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"Been-Heres" and "Come-Heres" Worshipping Together

John Calvin was a refugee. Calvin, the theological father of the Presbyterian Church, was born in Noyon, France in 1509 and educated as an attorney. He settled in Paris, had a conversion experience, and became friends with a group of intellectuals who wanted to reform the Catholic Church. Calvin was forced into hiding when French authorities launched a violent crackdown on the would-be reformers. In 1535 he fled across the border to Geneva, Switzerland.

Calvin intended to stay in Geneva only a month, but his friend William Farel insisted he remain and work with the city authorities there to reform the church. Farel even laid a curse on Calvin in the event Calvin should depart. Terrified, Calvin stayed put, but later both he and Farel were asked to leave when they refused to celebrate Holy Communion in a manner that the City Council insisted upon.

Calvin settled in Strasbourg, preached daily, and wrote the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Meanwhile, religious turmoil had engulfed Geneva. The City Council and leading citizens of Geneva begged Calvin to return. Reluctantly, he did so in 1541. Calvin remained there until his death in 1564.

In his writings, John Calvin laid out a fourfold vision of ordained ministry: pastors to lead worship, elders to implement church discipline, teachers to instruct the citizens in both scripture and secular knowledge, and deacons to care for the poor. Calvin developed elaborate social welfare structures to provide for Geneva’s neediest citizens. These structures became the foundation upon which the International Committee of the Red Cross was built.

It wasn’t all sweetness and light. As the city swelled with Protestant refugees from other locations in Europe, tensions developed between the “been-heres” and the “come-heres.” Calvin, a refugee himself, was supported by the “come-heres” when he called out some of Geneva’s leading citizens for what Calvin perceived as their deficiencies in Christian piety.

First Presbyterian Church stands in the Calvinist tradition, not only in our commitment to Christian education and serving the needy in Columbia and beyond, but also in our solidarity with the “come-heres” in our community. Our congregation is made up of native born Americans and immigrants from other countries. We share our space with the Korean Presbyterian Church and the African Agape Christian Fellowship, a congregation of refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo. Sometimes people experience tension when living, worshipping, and serving with people from different cultures, but we trust that hospitality today will sow the seeds for a harvest of goodness tomorrow and well into the future.


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