The Rev. Marilyn Gamm is no stranger to new roles.
A veteran of college and community theatre — both on stage and as a costume maker and designer — Gamm was also an on-air journalist for nine years in her home state of Missouri prior to become a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
On June 21 here, Gamm took the stage as the new chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) Board, succeeding the Rev. Matt Schramm, pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bay City, Mich., who completes his two-year term as chair with the adjournment of the 221st General Assembly.
“I’m excited because I believe we’re on the cusp of a transformation in the PC(USA),” Gamm said. “The 1001 new worshiping communities movement has added so much life and energy to the church, and has given us something to be hopeful about in the midst of these decades of decline and infighting. It brings me great joy to not only see the many and varied ways that these new worshiping communities are finding expression for the faith, but also that the energy of the Holy Spirit is spilling over into established congregations, who are finding new reasons to be hopeful and new energy for ministry.”
Gamm, the interim associate pastor at Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Mequon, Wis. — an 1,100-member congregation in Milwaukee Presbytery — has been a member of the PMA Board since February 2012. Most recently she has served as vice chair of the Worshiping Communities Committee of the board, liaison to the Mission Development Resources Committee, and member of the Nominating and Governance Subcommittee.
“As chair, I definitely want to continue to lift up the great things that the mission agency is doing, which are many,” she said. “In terms of board training, I want to particularly focus on the governance piece — what we have been elected to do — and the ambassador’s program, training and preparing board members to go out and tell the story, not only ourselves, but empowering others to tell the story.”
As a former professional journalist, Gamm values the power of communication and has already given some initial thought as to how to help Presbyterians tell the story in a way that is easy to remember.
“I see the PMA story as a great ‘co-mission’ because so much of our ministry is a co-ministry, where we resource and empower, send mission workers or Young Adult Volunteers, help fund capital improvement projects for churches, seed grants for new church developments and new worshiping communities, and church transformation grants.”
Such collaborative ministry with other entities in the PC(USA) “gives us a biblical way to lift up all of the many ways that we are working in partnership to fulfill the Great Commission to go and make new disciples and to bring new disciples to an understanding of God’s love and care for them,” Gamm said, ”and then empowering them and gifting them to go and do the same.”
She said that as chair it is important that she not take a particular stand on any of the issues before the church because she is called to represent more than herself. “My role is to provide a pastoral, listening ear,” she said, “not to take sides, but to listen and to welcome conversations.”
Her two-year term will conclude with the adjournment of the 222nd Assembly (2016) in Portland, Ore.
Gamm said that she looked forward to working with PMA Executive Director Linda Valentine, who on June 19 was confirmed to an historic third term in the denomination’s top mission post.
“I think we’re both strong women, strong leaders, who have mutual respect for one another and the gifts that we each bring,” Gamm said. “I am amazed and awed with the work that Linda has done in leading the PMA Board, especially in rebuilding and reconfiguring the agency in the midst of declining resources. I have tremendous respect for her and for her work.”
If Gamm could offer a prayer for the whole denomination, hers would be a variation on the “1001 prayer,” in which each church session across the PC(USA) has been asked to pray for the fulfillment of the 1001New Worshiping Congregations movement by praying daily from Luke 10:2 that God send more workers into the harvest field.
“And, related to that,” she added, “I would pray, ‘God, as your disciples, you are sending us — you are calling us — to go and share your love with a hurting world. Send us, send more of us.’”
Emily Enders Odom is communications associate for the Office of Communication assigned to the Executive Director’s Office.