Presbytery and synod news

September 23, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS ― The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area will conduct a teaching elder retreat Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 29-30, at Mt. Olivet Conference and Retreat Center of Farmington, Minn.

The retreat offers an opportunity for teaching elders to “relax, spend a couple of days away from the church office and get to know your colleagues in ministry,” according to the retreat brochure. The Rev. John Curtis, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Plainview, will facilitate discussions on “Creating a Healthy Congregation.” The retreat brochure can be found at “Teaching Elder Retreat.”

LANCASTER, Pa. ― “Boost 2014” ― an annual event sponsored by Donegal Presbytery ― will happen Sept. 28 and 29 at Highland Presbyterian Church here.

The theme this year is “Cultivating a Heart for Evangelism through Multicultural Engagement,” and will feature as preacher and keynote speaker the Rev. Raafat Girgis, associate for multicultural congregational support in the Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries program area of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Presentations will help Presbyterians understand the growing diversity of their communities, discuss God’s intention for the church at this changing time in American history, provide tools for holistic evangelism with mission and justice components and enable congregations to incorporate this growing diversity into their lives of service and witness.

SEATTLE ― On Sept. 26-27, Seattle Presbytery is sponsoring a conference entitled “Christ and Cascadia,”in which academic, cultural and church leaders will gather the nature of and possibilities for Christianity in the Pacific Northwest (“Cascadia”).

Held at Seattle’s First Presbyterian Church, the event will include leaders from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia and will examine the cultural questions, challenges and opportunities for churches in the region.

PEORIA, Ill. ―The Presbytery of Great Rivers is launching a new initiative aimed to strengthen inter-faith relations, develop partnerships, promote justice, and building relationships. 

The Interfaith Working Group has been established by the presbytery’s Visioning Council and charged with developing a Presbyterian, Jewish, and, Muslim dialogue. The working group will bring together people, educate our members about issues, and reach out to Jewish and Muslim communities throughout the presbytery.  It will work to co-sponsor events with inter-faith partners, bring speakers to address issues of mutual concern, and develop service projects bringing people together across faith lines.

“The working group will develop resources to help equip our churches understand the complex dynamics of the Middle East conflict, providing educational materials aimed to inform, but not indoctrinate,” says working group moderator Michael Gizzi, a ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church of Normal, Ill.  “We are excited about this new initiative, and look forward to strengthening ties with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. “ 

LEXINGTON, S.C. ― 2014 Minister & Educator Retreat for the five presbyteries in South Carolina ― Charleston-Atlantic, Foothills, New Harmony, Providence, and Trinity ― will be held at Montreat Conference Center in Montreat, N.C., Nov. 10-12.

This year’s theme of the annual event is“Being All Things To All People Without Burning Out,” based on I Corinthians 9:19-23. Leading the retreat is the Rev. Cynthia Rigby, professor of theology at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

JUNEAU, Alaska ― The Executive Board of the Presbytery of the Northwest Coast has hired the Rev. George Pasley, pastor of Ketchikan Presbyterian Church, as Alaska Cluster Coordinator & Social Media Steward.

Pasley served as stated clerk and poet for Alaska Presbytery until that presbytery merged with North Puget Sound Presbytery last year to form the Presbytery of the Northwest Coast. In his new position, he will continue to provide administrative and ecclesiastical services for the nine churches of the former Alaska Presbytery that are part of the new presbytery.   

“Congratulations George!” wrote the Rev. David Dobler, former executive of Alaska Presbytery who will retire at the end of the upcoming meeting of the Presbytery of the Northwest Coast, Sept. 26-27 in Ketchikan.   

“We have known and loved George as our stated clerk and poet,” Dobler said. “In this new position ― along with being pastor of the Ketchikan Presbyterian Church and his librarian work, George will coordinate the annual Southeast Alaska gathering, provide pastoral response to congregations and pastors as needed, publish news and such on our Facebook pages and develop other social media contacts, participate with the Commission on Ministry as need arise, and the familiar 'other duties as assigned.’” 

PANORAMA CITY, Calif. ― The Presbytery of San Fernando will help host a “Los Angeles Vision Day” on Oct. 3 featuring Fresh Expressions, an ecumenical church planting movement that began in the Church of England more than 10 years ago. 

The U.S. affiliate of the group will lead the event, to be held at Glendale Presbyterian Church. “The idea,” says San Fernando’s executive presbyter, the Rev. Ken Baker, “is for us to get a glimpse of the movement that is revolutionizing the church in the UK and see what might happen here if we adopted some of what they have learned.”

SPOKANE, Wash. ― The Presbytery of Inland Northwest’s annual workshop for church treasurers and clerks of session will be held Oc.t 4 at Millwood Presbyterian Church here.

In addition to training, the event will include a presentation by the Rev. Mark Frey, regional representative for the Board of Pensions, who will discuss changes in the PC(USA)’s benefits plans and how they affect churches, pastors and tax liabilities.

LINCOLN, Neb. ― You've heard about the use of social media to market your church, right? You've heard about push marketing? You use social media? That's Facebook and Twitter, right? But what about Snapchat, Instagram, ask.fm or Flickr? Or what about Secret, Confide, Whisper, Tinder, Yik Yak? Or what about Protect My Rep?

Homestead Presbytery, in cooperation with the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, is sponsoring two communications workshops that promise to reduce some of the bewilderment about communication in the 21st century. They will be held the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 23, or all day Wednesday, Sept. 24 at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church here.

Both workshops will be led by Kris Peterson, Homestead Presbytery’s congregational resource coordinator, and Duane Sweep, communications director for the Synod of Lakes and Prairies.

CLEVELAND ― “Empower” is the title of this year’s leader development event sponsored by the Presbytery of the Western Reserve. The event will be held Oct. 11 at First Presbyterian Church of Willoughby, Ohio.

A dozen workshops will be offered during the course of the day on such topics as stewardship, efforts to halt human trafficking, faith formation, social media, and protecting children from abuse.

TUCSON ― The Synod of the Southwest continues its annual series of theological symposia with “Kaleidoscope 15,” Nov. 3-5 here.

The topic is the Gospel of John and the leader is the Rev. F. Dale Bruner, who taught religion at Whitworth University from 1975 until his retirement in 1997. He is currently adjunct faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary.

SCARBOROUGH, N.Y.Hudson River Presbytery will be hosting a weekend of theology, advocacy and worship Sept. 27–28 called “Changing the Conversation: Claiming Our Voice.”  Presbyterians throughout the Synod of the Northeast―and even beyond―are warmly welcome to attend.

The weekend is built around three events, a conference on Saturday at Stony Point Center from 9:00-3:30, a fundraising reception for the Office of Public Witness and Presbyterian Ministry at the UN that evening from 4:00-6:00, and a worship at Pleasantville Presbyterian Church on Sunday morning at 10:00am that will be simulcast to congregations throughout the presbytery. Visit the website to learn more and register.

With the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Director of the Office of Public Witness, and the Rev. Mark Koenig, Director of the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN on deck as leaders and workshops planned for youth and adults, the energy is high as volunteers create space for intentional reflection.

“This presbytery has a long and strong history of standing up for justice and supporting the essential work of the Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN,” explains the Rev. Dr. Susan Andrews, General Presbyter. “With the guidance of J. Herbert and Mark, we will explore how and why we are called to employ our unique Christian voice to bring about change in the world.” 

“The Office of Public Witness and the UN office are partners who amplify the voice of the General Assembly and help individuals and congregations across the nation take action together,” adds the Rev. Dr. William Crawford, Senior Pastor at Larchmont Avenue Presbyterian Church. “Through this weekend we are raising funds to sustain these offices even as they help the PC(USA) sustain its witness in the world.” In addition to the evening fundraiser, many Hudson River Presbytery congregations are taking a special offering for these ministries.

Across the presbytery, youth and adults are preparing to attend the conference and worship, with the expectation that their presence and thinking will reverberate within their congregational ministries.  “This isn’t a one-off thing,” explains the Rev. Margery Rossi, “our planning team is preparing resources to help those who attend and their whole congregation go deeper.”

The “Go Deeper” resources will be available on the conference website. In addition to useful tried and true curricula with a leader’s and participant’s guide, the resources will also include videographies that recount the stories of people who are experiencing the primary impact of injustice around imprisonment, food, and immigration laws, and are working to change these circumstances.

The video from the Sunday Sept. 28 worship where Nelson and Koenig are sharing the pulpit will be posted on the site immediately following the worship’s conclusion. While some congregations will worship through and with the simulcast, others are planning to watch it as part of adult-education and immediately begin using the resources.

“We’re planning to use the video as soon as it posts during our 11:30 am adult education class,” explains Barbara Horan, a retired educator and ruling elder at White Plains Presbyterian Church in White Plains.

“It’s the first time we’re trying this and it’s exciting to see how technology is helping us build community and commitment,” explains the Rev. Rhonda Kruse, Connections and Change Presbyter for Hudson River Presbytery. “A number of congregations are joining together for worship on that day to view the simulcast and explore ways they might work as partners for justice.”

Bryan Bardin, Director of Christian Education and Youth Ministries at Pleasantville Presbyterian Church and a seasoned videographer, has been busy purchasing equipment, coordinating the necessary technology and will be overseeing the preparations.  “It’s costing about two hundred dollars to get extra long cables and the special adapter, but it’s something that the presbytery can use over and over.”

And that’s just the point, notes Kruse, “With this weekend we’re making an investment not only in our trusted national offices, but in the members of this presbytery. By inspiring and equipping our members and connecting them for powerful work, we know this weekend will have a lasting impact.” (―Noelle Damico, Hudson River Presbytery director of communications)