Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ...
It is time to bid farewell to a tumultuous and unpredictable 2016, and to turn our attention to a new year that promises to be equally uncertain and disquieting. Along with many of you who will read this message, I view the changes unfolding in Washington with alarm, as we see great challenges posed to the progress we have made in race relations, international peace, the environment, health care, acceptance of the LGBTQ community, and welcome to immigrants.
But for all of us, one thing is certain: God is calling the Church of Jesus Christ to make a faithful response to these challenges. For some, this will mean direct engagement in the political process, or a new and deeper commitment to outreach with various communities. For others, it may mean undertaking new study and learning about the issues which face us as a nation and as a church, to find new ways to respond. For still others, it may mean a deeper involvement with our particular communities of faith, as we seek strength and guidance through spiritual companionship.
And for all of us, as the New Year dawns, we must be rededicated to faithfulness in worship and renewal in our prayer life, so that we maintain both the corporate and individual connection to God that we always see in Scripture. No progress can be protected and no advances made apart from these twin disciplines of the spirit.
By the same token, supported by these same disciplines, I am confident that the individual Presbyterians and the churches of this Presbytery will remain faithful. Here are some of the signs: We have already made a commitment to continue into 2017 our ongoing conversations in Race, Class and Poverty. This year we will be making a special effort to broaden that conversation by intentionally lifting up the socio-economic aspects of this theme. Another sign is that our mission Partnerships continue to thrive and develop. I'm very excited about making my first trip to Cuba in February. Yet another is the new initiatives emerging from all three of our Commissions and from our six Ministry Groups. The Presbytery of Baltimore is a good place to be a Presbyterian; more importantly, the ideas, creativity, and spiritual energy here make it a good place to live out one's faith in Jesus Christ in these unsettling times.
And in that regard, let me take this opportunity to say "Thank you" to all the officers of the Presbytery serving alongside me, the Commissions and Committees who labor so faithfully, and Ministry Group leaders and members who embody the Presbytery from one end of Maryland to the other. And let me add my heartfelt gratitude to the entire Staff of the Presbytery of Baltimore, all of whom serve Christ's Church with dedication and distinction.
So even though 2017 promises many more challenges than easy assurances, as the new year begins, I offer the encouragement of Scripture:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us