What are the stories you tell about being Presbyterian? “The Frozen Chosen” jokes come up a lot in my experience, almost as often as the jokes about forming a committee for the menial tasks of life. Presbyterians are lovers of the word, have a long history as advocates for education, and hold a lose claim to being the architects of representational democracy in the US: all stories I’ve been told about us. There are many ways that people shorthand what it means to be Presbyterian, to be Christian, to be part of a particular congregation.

Much wisdom has been handed down and shared among us about the stories we’re commanded to tell others, as part of our faith. Equally interesting to me, in this moment in the life of the body, are the stories we tell ourselves. What is the story you tell yourself about what it means to be a part of your church? Is it a story that is always set to the soundtrack of Bruce Springsteen’s Glory Days? A nostalgic story? A story about who we’re not anymore, but used to be? Is it a story of possibility or a story of limitation? A story of who we could be, if only…?

I’ve heard the way some of us talk about ourselves as church: anxious, nostalgic, apologetic. Across the table at Session meetings, at coffee hour after worship, around the dinner table when we update our families about what’s going on with our church. I’ve been guilty of telling myself some of those stories about what my congregations can’t do and who we aren’t anymore.

But as I’ve been out in our Synod for several months, meeting people and congregations, I want to tell you, I’ve started to hear some new stories. Like the story of a congregation in the suburbs of central Ohio, that with about 60 members, mostly senior citizens, decided they could begin an annual small grants program for their community. Now several years in a row, through the generosity of community and church members, they have been able to grant youth development programs, a feeding program and creative endeavors at community non-profits, building relationships as they go. This amazes me! That at a point in the plot development of a congregation that we often tell as “we’re too small now, we’re too old to really impact our community anymore,” this congregation chose to tell their story as “what we still have, we can give.”

I’ve heard the story of another congregation that during the school year increases in size, one year to almost double, because they have made themselves a place where international students from the local university are welcomed and cared for, fed in body and soul. A story as old as our faith, divine grace shared among strangers and friends around a table, that this congregation believed they could tell again in a new time and space. 

I’ve heard the story of one of our presbyteries in Michigan who has worked to tell the true story of the past. Joining their story to the recommendations of the PCUSA about apologizing for the sin of slavery, its legacy and our church’s historic complicity therein (read it here- https://www.pc-biz.org/#/search/3000895 ). In rendering this challenging story of confession, repentance, and openness to healing, this presbytery has engaged their local politicians, ecumenical partners, community organizations and members in and outside of the church. Perhaps most importantly, they have shaped a new story about themselves, as those who may have inherited the brokenness of racism, but will not succumb to it without a fight.

These stories began in the hearts of the people and communities that believed they could be. They were stories that someone(s) dared to tell about themselves and what it could mean to be a community of faith together. So again, for all of our edification, I ask what is the story that you tell yourself about who we are? Could it be a story of possibility? Could it be a story of joy in the midst of struggle? Could it be a story of transformation? A story of legacy that lives in a new way? A story that heals? One that invites us to something bigger than our past, bigger than ourselves?

As we gear up, in many places, for the start of a new program year, I wonder if this is a question worth our contemplation. Our faith is built on the power of stories, from the witness of our ancestors in faith to the parable teachings of Jesus. With that spiritual inheritance, Church, how could we believe that the stories we tell have any less power to shape our reality? In this season, my prayer for you and for me is that, inspired by the stories of our siblings, we would let our own stories of hope, power and healing emerge. And may our stories, new and old, bless our God and build up God’s people.

Peace and Love,

Rev. Lindsey Anderson                                

Organizer of Synod Communities of Color           


248-729-2415 ext. 6