New Beginnings

by | Aug 10, 2020

They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.

Acts 16:6

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is an ethnic church.  We are a child of the Church of Scotland, and even now there are still signs of our Scottish heritage.  The first time I realized this was at my seminary, where every commencement service began with a procession, led by a bagpiper.  At the General Assembly, the people often enter the first plenary session following a bagpiper.  Our friend and 1001 New Worshiping Communities staffer, Sean Chow, remembers with fondness his favorite childhood church event, the annual Highlands Games at 1st Presbyterian Oxnard.  Even our denominational revulsion of bishops may come from John Knox’ fight with bishops who challenged his reform movement and acted as agents of the English crown.  (A great insight for which I will always be thankful to the late great Robina Winbush.)

So our church family ancestry goes back through the Church of Scotland (with a nod to the Dutch Reformed Church in New Amsterdam, aka New York), to the Roman Catholic Church, to Paul’s trip to Greece, where he met and taught the first Christian convert in Europe, the businesswoman Lydia.  Some believe that the Philippian church was started in Lydia’s home, with her prayer circle of women.

As Acts 16 tells us, the only reason Paul went to Philippi was out of frustration.  He had been visiting existing churches to strengthen them, going to who was familiar, but his path was blocked.  In a dream, a man from Macedonia begged him to come and help them, and so he went, and got to Philippi.

We continue to struggle with the limitations that have been set upon us by the Coronavirus, and yet these restrictions have caused us to try new things, and live out our faith in new ways.  Several churches report that they have more people joining them in virtual worship than would come into the sanctuary on any given Sunday.  And now, as churches are being forced to hold congregational meetings by Zoom and phone, they are finding better attendance.  One clerk of session said that their recent meeting had better attendance than they’ve had in many years. 

And yesterday, Pasadena Presbyterian Church held a congregational meeting with great attendance, joining by Zoom and phone, held in Korean, Spanish, and English.  Again, heartfelt thanks to Rev. Ally Lee, who gave technical support for the meeting.  It was definitely the most complicated virtual meeting we have held in San Gabriel Presbytery, but recommendations were made, discussion happened, votes were cast, and PPC called Rev. Dr. Lisa Hansen as their new Pastor and Head of Staff.  We hope to receive her into San Gabriel Presbytery at our September 26 meeting.  And yes, the September 26 and November 17 Presbytery meetings will be held by Zoom.  Congratulations to PPC and welcome Lisa!

You can hear Lisa preach to the PPC congregation in English and with translation in Korean.  She also visited the service in Spanish before the 4 pm congregational meeting.  In the sermon, Lisa shared an experience climbing to the top of Mt. Sinai as an Air Force chaplain.  She was set to preach at sunrise, and they did arrive there in time to see the sun rise, and to kneel in silent prayer.  Though she had her message ready, she was struck dumb by the power of God, speaking to them in the silence.

This was the strong image I heard in her sermon, ironically as she spoke about being silenced.  We are descendants of Paul’s thwarted attempt to carry out HIS mission—but God had other plans.  And we cannot know right now what new ministries are being started in this time of restriction and frustration.  As has been said, God can make a way out of no way.  Our only job is to keep going, and follow.

In Christ’s peace,