Category Archives: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Five years

Five years. The vagaries of time make it feel like yesterday and like a lifetime ago, all in the same moment.

Ruling Elder Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) died on 12-12-12 in the afternoon. This post was written on that day at a time before I knew of her death. For a number of reasons, it seems worth sharing again and remembering this amazing woman and beloved child of God.

I did something today I have never done before.

I stood in silence for five minutes.

I am not big on pomp and circumstance and formality. A South African friend once observed that I can be a bit “cheeky” to those in authority. For some reason everyone who has heard that assessment has agreed with it. Go figure.

I stood in silence today for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach.

The tradition in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is to stand when the General Assembly moderator enters the room. Almost every moderator in my memory has encouraged people not to do so. Most of the time most of them meant it. Yet the tradition persists – in honor of the person and even more so in respect of the office. And while it is not my favorite thing, I take part.

Today, without being asked, without being prompted, I chose to stand in silence for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach – moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010).

I watched her election from the back of the auditorium in Minneapolis. My son Sean and I leaned against the wall.

A period of questions and answers precedes the voting. Commissioners (the folks with the votes) pose questions and the individuals standing (we’re Presbyterian, we don’t run) respond. The questions deal with theology, issues before the church, and issues in the world.

At one point, a question was posed along the lines of: “What would happen to the church, if you were not elected and one of the other candidates were?”

One by one the candidates offered replies praising the others and noting that the church did not depend on their election. Then Cindy Bolbach stepped to the mike. I do not remember her exact words, but the essence was:

There will be utter chaos.

The Assembly erupted in laughter. Sean turned to me and said, “She just won, didn’t she?”

The Assembly still had to vote. But Cindy did win. And I believe her sparkling humor that bristles with wisdom played a key role.

I stood in silence today for five minutes in honor of Cindy Bolbach.

Cindy is a woman of incredible faith, deep love, amazing grace, and an incredible wit. She lives daily her commitment to Christ, to the Church, to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) , to all people, and to God’s world. She mixes simplicity and profound sincerity with a capability to navigate complexity and controversy. I am privileged to know her. The Church (in all its manifestations) is blessed by her presence.

For most of this year, Cindy has struggled against cancer. The struggle cut short her ability to attend events but it never dampened her spirits (at least in public). She wore a fedora to the 220th General Assembly (2012) and she wore it well.

This morning came the news that Cindy has entered hospice care. And I stood for five minutes in her honor.

But in the silence it came to me that another way – a better way – to honor Cindy Bolbach – is to give thanks to God for Cindy – to entrust Cindy to God’s merciful care – to pray for her without ceasing – then to get back about the business of ministry. I am pretty sure that is what she would want. So it is what I have done.

When Cindy returns to the dust, as we all will someday do, I will shed more tears. But I will also proclaim “Alleluia.”

When Cindy returns to the dust, as we all will someday do, there will be utter chaos. But in the chaos there will be love and there will be grace and there will be God. And all will be well for Cindy. And all will be well for us. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

See you along the Trail.


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Purple not flowers cake and purple flowers Presbyterian Center 1

29 September 2017
Presbyterian Center
Louisville, Kentucky

My colleagues and friends seem to know me well.

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Filed under Friends, Louisville, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Uncategorized

An act of commitment


Staff and friends of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) gathered this morning at the Presbyterian Center for a chapel service in response to racism and white supremacy in Charlottesville and other places. (An archived live stream of the service is available.)

My colleague and friend, José Luis Casal, director of World Mission, helped celebrate communion.

During the Words of Institution, José Luis observed that, “The bodies of all who have been victims of injustice, the victims of rejection, the victims of violence…are the body of Jesus Christ.”

He reminded us that to come to the table and to partake of the bread and the cup is to commit ourselves personally to stand on the side of love with Jesus and to work against racism, white supremacy, every form of systemic oppression, violence and all that harms any of God’s precious children.

Silently, I shouted “Amen” as loudly as I could.

And I wondered—when the Presbyterian Center or any church or worshipping community gathers to celebrate communion, isn’t that organization making a similar statement? The act of gathering at Christ’s table is, for the community as well, a radical act of commitment to Jesus and to justice, to love and to grace.

May it be so. Amen.

See you along the Trail.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Marissa Galván who posted some of José Luis’s word and inspired me to write this post. The image appeared on the cover of the worship bulletin this morning. View the bulletin for the service

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Friends, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Worship

Purple flowers and purple art, 2017 Big Tent 3


8 July 2017
Washington University in Saint Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

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Purple flowers, 2017 Big Tent 2


8 July 2017
Washington University in Saint Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

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Purple flowers, 2017 Big Tent 1


8 July 2017
Washington University in Saint Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

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Carolyn Doggett, Presente!

Sad news arrived today in the Forest Hill Church (Presbyterian) newsletter:

The office learned that Carolyn Doggett, former member, Deacon and Elder, died on July 21, 2017. 

The Lake Erie Girl Scout Council employed Carolyn. But her true passion lay in working for racial justice. Carolyn knew herself to be a beloved child of God. As such, she understood that all people are precious to God and all people should be treated accordingly.

Carolyn played a key role in the work to disrupt institutional racism and seek racial equity in the Presbytery of the Western Reserve. She challenged the status quo with a fierce, gentle passion.

A dignified, graceful, persistent, disruptive resistor, Carolyn taught me much and touched my soul.

I give thanks for her life and faith and love and witness. I give thanks that she was my co-worker, colleague, and friend. I pray for all who grieve at her death.

In the Communion of Saints, Carolyn goes with us in the struggle for justice and the march for peace.

Thanks be to God for Carolyn Doggett!


See you along the Trail.

P.S. – I wish I had a photo to share. Not for myself, Carolyn is forever present in my mind’s eye and in my heart, but for you who did not know her.

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Filed under Antiracism, Friends, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)