(By Robert Herguth, Chicago Sun-Times). The Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner, pastor of historic Fourth Presbyterian Church on Chicago’s Mag Mile, a Texas native, says about faith, “I think complacency is deadly . . . I’m always going to be on this journey of discovery.”
Fourth Presbyterian is “a fascinating congregation” where people “choose to come here to worship,” some from more than an hour away, and there’s a tradition of challenging members “spiritually and intellectually.
“The sanctuary doors are open every day until evening,” and, with a large homeless population in the area, “we are a literal sanctuary for a lot of folks who need a place to be.”
Her family’s church balcony “would be full of foreign journalists every week, trying to get a sense of what normal religious life was like in Waco.”
Initially had no plans to go into ministry, thinking she’d be a child psychologist.
Felt a strong call to the clergy the summer after high school, but her parents advised her “to go to college and think about it.” She decided at the end of college to enter the seminary.
Felt a desire to “reform the institution of church from the inside out,” including on “issues of equality.”
Disagrees with the portrayal of God as “some big man in the sky” and wanted to move “beyond this idol of maleness that we’ve constructed both for the divine as well as for clergy.
“I wanted to make sure that little girls knew that God could call them to be pastors, too.”
So why the “Fourth” in Fourth Presbyterian Church?
“It was the result of some different mergers — and ‘Fourth’ wasn’t taken yet.”
For Presbyterians, “the Church of Scotland is our mother church,” with traits that include being “pretty suspicious of concentrating power in the hands of just one person . . . We do everything by groups” and believe “that we hear the voice of God most clearly” through “conversation with others” and “passionate debate.
“Being a Presbyterian is messy . . . There’s a lot of gray in our denomination,” and “you can have differing understandings” of the bible and “still be a good Presbyterian.”
“I really do not overly concern myself with issues of salvation, especially salvation of other folks — that’s God’s job description and not my own.”