Thursday, October 02, 2008

Praying For Peace As A People

We need more churches like Idlewild Presbyterian Church.

If you are Christian, you may be like us. We tire from our faith being high jacked by a minority who uses it as a whip to lash anyone who disagrees politically, who has a different lifestyle or who professes a different worldview based on their understanding of sacred texts.

It’s awfully hard to see something so central to our personal lives reduced to glib bumper stickers and political slogans. It’s equally hard to see Christ’s words about love, charity and inclusion used to justify behaviors that seem more accurately to reflect hate, greed and exclusion.

That’s why churches like Idlewild Presbyterian – and other churches with similar approaches to their faith - give us hope. We admit that we’re prejudiced, but Idlewild reminds us that we have reasons to be extraordinarily proud of our faith if we are Christians and proud of our city if we are Memphians.

In a ministry from the pulpit and from the streets, the church has, in an age when congregations are redefining themselves in the name of membership and budgets, did something more elegant: it remained true to its traditions and used them as the foundation for a contemporary ministry that speaks distinctly to the city that it serves.

Pride, hope and service are messages and attitudes that we need now more than any time since the fabled Yellow Fever epidemics as we confront intractable urban problems that demand the best efforts and concerted attention of all of us.

We give credit to Rev. Dr. Steve Montgomery who waves it away to credit a congregation of families that have long included the well-known names of Memphis’ historic families and who have opened their arms to their city and all of its people as the church creates a 21st century ministry.

That is especially true this Sunday when the church invites all Memphians to be part of World Communion and Peacemaking Sunday when the grand architecture of Idlewild Presbyterian Church is complemented by art hangings designed by Woon Sik (Timothy) Chon and based on children’s visions of peace. The hangings were made by church members and hang in the 144 “portals of peace” in the church.

At 3 p.m., an Interfaith Worship Service will be held, and guest minister is Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, author and advocate for the interconnecting virtues of faith and justice. Central High Schools choirs will provide the music. So far, more than 125 religious partners of various faiths are joining together to offer up much-needed prayers for peace.


suzie q said...

I guess a lot has changed in the past 15 - 20 years. My (private, non-denominational) high school graduation was at Idlewild, and the preacher there was asked to give the commencement speech. Instead he gave a speech about what Presbyterians believe. He went into a long rant about how homosexuality is a sin that should not be tolerated. Again, this was supposed to be a commencement speech at a high school graduation. It was completely inappropriate of the preacher to use that time to rail against others. If my parents and grandmother had not been in the audience, I would have walked out.

I am glad to hear that they now have a supposedly more open, loving preacher, but I am still wary of a congregation that would have listened to and approved of the hate-filled rants coming from that same pulpit not all that long ago.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I travel 100 miles round trip to Idlewild every Sunday morning to hear Rev.Steve and staff ~ then again on Thurs. mornings to hear Brooks Ramsey. This is the most open-minded church we have found in Memphis and it is worth the drive. Their message is strongly inclusive not just of marginalized groups, i.e. the homeless, the hungry, gays and lesbians...but inclusive of other faith groups, as well.

I chair the committee that led the Portals of Peace project and I can tell you, this Sunday at 3:00 will be a powerful statement from our congregation to all people in a call for unity and peace. We are excited to be joining hands with Buddists, Muslims, Jews and many other Christians as well ~ all around the globe in Prayers for Peace. We would love for you to join us and see for yourself!