Alban Institute: Is “Stay Away” the Only Way?

How Former Pastors Relate to Congregations “They Previously Served 

Having now written three segments on “Pastors in Transition” I realize how much I have struggled with this issue after 28 years of ministry with the small city church where we all felt close to each other as pastor and friend.  I like the image of that Rev. Christine Chakoian gives—leaving a pastorate is like that of going into “witness protection” – severing all relationships from your previous pastorate…..   The fact remains the past is part of who we are and where we have been….and where we are going in building new relationships in new and different contexts. 


Permission to reprint.  Originally published in the December 30, 2013 issue of Alban Weekly. Read the original article: Subscribe to Alban Weekly:


Sermon: A Touch of Stillness


July 28, 2013




Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
   a very present
* help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
   though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
   though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of
   the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of the city;
* it shall not be moved;
   God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
   he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
   see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
   he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
   I am exalted among the nations,
   I am exalted in the earth.’
The Lord of hosts is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our refuge.

 Galatians 5: 1-15

 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

 2Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. 4You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor un-circumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working* through love.


7You were running well; who prevented you from obeying the truth? 8Such persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. 10I am confident about you in the Lord that you will not think otherwise. But whoever it is that is confusing you will pay the penalty. 11But my friends,* why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offence of the cross has been removed. 12I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!


13For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;* only do not use your freedom as an

opportunity for self-indulgence,* but through love become slaves to one another. 14For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 15If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.






I began my 29th year of ministry as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church on the 1st of July.   I am into my 38th year of ordained ministry – ordained to serve churches in Davenport, Iowa and then Evanston, Illinois.  In reflecting on all these years of ministry and knowing “I never throw anything away”, I went back to look at some of my original sermons from when I was first ordained. 


My first official sermon was delivered to the Department of Candidates back when I was being considered by the Presbytery of Denver for ordination.  This was at the Cherry Creek church where Rob Gwaltney was pastor.

 This sermon was titled “A Touch of Stillness”.  We didn’t have computers back then so my one and only copy of this sermon was typed with lots of scribbles in the margins.   I am sharing with you a “reworked” version of that 39 year old message …. and yes, I had to make some cuts because the original sermon was way too long! J 

What really amazes me in going back to this old sermon:  you will recognize the concepts and themes I have been carrying with me throughout my entire ministry!!!


“A Touch of Stillness”

 A middle aged Native American Indian came to Chicago to accept a position in one of the downtown businesses.  He spent his younger years on a southwestern reservation.  He received a special scholarship, went to college and became a successful man in business.    


It was no secret that this man missed the life he left behind him when he was on the reservation with the large family he loved and the heritage that stood firmly behind his existence as a Native American. His culture and his family and his style of living were all things he had to leave behind to survive in the world of a big city and big business.  And remember, this was almost forty years ago!


One specific day during his lunch break this man, this Native American, was walking down the street with some of his associates.  He suddenly stopped in his tracks, looped his hand around his ear, and listened.  His friends were amazed at this strange behavior.  This man stood perfectly still as he listened.  All his friends could hear were the elevated trains and cars on the busy streets. People were rushing up and down the streets with conversations that made hearing, listening even more difficult.  Amid all the familiar sounds of the city, they wondered:  What could our friend be hearing?


This man stood still…..waited, and listened to something that his friends could not hear.  After a few moments he took his friends into the alley and showed them a little cricket that was chirping away from behind a trash can.  This man, by heritage an Native American Indian, was a skilled listener.  He was able to hear something of value to him…the chirping of the cricket that was almost completely buried…..cloaked by the sounds of the streets in the large city.


This man and his friends continued their walk in discussing this simple, unusual experience.  They had been sensitized to something important to their friend and his heritage.  This man learned something about himself….and his past that he could carry with him his entire life.  This man also learned something even more important.  He was able to experience a phenomenon of being able to commune with his world, the world of his little friend the cricket, and the world that could exist apart from all the noises of the streets of the city and of people running from one place to the next.


Be Still and Know that I am God”, says the Psalmist.  This scripture comes to mind in thinking about hearing sounds that might otherwise                                    go unnoticed.  Be Still and Know that I am God” – is this what we long for?  The moments in life when we can hear God?  When we can get away from the hassles of a busy life in order to be with and know God.  The analogy is in hearing the cricket in the silence of the noises of the streets; or to feel the wind blow; or to see the growth of a small child as he first reaches out for little toy with his or her little hand – something I look forward to experiencing with our grandson Tommy in just a couple of weeks.


There are two aspects of our talking about the presence of God I would invite you to consider with me today.  First, of all, we talk about the presence of God in our activities, in our doing things for others,  Second, what about the presence of God that emerges from our activities in our being with each other as friends and neighbors.  The presence of God in our doing….and the presence of God in our being…the presence of God known in a “Touch of Stillness”.


There is one pre-supposition that can be brought to this discussion.  This is a topic and theme I have been carrying with me throughout my ministry.  Lodged in the confessional standards of the church and the Westminster Catechism and the question: “What is the chief end of man (or humankind?)”  We affirm in the answer that our highest goal and achievement is in “glorifying God and enjoying God forever”.   How many times have I referenced this question from the catechism over the years?  At least a dozen times if not more….. 


Let me suggest we enjoy God and glorify God by recognizing God’s presence with us.  God is with us in our activities. God is with us in our relationships. God is with us in our doing and our being.   


In this discussion we can also find ourselves amidst personal questions:  Where is my life going?  Where is God in my life?   There seems to be a magnetic longing to enjoy God…enjoy life.  Something inside us beckons our giving glory to God.  Discovering and affirming God’s presence in our lives is like finding that chirping cricket ….that allows us the freedom to live active, loving, caring, fulfilled lives in all that we do.


The message of active freedom, the presence of God participating in our lives, is found this morning in Galatians.  For Freedom Christ has set us free.”   Paul was writing, not as a legalist, but as a free Christian to the people of Galatia at a time when they weren’t enjoying God or glorifying God.  They weren’t recognizing God’s active presence with them in their relationships.  So Paul says, “You were running well, who hindered you from obeying the truth?  In affect he was saying:  You used to be Godly bunch of people.  What happened?  You seem to be out of touch with the God! 


Can we be found like the Galatians running away from the truth that Christ’s love, his affirming presence, sets us free?  We look at the Easter Cross.  Christ died and then rose for us so that we might be free to live our lives for the glory of God and for the love of neighbor.  We at times deny God’s presence with us.  Can we ever deny the cross and what Jesus went through for us on that cross?  


We are in the position of needing to pay close attention to what Paul teaches.  To be in Christ is to be free from all the obstacles that limit us, constraints that can break our relationships, separations that keep us from honestly facing the perplexing questions of life as to how we can actively glorify God or actively enjoy God?


There are many things in the church that excite me.  There are people in this church and in my life that make me feel like I am glorifying God and enjoy God’s presence.  I cannot deny the reality of these positive feelings.  I cannot deny the reality that the power of the Spirit of God is at work in this Church.  On the other hand, I cannot deny the fact that there are real things in the world and in the church that are unsettling:  sickness, suffering, depression, loneliness….to mention a few concerns that some of you bring to this place. 


God is with us at all times participating in our breathing, as the poetic words of one song suggests:  “The presence of God is in every breath of air, and in the wisdom of the children, and the graceful way of flowers in the wind.”  We can go a step beyond poetic words and music in acknowledging the fact that each of us has real feelings.  What are the feelings that come from enjoying God, not in our merely doing things, but in our being together as his people.  What are the feelings that come from enjoying God and glorifying God?  How does it feel to know God’s presence?


Throughout the years I have spent a fair share of time struggling with my feelings relating to the question of the presence of God.  I have found myself at times frustrated in affirming God’s presence in my life.  In his presence I ask:


“O God, toward which end should I direct my life so that I can know you?  Learn from you?  How does being in your presence allow me to be all that I am in loving and caring for my neighbor?  What about the times when I can’t do more for my neighbor?”





The psalmist can help us all find an adequate response to difficult questions. 


God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear though the earth should change, though the  mountains share in the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.  


These are words of intense feeling describing a time of chaos upon the earth.  A time of great unrest, anxiety, fear, disruption of life.  One reads along and finds amid these images describing God as the ever-present fortress—the powerful words:


GOD IS SPEAKING:  Be still and know that I am God.  I am exalted among the nations.  I am exalted in the earth.  GOD IS SPEAKING:  Be still and know that I am God.


Let’s give it a try.  When things are stirring, the blood is boiling, the anxiety levels rising:  Take a deep breath.  Be still!  Be still!  Be still!   Search for and know God.

Be still!



Why Did I Create This Blog?

Why Did I Create this BLOG?


Why did I create this blog?  The short answer:  I created this blog mostly for myself and my own personal use in recording personal reflections on a host of topics.   After leaving the active, parish ministry, I am redirecting some of my energy to reading, research and writing.  I want to perfect some of my past writings and sermons.   This blog is primarily for me! 


At the same time I want to share my work with others who are my friends and colleagues.   I want to learn from what others say about what I am writing.  What is worth sharing?  What is worth writing?  What can I learn through my sharing this blog with others?    This, afterall, is what blogging is all about!


It is also through this blog I plan to highlight the exceptional work of others who have influenced me in my reading and research.  I plan to give others credit for they say.  I can imagine sharing a lot of LINKS in what I post.  

I am excited about the possiblities blogging presents.  Any ideas or suggestions, please share with me in a comment or at  


Clergy in Transition Postlude

Honestly?   Clergy in Transition Postlude

Honestly?   While some former church members have a difficult time with the fact I can no longer perform pastoral duties, a big part of this issue is mine!  Hardly a day goes that I don’t want to pick up the phone to call a former member – just to “check in” or “see how things are going”.  This was my style in doing ministry.  The problem:  I would probably also be asking how things are going with the church.  What “behind the scenes issues” are in play?  After 27 years of ministry, I am still heavily invested in not only how things are going with members but also with the programs and ministries of the church.  It’s hard letting go!           

What about FACEBOOK? CLergy in Transition Part III

Clergy in Transition – Part Three

What About FACEBOOK?

I use Facebook on a regular basis.  This has been a great way for me to stay in touch with family and friends who live throughout the country.   I also hear from professional contacts and a host of groups and organizations that share some of my personal and professional passions. 

A few of my “Friends” are members of the congregation I departed in November of 2013.  This leads to the question asked by Keith Anderson is his blog, “Should Pastors Remain Facebook Friends With Former Parishioners?”  (June 19. 2012).   This is an important question! 

In retirement, I made the promise to not have any further pastoral or professional contact with former church members.  This leaves me wondering about “Facebook Friends” who are former church members and the professional boundaries that still need to be maintained.   

What about those times, as an ordained pastor, I want to comment about an issue or situation that pertains to the church in general terms?  What if I want to make reference to an experience from my former church?   What if I want to talk of things religious/spiritual?  And what about those times a former member who posts a comment about an exciting church program or a personal need?   In these situations, I can see myself responding by pushing the “like” button.   I may say “Happy Birthday” or “Happy Anniversary”.  This is not unlike running into somebody at the store or hearing some personal news.    

Personally, while I struggle with this issue of maintaining professional boundaries with former members, I am inclined to endorse the guidelines set by Rev. Anderson in his blog:    

  • I will not provide pastoral care or comment on      the transition, call process, new pastor, or any Redeemer issues.
  • If you ask, I will remind you of this.
  • I will be available to help the new pastor in      whatever way he or she needs.
  • I may be more passive in our connection, but the      friendship and connection remain open.
  • However, I reserve the right to laugh with you      and point out how cute your kids are.
  • I will keep sharing my life with you.
  • I won’t be offended if you want to ‘unfriend’ me      or want see fewer of my updates.
  • I will pray for you.

See more at:

Clergy In Transition Part Two

Pastor’s in Transition

The Presbyterian Church is one of many main-line churches that instruct clergy to refrain from having contact with parishioners when they transition to another position or when they retire.  When I recently departed from the church I served, I made the commitment to follow the established guidelines of the Committee on Ministry.  In fact, when the Stated Clerk of the Presbytery met with the session of the church, the standards for professional ethics when leaving a church were openly discussed.  There were those who simply did not like these rules who also agreed, reluctantly, to abide by them.  An excerpt from these standards are found in the “Commission on Ministry” Manual:

“When a pastor leaves a charge, there are bonds of affection between the minister and members of the church, which continue to be cherished. Relations of friendship continue, but the pastoral relationship does not.  In order to spare ministers and church members from embarrassment, and to encourage the new pastoral relationship that will be established, the Presbytery directs the church to be reminded of these requirements:  When any minister resigns from a pastorate or retires from service, or becomes a pastor emeritus, the minister should not cease to perform such functions of a pastor at funerals, baptisms, and weddings unless invited to officiate in such capacity by the pastor or by the moderator of vacant churches.”  (GA Minutes, 1948, pg. 119, Status of Retired Ministers)”[1]  

Another excerpt from the Presbytery of Chicago agreement that clergy and sessions are actually required to sign. I include this statement because it gives room to be “friends” with former parishioners.  It states that the out-going pastor will    

 a)   not to become involved in any leadership or advisory role (public or private) within the former congregation; and

 b)      not to intervene, support, or give advice to anyone involved in a congregational disagreement or dispute;

 c)      not to officiate in any special events in the lives of former parishioners or of the congregation, including weddings, funerals, baptisms, worship leadership, church anniversary activities, etc. unless expressly invited by the Moderator of the Session;

 d)      to refuse requests for pastoral services made by members of the congregation;

 e)      to consult with the Moderator of Session prior to visiting the congregation, attending worship or attending a special event;

 f)        to refrain from giving opinions or directions regarding church business;

 g)      to explain and affirm the above principles to the congregation in writing (by letter or newsletter) and/or the pulpit before departing.

It is understood that this policy does not affect or require termination of friendships with individuals in the church.[2] 

This where, for me, the struggle begins:  It was important for me to underscore this statement about friendships.  After serving a church for many years there are established deep rooted relationships and family ties.  One of my next door neighbors was an active church member.  I cannot cut off being a neighbor!   I run into former members at the store!    

With some former church member/friends: Our children grew up together. We celebrated holidays, birthdays, picnics, weddings, anniversaries together.  It is often hard to separate those things we do as a pastor from those things we have done and continue to do as families and friends.  That is why it is important to remember “Professionals always need work and act professionally with boundaries in place even with friends!”  

I plan on continuing to do those things any good friend would do with my friends.   At the same time, because I am a pastor, I will absolutely refrain from anything that hints of being linked even slightly as “pastoral” when visiting with friends.  Friends will need to be reminded by me that I am not their pastor.  We cannot talk about the church.  We need to support new pastoral leadership 100%.  On the other hand, friends send birthday cards and Christmas greetings.  Friends share family news. 

Now another question has come up:  What about FACEBOOK?   I will devote another post to this issue!


[1]  Guidelines are available at Presbytery web pages or through the Committee on Ministry in most Presbyteries.

[2]   Committee on Ministry Handbook, Presbytery of Chicago


Dear Rev. Former Pastor

As a pastor in transition, I found myself saying “YES” to this letter to a former pastor.  This letter reflects the proper professional ethics in relating to former church members.  While I plan to remain friends with some people who are also my neighbors in the community, I plan to be diligent in adhering to the ethical guidelines in separating myself completely from the ongoing work of my former church.

Thank you Sharon Temple for sharing this letter.

Gun Viiolence (Revisited)


“Gun Violence”

January 20, 2013

 Thomas B. Cundiff

Micah 6: 6-8

What God Requires

6“With what shall I come before the LORD,

and bow myself before God on high?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?

7Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

8He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Matthew 22:  36-39


36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ 37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I.  Framing the Issue

“Gun–violence”!   Still fresh in our minds are the 20 innocent first graders shot and killed at the Sandy   HookElementary School on December 14th of last year.  It still makes me want to cry thinking about beautiful children—as well as the children we have lost on the streets of our city (Saginaw, MI).

I join with the parents from Newtown, Connecticut and around the nation calling for a national conversation on “gun violence”.  We need to join with women like Tiffanny Goodman who produced the wonderful play, “Speak Up, Speak Out” in honoring the memory of her son who was shot and killed back in March of 2009.

One thing I will not do in this conversation is challenge the Second Amendment right in our Constitution to “keep and bear arms”.   What I am hoping to do is frame this issue of gun violence around the people and violence in our society with guns being the tool many use to commit horrendous crimes!  This being said…..some facts to consider:

First, these facts as reported and checked and double checked from several publications including Presbyterians Today[1]:

Did you know that over eighty (80) people die each day from gunshot wounds? That adds up to roughly 30,000 women and men and children who die each year from guns.   

Did you know there are over 300 million guns in the United States?  This is just under our population of 315 millions people in this country—almost one gun for every man and woman and child living in this country.

Did you know that gun murder rates in the United States per 100,000 people are more than 17 times higher than those in Australia, 35 times higher than in Germany, 37 times higher than in Spain and 355 times higher than in Japan.”[2]

Second, it’s a known fact that guns do not shoot themselves.  People kill people. Gun violence is more about those who use the guns than the weapons themselves.

Third, there are millions of law-abiding citizens who legally own guns who are trained to use a variety of different types of guns for sport, collection or security.

Fourth, a question:  Why don’t we hear on the news more stories about the lives that are saved each and every day because armed police and security personnel and responsible citizens are committed to keeping their families and others safe and secure?

Fifth, we need to recognize the reality that there are many types of weapons:  guns, sticks, rocks, knives, baseball bats or fists – even bombs that kill!

These points/questions being made, my focus today:

As Children of God created in the image of God, how are we to approach this question of gun violence as a church?  To answer this question we seek guidance from scripture and the Mosaic Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill”!   Guidance is also found in answering the New Commandment and Jesus’ call to “love our neighbors as ourselves”.  And this being the beginning of the Global Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Micah’s question asked by Christians around the globe:  “What does the Lord require of us?”

II.  Wilmette, Illinois Murders[3]

Let me take you for a moment to the village of Wilmette, Illinois, fourteen miles north of downtown Chicago.  Quoting from the pastor of the Wilmette church after a double murder and suicide took place on church grounds in 2009:

“It was viewed as an anomaly,” says Sarah Butter, the pastor. “It was not the kind of thing people expected to happen in that kind of neighborhood.”   She is uncomfortably aware, however, that on the south side of Chicago, suicides and murders in poorer neighborhoods with fewer resources happen far too often and with very little notice.  

 Rick Wiley, who committed the Wilmette murders, was a repeat offender.  He had served 15 years in prison for killing his first wife in 1985—he used a knife.  A member of the Wilmette church, he also struggled with a mental disease called “intermittent explosive disorder”.  He was released after only 15 years after killing his first wife.[4]  He would have served a life sentence had the judge in his case not ruled him as being insane.   

 After Rick Wiley’s release from prison he returned home and the church welcomed the prodigal son back—I would add, cautiously and with forgiving hearts.  He was a member of the church and was received as such!  The church helped him rebuild his life.  He got a job as a carpenter.  He married the church secretary, Kathy Motes, who had a young son named Chris. The congregation let them live in a house on the church grounds. 

 Things were going pretty well until….March of 2009, the worst thing happened. After an argument one weekend, Wiley shot and killed his wife, his stepson and himself using a ‘black powder, muzzle loading Civil War replica rifle’ that was part of a collection owned by his step-son who was murdered.  . 

III.  A Mental Issue

As reflected in this story, Mental Illness tied to those who commit gun violence is a critical issue.  How do we deal with the Rick Wiley’s who are found insane for a murder and then released back to society?  Did the judge mess up by ruling him “insane” allowing for his early release after just 15 years for a murder?  What kind of treatment did he receive upon his release?  Did the church members or anyone around this man and family know he had a mental health history that pointed specifically toward violent behavior?  Lots of questions.

 This past week the President put forward some proposals that at first seemed weak in the area of Mental Health—until I read the full report.  Specifically, the President is looking for more diagnosis and treatment of young people with mental health issues between the ages of 16 and 25.—“high risk mental health individuals”.[5]  This plan calls for helping schools train mental health professionals in diagnosing mental health issues that may put others at risk.  I also like the proposal that teachers and students get “Mental Health First Aid Training” in helping to identify problems like bullying.

For the sake of the wellbeing of others, authorities must find ways to identify threats before someone goes off the deep end in locating an easy-to find ‘Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle’ with lots of ammunition in acting out some kind of horrendous crime.

 IV.   A Behavior Issue—Teaching Non-Violence

 Which leads to another concern I have outside the arena of mental health.  Violent Behavior in American Culture, especially in urban environments, has become prevalent.  You don’t have to be mentally ill to be in a gang.  You don’t have to be unstable to throw a punch at a brother or sister or neighbor or parent who is upsetting you.  Anger management is an issue many young people need to address.

It’s not hard to imagine being angry when living in poverty!  Domestic violence is on the rise.  More and more parents are fighting…..shoving and punching and shouting in many ways is the NORM in solving even simple problems.  And the sad fact, easy access to guns makes for lots shootings for a wide variety of reasons…..drugs, gangs, simple disagreements…..and shooting somebody when you are angry is so much easier than talking!  Insane!  Back to this becoming a Mental Health Issue!

On this eve of the national holiday in honoring the life of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this is what he preached:  “At the center of non-violence is the principle of love.”[6] To see all the high crime rates, one has to wonder what has happened to this biblical foundation of love in human relations?

What do we need to do in our communities and schools and churches in teaching and preaching non-violence?

I think back to when the East Side Soup Kitchen was in our church building—often 300+ people from every walk of life coming into our building every day for a hot meal.  The roughest and toughest people in our town would come through the doors of our gym.  Security was tight.  Everyone was “wanded” to make sure they weren’t carrying weapons.  To her credit, Pam Cole and her staff are gifted in immediately created a culture of non-violence and respect and peace in serving hot meals.  I am so proud of you for letting the patrons of the Soup Kitchen – some with violent backgrounds, into our building.  In reality, what happened at the Wilmette church could have happened here!  Sick behavior that causes tragic things to happen to innocent people that has sadly, become part of our culture.

In this church, for as long as I can remember, we have had tough standards when it comes to teaching participants in the Youth center and summer Magic how to solve problems without the use of violence.

The director of the youth center shared with me a while back the story of a youngster she had to send home from the after school program because of his violent, pushing and shoving and abusive language.  When this child returned with his mother she quickly discovered the source of this child’s violent behavior.   This mother was angry to the point of wanting to hit a door because she felt her young and immature son had been disrespected by the youth leaders?  This parent obviously had a lot of issues—and her behavior was reflected in the behavior of her son.  It’s no wonder so many teachers, particularly in low income urban districts, report having so many issues with behavior in their classrooms.[7]

A few years ago I was given a copy of a “Pledge of Non-Violence” that was used with our own Summer Magic program.   A copy of this pledge is found in your bulletin.  Children in Summer Magic have been asked to actually sign a commitment to non-violence when attending this program.

“To Respect Self and Others; To Forgive; To Play Creatively;  To be Courageous in challenging unfairness and violence in all its forms…..and to stand with others who are treated unfairly”……wonderful standards!

Related to what we teach our children, many who have access to violent video games and movies are children who have seen the violence first hand on the streets….children who think its normal to see their parents fight….and kids who also know how easy it is to get a gun.

It’s no wonder so many of our children grow up desensitized into thinking fists and foul language – even guns are the only way to solve problems.

It is from our pulpits we must share within our communities:  Get rid of the illegal guns.  If you have a gun keep it secure and away from all children.

We need to preach:  “Enough is Enough!”  If we can’t get rid of the guns we must at least become advocates for safe gun ownership.

We also need to preach and teach adopting an attitude of ZERO TOLERANCE when it comes to violent behavior.

In our homes, schools and churches we need to pick up the ball and proactively teach non-violence.  We need to be intentional in modeling non-violence in our programming.  I have been thinking:  Perhaps this “Pledge for Non-Violence” needs to be posted on every entrance to this building and buildings and schools  and agencies throughout our community?

To again invoke a quite from Dr. Martin Luther King jr, “Non-violence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit.  You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”   It needs to be part of our mission as a church to get this message out into the larger community.

V.  A Gun Issue

Mental and behavioral health and violence in our culture aside, a few thoughts about guns.  For years the Presbyterian Church has been engaged in resisting gun violence.  The most recent document coming out of the General Assembly in 2010 is titled:  “Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call[8]   While there has and always will always be healthy debate on this issue, these are a few of the recommendations – not unlike the recommendations brought forward by the White House this past week…..

  1. Limit legal personal gun acquisition to one handgun per month.  (not on the President’s list)
  1. Require licensing, registration, and waiting periods to allow comprehensive background checks, and cooling-off periods for all guns sold.  {The President is recommending a national, universal registry of weapons}
  1. Close the “gun show” loophole by requiring background checks for all gun buyers.
  1. Ban semiautomatic assault weapons, armor piercing handgun ammunition, and .50 caliber sniper rifles.
  1. Advocate for new technologies to aid law-enforcement agencies to trace crime guns and promote public safety.
  1. And a complex recommendation instructing all agencies of the government to DESTROY the records of all persons whose weapons were purchased legally.  {sensitive to privacy concerns}

On these six points you may or may not agree.  I would add to this list finding ways to identify and treat persons with mental health issues and violent tendencies.  I would also add to this list the President’s call for more study and research from the ATF and ways to share information about people applying for guns who have criminal backgrounds or mental health issues.

I think something that is going to be a GIVEN throughout the nation, the training of school professionals at all levels in providing better security in schools…..and on my list, the need for us to be proactive advocates in our churches and schools and businesses for non-violence.

VI.  Conclusion

So what does the Lord require but to but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God?

I truly believe God has created us to live and enact good, healthy and productive lives.  It’s time to become advocates for peace in turning the tide of violence in our communities into something positive, something that embraces our image of God that helps us build positive and productive lives.  We must become, as Isaiah calls, “the repairs of the breach in restoring peace in our cities….”[9]

We must help by enacting policies that make a positive difference.  This can be done without hurting Second Amendment rights.  This must be done in adhering to the same theme I have been preaching all month – putting on Christ, clothing ourselves in Christ’s values in living our lives as role models in promoting non-violence and peace.  We must become advocates in arming ourselves with skills in helping to defuse violent behavior and treating those with violent tendencies who are mentally ill.   We must become role models in how to solve problems in our homes in peaceful ways.  We must demonstrate in and through out lives all the things listed in this “Pledge of Non-Violence”.

The discussion on “gun violence” must continue.  We must never forget the little children who have been needlessly killed.  Our discussions must lead to action.  We must continue to search for ways to use our faith in God to be “keepers of peace” in our lives and world.

So what does the Lord require but to but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly (and peaceably) with God?


[1]  Presbyterians Today, September 2012, Jim Atwood, pg. 26.

[2]   Ibid.

[3]  I wrote this sermon based on this Presbyterians Today article along with articles n the Chicago Tribune (3/3/099, Michael Tarm) and other internet searches.

[4]   Chicago Tribune, Michael Tarm, March 3, 2009 (Internet)

[7]   Story is a couple of years old.  I embellished it a bit to make my point.

[8]   PCUSA 2019TH General Assembly, 2010.

[9]   Isaiah 58

Morning Advent Prayer

Morning Advent Prayer

Advent Lord:  This is the season of preparation for the arrival of the one whose reign will bring to fruition all things that are good and healthy, just and well for all God’s children.   We pray for a world where everyone is included in your heavenly embrace.         

As we await with expectation the coming of the one who brings to the world the promise of hope and peace, we pray to remember this is not a season for passive waiting.  Thank you for calling us to work proactively for this hope and peace on our streets and nation and world.  We pray, God, to become aware of new ways to become your hands and feet, mind and heart of Christ in compassionately serving others.   

In longing for the “Prince of Peace” to enter our hearts, we pray for the — (my personal prayer list for today):

             — Hungry, poor and homeless walking the streets

             — Immigrants longing for a nation to call “home”

             — Those longing meaningful work and a decent wage

             — The disenfranchised, mentally challenged and disabled

             — Children longing for happy play and safe streets

             — Victims of violence on our streets of our cities. 

             — Persons who are gay and straight seeking to be united as One in marriage

             — All people of this nation and world searching for quality and  affordable health care

Oh so many issues and concerns that have entered my heart!

My morning prayer is for an open and inclusive church to recognize the power of Christ in helping the all in the Christian community work through all of these challenging issues with gospel in hand.  

God:  May I work this day to be proactive in working to bring the compassion and love and joy of Christ into the world.