Letters From Our Pastor

Going to Church: A Postcard from the Socially Distant

April 26, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Michael Jinkins

One of my old professors used to say, “The only way God can save some people is by making preachers of them.” I’ve known a lot of preachers in my time, and I suspect this is true. It’s certainly been true of me.


Like the sinner in “Come Thou Fount of Many Blessings,” I’m prone to wander. And, I suspect, I’ll be searching for an “Ebenezer” I’ve never found for the rest of my life.


I need all the help I can get to live a life even remotely pleasing to God. That’s why I read and study so much from our Christian tradition and the tradition of Judaism. It is also why I search the ancient wisdom of Greek, Middle Eastern and Asian philosophy, in addition to our own Western sources. And it is why, in these days of relative isolation, I have found myself plugging into the recorded and streamed worship services from a lot of great churches. In fact, among the silver linings of this dark time, the proliferation of online services has to be one of the brightest.


Sunday mornings, these days, I get to “attend” our service at Saint Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church; and I get to attend services at my son Jeremy’s church, Westfield Presbyterian Church in New Jersey, and services at my buddy Scott’s church, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. During the past week, I have also found my life enriched by a message from our good friend Ted Wardlaw at Austin Presbyterian Seminary.


Going to Church has never been more difficult. True. But going to Church has also never been easier.


I confess that I have long suffered from technology envy of those television evangelists who have used the airwaves for years to knit together a sort of community of the airwaves. I have never bought the idea that such congregations are “just as good” as a congregation in the flesh (no widescreen television will ever substitute for the smiles, hugs and shared tears of all of you). But I am thrilled that the ether and the internet are filled these days with services representing such a profound engagement with the gospel, services rich in content, allowing for ample opportunities to explore prayer, to listen, to contemplate, to hear and to encounter the Word of God in its fullness amid the complexities and contradictions of human existence. I am thrilled that sacred music reflecting such depth and complexity of faith and life are available much more widely than ever before.


This week I am especially grateful to all of those who work so diligently to make our services available through the medium of the internet, particularly Steven Blackmon. The artistry of those who bring the visual, the musical, and the spoken word together, their talents, and their hard work are making our worship not only possible but far richer than I could have imagined. Thank you so much!


Michael Jinkins
St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church