"There is an intellectual desire, an eros of the mind. Without it there would arise no questioning, no inquiry, no wonder." Bernard Lonergan

"It seems clear that humans cannot significantly reduce or mitigate the dangers inherent in their use of life by ccumulating more information or better theories or by achieving greater predictability or more caution in their scientific and industrial work. To treat life as less than a miracle is to give up on it." Wendell Berry

"Do not be afraid, my little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


      This past weekend I had the privilege of preaching at the New Hope Presbyterian Church annual homecoming service. New Hope Presbyterian sits along Highway 86 between Hillsborough and Chapel Hill. The congregation is 259 years old.
The church, like many colonial churches, owns and manages hundreds of acres. Over the years the acreage has evolved. Along with a camp and a wooded park-like area, the church manages a very large, very old cemetery at the bottom of the hill along the highway. Grave after grave tells a story of family, faith, and trust in God.
In one section of the cemetery there is a succession of graves marked simply “unknown.” In my first look these markers made me sad. Who were these people? Why were their lives and stories unknown?
As I stood there and thought and meditated a little longer, though, I saw the markers in another light. Even though they were unknown people and souls, they were there alongside those who were well known, who were pillars of the community, whose families had tilled and shaped the very soil upon which the church stands. The church was caring for them, even though they were unknowns, in the only way they could be cared for. In this new light I saw that the markers, though they made me sad, said something important about the faith and perseverance of the church itself.
A church is called to be a steward of many things. At White Memorial, we believe we are called to be stewards of multiple levels of abundance. We enjoy an abundance of resources, talents, insights, know-how and abilities in our church. All of this abundance contributes to our stewardship of the future.
Back at the cemetery, I saw for one of the few times in my life that parts of the past could be unknown. While I was in worship, I was reminded that the future is always unknown. Acts of stewardship are acts of faith as the stewards trust God to provide in the days to come. Stewardship is always a future-oriented project. 
Every now and then someone will send me an article from a “churchy” publication.  Most of these articles predict impending doom for the church in North America. Most of these publications draw straight lines between denominational struggles and decline and the diminishing of the centrality of church life in the lives of many Americans. These articles always get my attention.
But then I am reminded that the future is yet to be written. I am reminded that the future is a big unknown. I am reminded that ours is God’s church, and the church endures because God wills it so. It is like that old line from the gospel tradition: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”

In the coming days we begin to build that future again as our fall ministry efforts get underway. We begin so many wonderful studies, opportunities to serve and chances to grow in faith together. Won’t you join us? In this way we might be known to each other, and in this knowledge contribute to a future worthy of our faith.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Letter to Members of White Memorial Presbyterian Church - Pastoral Prirority

Reading over my sermons from the past year, I can see a trend: in the wake of challenges around race, politics, violence and social change, we hold it to be true that the church is called to continue her mission. At White Memorial we understand that mission to be worshipping, embracing and serving in the manner of Christ. No matter what has been or what may come, we are resolved as a church family to offer our best to God and neighbors.

Over the past 11 months, our church has been engaged in a slow, methodical, honest and deliberate conversation about marriage because our attitudes, as Americans, about marriage are shifting. Conversations about marriage and our changing understandings of marriage are complex. Marriage has always been a very personal part of our common faith. That couples should offer their best to one another in covenantal promise is evident to anyone who studies God’s Word. That families benefit from the stability that a healthy marriage produces is beyond question. Given these truths, the question before us is this: who should be able to marry—only some, or everyone?

This conversation began last August, when I preached a sermon entitled A Pastor’s Prayer During Days of Division. It continued as a small group of elders from our Session (our governing body) met to discuss and pray about the place of marriage and the possibility of same-gender marriage in the Presbyterian Church and at White Memorial. As outgrowths of that working group, we have held a congregation-wide forum, offered a five-week class on marriage, written newsletter articles, distributed packets of resources about marriage, visited and talked with Church School classes and had hundreds and hundreds of conversations about marriage, same-gender marriage and the pastoral and biblical claims which frame the issue. In all of these efforts, we have tried to employ a pastoral priority— we have listened to all perspectives because White Memorial as a church body has all viewpoints. We have cried tears with those who hope that same-gender marriage will not happen in our church, those who hope it will happen at White Memorial very soon and those who wish the pain surrounding the issue would just go away.

I am committed to placing all of my energy into holding our church family together in light of the dynamic and quickly changing conversations around marriage in our culture, in our homes and in our church. This is my pastoral priority.

Last fall your Session voted to suspend any decisions about same-gender marriage at White Memorial Presbyterian Church until the will of the national church was known and the laws of North Carolina and our nation were fully understood. With the passage of new language in our Presbyterian Church Book of Order allowing for same-gender marriages and the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, our Session will once again take up the topic as to whether or not same-gender wedding services will be allowed on White Memorial’s campus. At its stated meeting on August 9, our Session will be engaged in prayer and discussion around the issue. This is to prepare for a decision at its September 13 meeting. Our priority as a church family is pastoral integrity as it fuels an ethos of kindness and compassion. It strikes me that the mark of a healthy family is its ability to love beyond its disagreements and uncertainties. The priority will be pastoral as we care for one another and work side-by-side with one another in our common ministry.

In light of these upcoming Session meetings, I invite you, our church family, to write the Session as you feel called to do so. All signed letters received in our church office by September 1 will be shared with the Session. Letters need to be written and mailed or emailed to me and/or my assistant, Rebecca Turner (our email addresses are available on the website). Should you need to write in pastoral privacy to share your feelings without the Session being copied, simply state that desire in your letter. You know that you may schedule a meeting with any of our pastors to discuss or pray about this very personal and complicated matter. My hope is that this invitation to communicate will be part of our larger conversation—honest, deliberate, methodical conversation—about marriage.

Whether you write or not, please pray for our church. There are many concerned folks in our congregation, on all sides of the question. Families pray for one another in times of stress and confusion. Let us do nothing less, and let us give our best energies to the commitment to embrace one another through patience and compassion.

 May grace abound, Christopher Edmonston