Reformed and always reforming. This is one of the denominational mantras for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The Rev. Keith Grogg, pastor of Montreat Presbyterian Church and the July 16th guest preacher for Montreat Conference Center’s summer worship series, says this commitment is one of the biggest challenges facing Christians today.
“Tectonic plates are shifting underneath us,” he says, “and many things that we have understood about what it means to be Church may not apply in the next era.
“Our age has a foot on both sides of a historic line of division. It’s a tremendously exciting time with a lot of challenges, and the Spirit seems to be moving us into some new directions that keep catching me, for one, by surprise.”
Rev. Grogg came to Montreat Presbyterian in 2014 from Carolina Beach, NC, though he has been coming to Montreat since his wife, Vivian Hare, first introduced him to it almost 30 years ago. “For 20 years I brought youth groups here for the youth conferences, and Vivian and I came here with our family at least once a year and brought other church members to various events.”
Now, Montreat is home to him and the centerpiece of his ministry.
“I still wake up every day amazed and grateful – grateful to be among these amazing people and in the astonishing natural beauty of this environment. It can be a profoundly spiritual place.”
Rev. Grogg answered the call when Rev. Amy Butler, pastor of The Riverside Church in New York, originally scheduled to fill the pulpit on July 16, had to cancel due to a last minute conflict.
“I was very sorry to hear she was not going to be able to come. And then I was tremendously thrilled, seriously humbled, to be entrusted with stepping into that pulpit on relatively short notice.”
A native of Bloomington, IL, Rev. Grogg graduated from Indiana University in 1989 and spent the next year as a PC(USA) mission volunteer in Bedford, England, working at St. Andrew’s (Anglican) Church through the Time for God program.
“The combination of my Presbyterian upbringing and that year’s exposure to full time church work, with a spiritually bracing liturgical life, convinced me to think about whether God was calling me to pastoral ministry.”
Rev. Grogg will be preaching from the lectionary passage in Genesis: Rebekah is carrying Jacob and Esau, who even before they’re born are already struggling with each other. And that’s when Rebekah begins a conversation with God.
“She makes a conscious decision to turn to God, perhaps choosing hope over despair, which strikes me as relevant for a lot of people right now.
“I think the fact that we humans are able to experience awe prepares us for dialogue with our Creator. We are reaching out across an impossible chasm, and astonishingly, we are met by an embrace from the other side. God remains intimately involved with us. The ability to interact with that while still sitting there slack-jawed at the majesty of it is a gift to humankind, a gift that waits for us to open it again every day.”
Keeping in touch with God and with each other is particularly hard in these complex and changing times:
“There are active generations coming up who are addressing human and environmental concerns and are not waiting for the Church’s permission to start doing the work that Jesus taught his followers to do. It feels like some of the trains we used to think we were conducting are now leaving the station whether we’re on board or not.”
As part of the worship series, the Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity is leading a bible study with visual art from 9:00-10:00 am in the Walkup Building on Sunday mornings July 9, 16, and 23. All are welcome.
All of the summer Sunday services in the series are at 10:30 am in Anderson Auditorium, just off Assembly Drive in Montreat. Child care is available for children six months through kindergarten at the Updike Child Care Center on Texas Road.
As is the summer tradition, the community is invited to the lunch buffet at 11:45 am in the Assembly Inn’s Galax Dining Room following worship. Lunch tickets can be purchased at the Assembly Inn front desk.
Rounding off the day’s activities at 7:00 pm is a community hymn sing in the lobby of Assembly Inn.
For further information or to learn about other worship, educational, and recreational opportunities at Montreat, visit www.montreat.org, or call 828.669.2911.