April 1, 2019
I'm Giving up Social Media for Lent!
 by The Rev. David Willerup,
Pastor of Havenwood Presbyterian Church

I said goodbye to Facebook on Ash Wednesday after over ten years of daily use. I started using the site to reconnect with old friends, share funny stories, and offer prayer and counsel. I would apologize to those whom I'd hurt when I was young and found such grace offered back. I even used the site to find those who tormented and bullied me and extend them forgiveness.

All of that was beautiful and life-giving. It wasn't long before I saw the value of Facebook as a tool to organize and promote; and, gradually, it became a place where I shaped and sharpened my positions in theological and political debates, practiced advocacy for Christian principles, and moderated conversations on current events. Not that I did these things well, but I did them nonetheless. 

But Facebook was also a massive time-suck where divisiveness thrives. People can be downright ugly to one another, jumping to conclusions about a person's entire world view from just a single sentence. Algorithms produced by social media companies designed to keep you interacting on their platforms don't help, either. They feed you a higher percentage of viewpoints reflective of your own opinions, which lulls folks into making simplistic conclusions because others aren't around to offer a welcome challenge.

If you want civil dialogue on social media, you've got to curate it, set good boundaries for it and encourage diverse thinking. I didn't do that well. What I found fed to my page just made me angry. A near constant stream of stories about the abuse of families and children at the border, police misconduct, heartless immigration crackdowns, intentionally ignorant climate policy, disqualifying improprieties in leadership, systemic abuses of non-white, non-male, non- cisgender people and so on filled my page -- and, I allowed myself to be trapped in that loop.

Check that. I invited it but to what end? Do these thought silos and echo chambers driven by algorithms designed to keep you scrolling and clicking actually change a blessed thing? The answer is not "no." They give civil people a place to be uncivil, and uncivil people a place to be hateful, and hateful people a forum to act on their hate and inspire others to do the same.

This fast from Facebook is helping me understand what is good and necessary about the role of social media in the lives of Christians as well. For example, I saw a couple of people in church that I hadn't seen in a while and realized I genuinely missed them. Their absence from worship at other times wasn't such a big deal because we'd interact frequently online, and I value that relationship. I do miss the online clergy, professional, and hobbyist groups that fed good and inspiring things. I miss hearing what family is up to and the quirky things my sister posts. There's grace in these.

Finally, my attention is drawn more to the people who are actually around me. As one who believes Christians are called to "rejoice with those who rejoice and grieve with those who grieve," that emotionally complicated news feed proved to be too much. From post to post it would jump from funny to grieving to sarcastic to mundane to celebratory to angry to offensive to hopeful. It is much better to interact with the reality around me than deal with a string of posts that ultimately exceeded my bandwidth and, some days, tapped me dry.

Peace to you,
Pastor Dave
In observance of Holy Week, the Presbytery will be closed April 19-22 and reopen for business on Tuesday, Apr. 23.
Presbytery & Church-wide
Click notice above for details . . .

Tax Break for Clergy Housing Found Constitutional

A federal appeals court has approved tax-free housing allowances for ministers of the gospel, overturning a lower court decision that found the 60-year-old benefit unconstitutional.

Confirmed Dates for the Dismantling Racism Training in 2019

Monday, May 20, 2019 at Chestnut Grove PC
(3701 Sweet Air Road, Phoenix, MD 21131), 8:30am to 5pm.
Morning refreshments and Lunch are provided
Registration Fee is $20 . Registration Opens in March
Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Location TBA.
Registration opens in August 2019.
Each year we look forward to the annual meetings for Clerks Session for training and to review of Session Records. The following is a list of meetings for the Baltimore metropolitan area.

  • Saturday, Apr. 27, 10am, 1st PC of Bel Air, Jack Carlson

  • Sunday, May 19, 2pm, Harundale PC, Jack Carlson

  • Wednesday, May 29, 7pm, 1st PC of Howard County, Mary Gaut

  • Saturday, June 8, 10am, Govans PC, Mary Gaut
Good Friday Stations of Love Labyrinth Walk at 4pm on Friday, Apr. 19 at Maryland Presbyteria n C hu rch . Come experience a contemplative labyrinth walk with simple meditations on the Love of Christ. Lorie Conway, a Spiritual Director, will guide you through the Stations of Love to the center of the labyrinth.

The Endless Night: A Passion Play
The Endless Night imagines what it was like to be standing at Jesus’ crucifixion. Through a series of monologues and popular songs, we step inside the thoughts and feelings of those deeply impacted by Jesus’ love, still unsure of what His suffering means for them. The Endless Night connects this ancient story to our modern lives to feel the power of a life lived in love; the power of a life given in sacrifice.
Friday, Apr. 19 at 7:30pm
Hunting Ridge Presbyterian Church www.huntingridgechurch.org
Book Sale at Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church.
Prince of Peace in Crofton seeks donations for its annual Used Book & Media sale, to be held the last weekend of April. Donations of books, CDs, DVDs, computer games, and audio books can be dropped off on the church's front walkway at any time (1657 Crofton Parkway).
he sale itself will be held on April 26 (5 - 9 pm) and 27 (8 am - 4 pm) at the church. On Saturday, the church also hosts a yard sale, bake sale, and pit beef sandwich sale. Just next door is Crofton's Festival on the Green.

Please call the church office, 410-721-2313, with any questions.

TE Jenny Williams will facilitate a 6-session time of prayer and reflection Monday evenings, 3/11/19 through 4/15/19, 7pm to 8:30pm at the Church of the Redeemer. Guided by the work Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life by Henri Nouwen and with a focus on Lenten themes, the sessions are designed to encourage the intentional creation of a time for contemplation and reflection in our daily life and to share the same in a weekly community practice. This is a program of Inner Harbor Wellness. Contact Jenny if you would like to attend: jennywilliams1800@gmail.com or all 410.523.3961.
Presbytery of Baltimore | (t) 410.433.2012 | (f) 410.433.2066| office@baltimorepresbytery.org |