in our midst.

 

 

My favorite Easter hymn was written by a Reformed Church of Hungary pastor at the end of the 16th century: 

  

There in God’s Garden stands the tree of wisdom, whose leaves hold forth the healing of the nations.

Tree of all wisdom, tree of all compassion, tree of all beauty.

Its name is Jesus, name that means “our Savior,” there on its branches see the scars of suffering.

See there the tendrils of our human selfhood feed on its lifeblood.

Thorns not its own are tangled in its foliage, our greed has starved it, our despite has choked it.

Yet look!, it lives, it’s grief has not destroyed it, nor fire consumed it.

See how its branches reach to us in welcome,

Hear what the Voice says: “come to me, you weary

Give me your sickness, give me all your sorrow, I will give blessing.”

This is my ending, this my resurrection;

Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit

This I have searched for, now I can possess its, this ground is holy.

 

 

 

 
 

The Path of Syrian Migration, Day 5

Throughout Holy Week, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, is making the European path of Syrian Migration with colleagues from the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the PCUSA Moderator Heath Rada. For the published version with visual media from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, click here. This post was republished with the author’s permission.

Good Friday, March 25, 2016: Athens, Greece

Today was a travel day, moving back from Good Friday in Hungary to the fourth week of Lent here in Orthodox Greece. It felt a little like limbo: Easter is just on the horizon after a long hard Lent, and now, we are back in the wilderness, wandering and waiting. We flew south over the Balkan Mountains, still shrouded in snow, and landed in Athens. Watching the forbidding mountains from the window of the plane, I marveled at how tenacious, how brave those thousands of asylum seekers are, risking sea and mountain and harsh judgment from their would-be hosts for the barest hope of refuge in Germany or some other country in Europe.

 

For us, it was different. From departure to arrival, our access and transit from country to country was effortless. We are in the Schengen Area, a large swath of Western, Atlantic and Eastern Europe where, for some of us, internal borders have been eliminated. There were no stops for passport control, security or customs, and in the Athens Airport we left for the city without showing any papers or documents. This agreement, signed in 1985, makes inter-European travel matter of fact, as easy as crossing a state line in the US. But for those asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Africa who have made the harrowing Adriatic crossing from Turkey or paid smugglers their life savings to be transported to safety, there is no Schengen Area. The borders of Europe are closing down, the US and much of the rest of the world is mired in political argument about the risk or value of refugees from the Middle East, and last week’s agreement with the EU may instigate a reverse migration crisis back into Turkey and countries of origin.

 

Throughout this week, I have been holding the passion narrative of the gospel of Luke close to my spirit. The story describes the many betrayals and human failures that resulted in the death of Jesus on the cross, in excruciating detail. Judas who betrayed him to death; Peter who denied him in fear, disciples who ran away, officials and leaders who jeered and judged. Sometimes, painfully, I identify with one of those, and with them, I weep. But the story also in two places draws our attention to another kind of person, a bystander. In verse 35, Luke says that after Jesus cried out, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, “the people stood by, watching.”   Then again, following the centurion’s horrified affirmation: “Surely this man was innocent,” Luke observes: and when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts.

 

I can’t help but wonder, is that all they did? Is that all we are doing? Watching, beating our breasts in a show of grief, and then returning home, to our own kind of spiritual Schengen Area, where life and passage between hard realities and painful stories is too easy?

 

In November of 1938, Nazi violence against Jews went public on Krystallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. The Reformed theologian and German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, read that night from Psalm 74, and wrote in the margin of his bible, “how long, O Lord, shall I be a bystander?”

His eventual embrace of active faith, rather than passive standing by, ended in his imprisonment and death. Here at home, across the developed world, individuals and families fleeing war and persecution are seeking welcome, refuge, and sanctuary in our midst. To stand by is to accept whatever the powers and principalities determine is best for those whose demands are inconvenient and hard.   To choose welcome means to embrace uncertainty, risk, and a wider, less convenient understanding of the world and our place in it. My prayer tonight comes with the words of a sixth century hymn:

 

One:

The cross is the way of the lost

The cross is the staff of the lame

The cross is the guide of the blind

The cross is the strength of the weak

The cross is the hope of the hopeless

The cross is the freedom of the slaves

The cross is the water of the seeds

The cross is the consolation of the bonded labourers

The cross is the source of those who seek water

The cross is the cloth of the naked.

 

ALL:

O God

you have made us for yourself,

and against your longing there is no defense.

mark us with your love,

and release in us a passion for your justice

in our disfigured world;

that we may turn from our guilt and face you,

our heart’s desire. Amen.

 

The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

For more information on Presbyterian Disaster Assistance’s response to Syria, visit: http://pda.pcusa.org/situation/syria/ The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Coordinator, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is traveling the path of Syrian migrants who have fled war and are seeking safety through Holy Week. As she travels with colleagues from the Presbyterian Church (USA), she is writing and reflecting about the experience. Kraus worships with Highland Presbyterian Church and her reflections are reprinted with the author’s permission.

Contributors

Weekly Email Newsletter

Keep up to date with the Week-at-a-Glance