This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. David and Ruth Watermulder Theologian-in-Residence lecture series. The goal at the time was simple. As Dr. Eugene Bay described it in a letter to the Watermulders, the plan was to bring to BMPC on an annual basis, some prominent churchman or churchwoman, who would be in residence for up to a week’s time, teaching, lecturing, and preaching.
Named in honor of the Watermulders and in celebration of their leadership to this congregation and community, the list of those prominent churchmen and churchwomen reads like a retrospective of the most creative and thoughtful biblical and theological minds of the past and current generation. In this anniversary year, we are so grateful to welcome the Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston as our Theologian in Residence, adding to the illustrious list of those who have come before.
In his most recent book, Elusive Grace, Dr. Black Johnston begins with the story of a visit that he and fellow Presbyterian pastor Patrick O’Connor made to pray with then President-elect Donald Trump. Both Scott, as the pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church across the street from Trump Tower, and Patrick, as pastor of the Trump family congregation in Queens, felt a calling to reach out in that moment in prayer for our nation moving forward.
To say that the reaction to this act of prayer was “mixed” is an understatement.
Seven years later this is still a moment of high anxiety and conflict in our nation, in our communities and even within some of our own families. That makes the topics of this weekend’s presentations incredibly apt, Fight Like Jesus: How Faith Can Inform Conflict. In his two lectures and Sunday worship, Scott will help us reflect on the wisdom offered to us in scripture for how we experience healthy conflict and how we seek reconciliation.
In Elusive Grace, he writes this on the topic of loving your enemies:
“Sometimes all it takes to lose an enemy is to see a rival as a human, to see them as worth regarding, to see them as bigger than the caricatures our minds have drawn, to see their challenges, to appreciate where they have come from, to listen to their story, all while enjoying a piece of pie together, a delicious slice of grace.
Grace is a game changer. It upends the rules of engagement. It changes us. It changes others. It frees us from everlasting spirals of anger and revenge and opens us to an elusive possibility: peace. Peace with our enemies, and peace within our broken hearts.”
In these days we all are in desperate need of a measure of grace with one another and with ourselves. Come and reflect with us on what that kind of grace looks like for us as a community of believers committed to being engaged in the world around us.
Join us this Saturday at 10:00 a.m. in Congregational Hall, as well as on Sunday in the Sanctuary worship service, and finally again in Congregational Hall at 11:15 a.m. for all our Theologian-In-Residence activities.