Some churches call it a “Ritual of Friendship”; others, a “Sharing of Joys and Concerns.” By whatever name, the practice of voicing aloud the occasions for grief or thanksgiving in the lives of individual members has long served to enrich koinonia—fellowship and community—within the body of the faithful.
The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song (PCOCS) resembles a small church in this regard. Each time we gather after three months apart, we begin with morning worship, followed by a sharing of joys and concerns in the lives of individual committee members, their families, and their home worshiping communities. Who has just started a new job, or passed ordination exams? Who—or whose child—has just gotten married? Whose niece or grandchild has recently been born, or been to visit? Whose parents are moving, or suffering ill health, or staging remarkable recoveries? Whose church has received a completely unexpected and anonymous donation, enabling it to make roof repairs that had otherwise threatened to break the budget? If it is true that “the family that prays together, stays together,” the saying holds equally true for the denominational committee—itself a sort of “family” within the broader household of faith. The group that shares together, dares together: dares to tackle complex and controversial questions, dares to disagree while still holding one another in the light and love of God.
During a portion of the November 2010 gathering, the PCOCS broadened its “family” to include members of the Board of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC) for a sharing of joys and concerns specifically focused on the hymnal project itself. Deborah Block, president of the Board, met with the group to express the board’s support and gratitude for committee members’ dedication to the project. Additional members of the Board (John Temple, Jesse Hite, Laura Mendenhall, Elizabeth Caldwell, Valire Carr Copeland, Gradye Parsons, Linda Valentine, Olivia Hudson Smith, and Mary Lynn Walters) gathered with the PCOCS to discuss the project, to sing songs old and new, and to share table fellowship over an evening meal. Undeniably, the challenging financial climate worldwide raises legitimate concerns about a venture as costly for the publishing house as the massive, multi-year task of creating a comprehensive new worship resource for the PC(USA). Nevertheless, the prevailing spirit of both the Board and the committee is one of hope and joy that providing this resource to the denomination will be a way of building bridges, mending divisions, and enabling the full body of Christ in all its diversity literally to “sing off the same page.”
Could there be better emotions than hope and joy with which to enter this Advent season? We hope visitors to this Web site will also feel themselves a part of the extended PCOCS family—sharing your joys and concerns with us through joining our Facebook group, following us on Twitter, or sending your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or simply, in the old-fashioned and time-honored way, lift us up in prayer in your local congregations—and know that we are likewise holding you, the larger church, in the light and love of God as we continue to pray and sing and work together.