MINNEAPOLIS ― The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area will host a retreat for teaching elders Sept. 24-25 at Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake in northern Minnesota.

The retreat will be led by the Rev. Deb DeMeester, a Presbyterian minister who teaches at the University of St. Thomas, based in the Twin Cities. The theme is “The Power of Image in Leadership.”

The conference brochure states: “Do you ever get frustrated trying to move a committee or congregation? One of the most powerful tools we have as leaders is the ability to use and shift images. These workshops will explore how images can either hamper or energize ministry. We’ll also look at ways to shift images to further ministry and congregational health.”

RICHMOND, Va. ― In October, the trustees of the Presbytery of the James will make recommendations on how to spend about $1.6 million from the 2006 sale of the presbytery’s former office complex.

In October of 2007, following the sale, the presbytery moved into its current offices adjacent to the campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary here. The presbytery decided to keep the sale proceeds separate from other funds until the presbytery went through its reorganizational study. That study was completed in 2010.

A task force was then created to propose to the trustees how to use the $1.6 million. The task force identified four areas of ministry: education, evangelism, mission and Camp Hanover. Congregations and individuals were encouraged to submit grant requests. More than 40 grant proposals totaling $6.3 million were submitted. All proposals are being reviewed now in preparation for the October trustees meeting.

HOUSTON ― New Covenant Presbytery has announced the recipients of its Vision Initiative Grants and Johnson Social Justice Grants. The grants total  just over $27,600.

Vision Initiative Grant recipients are Christ Church Presbyterian in Bellaire, Texas; First Presbyterian Church of Galveston; First Presbyterian Church of Wharton; St. Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston; St. Stephen Presbyterian Church in Houston; St. Thomas Presbyterian Church in Houston; and Woodforest Presbyterian Church in Houston. Grants will be used for such activities as advertising and promotion, young adult Bible study, divorce care outreach, anti-hunger activities for children and family ministry.

Johnson Social Justice Grant recipients are First Presbyterian Church of Pasadena, Texas; John Knox Presbyterian Church in Houston; St. Philip Presbyterian Church in Houston; United Campus Ministry in Aggieland; and the presbytery’s Outreach Committee. Grants will be used for such ministries as anti-bullying, arts and crafts, anti-hunger activities for children, human trafficking education and prevention and missionary support.

SAN JOSE, Calif. ― Earlier this summer, San Jose Presbytery honored the Rev. John Lococo for his 34 years as the presbytery’s stated clerk.

Lococo’s last meeting as stated clerk was June 2 at Taiwenese American Presbyterian Church here. The church was also the site of Lococo’s first meeting as stated clerk. It was then named Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

CLEVELAND ― The Presbytery of the Western Reserve will hold its annual start-of-the-school-year youth gathering Sept. 23 at Valley Presbyterian Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

Designed for young people grades 6-12, the event will include games, mixers, worship and music.

LOUISVILLE/ALLENTOWN, Pa. ― Lehigh Presbytery recently sent a letter to Mid-Kentucky Presbytery thanking it for its innovative Ecclesia Project, which has inspired a similar project in Lehigh.

The work of Mid-Kentucky’s Ecclesia Project is to:

  • Build a culture of innovation and creativity
  • Identify and support innovative leaders and groups who have "nerve"
  • Energize and incubate new ideas and experiments
  • Start and cultivate new expression of Christian community

“It is with deep appreciation and great joy that I write to you concerning the ways God has worked with and through you in Ecclesia, not only for the new Christian communities being formed, but for the inspiration and model you have provided the wider church,” wrote the Rev. Steve Shussett, Lehigh’s teaching presbyter/stated clerk.

Earlier this summer, Lehigh Presbytery initiated “C Change,” which Shussett wrote was “inspired by and modeled on Ecclesia.” Shussett continued: “Without the bold first steps taken by Mid-Kentucky Presbytery, it is hard to imagine how Lehigh would have arrived at this place. No doubt, if this is God’s will, God would find a way to make it happen. From my perspective, God’s way to make it happen was through you, and for that I am immensely grateful.”

SEATTLE ― On Sept. 14, a benefit celebration will be held for DOXA, a ministry of several Seattle Presbytery churches in Tijuana, Mexico.

Founded in 1991 to facilitate short-term mission trips to Tijuana, DOXA provides logistical support for teams, while giving them space to do their own travel prep, cooking, and organize their work and free time as they see fit. Eric Stelter, President of DOXA’s board, explains their impact in Tijuana, “We've been there now for 20 years and, with no strategic plans and all-volunteer everything, have put up around 1,600 homes housing some 7,000 people — a city built and financed almost entirely by high school students in Presbyterian church youth programs.”

But the impact doesn’t end with houses alone. Stelter described the growing sense of need for the families and orphans they served. “Many of the poor families we built for could not afford to have their kids in public school, so we worked with our friends and the schools to develop a program to put kids in school.” They developed a holistic approach that includes finances, books, nutrition, health care, and eventually an after-school program.

Other ministries include an annual men’s trip redefining brother by intentionally bringing together men from a wide range of racial and socio-economic backgrounds.

EAGAN, Minn. ― The Synod of Lakes and Prairies reports record attendance at this year’s Synod School at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa.

The weeklong event drew 659 people. Of those, 602 were Presbyterians and about 57 others identified themselves as “members of either a Roman Catholic, Methodist, UCC, Episcopal, Jewish, ELCA or other congregation.”

LANCASTER, Pa. ― The historic Octorara Covenanter Presbyterian Church in Donegal Presbytery will hold its 51st annual meeting and worship service on Oct. 14.

The featured speaker for the celebration is Lt. Col. Wesley L. Girvin, U. S. Army, who recently returned from a one year deployment in Afghanistan where he served as the 707th Afghan Uniformed Police Regional Advisor, Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province. He has also served his country in Bosnia, Qatar and Iraq. 

For the 15th consecutive year the annual meeting and worship service will also feature The Kirkin’ O’ Th’ Tartans. This ceremony is practiced throughout the United States on behalf of all Scots away from Scotland. It is celebrated at the Old Octorara Church to remember the valuable contributions the Scots-Irish made to the development of early Lancaster County.

A Shepherd's Pie dinner will be served after the service and after dinner a concert of Celtic music will be performed by soloist Charlie Zahm.

Most churches embrace the Great Commission to grow the Kingdom of God. Yet, why is it so hard to grow a small congregation into a larger one? Why do some churches suddenly plateau or decline after experiencing years of numerical growth? Are there invisible barriers that lay hidden within the culture of a congregation that, if discovered, could unlock a congregations potential to add new disciples and grow their church?

There is a growing body of research called church size transitions that provides timely advise and well-researched answers to pastors and church leaders eager to reach new disciples and grow their church.

On Oct. 6 Trinity Presbytery and Pinnacle Leadership will present a workshop  on these issues entitled “Effectively Leading Churches Through Size Transition.” It will be held at Forest Lake Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., and will be led by the Rev. Doug Cushing, pastor of Tyger River Presbyterian Church in Moore, S.C.  

 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. ― For any child or teen, home is where faith begins ― and where it's best cultivated. To support and equip parents (and grandparents!) in this crucial task, Sandia Presbyterian Church here in Santa Fe Presbytery is putting on a “Growing Faith at Home” conference Sept. 15. 

Guest speaker will be Karen-Marie Yust, professor of Christian education at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va., and author of Real Kids, Real Faith. The event will include a “practice family dinner.” There will also be special activities for children and teens.