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Social and global concerns
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Food for the spirit

Where do "liberals" find the strength they need - and the direction - for the struggle for freedom and justice and peace?  We hope to share in this page an occasional morsel of nourishment for the liberal spirit.

And we invite your contributions!  If you have a poem or meditation, a prayer or even maybe a sermon (but it better be good!) to share here, please send it to

Click here for "Food for the Spirit"
posted from 1999 through 2005

And for "More food for the spirit"
posted in 2010 and ....?

O God, You Give Welcome

A Hymn for Family Promise
ST. DENIO (“Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”)

O God, you give welcome; you care and provide.
You cherish each person with love reaching wide.
We’re made in your image and so hear your call
To humbly reach out with a welcome to all. 

Yet near us are families with no place to stay
And children who won’t have a good meal today.
Your will is for justice where everyone thrives;
May we build communities, strengthening lives.

Bless children who wish for a permanent place
And youth who are longing to have their own space.
Bless parents who feel that they’re struggling alone;
May we share their journey to find a new home.

Bless houses of worship we use a new way,
As classrooms are turned into places to stay.
Bless kitchens where suppers are gladly prepared
And each sacred space where your welcome is shared.

Tune: Welsh folk melody.

Alternative Tune: William James Kirkpatrick, 1895. CRADLE SONG (“Away in a Manger”)

Text: Copyright © 2011by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

Email: Web site:

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Discipleship Resources/Upper Room Books, 2009) and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today's Worship (Geneva Press, 2000) and the co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware (a hosting congregation for Family Promise) . A complete list of her 180+ hymns can be found at

For this same hymn in easy-to-print PDF format >>

Just a little prayer for you all --

May the sun bring new energy by day,
may the moon safely restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries,
may the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk through the world
and know its beauty
all the days of your life.

– Apache blessing

I saw this prayer on the wall of a fair-trade gift shop in Viroqua, Wisconsin, and it just feels like it's worth sharing.  [7-22-10]

A poem for Lent

This comes to us from the Rev. Bobbie McGarey, a regular contributor to this site, and pastor serving First Presbyterian Church, Lawton, Oklahoma   [2-19-20]

    Falling Following

We watch the Olympic athletes make their best move
      and sometimes that is not enough.
We, not so unlike them. fall on our best faith move
     sometimes our faith is not enough.
So we walk through Lent
   Thanks be to God for God's mercy.

Overtures, reading and seeing, and looking at the same Jesus
  dare we claim to see issues before us with Jesus' eyes?
     But so do they... they claim they are seeing right.
'They is a four letter word' Let's give it up for Lent
    Thanks be to God for God's mercy.

Are we the We of Christ we were/are called to be?
   Lenten contemplating time for followers .
      Thanks be to God for God's mercy.

Bobbie's almost daily musings are found at

A Hymn for the First Sunday in Lent      [2-19-10]

The Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has written a hymn entitled “Our Lord, You Were Sent,” which is suggested for the first Sunday in Lent.

You can find it on her new website, which includes over 150 of the new words she has written for singing with mostly familiar hymn tunes.

For the hymn “Our Lord, You Were Sent” >>
For the home page of her website >>
A "What If" concerning Generosity

From Phil Leftwich, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee. We thank him for his permission to post this.

Friends –

I both saw and read several news articles this past weekend about a family in Atlanta who have started a foundation to set a model before us of "sacrificial giving." It began with the father and his daughter driving in the city. A Mercedes pulled alongside their car just as the teenaged daughter was reading the sign of a homeless man asking for help. She began to do some personal soul searching, and then her own spiritual journey became a discussion around the family's dinner table. Once they looked at all they owned and how little they were proportionately giving others the course became clear. They moved out of their multi-million dollar house and downsized, began giving to others in a meaningful way that has included a mission in Ghana, and have humbly stayed out of the media spotlight until this last weekend. What a change this has made in all of their lives!

I'm not oblivious to the reality that we are living in hard times and that the fears that are driving the economics and politics of our nation are permeating the heart of our churches. Nevertheless, if there was ever a time when giving to others as individuals and as the Church are important, I don't remember it in my lifetime. I am convinced that each of us – and our congregations – can reach deeper than we have. I also read that so far $600,000,000 has been sent in charitable relief to Haiti. That's a wonderful statement of how we Americans do respond to human suffering and tragedy. The personal proportional amount of charitable giving, however, hovers at around 1.5% of net income. In many of our churches in PMT the pledge amount hovers at around 2.5%. Can we all reach deeper into a form of more sacrificial giving? I believe we can. Has this changed my own way of looking at my life? You bet!

As Lent begins next Wednesday we enter a season of self-discernment and prayerful thought about whose we are. What if it becomes a time of rethinking and perhaps revisioning who we are called to be as disciples of Jesus the Christ? What if we all reached a little deeper into our hearts- and into our wallets or pocketbooks – so that we begin a new journey of stewardship that is a lifestyle that reflects our discipleship? As one person said yesterday in a TV interview, "Give until it feels good!" What if. . .

Grace and peace,

A little Christmas story – when God didn’t do quite enough



"We are on our own, and we are not alone."

If you believe that faith never changes, and that “Church” should be a reasonably stable set of beliefs and behaviors that we can depend on in a changing world – then DON’T READ THIS SERMON.

But if you believe that faith is a radical attitude of trust which enables us to be open to the new and the strange, even to the “Other;” if you think living as “Church” means being on a journey, a pilgrimage with no settled end, but always moving forward, higher, deeper, into light and often through darkness – and that we do this best when we have the right kind of company on the way – then read this reflection/sermon.

And let’s talk about it!  Just send a note.

Matthew 25:

A True Story from President-Elect Barack Obama’s Life (20 years ago)

We just received this from the Rev. Bruce Gillette, with the note that many preachers might find it helpful.  He begins:

November 23rd’s lectionary lesson for Christ the King Sunday is Matthew 25:31-46. There is a true story from the life of President-elect Barak Obama that is a good illustration of spontaneous acts of mercy that Jesus praises in his final public teaching before his arrest. 

The past election includes far too many personal attacks and rumors that were false. It would be good to share this true story to help Americans get to know our new president. More importantly it is a reminder of how Christ calls us to care for the strangers that we encounter in our lives.   For the full story >>

A thanksgiving hymn:    “Whatever You Do”

The Rev. Bruce Gillette has just sent a new hymn written by his spouse and co-pastor, Carolyn Gillette, which he describes as “inspired by Matthew 25:31-46, this year's lectionary text for this coming Sunday. Many churches have special offerings for the poor around Thanksgiving that make this hymn very appropriate.”

The Fiction of Boundaries

Boundaries are a big deal these days -- be they national, racial, religious, economic, or whatever.  But Trina Zelle, former Co-Moderator of the Witherspoon Society, recently preached a sermon for the Presbytery of Grand Canyon in which she explored Jesus' radical teaching about family as including everyone.  That means, she says, that "welcoming the stranger," while it's a good thing, must always be following by accepting that "stranger" as fully a part of our family.

To read her sermon >>

A little poem about being right

we are

it is
time to

it is
the sureness
of it
to stumbleandfallofftheledgeanddropthroughtheairandcrashontheground

so when
are right
we are really
that right
may not
after all

bobbie g mcgarey 2008 july 27

Thanks to the Rev. Bobbie McGarey


A Pentecost gift for Witherspoon ... and for you

The Rev. Ralph G. Clingan sent us a sermon he has prepared for Pentecost Sunday, for a congregation that he describes as having been “mortally wounded by a homophobic fundamentalist fellow Presbyterian minister.”

He traces the meaning of the gift of the Spirit as helping us to overcome “Past Hurts, Low Self Esteem, Grudges, and Resentments,” and helping others to do the same.

Read his sermon >>

Working for peace ...“beginning from within”   [6-22-07]

Your WebWeaver recently joined about a dozen other men for a five-day retreat at a nearby Trappist monastery – observing silence for most of the time, with an hour and a half each morning for work alongside the monks. I reflected on this deeply good time in the Spring issue of Network News, and would like to share my thoughts with you in our wider web audience.

I came home thinking of how all of us – right, left and center – might benefit from giving ourselves more time for silence, and taking our own inwardness more seriously. As one Buddhist teacher puts it, we need to begin peacemaking by dealing with the wars within us.
The Whale ... and liberation     [6-18-07]

This liberating story was forwarded to us by Witherspooner Bill Knox.

The Whale

If you read the front page story of the SF Chronicle [in December, 2005], you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group for help.

Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her

A very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer.

They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed gently around-she thanked them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives.

The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate as to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you. And may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude.

I pass this on to you, my friend, in the same spirit.

Theological musings

Easter Hope in a Good Friday World

by Paul E. Capetz

Dr. Paul E. Capetz is joining Douglas Ottati in the writing of "Theological Musing," a regular column for Network News. He is Associate Professor of Historical Theology at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

In this personal reflection on the events we recently remembered and celebrated in Holy Week, he suggests that the heart of the story is not the cheering story of Easter, but the painfully real story of Good Friday. He writes:

It is not the doctrine [of atonement], but the story of Jesus’ crucifixion that is essential. The gospel is, after all, a story about a messiah whose victory does not look very messianic. It is the story of a faithful Jew, whose fidelity led him to the cross and who calls us to the same fidelity even if it might also lead us to the cross. To illustrate what such fidelity means for modern people we only need remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Oscar Romero. The story is as timely today as it was in ancient Palestine.

The full essay >>

A blog for eager readers and explorers of faith    [4-3-07]

Your WebWeaver must confess he is a bit baffled by the current flood of blogs, but he’s slowly recognizing that there are good things worth a visit now and then.

Let me introduce just one of them today, and I’ll try to be back with more suggestions in the weeks to come.

And if you have suggestions, please send a note! We don’t want this website to become just a advertising list of blogs, and we won’t automatically recommend just anything that is mentioned. But if you can suggest a blog page that offers helpful news and commentary about church and/or society – and especially the interactions between them – we’ll be happy to consider mentioning it. (Even if it’s your own!)

Just send a note!

Enough introduction. Here’s our first venture into the wild world of blogs:

Shuck and Jive is the creation of the Rev. John Shuck, who describes his blog thus: "A Presbyterian minister blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus and lightening up. John Shuck is the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tennessee (a liberal church on the buckle of the Bible belt)."

A couple recent samples:

On March 29, as part of a series of blogs on readings for Holy Week, he gave very brief introductions to books such as Marcus Borg's latest, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary; Borg and John Dominic Crossan’s The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus' Final Week in Jerusalem; and James Tabor’s The Jesus Dynasty – among others!

Shuck reads a lot, but he doesn’t limit himself to the library. He offers his own theological and ethical reflections on a wide range of issues, including the environment, politics, the church, the American Empire, and more. Much more.

For a slightly different tone, check out his thoughts for Saturday, March 31, on the topic "Sometimes I wish I was a RevGal," which begins: "Do you notice the difference between clergy boy bloggers and clergy girl bloggers? There really is a difference."

As with many bloggers, he invites visitors to subscribe to e-mail updates sent whenever he adds to his blog.

So – what do you think of blogs (either Shuck and Jive in particular, or others, or the whole proliferating genre)? Just send a note with your comments and recommendations, and we’ll share it here.

Almost Easter

The Rev. Bobbie McGarey shares with us her poem, celebrating the hope of Easter in the midst of a war-torn world.  [3-21-07]
Lenten readings just for our unpeaceful times
Even cracked pots can carry life and light in times of death and destruction

from your WebWeaver, Doug King   [3-15-07]

Yesterday evening some people of our congregation gathered for our regular Lenten observance of a simple supper and a time of prayer using the Taizé service.

I listened to the three scripture readings after a day of hearing about the continuing concerns about the Bush Administration’s actions in firing a number of US Attorneys, and the Attorney General’s lame efforts to deal with those concerns. And I sat there knowing I would be leaving the next day (this evening) to join thousands of others for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, to be held Friday in Washington, DC.

The progression through the three readings led me ...

bulletfrom the psalmist’s lament at the evil all around him, and rejoicing at God’s promise to stand against the evil-doers and the liars
bulletthrough God’s word to Jeremiah that we are clay in the hands of the divine Potter, with the hope of being useful vessels, but only if we repent and change our ways as a people
bulletto Paul’s ringing affirmation that while we are just clay pots, we can serve as life-giving vessels even in times of death and destruction.

Nothing new here, but for me it was the right Word at the right time. And I’d like to share it with you.

The passages >>

Eco-Justice Notes

An environmentalist leads us on a new path through Lent    [3-9-07]

The Rev. Peter Sawtell, the Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, is posting a very provocative and helpful exploration of what he calls the four core norms of an eco-justice ethic: solidarity, sustainability, sufficiency, and participation.

The one for this week, on sufficiency, asks "How much is enough?" – "one of the central questions for those who seek eco-justice in the world."

The current meditation, on Sufficiency, is entitled "Enough, Already."

The first meditation, on Solidarity, bears the title "All In It Together."

The second, on Sustainability, he calls "Nothing Left for the Kids"

The final one, due out in a couple weeks, will deal with Participation.

Go to the archive index of his Eco-Justice Notes to find all these essays (and many more) listed.

A Lenten reflection ... or vision

The Best of the Temptations

On the first Sunday of Lent, Lisa Larges preached a profound – and funny – sermon on Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus. She began by lamenting what so many are experiencing these days: that it seems the Presbyterian Church would rather be right than be in love.

She went on to explore Satan’s temptations of Jesus as inviting him to escape his human vulnerability – and he refused, because for him the Scriptures were about loving and being loved, not about being right and being invulnerable. That view of Scripture she offered is what the church needs now, for itself and for the well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are still seeking a place within that church.

Read the sermon – for its sly humor or for its warm depth, or both.

Reflecting on the film "The Good Shepherd"

Moral blankness in fiction and in reality   [1-17-07]

Berry Craig writes about the popular new spy film, "The Good Shepherd."  One reviewer has noted the "moral blankness" of the main character as he progresses in his profession of espionage; Craig sees that as a helpful way of understanding our country's present mess as well.  The essay >>

Thoughts for Christmas    [12-21-06]

Having recently moved from Minnesota to Georgia, your WebWeaver has found it difficult to "think Christmas" this season. Blue skies and 70-degree days are great, but not for Christmas shopping. (We have little inclination, though, to seek out the good old days of snow, ice, sub-zero temperatures and all the rest.)

But as Christmas seems to be coming just the same, we want to share with you two pieces that have come our way – and we’ll add more if they come to us.

First, Carol Wickersham, one of the founders of No2Torture, offers a Christmas letter that shows how powerful Christmas thoughts can be when they are grounded in the stuff of struggle of justice, peace, and human dignity.

And then my brother, Jack King, has sent a Christmas poem, as has now become his excellent annual custom. I’m happy to share this gift with you all.

And here’s a delightful thought presented in "flash video" format by the Global Good Neighbor Initiative of the International Relations Center.

Finally, you may want to look at the page of Advent and Christmas thoughts that we offered last year at this time. [Over 2,000 people have accessed the page during this December, so there must be something helpful there.]

And we welcome your suggestions and offerings!!
Just send a note,
to be shared here.

Advent reflections

This is True
by Allan Boesak

It is not true
that this world and its people
are doomed to die and be lost.

This is true;
God so loved the world
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believes in him,
shall not perish but have everlasting life.

It is not true
that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination,
hunger and poverty, death and destruction.

This is true;
I have come that they may have life,
and that abundantly.

It is not true
that violence and hatred should have the last word,
and that war and destruction have come to stay forever.

This is true:
Unto us a child is born,
and unto us a Son is given,
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Allan Boesak (b. 1945)

"This is True"

Allan Boesak, who was a courageous and insightful leader of the Reformed Church in South Africa in the struggle against apartheid, served as President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches from 1982 to 1991.

May this brief reflection bring a little of his passion for justice into our observance of this season of Advent.

Can narrative save us?   [7-15-06]

John R. Preston, author of the recent book Wrestling Until the Dawn: The Fight for Biblical Justice in a Postmodern World, builds on the recent books by David Korten and Mark Taylor to urge that in preaching today, we follow the example of Jesus, who "in his non-violent approach to injustice, used stories to question, satirize, and thereby undermine the empire of his time and place."

Preston looks briefly at the parable of the mustard seed as one example of this approach to prophetic preaching for our time.

We sinned and saw The Da Vinci Code       [6-4-06]

Berry Craig, history prof and journalist, takes a keen (and light-hearted) look at the reactions of his religious-right neighbors to The Da Vinci Code.  And through them he offers observations on the alarms being sounded by James Dobson and Focus on the Family, who don't seem able to accept the novel and the film as fiction.

A Song of Empire

How about a little poetry?  Not a cautionary tale, exactly, but a little cautionary verse for American empire-builders.   [1-28-06]

It begins:

Oh, sing a song of Empire great;
Our country right or wrong!
We’ll sing a song of Empire great;
We’ll be forever strong!

The rest of the poem >>

Seeking hymns for progressive Presbyterians   [1-7-06]

We recently posted a request by a Presbyterian pastor for help in finding hymns with words that are appropriate for congregations of liberal/progressive convictions.

The Rev. Mitch Trigger offers some ideas.
The Rev. Bill LeMosy sends some hymns of his own.

Reflections for Epiphany --
Christianity and Empire   

As Epiphany approaches, Witherspooner Byron Bangert reminds us that the story of the wise men also includes the slaughter of the male children in the area of Bethlehem – a clear confrontation between the reign of God and the rule of Empire.

"Bringing in the Sheaves" – and the politics of Advent and Christmas

The Rev. Thomas Davis, pastor of Hanover Street Presbyterian Church in ...., offered a quick, clear look at the political dimension of Mary’s song (the Magnificat), and visit of the Wise Men, and Christmas in general.   [1-7-06]

Click here for "Food for the Spirit"
posted from 1999 through 2005


Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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© 2012 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!