Tag Archives: faith

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

Until we meet again, Ted Hickman

14316837_10209909925482586_6630254089391490747_nOnly 17 short days ago they gathered to bid me farewell. My colleagues and friends from the community of nongovernmental organizations at the United Nations; my friends and colleagues from the Presbytery of New York City.

Ted was there. And after the words were spoken and the time came for people to leave, Ted and I looked at each other across the room.

We smiled. We moved toward one another. And as we had done before, threw open our arms and walked into an embrace, two bears seeking to engulf each other.

He whispered into my ear. Words of thanks. Assurances of prayers. Best wishes for what lay ahead.

I whispered back. Words of thanks. Assurances of prayers. Best wishes for what lay ahead.

As we disengaged, I said my final words. I refused to say goodbye as I left New York. And so I said to Ted, “Until we meet again.”

Only two short hours ago I received the email from the office of the Presbytery of New York City.

“In Memoriam” read the subject line. I had received enough emails with that subject to know what it meant. Someone had died.

I was prepared to learn of a death. I was not prepared to see Ted’s gracious, smiling face. Nor did I expect to read these words:

It is with deep sadness and grief for his family and this presbytery that I tell you that Theodore (Ted) Hickman, the Moderator of our Presbytery of New York City, died last night in his sleep.

Ted was 51.

My initial shock has given way to deep sadness and grief.

I grieve for his family … for Duryea Presbyterian Church where he served as the Commissioned Ruling Elder (pastor) … for his colleagues at NYU-Langone Medical Center … for the Presbytery of New York City … for all who knew and loved this good man.

I grieve for a song and life ended too soon. Too soon.

I grieve for what might have been.

I grieve for myself.

I grieve, knowing that, in life and in death, Ted, and all of us belong to God.

I grieve, knowing that love never ends, even death can never sever the cords of love that bind us together.

I grieve, believing in the resurrection.

I grieve and proclaim “Alleluia.”

I grieve and remember those final words I said:

Until we meet again,
my friend, my brother.
Until we meet again.

Note: the photo of Ted Hickman is the one that appeared in the message from the Presbytery of New York that announced his death. 


Filed under New York, Photo

The Until We Meet Again Tour – 20 August 2016

UN Ministry New LogoThe Until We Meet Again Tour for today saw most of my time spent at the Shire packing, cleaning, and walking packages to the U.S. Post Office. The tour included finishing the appraisal for the final Princeton Theological Seminary field education student who served at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

He was the 36th.

36 field education students, volunteers, and volunteer interns who worked at the ministry from 2011 through this summer when I left.


36 unique individuals.

Each with gifts and skills; each with challenges; each with faith and grace.

Each served Jesus Christ.

Each touched my life.

Each is remembered.

To each, I say thanks.


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Filed under Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, United Nations

A moment comes

A moment comes
in the journey of every hobbit,
perhaps as the hobbit goes there
or maybe on the way back again
when the journey reaches a critical moment
and the hobbit encounters a choice
of where to go
or how to proceed
or both.

Often in such moments,
something or someone
external factors,
a council,
a fellowship,
a friend,
a wizard
shows the way,
points the direction if,


if the hobbit has wisdom and grace
courage and strength
faith and hope
to listen
to hear
and to choose.

12 October 2015
Manhattan, New York


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Filed under Friends, New York, Poem

In response to the killings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

From my friends who have commented on the act of terror that involved the killing of nine people, nine of God’s children, nine of my brothers and sisters, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, I share, with permission, some words that touched me:

This is outrageous – this white terrorist murderer said “you’re raping our women and taking over our country and you gotta go” before killing 9 African Americans, and Fox is trying to spin this as the nutty right wing “Christian persecution” complex that somehow this is part of the war on people with traditional values. This was racial hatred – our own particular American sickness. The white shooter has not been portrayed as a “thug”, or even a terrorist, even though he has a mug shot and was arrested twice in the last 3 months. “We do know we’ll never understand what motivates someone to do this” (Governor Nikki Haley) Yes, we do understand what motivates him – he told them – racial hatred. And a white terrorist, according to the media, must have some sort of mental illness, or bad childhood, some reason to explain his actions, other than that he was raised in the US, where racial hatred is taught and not addressed and is so rampant that our media give this white kid all kinds of white privilege.
– Patrick Evans

What happened in Charleston was not random or senseless. It was an act of domestic terrorism fueled by ever present white supremacy. Church, let’s not live in denial.
– Christine Hong

Senseless (adj.): A word that forever needs to be extracted from our political and national vocabulary, especially after instances of mass violence. We can make sense of the horrific murders of nine black South Carolinians gathering for Bible study– and it starts with confronting a culture which idolizes guns and violence and refuses to acknowledge white supremacy.
– Kyle Cristofolo

Recent events are almost incomprehensible. From the precious lives lost, to how it happened, to the fact that these acts of hate happen way too often, to the policies that allow them to happen, to the hatred and bigotry that undergird the violence. Wish this wasn’t true. RIP, our fellow humans, brothers and sisters, and neighbors. It seems almost trite to say that we send thoughts and prayers to the impacted community…right? But maybe we do that, in combination with holding onto conviction and hope for a better tomorrow, that we have the courage and will for justice to co-construct better and more peaceful communities and country.
– Ester Sihite

And finally, my own words:

I grieve for my brothers and sisters, unknown to me in person yet my family nonetheless, who were killed in Emanuel AME Church. I rage against the racial hatred and anger that apparently resulted in the killing of God’s precious children. I ache at this bloody reminder of the power of the system of racism to shape our behavior. I hear a call, again, still, to work with my sisters and brothers more creatively and effectively to dismantle racism and to build community and to address gun violence. And I pray for the grace and courage and faith and hope to respond.

With thanks for my friends.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Friends, Gun Violence

What We Need To Hear

Larissa Kwong Abazia, Vice-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) reflects on what the story of an interaction between a Syrophoenician woman and Jesus teaches the church today.

What We Need To Hear.

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

Lift a glass in memory

PamThe Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lost a giant in Pam Byers who died on 27 October 2014 from cancer. A woman of profound faith, amazing grace, and a loving spirit, Pam worked for the full inclusion of all God’s children in the life of the church and in  our culture. She served as the founding director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians.

In her honor, I will raise a toast on 28 October 2014 at 20:11 (8:11 PM) Eastern time. 2011 was the year that saw the Book of Order changed to remove G-6.0106b, a cause to which Pam dedicated herself and her energies.

I invite you to join me either at Eastern time or at 20:11 in your own time zone and raise a glass of your choosing.
For the life, faith, witness, and work of Pam Byers, thanks be to God! Please share this invitation.

See you along the Trail.



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