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Stand for Truth, Cry for Justice | Thomas H. Yorty

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Stand for Truth, Cry for Justice | Thomas H. Yorty

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It is a happy coincidence that the opportunity to publish this collection of sermons coincides with twenty years of serving as pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Buffalo, NY. Happy because it gives me and the members of this great church a way to mark our years together. Anniversaries are often recognized with objects that symbolize the number of years together; perhaps it’s not inappropriate to recognize twenty years of sharing the covenant of ministry with a book of sermons.

In a very real sense, this book belongs not just to me but to Westminster. For as I learned from my mentor David McFarlane long ago, sermons are conversations between the pastor and the people in the pews taken together as a Christian community. And my son the Latin student, who knew I was preparing this collection, took a break from his studies and called excitedly the other day from Chapel Hill to tell me that the root word of sermon comes from the Latin word “sermo” which means, conveniently, conversation.

But while a sermon is a conversation it is not just any conversation. The conversation between a pastor and a congregation is charged, held accountable to, and finally judged by the mission and ministry that that community is called to engage in. And so, in a very real way, preaching and sermons are not ‘orations’ or ‘speeches’ or ‘lectures’ or well-crafted essays compellingly read. They are real dialogues between real people who have in common life’s highest priority–to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. And since we are wondrous though flawed creatures our efforts to live faithful lives individually and collectively are always works in progress.

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Thomas H. Yorty came to Westminster Presbyterian Church (Buffalo, NY) in 1998 following pastorates in Easton, PA and Williamsville, NY. During Tom's pastorate at Westminster, the congregation has continued its historic role as a leader in mission to the city, social justice, and worship and music ministries. In 2005, the church launched the Westminster Economic Development Initiative, which provides business coaching and loans to Buffalo’s growing immigrant community as well as an English language learner afterschool program for K-8 children.

Westminster's Early Childhood Programs is a leader in early childhood development in Western New York. Westminster works in solidarity with Muslim and Jewish communities to provide education and outreach.

Tom grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, graduated from Muskingum College, Yale Divinity School, and Drew University (PhD, 19th Century Studies), and has served on the board of Auburn Theological Seminary, NYC since 2003. He and his wife Carol have two adult sons and a Labrador retriever. Tom enjoys writing poetry, riding his bike, and playing with his granddaughter.

 

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