Shoes Off

Shoes Off

Shoes Off

by Ken Rummer

Climbing a hill by starlight, stepping deliberately toward the big cross at the summit, leaving tracks in frosty grass, shoes off and shivering – what was I doing?

The hill and the cross lived on a church camp nestled in the wooded hills above the Missouri River north of Kansas City.

The place held special memories for me: eating in the dining hall during a week of church camp in sixth grade, blowing the lifeguard whistle at the pool as a member of the summer staff, stirring up recipes in the kitchen from a meals-for-fifty cookbook (usually doubled), driving tractor to mow a ridgetop meadow, leading a horseback group along a trail through fallen leaves, the vivid orange of bittersweet brightening a fence row.

This was land with spiritual resonance for me. I found it easier to see the stars there, easier to settle into the stillness, easier to talk to God.

Through the fall of 1973, between college and seminary, I was working at the camp as an assistant to the director. The job came with a room in one of the lodges, just down the hill from the high cross, the focal point for the whole camp.

One evening I felt an invitation, a summoning even, to walk to that cross.

I first noticed a leading like that in college. Walking across the campus at night, I sensed a directive, “Turn left.” It didn’t come as a voice in my ear, more like an idea forming in my mind, but an idea I didn’t recognize as my own.

Objections immediately arose. Why left? What’s left that I need to head that way? Is this God, or am I just making this up?

I discovered that if I followed one direction, another would follow. And I got better over the next weeks and years at distinguishing what I took to be God’s voice from my own.

Sure, there were nights I ended up in a mental tangle, second-guessing and overthinking, too much the engineer and not enough the mystic. But by the time I was working that fall at the camp, I recognized the nudge to walk up the hill as a prompting from God.

Was going shoeless part of the message? My recollection is fuzzy on that point. It did feel like I was stepping onto holy ground like Moses at the burning bush. In the end, whether it was God’s urging or my own response to the moment, I took off my shoes.

Which was surprising. The Presbyterian church of my youth and childhood did not promote uncomfortable acts of religious devotion. No climbing the cathedral steps on one’s knees. No hiking the Camino on blistered feet. No standing neck-deep in the sea for morning prayers. Yet, there I was, walking in the dark through winter grass without my shoes.

What happened when my steps reached the cross? What transpired on that hilltop? I don’t remember it in words prayed or answered, but, looking back, I see big decisions were looming.

A few months before, I had asked the person I called “The Special One” to marry me. The proposal had been pretty spontaneous, and I hadn’t checked with God first. It still seemed right, but was it part of God’s plan?

Another big question mark involved seminary. I had been accepted to two schools for the coming semester, but which to choose? And was going to preacher school really God’s path for me?

What about after? Scattered lights across the valley caught my eye. Were those the kind of places God had in mind for me to serve? Not the big cities, but the small towns and villages? Was the view from that hill a glimpse of my calling?

Feet getting cold, I headed back.

My strange pilgrimage turned out to be the first of several walks up that hill, the first of several meetings by the high cross, the first of several wrestlings in the Presence.

I came away, not with the big answers – they unfolded in time – but with a more settled feeling. A greater confidence that God was with me and I was with God.  A firmer trust that God was still leading and I could still follow.

Even by starlight, shoes off, up a frosty hill.

 

Photo Credit: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Behold! An Event for Micro-Church Leaders

Behold! An Event for Micro-Church Leaders

Behold! An Event for Micro-Church Leaders

Monday – Thursday, March 4-7, 2024
Oklahoma City, OK, at the Bradford House and Westminster Presbyterian Church

Behold! is open to pastors, commissioned ruling elders, and congregation members seeking community for exploration of God’s redemptive work in the church during these rapidly changing times. Whether you’re seeking tools for discernment or a theological undergirding to explore adaptive change . . . whether you’re excited to step into a bold new journey or you’re anxious or grieving (or a bit of all of this), we invite you into a community of committed congregational leaders to wrestle with God’s call upon your congregation and to gather skills and tools for a purposeful response.

Join us as we explore practical tools for discernment and change theory, rooted in our rich biblical tradition of adaptive leadership and a God who is ever reforming us. We will celebrate tender sprouts of ministry, mourn the dry places, and practice recognizing and living into God’s fresh works.

Learn more here

Job Opening- Interim Pastor

Job Opening- Interim Pastor

Job Opening- Interim Pastor

Central Presbyterian Church of Des Moines is seeking a full-time interim pastor to begin in May 2024.

Founded in 1848, Central Presbyterian Church is a vibrant congregation of 515 members, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), and located in the heart of Des Moines. It is known for openness and inclusiveness, a warm and welcoming sense of community, inspiring worship services, creative ministries with children and youth, an intelligent approach to Christian faith, and a passion for mission and service. For more information about the position, please see this flyer.

Connect with College Students

Connect with College Students

Connect with College Students

Dear Friends,

We are the pastors at First Presbyterian Church, in Brookings South Dakota, home of South Dakota State University.  We know that many young members of YOUR churches are also proud Jackrabbits here in our town.

We understand that the life of a college student doesn’t always allow or encourage regular attendance at church, but if your student is looking for a Presbyterian church where they can visit- whether it is only occasionally or on a regular basis, we are here with open arms.  Our worship services are traditional and our congregation is mostly older, but your students will be welcomed and nurtured- with no guilt and no expectations.

If you would like to share contact information, or would like to encourage your students to share their contact information, we have established a website to do this here.

We would use this information to send students a welcome email and to send invitations when we have fellowship or service opportunities. Students could opt out at any time by replying to the email or text.

Hoping we can support your students!

Robby and Donna Flint, CRE’s
Pastors, First Presbyterian Church, Brookings, South Dakota

Blessings and Gratitude from First Arabic

Blessings and Gratitude from First Arabic

Blessings and Gratitude from First Arabic

First Arabic’s adult choir sings during presbytery worship, November 2023

As the new year begins, First Arabic Presbyterian Church (FPC) and its Arabic Outreach Center (AOC) are deeply grateful for many blessings received over the past year.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROSITY!

First, a big thank you goes to all those individuals and churches in the presbytery who stepped up to provide generous financial gifts during the past year.  When needs were expressed, you were there, willing to help.  From the AOC’s informational gatherings in the summer to the fundraising requests in the fall, the FAPC leaders were deeply moved by the responses received from churches and individuals alike!

ALTERNATIVE GIFT MART

It was particularly pleasing when St. Paul Presbyterian Church (Johnston) invited the Arabic Outreach Center to be part of their Alternative Gift Mart just before Christmas. AOC volunteers at the event were deeply grateful when shoppers were moved to purchase AOC “gifts” to give to their loved ones. The funds raised at this special Christmas event will make a difference for those served by the AOC.

A FOCUS ON TITHING

Through a desire to serve God and the church more fully, the FAPC elders began an educational focus on tithing with their congregation. (In their homeland, tithing to the church was not the norm, as churches were usually funded by foreign missionary organizations.) Through these educational efforts, congregational giving at FAPC has increased significantly.

A FOUNDATION FOR THE FUTURE

FAPC’s gratitude also extends beyond the borders of the presbytery. More than a year ago, we learned that the Byron Lesch Memorial Mission Fund in Waterloo, Iowa, was seeking applications from Presbyterian churches interested in creating their own foundations to enhance their mission endeavors.  This amazing opportunity came about due to a bequest from a generous donor who wanted to support church mission efforts.  FAPC applied and was accepted!  The appropriate legal steps were taken, and board members were selected to serve: Louise Gately and Roxanne Neary from the presbytery’s Sudanese Support Team, John Edwards (Westminster, DSM), Jude Conway (Heartland, Clive), and Jeff Lorenzen (Central, DSM).  Now FAPC has its own foundation, known as the Liz Knott Memorial Fund. While the initial gift of $40,000 will not produce revenue for the church for at least two years, the interest from the principal will eventually provide stability and support for FAPC’s mission endeavors for years to come.

First Arabic church leaders gather with Foundation board members for their first meeting.

First Arabic Presbyterian Church and its Arabic Outreach Center are truly grateful for all these blessings!