The value of the National Gathering and the conversations it inspires.
By Rev. Jerry Andrews, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church San Diego, Ca. and President of The Fellowship Community Board
Sustained committed conversation strengthens my discipleship. I need it.
I did not always know this and thus little practiced it when I was a younger pastor. Sufficient, I thought, were the conversations I stilled cherished with seminary professors. Further, I rigorously supplemented these earlier exchanges with continued reading and continued education. But, as it turns out, memories of conversations, however blessed, and hearing the voices of the dead and distant, however profound, alone, without those of my contemporaries, can neither finally deepen nor advance my discipleship. Who, it must be asked, knows me and will hold me accountable for my growing up into Jesus? I know of no replacement for sustained committed conversation with my contemporaries.
At lunch today I said goodbye to 25 evangelical PCUSA pastors and ministry leaders after two days of thinking and wondering about the faithfulness of the faithful – our faithfulness to the Faith, to faithful living, to faithful witness and ministry. The conversations themselves were acts of faithfulness. They flew across the country at expense of time and energy, away from family and churches, to continue committed conversations – building new leaders for new worshipping communities; re-thinking and re-committing to living out faith in the world as neither assimilation nor withdrawal but as differentiated engagement; the imaginative and exhausting work of building an alternative community and creating a second culture; and the public and intimate matters of race in America, in the church, in us.
I need this. I know of no replacement for sustaining these conversations with those who know me, love me, and pray that my discipleship may more and more be faithful to the Master. My discipleship and my ministry, my church and my world benefit from these times of face to face conversation.
I attend and invest in the National Gatherings of The Fellowship Community because this is where that happens best. It is often deeper closer to home, as it should be, and certainly more frequent and less expensive. But sometimes the conversations need to be wide, as wide as the hundreds of congregations and leaders connected to The Fellowship Community. In truth, wider still, as we, invigorated by our conversations when together, go out to engage the whole church and world.
Talk does not solve any problem in the church or world and, by itself, does not make for faithfulness, but it is now impossible for me to imagine how my faith deepens and ministry widens without sustained committed conversation.
I will be attending the next National Gathering of The Fellowship Community. I would be very glad if you would join these conversations. It is needed.