Thus says the Lord:
A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more. Jeremiah 31:15
Because today is Halloween—or, more importantly, tomorrow is All Saints Day—I was planning to write about our ancestors, and how we will be the ancestors for future generations. I am also looking ahead to our next Presbytery meeting, coming up in less than two weeks, on November 12. It is a November tradition to remember our loved ones who have gone home to the Lord in the past year, so if there is a pastor or church leader you want remembered by the Presbytery, please contact Ally Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as it happens, the memorial service for Rev. Doug Edwards will be held that same day, at 1:30 pm at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, followed by a reception at Westminster Gardens at 3:30. A full day of remembrances and plans for the future, as we also present a proposed budget and nominations slate for 2023.
As we give thanks for lives filled with many days of love and purpose, I am crushed by the news of the death of 154 young people at a Halloween street party in Seoul, Korea. It almost feels like the very exuberance in joining the celebration went out of control, and they were literally crushed by the crowd. So many lights of hope and promise lost, and so many families thrown into grief for something that makes no sense. I just pray that God receives every one of these young souls in mercy and eternal peace, and that somehow that peace may find its way into their families’ broken hearts. Whether on this mortal plane or in eternity, we stay connected in Spirit. But they will be missed.
Another November Presbytery tradition is to receive the representation report, gauging who is in Presbytery leadership this past year—and who is missing. As usual, we have just under 100 individuals volunteering for Presbytery office, commissions, committees, and administrative commissions. You may have heard that one of my goals for this presbytery has been to have the leadership more closely reflect the membership of our churches. The area of greatest progress has been racial; while about half of our members are people of color, our leadership is now 41% people of color—not quite equal, but pretty good. However, we are missing Native Americans in leadership.
Perhaps my biggest learning from the Ethnic Concerns Consultation a few weeks ago was hearing from former co-moderator Elona Street-Stewart that there has been great growth in community activities for Native people in our cities, including Los Angeles, but the churches know very little about them.
But the biggest gap we have in the Presbytery is younger leadership. I regularly hear that our churches are aging, so I don’t even know how many young people we have in our membership, but we definitely do not have people under 35 or 40 in our leadership. When talking about raising up Indigenous young people, Elona shared with sadness that her synod no longer has Youth/Young Adult Advisory Delegates.
I thought she meant for the GA, but her synod used to have a program for young people to come to their synod gatherings, because her synod has an extensive leadership training program. I had never even heard of this!
Perhaps because I do not have children, I confess that I have missed what we are missing, and I also lack knowledge of how to invite young people into leadership. I do believe in two initial steps: to become aware of who is missing and pray for their presence, and to show respect for who our young people are, and what they can contribute.
So I raise this concern, and ask that we collectively pray for eyes to see young people in our communities, and ears to hear their voices and the guidance of God, that we may be a church of welcome for all generations. We will continue to mourn the young people lost this last weekend—in Korea, as well as those lost to illness, violence, poverty, and displacement—but while we give thanks for the relative safety of our young ones, we ask for God’s protection on all. We know there are children in our own communities in need—of food and shelter, of good education, but also of a sense of purpose and hope for the future, and the stable presence of adults who care about them. When I was a pastor, I was very aware of the importance of the church for children from troubled families especially, and I believe the church has a sacred calling to be that safe, caring, forgiving, and empowering place for God’s children, regardless of their generation.
Let us pray for young people—with our voices, our hearts, but also with our eyes to see opportunities for us to connect, not only to teach but to learn. Let us pray and show care for our families, especially those who will be entering the holiday season with empty seats at the table. And as with all forms of diversity, may we be able to broaden our knowledge and worship of God, who is great enough to create and love and live through all of us.
With tears of grief and thanksgiving,