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Why they serve

Members of SDOP National Committee articulate what their work means to them

September 30, 2009

Cynthia White, coordinator of SDOP, led the National Committee in a role-playing exercise.

Cynthia White, coordinator of SDOP, led the National Committee in a role-playing exercise. —Bethany Furkin

Seattle

The National Committee meeting of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self Development of People involved work, but it also gave members a chance to reflect on why they do that work.

At its Sept. 19 meeting, the committee was visited by Valerie Small, manager of General Assembly nominations and moderatorial staff services, and Emily McGinley, Synod of Lincoln Trails liaison to the General Assembly Mission Council from SDOP.

“Much of the church does not know what SDOP is,” Small said.

SDOP’s mission focuses on empowering economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people who seek to change the structures that perpetuate inequality and injustice. SDOP provides grants to groups committed to working for long-term change in their communities.

The two women asked members to share their stories of being involved with SDOP, from how they got started to what the committee has meant to them.

T. Ewen Holmes (Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area) is one of the people who once didn’t know what SDOP is. Now a member of the Midwest and Community Relations subcommittees, he was asked by his executive presbyter to submit an application to the nominating committee.

Although he wasn’t familiar with the group, he decided to go for it.

“That was the spirit of God at work,” he said. “I’m so thankful that it worked out that way.”

That way of getting on a national Presbyterian entity is a common one, Small said. Most people who apply to GA committees don’t do so because they’ve been browsing the Web site. Instead, she said, the application process is driven by relationships, so communication and sharing stories is important.

Lori Winblood (Presbytery of Western Colorado), a member of the West and Personnel subcommittees, said she got her start with SDOP as a grant recipient.

“I am who I am today because of it,” she said. “I live it, I feel it, I breathe it.”

Winblood joined the National Committee because she wanted to give back.

Working with SDOP has been humbling, said Dianne Kareha (Lehigh Presbytery), a member of the Northeast and Church-wide Relations subcommittees. Going on site visits, which is one step in determining if an applicant group will receive a grant, has been especially eye opening, she said.

“It’s been the most inspiring committee on which I’ve ever served,” she said.

Susan Freed-Held (Presbytery of the Cascades), a member of the Community Relations subcommittee, echoed that sentiment.

“You feel like you have the hands and the heart of the church and that you’re doing what you’re called to do,” she said.

McGinley also encouraged committee members to consider what traits are useful to serving on the committee. “What skills or gifts have been most useful when doing work with SDOP?” she asked.

“You never know how God is using you to plant seeds for the future,” she said.

Among the skills committee members highlighted: communication, cross-cultural knowledge and sensitivity, time management and commitment and a good work ethic.

Serving on SDOP is a ministry and is one expression of the work of the church, said Lutrelle Rainey (Presbytery of the Miami Valley), member of the Midwest and Church-wide Relations subcommittees.

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