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Inter-religious Friendship

Dear Friends,
Our neighbors in the Dulles have quite a story to share of 15 years of friendship. With thanksgiving for their witness to the gifts and grace of our shared faith the one God who is our creator, please take time to read these words of Rabbi Holzman from the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston to Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society regarding their worship in a shared space. This article is reprinted in The Presbyterian Outlook which is linked here. You can subscribe to The Outlook to keep up with Presbyterian mission and ministry around the world. Peace be with you.


From Bethlehem–Doug Dicks

Dear Friends,
This week we hear from our mission co-worker in Bethlehem, Doug Dicks. PC(USA) mission co-worker shares an update from the Holy Land  in the Presbyterian Outlook. Doug is a fellow Virginian who has served the peacemaking efforts of Israeli and Palestinian peoples for many years. While his letter dates from October 18, I hope you will be reminded that your church, both St. Andrew and the PC (USA) are engaged in sharing the love of God in Christ around the world, and particularly this week, in the place where our faith story began. 

Pray for Peace

“Our prayer list is long,” Doug Dicks said, heaving a big sigh after I asked him how we could help and how we could pray…On Tuesday, Oct. 10, he was scheduled to go to Gaza to connect two Church of Scotland pastors with partner organizations such as the Middle East Council of Churches — a group that helps young people in Gaza seek better employment through vocational training programs. That visit was canceled …”
This article appears in Presbyterian Outlook (and you can read it there by clicking the link) or in .pdf form from the read more link above.
PC(USA) mission co-worker shares an update from the Holy Land. Teri McDowell Ott speaks to Doug Dicks, the PC(USA) regional liaison to Israel, Palestine and Jordan. BY


Only Love


When I was in 7th grade World History, there were peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Our teacher decided to help us understand by having a class debate. I was so excited. I knew that I would get to argue for the Jews. My recent reconnection to my ancestry, and my living Jewish relatives had given me a new sense of identity and pride.

My assignment was to the side of the Palestinians. I was angry. But I was also a straight A student and was not about to lose a grade over being on the wrong side. (Wow—that’ll preach one day.)

Our team researched. We learned history and culture and current events. We learned rudimentary debate skills. The day arrived.

I got my A. More than that I learned for the first time what it really meant to walk in another’s shoes. Ever since, I have paid attention to the side of an argument that opposes my own perspective. I have since then also had a great empathy for the people of Palestine.

Hamas is a different story. I have no idea how to empathize with people who do what has been done. I don’t understand the level of trauma and inhumanity that must underlie a person’s ability to kill children with such heinous and vicious disregard. I can imagine that it can only be driven by a great and horrific loss and despair that is exploited by the greed and hatred and power of others. I suspect I know nothing of what these people are thinking and have experienced. I also cannot imagine there is any path to talking and diplomacy, though I can and do hope against hope that there is.

The only power I know that can defeat such a demonized and possessed people is the power of Christ’s love. Even so, it must be a love that is beyond what most of us are able to provide.

Unless we are also driven by that same loving Spirit. For at any given time, are we not all capable of a vicious retribution fueled by despair and traumatic soul-depleting injury? “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Or as is written in The Westminster Confession of Faith, 6.084,

“As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation;

so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.”

Thus, let us join in prayer,
“By your mercy, O Lord, pour out your Spirit upon the warriors as well as the terrorists that the killing may stop. Pour out your Spirit, O Christ, upon the peacemakers as well as the warlords that the killing may stop. Pour out justice and mercy, faith and hope, and above all love, O Spirit, that the killing may stop. Inspire in me an empathy that sees your image in my enemy that I might see the enemy within myself. Draw us together that we might be repentant, resurrected and whole, a new creation, forever dwelling in peace and unity. Through Christ, for Christ, in Christ, amen.”


Three MPH


He stood in front of a crowd worried about poverty, incarcerations, all the social worries of the day, and talked about evangelism. “The gospel moves at 3 mph. Like this,” and he turned and walked around the room greeting people.

The gospel spreads the way we walk our talk. It’s a slow-moving, transforming encounter with another in which people see each other, speak to each other, hear stories of their lives, worries of their days, and dreams of their futures. The gospel is good news because those who receive it know their existence is worth noting.

Just when I think I’ve come to terms with my inadequacy of making a difference, the sacrament of communion arrives and Jesus says, “come for dinner, I’ve got a surprise for you.”

At the table I see people from a variety of places in life. We are differently abled, all ages, histories that converge and diverge, sorrows and celebrations that are common if not the same. When I remember that on World Communion Sunday, I am acknowledging that the people I see visibly represent the whole church, in all times and in all places, I am remembering that the church is not a building. I remember that I have connections to people near and far. Some I know. Others I may never meet. And wherever they are, they want the same thing I do: world peace and healthy friendships, and hope.

For every devilish declaration that destruction and chaos are winning, there are millions of people who are walking examples of good news. You are one of them.

Moving at 3 mph – with every hand you shake, smile you give, listening ear you open, dream you support, tear you catch, skill you teach, you are the church making peace in the name of Jesus Christ.

We will once again collect the peacemaking offering. This is the gospel at a dollar at a time. Your contributions have built an early warning (cyclone/flooding) system in the south Pacific nation of Tuvalu, created programs for women and girls to avoid and escape human trafficking in Madagascar, and offered training for dismantling racism in our own presbytery. This, too, is the slow-moving spread of the gospel.

Do you wonder if you are alone in your own dreams for a world at peace, or a relationship healed? Maybe there is an answer for you. The table is ready and Christ calls, “Come for dinner….”

Keep shining saints!




More than a feeling

Is the sky falling?

Do you think everything is worse than it used to be?
Is poverty in the USA:  A) growing B) stable C) decreasing?

Surprise! It is C. in 1964, 19% of the population lived in poverty. In 2014, it was 14.8% and in 2022, it was 11.5%.

There are still too many people living in poverty. Yet, if we ignore the positive movement, we might lose hope and fail to continue the necessary efforts to give more people more avenues to a life of enough, and more than enough. We must rely on more than a feeling about how the world is changing and examine the facts. Things are improving–slowly but surely.

Forgive us our debts…

Sunday, we read the story of the forgiveness of debts. What a joyful way for someone to be freed from a life of poverty and impossibility. Many of you likely have a house debt, maybe car or credit card debt, maybe education debt. Perhaps you have found ways to manage and are paying it down.

Imagine if the number was so big, it would never end. Maybe you do not have to imagine. I do not have to imagine. When I was given the gift of paying off a debt, the freedom released so much within my soul that it was life-changing.

Whether the debt we forgive is a relational IOU or a financial one, grace moves life toward the good. Perhaps you forgive debts through services like Rise Against Hunger, or Food on the Fourth. You have another super-power.

You can vote. Which candidates see a handout as a handup, too? Which candidates support the most vulnerable, usually women, children, young adults just getting started, and seniors, often people of color, migrants?

Small Change, Compound Results

Because sometimes the gift is like offering a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. In God’s hands, all offerings are abundantly compounded. And debts are forgiven, removed as far as the east is from the west!
If we spend time judging the intentions of recipients, we will always miss the opportunities to bless the positive movement of so many others. Let us not regard small change as irrelevant. Let us offer it to God and see how God forgives our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Images “The sky is falling!” by BaileyRaeWeaver is licensed under CC BY 2.0.  Mead quote by JenTravelsLife is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


“Honest Patriotism”

Appeals and Investments

My phone is getting overloaded with texts and emails. It’s political season and the fundraising has kicked in. Do you respond to some? Do candidates or their messages inspire you to invest your hard-earned cash into their campaign for authority and power to manage the republic? What does it take to move you from irritated and annoyed to committed voter and funder?

Deciding Considerations

For some time, I have been thinking about how I want to use money when I am supporting something I think of as the greater good. This has made me consider my value system. I have to take time to process what an appeal includes that is in line with the things I believe. This means moving beyond bumper sticker campaign slogans and posts on social media.
I cannot dismiss one party’s candidates in favor of the other with a quick swipe across my Instagram page. I have to pay attention to details about their policies. When I do, I can begin to see how a common ground may emerge, a starting point for connections that otherwise are dismissed by our political divides and 30-second ugly marketing strategies. (There’s a link below for some starting points.)

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God,

and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. (Rom. 13:1)

My Ever-emerging Decision Process

My strategy is based on character, community, and commandments.

Character: how closely do they mirror the life of my inspiration, Jesus.

     Key aspects-
  • a broadening welcome of people no matter where they come from or who they are,
  • invitational in that options open up for overcoming histories of personal and societal failures
  • interdependent, able to articulate personal positions without diminishing those who differ (unless they’re pharisaical ways lead to murder plots!).
  • truth seeker and truth teller

Community:  what kind of society did Jesus build with his disciples, what is the nature of the promised land of Israel’s hope.

     Key aspects:
  • become more clear in what I think “on earth as in heaven,” means and discern the ways a platform seeks that outcome,
  • Diminishing poverty, ending hunger and lack of clean water, and provision of shelter at the least,
  • shared wealth that builds prosperity for all,
  • promotion of non-violent settlement of conflicts,
  • exhaustive pursuit of forgiveness and cooperation.
Commandments: The three uses of the law are to show us
  • how far we need to go toward building a heavenly peace,
  • to restrain our tendencies toward apathy for the well-being of others, and
  • to cast the vision of God’s intention for a whole and holy creation.

The 10 Commandments lay it out pretty well. The 2 Great Commandments make it even more clear: love the Divine Creator of all that is and love the creatures, including ourselves, that Creator makes.

How will you decide?

I invite you to have a conversation with your trusted friends about the actual values that drive your vote, your contributions, your investments in our political process.
If you want to read about the Presbyterian understanding of our duty as citizens in the public arena, here’s a link to “Honest Patriotism.”  It is a beginning conversation on the importance of truth and what being patriotic is from a Scriptural and Reformed theology point of view. https://www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/honest-patriotism/


2022 Blog Posts are archived HERE.