Although it has been some time since I last visited Charlotte, N.C., I’m clear on one thing. Based on the encounters I enjoyed earlier this week, I certainly intend to return!
My N.C. travels actually began on Monday in the small, Piedmont town of Stoneville, where I had an opportunity to take part in a retreat attended by all of the executive presbyters representing the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic and synod executive, David McKee. It was an informal and relaxing time of worship and community, during which time I was invited to lead a conversation on the considerable challenges that we are all facing as well as to celebrate the Good News of Christ’s church. The St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, although secluded, was warm and welcoming, the perfect setting for a lively dialogue among these dedicated partners in ministry on how we can best support and resource each other as we work though the financial, programmatic, organizational, and polity challenges that affect each – and all – of us. As I travel and regularly invite conversation on what the church most needs from the national offices, I continue to be encouraged by the new models for collaboration and mutually supportive ministry that consistently emerge.
From Stoneville, Sam Roberson, General Presbyter/Stated Clerk for Charlotte Presbytery drove me on Tuesday to the “Queen City,” where I was introduced to Charlotte’s vitality and hospitality. On Wednesday, my day began with a gathering of about 15 pastors and elders held at the Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, which set a Good News tone with the bustling activity of its very active pre-school program. Good Shepherd’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert Austell, is also Charlotte Presbytery’s current moderator. I was grateful for the perspectives shared by this faithful group.
At the lunch hour, I sat down to an excellent meal hosted by Charlotte Presbytery with all of its remarkably gifted staff members. In addition to addressing together a wealth of topics and issues, we celebrated the presbytery’s recent 20th anniversary commemoration held at Johnson C. Smith University Chapel on February 14, 2009. This is a presbytery deeply engaged in the work of compassion, peace, justice, leadership development, new church development, church transformation, Latino ministries, and so much more.
In the afternoon, I was hosted at Myers Park Presbyterian Church by Steve Eason, pastor/head of staff, where another gathering of 15 or so pastors shared their impressions of the General Assembly Council while lifting up some excellent recommendations as to how the GAC could become an even better catalyst in connecting people across Christ’s church.
Leaving for the airport, I gave thanks to God for such vital witnesses to the reality that the church is alive!