NEWARK, DE — New Castle Presbytery continues to mourn the loss of the Rev. Chad Miller, 34, who died in a kayaking accident along with his brother, Chris, 28, on June 9.

Miller was associate pastor for mission at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, DE, the presbytery’s largest congregation. A memorial service was held at the church June 14 in lieu of the regular Sunday liturgy. The service was led by Westminster’s other two pastors, the Rev. Greg Jones and the Rev. Anne Ledbetter. 

More than 1,000 persons crowded the Westminster sanctuary for the service. Every standing-room spot also was filled. Two choirs and a quartet provided music at various times.

Approximately 20 ministers and elders in New Castle Presbytery who were unable to attend the memorial service gathered at Westminster June 24 for a service of remembrance.

In his weekly column for the New Castle Web site after the tragedy, Executive Presbyter James L. Moseley penned these words:

In a church which begs for the energy and idealism of younger adults the loss of a bright, talented and often testy spirit such as Chad Miller is a double tragedy.

Chad and his brother, Chris, drowned when their kayaks were pulled under by the rising waters of the Brandywine River spilling over a low water dam.  This all took place early last Tuesday afternoon. The news media and local papers have documented at length the events of the day as described by witness at the site.

Chad was having a ball. After days of overcast skies the sun had finally broken through. The river current was accelerated by the recent rain fall and he was relishing the company his brother who had driven down from New York for the day.

As a former camp director and frequent paddler I know the rush of a perfect day on the water.  Part of the thrill is to challenge oneself to negotiate more and more difficult passages and rapids and spill ways.

Chad loved to challenge himself and he challenged just about anybody with whom he had any contact.  He certainly challenged me.

One Sunday when he was filling the pulpit, the opening lines of his sermon began by bemoaning the fact that he had, on the previous day, wasted a perfectly good Saturday attending a meeting of the presbytery.  He proceeded to note how long the meeting had been and how long winded were the speakers. I suspect I was one of them.

His pronouncement got under my skin right away, and I had to struggle mightily to hear him out in order to discover what point he intended to make.  Though I don’t remember the particulars of the exegesis I do recall the impression he left with me that day. It’s one worthy to share with any who love the church and long for its renewal in a time when it seems unable to break out of old patterns of church business. 

Beneath the obvious irritations  about boring meetings, I believe Chad was expressing a  deeply felt though diminishing hope that the Church of Jesus Christ might one day live up to its calling to love the world into a new reality… A reality where healing and justice and goodness and godliness and loving kindness would overshadow all other concerns of propriety, paychecks and church politics. The urgency in his preaching and restlessness in his demeanor seemed to reflect such frustrations.

What Chad may not have realized is that all of us who love and serve in the Body of Christ have the same hopes and experience many of the same frustrations.

Chad was one of those young whippersnappers we hope will push the institution to do more and be more than it has ever done before.  It is a lot to ask.

Whatever it is we admired about Chad, whatever we hope for from the other young clergy, must be something we find inside ourselves.

No one keeps us from living fervently and from hoping and praying and working for a radical, Jesus loving, people serving church. We dare not place such hopes on the generations following. It is our work.

If we wish to honor young hearts and minds such as Chad Miller's we need to make more room for their voices in the assemblies of our church. And, as they sound off, we need to listen for what is fearful and fresh.

Chad, thank you for challenging us to want more and to expect more from ourselves as those who follow the path of the one whose extravagant love redeems us all.

ANAHEIM, CA — The most recent group of mission trippers from Los Ranchos Presbytery to its sister presbytery in Kenya has just returned from a 10-day trip. The presbytery has a longstanding partnership with Limuru Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa.

On June 21, group members attended five churches in Limuru, and three of them preached. Members of the Los Ranchos’ “mission team” completed work on a new library at an orphanage the presbytery supports, including construction of shelves and the sorting and shelving of books for the facility. Throughout the trip, Los Ranchos’ “medical team” saw patients and provided an array of treatment. Other medical team members taught basic medical treatment skills to their Kenyan partners.

Over the years of the partnership, Los Ranchos’ medical team has helped establish and train staff for numerous clinics and dispensaries throughout Limuru Presbytery.

EAGAN, MN — The Synod of Lakes and Prairies will host its second annual Synod-wide Communicators Conference Sept. 2-4 at the Hilton Garden Inn here.

The conference will include sessions on Google Tools, Presbyterian Neighbor News, Writing for the Web, and Doing More (or at least as much) with Less. Local, regional and national experts will provide leadership.

Registration is $100 and includes all sessions, accomodations, opening dinner, two breakfasts and a lunch. For more information, contact Duane Sweep, associate for communications at the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, by email.

CLEVELAND — The Presbytery of Western Reserve is co-sponsoring a one-day workshop Sept. 12  featuring  renowned scholar and expert on American religion and culture Diana Butler Bass.

Entitled “Signposts of Renewal: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith,” the event will be held at Trinity Commons at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral here, which is co-sponsoring it. It will include two addresses by Bass with questions and answers and group discussions.

 Bass, who holds a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University, is an independent scholar. The author of seven books, her best-selling Christianity for the Rest of Us (2006) was named as one of the best religion books of the year by Publishers Weekly and Christian Century, won the Book of the Year Award from the Academy of Parish Clergy, and was featured in a cover story in USA TODAY.   

EVERETT, WA — On June 7, North Puget Sound Presbytery celebrated its newest congregation, Baker Korean Community Church. More than 200 people attended the chartering service at Burlington (WA) Lutheran Church, including 57 charter members of the congregation and numerous children and young people.  

The Rev. Paul Strawn, pastor of North Creek Presbyterian Church in Mill Creek, WA, and moderator of the administrative commission that brought the new church along, made the declaration in a service that included several other of the presbytery’s leaders. The service also included the installation of the Rev. Young Han Hyun as pastor. Elders and deacons were also installed.

The presbytery’s administrative commission began working with BKCC in November 2007 and will continue working with the congregation at least through the end of 2009. 

CHICAGO — A delegation from Chicago Presbytery’s Congregations in Solidarity with Latin America (CSLA) Mission Team is returning to Colombia from July 24-Aug. 3, following up on a similar visit a year ago.

The delegation will visit with two of the three presbyteries of the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia (IPC), as well with internally displaced Colombians, who now number more than four million — more than Sudan/Darfur. The group will also visit Afro-Colombian communities and the Reformed University in Barranquilla, which has recently formed an academic partnership with Chicago’s McCormick Theological Seminary

The United Nations has called Colombia the greatest human rights catastrophe in the world. The CSLA delegation intends to learn first-hand about the situation and offer its support to the IPC.

MINNEAPOLIS — The 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin will be featured at “PresbyFest 2009,” sponsored by the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area on Nov. 14 at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, MN.

Keynote speaker for the event is the Rev. Cynthia Rigby, professor of theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Presbyfest will focus on lay leadership in the church and will feature a number of leadership development workshops.