Dear Friends in Christ,

When elders elect are installed and ordained to office one of the questions they are asked is the following, “Will you be a faithful ruling elder and will you share in government and discipline, serving councils of the church, and in your ministry will you try to show the love and justice of Jesus Christ?” (from the Book of Order)

Last Saturday was a beautiful day in the low country. It was a good day to soak up warm sunshine, work a flower bed, stroll the Waterfront Park or downtown Beaufort, enjoy an outdoor café, meander along a creek bank, or maybe play a quick round of golf or tennis.

Surrounded by hints of pending springtime, several of us traveled to the Harbor View Presbyterian Church on James Island early Saturday morning to participate in the Winter Stated Meeting of the Charleston Atlantic Presbytery. Richard Norris and Darryl Poovey represented our Session Council. Also attending were Steve Keeler (Committee on Ministry) and Jack Miller (Committee on Church & Society) along with Kay who is a current member of the presbytery’s Committee on Preparation, an elected group of people who interview and counsel candidates who are exploring a possible call to the ordered ministry of word and sacrament. The agenda and docket were nearly an inch thick. Needless to say, the majority of the day was devoted to the work and mission of the church.

Our time together began with the celebration of worship, an hour filled with the liturgy of song and prayer, reading of Scripture and proclamation of the good news, and finally the breaking of bread and sharing the cup all of which served to remind us that we are sisters and brothers in Christ and part of a church of over 10,000 congregations connected by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Jim Deavor, an elder in a local congregation, a science professor at the College of Charleston, and outgoing moderator of the presbytery, (Ashley Sanders was installed as our new moderator), used the text from Luke 10:25-37 to develop a sermon around the theme of “Who Is My Neighbor?” The point was made that our neighborhoods and churches are experiencing a season of change. Because of urban sprawl, tight schedules, technology, and a fast-paced life, among other factors, long gone are the tight-knit neighborhoods where we shared front porches in the evening and kept a close eye on each other’s children. And yet, the story of the Good Samaritan reminds us of the importance of taking note of who is around us, of spending time with others. Through the years I have always respected a definition for the word neighbor provided by the theologian Hans Kung. Who is my neighbor? Our neighbor is the person who needs us in the here and now.

My friend Jim Deavor was preparing us by way of his sermon for an event later in the morning when the forty nine churches of our presbytery were divided into nine different neighborhoods. Meeting in different areas around the church campus, folks from Sea Island met with neighbors from the Beaufort Salem Presbyterian Church; First Presbyterian Church, Beaufort; Lowcountry Presbyterian Church, Bluffton; First Presbyterian Church, Hilton Head Island; and the Providence Presbyterian Church, Sea Pines. In the time frame of one hour, we shared joys and concerns, and explored different ways we might be able to share in worship, mission, and fellowship as we experience the grace of being connected in Christian community. In closing, we can anticipate several future events and venues where we will be invited to join friends from other congregations. Seeking to be aware of what is happening in the life of the church beyond our campus, praying for the faithful witness of the church and its well-being for the sake of Christ and the gospel, may we begin to develop the resolve and make the commitment to invest who we are with those around us, our neighbors, as we pray that they, too, will make the same commitment to invest who they are with us. May the peace and grace of Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

+ Pastor Steve