Visit from Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson


Shady Grove was fortunate enough to secure an opening in the Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson’s schedule last Sunday, October 8. Rev. Nelson delivered the sermon during Sunday morning service, and following worship, offered a talk on “The View from Here: The Future of a Church Being Reformed”.

As the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), J Herbert is the chief officer of the General Assembly, our highest ecclesial body. In this role, he is often called to serve as the face and voice of our denomination on the national and international stage. Recent actions include speaking out against the President’s order ending the DACA program, condemning the ban on trans gender individuals serving the the US military, and accompanying members of Marturia Indonesian Presbyterian Church facing raids from ICE agents.

The idea of inviting J Herbert to Shady Grove arose back in the spring as I began setting goals for the congregation based on individual and session discussions. One topic that stood out to me was the desire to better understand ‘who we are at Shady Grove Presbyterian Church’.

From my vantage point, our congregation has a distinct identity that differs from many other Presbyterian churches. We have many members who have a long history in the PC(USA) and many who are rooted in the Southern, American, or Cooperative Baptist tradition. We have members who grew up in conservative evangelical churches and others whose faith journey began in the Catholic or Episcopal church. Whether rooted in a faith tradition, or even coming from no faith tradition at all, we are an eclectic group that God has seen fit to call together into one community, rooted in love and with an abiding desire to proclaim an open and affirming message of faith.

While we hold our diverse faith backgrounds as a beautiful part of who we are, Shady Grove is a Presbyterian church. We are a part of the Presbytery of the Mid-South, govern ourselves by the Book of Order, and proclaim the key tenants of the Reformed faith. I remain convinced that we can both celebrate our diverse faith traditions and enthusiastically support the future of the PC(USA).

It is my hope that his visit will serve as a beacon for this part of our journey together, and will move us to a greater excitement and deeper engagement with the denomination as a whole. In his role as the Stated Clerk, J Herbert has an unmatched view of the church and an intimate knowledge of the church’s current mission. I was encouraged to hear his vision for the future path that lies ahead, and how our congregation can discover how we are called to be apart, if not on the leading edge, of a church always being reformed.

Be Blessed and Be a Blessing,

Rev. Will