A Message from Pastor Scott

Stepping Out in Faith

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This Easter was extremely moving for me. A huge part of this Holy Week’s meaning occurred because of the Peace Walk I participated in along with ten others from Westminster and a couple hundred others from area churches. There is something profound about physically walking with a large group of other people. There is an energy that a large group produces and multiplies. This is especially true when that group is focused on a common purpose. Peace!

I was too young to have walked in the Civil Rights Marches of the 1960’s. One of the pastors who spoke at the worship service walked with Martin Luther King, Jr. The pulpit they spoke from at First Christian Church was the same pulpit where Dr. King preached when he came to Des Moines and preached at First Christian. Aaron Smith, who acted in Westminster’s production of “Mountaintop,” reprised his role and preached the sermon Dr. King made famous at Riverside Church in New York City. The past and present were brought together.

Since I’ve been ordained, I’ve wondered whether I would have had the faith commitment and courage to drive south and walk with the Civil Rights leaders had I been a generation older. There was nothing courageous about walking in the Peace Walk this year. But that didn’t lessen the meaning. In fact, making the walk down University, without anxiety or fear, made it even more meaningful. It reminded me of how far we have come as a society.

Then I turned on the news, and was reminded of how far we still have to go. Our walk for peace, equality, and justice is not over. We have many more miles to walk together before real peace, equality, and justice is over. Walking together is not enough. For real change to take place, God must be invited along on our journey. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, whatever we do will end in failure. But I trust God believes in the cause of peace, equality, and justice. God will not leave us alone on this journey.

Next year, put Palm Sunday afternoon’s Peace Walk on your calendar. But also spend some time learning about other ways Westminster continues to bring peace, equality, and justice to our community and world. Come and walk through issues of immigration and sanctuary. Our call is to walk together so God’s peace, equality, and justice will continue to bring healing and wholeness to our oft-broken world. Together, let’s step out in faith!

Accepting God’s Call

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Board of Pensions invited me to attend a conference that would help me evaluate my ministry and what I wanted to do with the next phase of my life. There was a binder full of paperwork I needed to fill out before I arrived, and we worked hard, listening to speakers, meeting in small groups, worshiping, and reflecting on our learnings and what God is calling us to do with the time we have left in ministry. It was a remarkable experience.

One of the major learnings I gleaned from the experience is how fortunate I am that God called me to Westminster. While many of the 30+ ministers were considering a move or felt stuck in their position, I felt like my ministry was just beginning. I’ve had my share of challenges in the six-plus years I have been here, but together we have made many important and necessary changes, and are now prepared to move forward in faith.

I am excited by the ministry challenges we are addressing at Westminster. While we celebrate our ongoing commitment to issues like homelessness, equal marriage rights for gay people, the ethics of food, children’s issues - including but not limited to our Preschool and Wrap-Around care, etc. - we are also addressing the Biblical imperative to care for the stranger.

You will continue to hear about immigrant and refugee issues in the coming months. God has been pushing on my heart to address this issue for some time now. I believe God wants this issue to be at the forefront of Westminster’s ministry, because a number of other staff and members have also felt convicted by God to respond to those in need. The crass statements and disrespectful ambitions of the White House have forced many faithful Christians to get off the sidelines and put our money where our mouths are. God isn’t allowing many of us to stay silent one minute longer.

Throughout Scripture God has laid bare the sinful political structures that make scapegoats of a minority people. God came to the aid of the people enslaved in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. Jesus would not allow the Samaritans to be excluded by the Jewish community. And, throughout history God has held groups in contempt, when they belittled or excluded a minority group. Germany inflicted on themselves a terrible price for the sinful atrocities they committed in their concentration camps.

God is calling us, as members of Westminster and Christians around the world, to reach out to those who feel abandoned by society. Westminster will continue to be an example of love and compassion amidst an angry world. At the conference I attended, I realized how powerfully God is calling us to respond as a loving example amidst the violent rhetoric so prevalent from our political leadership. If I am forced to choose between the ethics of my President and my God, as a Christian I must choose God’s ethics! I wake up each morning excited by what God has in store for us today. We will be offering education and instruction on the Biblical principles of caring for the immigrant. We will also provide ways you can respond to God’s call in very meaningful and tangible ways. Come with an open heart and an open mind. See what God has in store for us. Together, with the Spirit’s guidance, we can do great things in God’s holy name!