Skip to main content

One American Story

Perhaps it’s fitting that, as a Presbyterian, my first post on this blog happens to fall on Independence Day. Presbyterianism is, by definition, a system of church governance by representative assemblies, so Presbyterians love to claim an influence on the United States system of government! King George III apparently referred to the War for Independence as “that Presbyterian revolt.” Twelve signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterians, including the only clergyman, John Witherspoon. According to the Presbyterian Historical Society:
"Presbyterians were only one of the reformed denominations that dominated American colonial life at the time of the Revolutionary War. Presbyterians participated in the writing of state and national constitutions. Reformed views of God's sovereignty and of human sinfulness moved the new nation toward checks and balances and separation of powers." 
And Long Island boasts seven of the eight oldest Presbyterian congregations in the country, with the Southampton and Southold churches as the earliest (both established in 1640 by Calvinist Puritans from the Massachusetts Bay Colony). The Setauket church was among those early eight, founded in 1660.[1]
            Like all faiths and denominations, Presbyterians wrestle with the kind of nostalgia and challenges that emerge from its history, especially as history pulls us forward and gives us perspective on where we’ve been. From our roots in John Calvin’s theology, through the rebelliousness of the American colonies, division over slavery in the 19th century, controversies over civil and women’s rights in the 20th century, and declining membership today, Presbyterians have always debated about how to live out our faith in a changing world. I am ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), a denomination that is proud of its early, spunky history arising out of the Protestant Reformation and Calvinism in Scotland, and we understand ourselves as a “church Reformed, always reforming.” But that “always reforming” part is never easy. For example, we have much to confront in our American story about privilege and participation in systems of division and oppression.
            So we meet and worship and talk and study and learn and argue together (endlessly—we are notorious for our committees!). We seek wisdom from scripture and from the example of Jesus, first and foremost; but we also understand God to self-reveal in a myriad of ways that requires our openness to the Spirit of God working in the world.
            I continue to learn a great deal about God from other faith traditions; God is so much bigger than Presbyterians can understand on their own. Interfaith relationships and conversations are essential to my own faith journey, and I believe strongly that there is nothing more American than the diversity of experience, tradition, and belief represented on this page. This Fourth of July, I celebrate each of our unique American stories and the common story we are building together. It is our history and our hope.
- Rev. Kate Jones Calone


[1] https://www.history.pcusa.org/blog/2014/11/long-island-presbyterians-our-puritan-beginnings

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Time

My mind has been thinking about time and how it seems to be different now with all of what is happening. First there is COVID-19 and our stay-in-place semi-lockdown.  For those who have full-time jobs, and even for those who don't, we schedule things around moments in time.  Our lives are routine-based:  when we get up, when we eat, when we work, when we have time for family, when we have time to ourselves, when we sleep, etc.  When our routines are disrupted, many of us feel out of sorts or even lost.  What happened?  Why is this happening?  When is it (routine) coming back?  I've heard that there are many Americans who find it difficult to take a vacation, a real vacation of a week or two, because it takes them away from their work for too long.  As we are gradually allowed to come back to our former lives before COVID-19, perhaps we will have a better sense of time, our old time.  But then again, maybe time will never be the same.      George Floyd was killed senselessly an

Make even these days count

One of the most popular features on a local newscast of a small TV station is something rather surprising. It is a feature called- “The Day of the Week”.  Today is…….. Monday!  The station put forth this as a kind of joke at first, but it was so popular that it became a regular daily addition to the morning newscast.  Apparently, so many of us have lost track of what day it is that we need a reminder. During this stay-at-home time, every day seems to blend into the next.  It is truly difficult to remember how many days we have all been quarantined at home, what the date is and what day of the week it is.  Many of us have a few markers that help- jobs that pause for the weekend, celebrations of Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays- special days of worship.  But even with these, the days seem to bleed into each other like a striped shirt washed in hot water. The period that we are in right now in the Jewish calendar is ironically, a time of counting. A time when we purposely try to keep
Compassion On the radio a few days ago there was a piece about refugees arriving by boat to the shores of a country that in the past had been welcoming, but this time people were yelling angrily and running into the water to block the boats from landing.   The boats were full and there were children on board. The turmoil and anger in the crowd was audible. I don’t speak their language, but the reporter said that people blocking the boats were shouting “Go back home. We don’t care about the babies.” I was repulsed. I could not stop thinking about it. “We don’t care about the babies.” What would it take for me to say that? For my friends to say that? My neighbors? Horrible thought, that people I know might be moved to yell at desperate people “We don’t care about the babies.” I started to ask myself how that could happen, what it would feel like to push away needy people and shout “I don’t care about the babies.” Please don’t stop reading when I tell you that suddenly my hea