Black History Month — Honoring A Man of Faith — Walter Giryer

Giryer Walter Mack

Black History Month 2018
In Honor of Walter Mack Giryer
October 6, 1919 – August 8, 2011

Several news outlets have been highlighting and paying tribute to African-American heroes. Within the African American community, who would I call a hero—a man to be remembered? Who has been a “black” role-model for me as a pastor? In writing this blog, who would I like to talk about? This Black History Month I share, some of my thoughts about a man who was a great influence on me and the church I served.

Walter Mack Giryer

You haven’t seen his name in the headlines. He wasn’t a national or global leader. You won’t see his name in history books. As far as I know, he never ran for political office. A man who was born in Buena Vista, Georgia died a the age of 91 in Saginaw, Michigan. He served in the Army as a Master Sergeant. Married to Ann, he had a lovely family with four children. He was a citizen and friend and member of the church I served for over a quarter century.

Walter Mack Giryer is a man who will not be forgotten! He was my friend. Along time member of the Wadsworth Avenue Presbyterian, he transferred to the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw in 1965. I presided over the funeral of his beloved wife Ann in 1991. A church leader, Walter served the church as an Elder and Deacon. Honestly, I never thought of him as being black or white. He was, simply, a lovely-loving man! Upon his death in 2011, I was honored to preside over his funeral.

Now retired and reflecting on my ministry, I can imagine looking out from the pulpit on any given Sunday seeing this tall, well dressed man handing out bulletins to members coming into the sanctuary for worship. I can see him sitting with his good friend Charlie Campbell. Charles Campbell died in 2010—greatly missed by Walt. Charlie, has a family that could easily fill up two pews in the sanctuary. His children and grandchildren need to be mentioned because they were members of Walts extended family. Truly a man to be honored and remembered this “Black History Month”—Walter Mack Giryer.

While pages could be written about this man and his involvement in the community, I mention a few things that make him a man to remember:

1. Walt, year after year, would volunteer to work with children during our Summer Magic program. He was the first to arrive in unlocking the doors. He was the last to leave. Our being an inner city church, he would always sit at the entrance to the Gym providing extra security. On hot days, he would go to the playground with jugs and cups to share water with thirsty children. Little things that didn’t go unnoticed. Walt was always ready to look after the well-being of neighborhood children.

Walt Giryer being a black man was a wonderful role model to the black children in the community!

2. A member of the men’s club, he was always ready to help serve Easter Breakfast. He would befriend members who might need a ride to church. He was always ready to help me out when I encountered a situation that required a sensitive heart.

3. Another good friend in the church was our custodian WG Turner. As good friends they were always seen together doing things around the church. Hey were also two of the best dressed men in the church. While I would often dress casual, they always wore their best clothes when working around the church. Deep down I think they believed it was their duty to give God – the church – their best! Just as it hurt Walt deeply when Charlie Campbell died, it was also a major loss for Walt when WG died in 2007. Another black man who should always be remembered.

4. I chose to write about Walt because he was a “quiet man of faith”. He was not a preacher. I wouldn’t volunteer to stand to say anything publicly. Behind he scenes, you could ask him to do just about anything. Walt Giryer would be ready to help. Regardless what I might need, I knew I could always call on Walt for help!

Thus, with a few short comments, I felt the need this “Black History Month” to write a little about this influential man. To learn more about Walt, I have attached to this blog the eulogy I shared at his funeral.

God continue to give glory to God and his faithful servant Walter Mack Giryer. May God continue to look after him and his family and friends along with all the “Saints who from their labors now rest”.



A Service in Witness to the Resurrection
For Walter Giryer
Thomas B. Cundiff
August 11, 2011

I Corinthians 13: 1-7

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


God’s unending love has brought us here today.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.

God’s promise is realized today. Walter Mach Giryer has achieved the goal. He has lived in God’s love for over 91 years….good and faithful years. Through faith in Jesus Christ, Walt has not perished. While physical life is gone, Walt has spiritually received eternal life. God’s Love has endured in touching us all….family and friends — churchman and friend.

Faith – for you and your children: God is with you holding you in his gracious and everlasting love today! God is holding all of you in his love this beautiful day.

Anika (Craig) Roy, Ft. Wayne
Morris, Toledo
Terrance, Toledo
Myron (Jennifer) Chicago

God’s love is deep and wide and as broad as anyone can imagine… in holding all of you. God’s love, as I said last night, is found in every breath we take. God’s love is found in every experience. From every hug to every smile…sitting on his lap, through moments of play, in times of grief, in values taught ….. memories to cherish – Walt has always loved you….and God has always been with you.

Walt loved life as reflected in all the positive things he did throughout life. From Georgia to Saginaw; a retired Master Sergeant in the Army serving in the Korean Conflict….to his work at the Grey Iron Foundry….to serving this church and community in numerous capacities. Walt loved life—through all the seasons and ups and downs …. seasons of experiences with you—Walt has always loved you….and God has always been with you.

Walt loved his lord. He didn’t like to do things for an audience….I could never get him in front of a microphone to speak to the congregation….but Walt sure was the best well-dressed man in church! He was always a sharp looking man. I can only guess he is now the best dressed saint in heaven.

To Know God’s Love is to know that God’s presence penetrates all aspects of life — including the ups and downs – even death itself.

While Walt was not feeling well these past few months, he remained positive. He continued to think more about others than himself. In God’s love, he fought the good fight… finished the race…..kept the faith……staid the course to stay with you as long as he could. He then had to let go. He had to let God take him. We can be so grateful his passing into eternal life was graceful and filled with God’s presence and peace…..

Because of our love for Walt, his absence from our lives makes us hurt so much more. The grief we feel is indescribable. Yet with all the discomfort and pain these past weeks, we know that God always held Walt. God’s always loved and embraced him. You never stopped praying for him. Walt was never alone.

It would seem that death is something that separates us from loved ones. Physically, yes, When we are separated from someone, we can feel that love has failed us or cut us off from God. Quite the opposite is true. While death does separate us from loved ones, scripture assures us that even death cannot separate us from God….as Paul to the Romans says:

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life…can separate us from the love of God, which is In Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Love is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Walt. As we pray today, let’s pray for the peace of God to enter our hearts: Let’s us know that God’s love seeks us out like a shepherd seeks out his sheep to protect them from harm. The lord is truly our shepherd seeking us out and loving us. It is faith in the Lord our shepherd that will carry us all of you through the days and weeks ahead.

These are powerful words: I LOVE YOU.

FAITH, with you and your family – all of your children — love is the positive, sustaining force of God holding you these past few weeks that will continue to hold you well into the future. While the death of your father has been tough…God and family have given you strength. You and your dad both knew when it was time for him to go.

Walt is now reunited with his wife Ann, who went to her eternal home in 1991. Walt and Ann are back together. With your family here today, think about the values your mother and father, grandmother and grandfather — shared with you, the moral resources they gave you, the life tools you will use for the rest of your lives. These are precious gifts your mother and father , grandmother and grandfather gave you….all in love.

Faith, the legacy of love you inherited from your parents has been passed on to your children and grandchildren, nephews and nieces. ….and again, I have to believe your parents are still reaching down, smiling upon you in love.
Listening to the words of Paul, love in your family has always been
“patient and kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. Love contains all the values your parents taught you. The legacy of all that your father (and mother) have given you now lives on through your families…..and yes, in family love bears all things and endures all things….gifts of family, gifts of love, gifts for which we thank God in commending your father, this beautiful day, to almighty God assures us one thing: LOVE NEVER ENDS.


Walt Giryer has loved and worked hard in his beloved church for nearly fifty years – serving as an elder and deacon; preparing for communion, ushering, working on various committees; helping with our summer magic children’s program—yu name it and Walt was there.

I can think of at least two men out of many good friends and family, who recently died who are now reunited with Walt in eternal life. WG TURNER was a deacon and church custodian and friend who died in July of 2007. I remember the countless times I would see these men working around the church….or sitting in a corner just talking and laughing….I know Walt really missed WG.
Another brother in Christ, CHARLES CAMPBELL died in February of 2010, and they were best of friends. They enjoyed each other’s company, sharing stories about the war, lots of laughter….and countless visits to KFC with Charlie’s grandsons. I can only imagine, reunited in heaven, Walt along with all the Saints and friends who went to heaven before him, are now sitting around a KFC bucket of Chicken…..and I wonder if God likes the crispy-spicy or regular! (I sure wish I could find a way to send them these coupons!)

Many friends are now reunited with Walt….in what scripture calls that “Mansion with many rooms” — eternal life with God.

FINALLY, God will continue to hold you. Find comfort that Walt is at peace. He is being well cared for in his eternal home. Walt and Ann is also looking upon you saying: everything is going to be okay. As the hours pass through this day, hear these words of comfort from scripture:

In God’s eternal love, through all the seasons in life, these words from Timothy:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, my God, the righteous judge, will award me this day.” (I Timothy 4: 6-8)
May God bless you all and surround you in love and peace….




Rio Vista – Evolving Into the Future

OP-ED  Rio Vista Beacon // February 21, 2018

“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living waters.” John 7:38

Rio Vista in the year 2018 is nothing like this city has ever been before. We are growing. We are evolving.

As a community, grounded in a rich history with citizens who care deeply about our future, is our need to keep our eyes focused on important issues that will shape what kind of city we will become in the future. The passionate debate about Cannabis is a good example.

Rich in history as a small town on the north shore of the Sacramento River, this small town has doubled in size over the past twenty years. New people, are moving into this community — roughly 15-20 new souls per month! We are not what we used to be! With each new resident, the personality of the community evolves. As businesses come and go, we become what we can support economically. We are evolving.

I see some challenges facing our community that must be addressed.

1. Excellent School System – it is going to take a concerted effort to make sure Rio Vista develops a quality school system. Young and old in our community, educating our children with quality schools is the key to our future. It’s going to take a solid economic base of support from local businesses to help our schools grow. We need to find ways to draw people and business into our community because “it is a good place for children, our future, to grow. Cannabis isn’t going to destroy this possibility. Our working together to make sure these proposed business ventures are successful benefits us all. I am sure the city leaders are committed to the goal of keeping our children and youth safe!

2. Highway 12 improvements are critical. We are seeing way too many accidents, especially among seniors, that must be eliminated. Personally, I would like to see improved “street-scaping” from the bridge to the west border of our community. Hard work, money and dedicated leadership will help with this issue of “image”.

3. Medical facilities: The entire community could benefit in having an urgent care facility. It would be wonderful if we could find ways to bring some general practitioners into our community. Perhaps those owners who will be making huge profits with the sale of cannabis would consider finding ways to help promote improved health care in our community.

4. Development along the river: While the city has already done a lot of work in developing the river front, there is still a lot of work to do.  The river is our greatest asset! What about some kind of river-boat business? I have also wondered about a small boutique hotel of some right on the shore of the river?

This is short list of what I believe we can accomplish if we keep our eyes focused on what we can become – always grounded in the values that have sustained this city since 1862. We will always have issues. It is incumbent on all of us to work to keep this city ‘moving forward’ in positive ways in serving all her citizens—specially her children.


Living in a California Gated Community

It was over a year ago Nancy and I moved from Michigan to Rio Vista, California so we could live close to our daughter and her family.  This has been a new experience for me–living in a gated compound.  This compound/community is called TRILOGY IN RIO VISTA–complete with an 18 hole golf course and two huge club houses, swimming pools, bocce courts, tennis courts, bar and restaurant….etc.

There are of perks living in a gated 55+ community with over 3000 residents–including dozens of daily activities.  Our HOA dues are roughly $135.00 per month.  A listing of daily activities in TRILOGY not including golf, January 3rd, going from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Yoga, TOPS, WOW-Tabatha-Boom, Aqua Fit, Walk and Talk, Bridge Lessons, Dancercise, Men’s Fellowship, Art Card Design, Stretch, Billards Club, Hot Zumba, Iphone Basics Class, Kare Bears Mtg., Gentle Aqua, Stained Glass Club, Pickleball, Ukulele Club, Music of the Night Rehearsal, Cycling Club Mtg, Delta Divas, Stretch and Flex, Delta Harmony Rehearsal, Fat Quarter Quilters, Jazz Band, Soul Line Dancing, Square Dance Class, Table Tennis Club

This doesn’t include the Café, Exercise Gyms, two swimming and exercise pools.  Nancy is attending the quilting club. I’m just planning on going out for an afternoon drive.

PS  New houses are selling fast—roughly 15 new homes are being purchased each month.   Rio Vista is on the Sacramento River halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.*California%20-%20Brand%20(National)%20(s)&utm_term=trilogy%20rio%20vista&utm_content=Trilogy%20-%20Rio%20Vista&gclid=CNmlq_-ivNgCFRG3fgod-wEKDQ&gclsrc=ds



The Inclusive Church

This quote from the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church, The Book of Order, jumped out of the page when I read it — found in the September 18, 2017 issue of the church publication, The Presbyterian Outlook.   Question:  Are our churches living faithful to this command for inclusion?

From The Book of Order:

A congregation shall welcome all persons who trust in God’s grace in Jesus Christ and desire to become part of the fellowship and ministry of his Church. No person shall be denied membership for any reason not related to profession of faith. The Gospel leads members to extend the fellowship of Christ to all persons. Failure to do so constitutes a rejection of Christ himself and causes a scandal to the Gospel.” (G-1.0302)

For my colleagues in ministry, I encourage you to read the entire article by Elder John Harkey, a professional in helping “organizations develop and implement inclusion and diversity strategies.”

This article, Reformed Inclusion, details the experience of an elder at the 3500 member Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. Of particular interest are the intentional steps individual members of the faith community can do to “demonstrate more consciously inclusive behavior”.

Volunteer for an activity that makes you comfortably uncomfortable and creates an impact on others.

Sit someplace different in your sanctuary each Sunday for the next eight weeks.

Demonstrate active listening that shows empathy towards others who may be different than you.

Become more self-aware of the biases and assumptions that you possess, and do not let then interfere with your personal or business interactions.

When you see someone standing alone while you are in a group, invite them to join you.

If you are faced with an issue or challenge, ask three people who are different that you (generationally, culturally or in other ways) for input as you make your decisions. (Presbyterian Outlook, September 18, 2017, pg 32)

I would suggest that these simple steps of inclusion can open doors beyond the local church in the communities where we live.

A public thanks to John Harkey for his faithful work.


My Friend — Lottery Winner


Are you a lottery winner?  Yes!  I join with my friend from College, Tom Crisp.  He has given me permission to share his FB personal reflections.   I commend him in taking the time to write this insightful piece.  I’m amazed he has such a wonderful memory.   He has giving me cause to reflect on my life filled with blessings – for yes, I am a lottery winner.  Every breath I take proves this fact.  Please read and enjoy.  (a bit long but worth taking time to read it to the end) 




If I win a lottery……by Tom Crisp

If I win a lottery, it won’t be because I deserve it.  The knowledge that lotteries are not a prize for the deserving is probably part of what keeps me playing.  I have as good (or as lousy) a chance as anyone, saint or sinner. 

I have always figured that I won the lottery when I was born in the U.S.A. just as the post war economic boom met the baby boom. I won by being born male, white, on-time, in a hospital, to parents who would remain married. With four living grandparents, 16 aunts and uncles and eventually about 26 cousins, all of whom I got to know, some of whom I grew up with.


Being white I had the win of being majority, but more than that, being the status quo. Generally discovering that the person in charge was … like me. Whatever battles lay ahead, I wouldn’t have to fight that one.


Not everyone would agree that I won the lottery being raised Catholic, but everyone I knew at the time would say so, especially after JFK broke that barrier. I didn’t know until much later that we were a group hated in some households. (In case we forget, the KKK despised us as Papists, and the John Birch Society was pretty much aligned with that.)


I grew up with a library card, in a home with some books, with the World Book Encyclopedia, with some records to listen to, a piano, and a TV that delivered the westerns, the comedies, the variety shows, the late-late-shows and the news shows. Magazines that inspired my need to make art, my love of buildings, my infatuation with cars. Morning and evening newspapers delivered daily.


We weren’t rich and we weren’t poor, and if we had been poor an effort would have been made to see that we kids wouldn’t know it – and that we didn’t look it. And definitely that we didn’t announce it. Not that we were pretending to be MORE than we were or had, never that – although it became a game for me later, when I was just old enough to wander into a place like the Waldorf Astoria lobby and act like I belonged there, until I believed that I did.


When I was born we lived in a tiny and rather shabby house, but 5 years later moved into a new house my folks had built. We had the same used furniture as before, but new carpet, and slipcovers made from Grandma’s curtains, and 6 of us would share one bathroom – as in most of the houses we visited.


The first time I remember looking at the earliest “studio” photo of me, my mother shared two comments: it was not a baby picture (I was about four years old) because we couldn’t afford to have it done sooner. (Finally Grandma ordered it done.) Mom also said that she always was a little embarrassed by the picture because I was wearing worn out tennis shoes. (To this day I look at that photo and can’t tell.) Apparently we couldn’t afford a new pair of shoes for me right then, and after all the waiting for the photo, I guess Mom felt guilty. But they had their priorities straight, saving up for the down payment on the new house that was then just a plan.


I was already a repeat lottery winner. One night in the year or so before that photo I had fallen out of the car on a busy road – at dusk, a chancy time to be a small person lying in the middle of the street. Because Mom happened to be driving, and thanks to my brother yelling, “There goes Tommy!”, Dad was able to jump out of the car before it even stopped, flagging down traffic and averting what In my personal opinion would have been disaster. I spent the night in the same hospital where I was born, and possess the bill to show for it: eleven bucks, and Blue Cross paid nine of it.


I won again at eleven or twelve. After I contracted rheumatic fever, thanks to antibiotics and our good family doctor, I spent much less than the average time out of school with a disease that less than a century earlier was near certain death. And I escaped any permanent effects to heart and lungs.


I didn’t quite win on teeth. I was cavity prone. But they grew in more or less in a straight line, and l did always have dental care. A few years ago my hygienist told me I inherited very good gums. So there, cavities.


I won the teacher lottery, that’s for sure, and still remember the names of all my teachers, K-12, and most who came later, from Sister Irene in kindergarten to Simona Volpi, my beautiful Torinese Italian tutor of 16 years ago. I had wonderfully nice friends through all those years, even after changing schools twice in one year, and changing towns, too. Thanks to FaceBook and reunions I regularly get to touch base with some of my earliest friends – the very first children I played with.


I was a kid attracted to cities, but happily growing up in small towns, in an era when all summer we ran free, once the morning chores were done, and where we knew it might be reported to our parents if anyone saw us get out of line. We got out of line anyway, of course, but we were lottery winners, and we escaped alive and intact, uncorrupted by our associations.


Despite my intention in high school to go to college a long way from home, I ended up an hour’s drive away and ended up happy about that. Thanks to my parents’ sacrifices and some scholarship help I also ended up debt free at graduation, whereupon I began making up for the matter. (My folks did their best to get us all through school without debts – I didn’t know how lucky I was.)


In the middle of that, the draft lottery drew some lines and let millions of young men know who could expect to go to Vietnam, and who could likely expect not to. At number 221 I was on the “not” side; like some of my friends, and unlike others. Many waited with resignation for the yellow envelope to arrive. Many others rushed to enlist in order to give their service a measure of self-determination. A few of the young men I knew then did not come back; some others, who I would meet later, had returned not always whole.


I wrote that among my chance winnings was being born a male. True then and still true for those born today, around the world and in the US. This implies that females are on the losing side, which is both far too simple to be a rule and, by numbers, also true. For reasons ranging from the traditional to the pseudo-logical to the preposterous, women of all ages are systematically put on the margins. We’ve seen steady if hard-won improvement for women in the “first world,” but the numbers say it is still a plus to be male on this planet, and in many places a life (or death) sentence to be female.


These propositions are loaded with exceptions. Because life itself is a game of chance, and advantage occurs on a broad spectrum, not all males feel or are privileged, or blessed with choice and freedom and advantage, and not all women are or feel held back and denied justice. Poverty/wealth, illness/health, love/neglect, all can make or strip away the sense of rightfulness that comes with the birth lottery. Wealth, talent, intelligence, looks, drive, supportive adults – are all distributed unevenly. But that combination of numbers on my first ticket: American, male, 20th century, hard-working and generous parents, strong early education, opportunity, freedom of expression, good health … these were such strokes of great fortune that to think today that I have anything else “coming to me” that does not involve very hard work would be greedy to the nth.


My lottery has continued. I’ve been able to pursue dreams, even if I’ve fallen short. I’ve been loved and have given love. I’ve laughed, and been disappointed, and learned, and made things. Making things is the big deal for me, to write something, make a painting, design, build. I’ve seen a lot of the country, a little of the world, and had all the good books anyone could hope to read, with no one telling me I couldn’t. I’ve had the ballot in my hands for almost 50 years; when my vote was for the winner and when it was not, I’ve always believed in it and the power it gave me.


I was young and gay in an era when that meant steady change and progress, and I was lucky enough never to hate myself for it. I was also gay in the age of a plague. I won the HIV lottery, whether because I was lucky in birth again, and have something that defies it, or because I was in some way more moderate, or because I was, actually, just plain lucky, and I’ve felt the unreasonable responsibility to live well for those who died young. Because I lost on the other side of that ticket: friends and acquaintances gone too soon, quite knocked down in the prime of life, and in the beginning under a cloud of mystery and suspicion, and no recourse to fight it.


“Winning” isn’t all rewards. In any field of play, it carries the burden of “what next?” (Losing has that factor, too, but we know the difference of the meaning in each situation.) And though I believe that life is hugely influenced by habit (much more than by luck), winning is accompanied by loss. Anyone who has loved and lost – which is, face it, everyone – can tell you that. Winning has responsibilities, if you’re made of anything but selfishness. It also provides opportunities, whether to share the money-wealth outright, or to share your intangible wealth: exchanging knowledge, creating opportunities, bringing joy, saving or sparing lives, inspiring the dispirited. Share spendable riches but also share the wealth of skill, experience, time, listening. These things are nothing less than “affirmative action”, or as otherwise named, the Beatitudes.


The humorist Fran Liebowitz told David Letterman, “I don’t consider the lottery gambling: when you gamble there’s a chance you might win.” By that wise measure, gambling includes investing in or starting a business, writing or producing a play, making a new product, expressing a new thought, sticking your neck out for somebody, putting your time into someone else’s growth. You are quite likely to lose those gambles. But when you win, it is extra rewarding, because it is so much more than chance. There’s minor satisfaction in betting and winning on a sure thing. Bet and win on a long shot if you want to know elation.


So, though no doubt some “deserving” people win the lottery, it’s not BECAUSE they deserve it. God isn’t handing out the winning numbers as a reward any more than He is handing out hurricanes or diseases or football losses as punishment. In fact, if only truly deserving people won the lottery, the rest of us would never play, and the jackpots would be modest indeed. We KNOW we don’t have to be deserving. It is the ultimate egalitarian roll of dice, on the billions-to-one scale of solar systems.


As in life, whether you “deserve” to win is probably something you demonstrate afterwards. Few of us have been prepared to live in a “worthy” manner if landed on by extreme, sudden wealth. We imagine we could handle it – I for one have better answers for “what would you do if you won millions?” than I do for the more likely question, “what do you plan to do since you won’t be winning millions?” It would be a tremendous challenge, but I think the only way not to be ruined by a super prize would be to give a whole lot of it away very fast, then keep giving more away slowly, always with the steadfast conviction that you didn’t deserve it in the first place.


Knowing that, what I’d try to do, just as I hope to do with my lifetime lottery winnings, which are so intangible that no one can take them away, is not deserve it, but serve it. So there’s the plan, whatever the bankroll I’m working with. ~ Tom Crisp NY NY 8/24/17




A preacher without a pulpit, I am compelled to share a ‘Facebook Public post‘ from a colleague, The Reverend Susan Sytsma Bratt.   Preach it!  Teach it!

With all the ugly hatred, racism and nationalism emerging from this weekends Charlottesville crimes and a Trump Administration that panders to this abhorrent behavior, this is my way of using this blog as a pulpit. I also thank Dan Saperstein, Presbytery if Lake Huron Executive,  for pointing me in the direction of this post.

These words from Rev. Bratt:

There is much to say in the wake of the last 24 hours where more hatred has taken root and sprouted up publicly in Charlottsville.

Tonight, I turn back to Scripture and the Belhar Confession as I prepare to lead worship tomorrow.

To be a member of any Christian church is to be an active witness to Christ’s reconciliation in the world. It’s not just for Sunday morning, but has a place in our daily lives. It shapes how we vote, when we march and use our power to protest, and how we seek to know and love our neighbor.

Faith isn’t private, but public. Not individual, but communal.

The Belhar Confession was written by the church to work to overturn the systemic evil and sin of apartheid and institutionalized racism in South Africa.

The opening lines say this:

“We believe that Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another (Eph. 2:11-22); that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain (Eph. 4:1-16);
that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted (John 17:20-23);”

Full text is worth reading and studying. Presbyterians, this is our newest Confession.

1. We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.

2. We believe in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.

We believe

• that Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another (Eph. 2:11-22);

• that unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain (Eph. 4:1-16);

• that this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted (John 17:20-23);

• that this unity of the people of God must be manifested and be active in a variety of ways: in that we love one another; that we experience, practice and pursue community with one another; that we are obligated to give ourselves willingly and joyfully to be of benefit and blessing to one another; that we share one faith, have one calling, are of one soul and one mind; have one God and Father, are filled with one Spirit, are baptized with one baptism, eat of one bread and drink of one cup, confess one name, are obedient to one Lord, work for one cause, and share one hope; together come to know the height and the breadth and the depth of the love of Christ; together are built up to the stature of Christ, to the new humanity; together know and bear one another’s burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ that we need one another and upbuild one another, admonishing and comforting one another; that we suffer with one another for the sake of righteousness; pray together; together serve God in this world; and together fight against all which may threaten or hinder this unity (Phil. 2:1-5; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; John 13:1-17; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; Eph. 4:1-6; Eph. 3:14-20; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; 1 Cor. 11:17-34; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-4);

• that this unity can be established only in freedom and not under constraint; that the variety of spiritual gifts, opportunities, backgrounds, convictions, as well as the various languages and cultures, are by virtue of the reconciliation in Christ, opportunities for mutual service and enrichment within the one visible people of God (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Eph. 4:7-13; Gal. 3:27-28; James 2:1-13);

• that true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this church.
Therefore, we reject any doctrine

• which absolutizes either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutization hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation;

• which professes that this spiritual unity is truly being maintained in the bond of peace while believers of the same confession are in effect alienated from one another for the sake of diversity and in despair of reconciliation;

• which denies that a refusal earnestly to pursue this visible unity as a priceless gift is sin;

• which explicitly or implicitly maintains that descent or any other human or social factor should be a consideration in determining membership of the church.

3. We believe

• that God has entrusted the church with the message of reconciliation in and through Jesus Christ, that the church is called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, that the church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker, that the church is witness both by word and by deed to the new heaven and the new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Cor. 5:17-21; Matt. 5:13-16; Matt. 5:9; 2 Peter 3:13; Rev. 21-22).

• that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s lifegiving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world (Eph. 4:17–6:23, Rom. 6; Col. 1:9-14; Col. 2:13-19; Col. 3:1–4:6);

• that the credibility of this message is seriously affected and its beneficial work obstructed when it is proclaimed in a land which professes to be Christian, but in which the enforced separation of people on a racial basis promotes and perpetuates alienation, hatred and enmity;

• that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.

Therefore, we reject any doctrine

• which, in such a situation, sanctions in the name of the gospel or of the will of God the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby in advance obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.

4. We believe

• that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice and true peace among people;

• that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged;

• that God calls the church to follow him in this, for God brings justice to the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;

• that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;

• that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;

• that for God pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the widows in their suffering;

• that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the right (Deut. 32:4; Luke 2:14; John 14:27; Eph. 2:14; Isa. 1:16-17; James 1:27; James 5:1-6; Luke 1:46-55; Luke 6:20-26; Luke 7:22; Luke 16:19-31; Ps. 146; Luke 4:16-19; Rom. 6:13-18; Amos 5);

• that the church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;

• that the church as the possession of God must stand where the Lord stands, namely against injustice and with the wronged; that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.
Therefore, we reject any ideology

• which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.

5. We believe that, in obedience to Jesus Christ, its only head, the church is called to confess and to do all these things, even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence (Eph. 4:15-16; Acts 5:29-33; 1 Peter 2:18-25; 1 Peter 3:15-18).

Jesus is Lord.

To the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honor and the glory for ever and ever.

Note: This is a translation of the original Afrikaans text of the confession as it was adopted by the synod of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in 1986. In 1994 the Dutch Reformed Mission Church and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa united to form the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). This inclusive language text was prepared by the Office of Theology and Worship, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)


Remember Your Baptism

Now retired, I am going through some new experiences as a pastor who served congregations dating back to the 70’s.    That’s a long time ago!   In particular, I remember and continue to miss the congregation I served the beginning of my ministry, the First Presbyterian Church of Davenport, Iowa.  This is the church where our daughter Emily was baptized (April 12, 1981).   I will always remember this day.  Standing as a parent I was asked by the pastor the name of my child.  I answered with confidence – “Susan”!  Everyone started laughing.  I couldn’t understand why everyone would laugh at such a sacred time.  The pastor leaned in and asked: “Isn’t your daughter’s name Emily?”  An Associate Pastor in that church, I’m glad I was standing with my daughter as a dad instead of pastor performing the baptism.  “Susan” is our daughter’s middle name.   I have no idea why my brain told me give the wrong name.  I now wonder what kind of holy-mistakes my nerves would have caused me to make if I was actually doing the baptism of my own daughter?  I will always remember this baptism!

Another church I that will always be close to my heart – the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw, MI.   I served this church as pastor from 1985 until my retirement in 2013.  Through Facebook, I recently experienced the birthday of a member of this congregation who just turned 30.  I will call him BJ.  In looking at all the people wishing him a “Happy Birthday”, I realized with a smile on my face that this church continues to be BJ’s “family’.  All the congregations I have been blessed to serve through the years of ministry are members of this family.  And this is the truth:  I remember your baptism!

Honestly?  I remember BJ’s baptism because one of the cherished files I keep is a written log of all the baptisms I have performed throughout my ministry.  I often find myself looking at this log of baptisms.  I don’t remember the actual day this young man, as an infant, was sprinkled with sacred water with the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit”.   I don’t remember what he was wearing or what I was preaching.   I do, however, know he was baptized the same day another baby was baptized.  I remember the parents of these children who continue to be active members of Christ’s family.  By the way, BJ was baptized on September 20, 1987.  He is still an active member of he Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church.

BJ and all those baptized on the chancel steps of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church and churches around the globe are members of the huge family named “Christian”.  This 30 year old man, BJ,  is now a police officer.  I am sure proud of him and all of his accomplishments!  I thank God for the opportunity to watch him grow as an active member and officer in the church I once served.

And my point?  REMEMBER YOUR BAPTISM!   Remember who it is who pronounced faith in Jesus Christ prior to your being sprinkled with sacred water–your parents.  Remember who continues to hold you and protect you–God.

This Holy Week, remember who lived and died and rose from death to be our Lord and our Savior.


I’m glad I’ve gotten back to writing in this blog.