I’ve decided that funerals make sense on Christmas Eve or really anytime in Advent. I just returned from a funeral for the mother of a church friend. She had lived a full 87 years of life and was married for over 60 of those years. The heavens cried with rain and the songs, prayers and rituals urged us forward.
Courage to move forward in the midst of pain is all the more difficult when surrounded by sugarplums, sparkling lights, and piles of packages.
In my almost five years of service with and or our church our Presbyterian seminaries, I have found our schools to truly be the "crowned jewels" of the PC(USA) that Michael Lindvall, Linda Valentine, and others call them. Their faculties, staffs, trustees, alumni, campuses, libraries, programs, and storied histories light up the PC(USA) as bright as the lights on my Christmas tree.
But that does not mean they have it easy. The economic recession continues to have a dramatic effect on theological education, but that is not all. The church is changing. Congregations and denominations are not just smaller; they are becoming more and more contextual in their approach. The one-size-fits-all approach that standardized so much of how congregations operated for the last 50-60 years is more the exception than the rule.
This makes preparing leaders for the church an adaptive opportunity, but not an easy one. Dollars are difficult to come by and the demands on and expectations of seminaries are higher and more than ever.
So when a longtime servant of the church that could ease into retirement after a full ministry takes on the challenge of a seminary presidency all I can call that person is courageous.
This Christmas, I give thanks for those with the courage to see through the tears and toward hope about to be born anew. The Rev. Dr. Laird J. Stuart, pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco is just such a person. Yesterday, December 23rd, San Francisco Theological Seminary received an early Christmas gift: the announcement of Dr. Stuart as Interim President of SFTS beginning in March 2010.
My Christmas prayer: May those who hold leadership positions lead with courage to see beyond the fog of death that seems to surround with vision to see and welcome unexpected gifts that arrive at unexpected times… even God’s creative transformation with us, Emmanuel, here and now.
Merry Christmas to you and yours,
Lee in Louisville