Retired Church Workers

Retired Church Workers

Guest Author: Lauren Evans.

I’ve been working as the presbytery’s Chaplain to Retired Church Workers now for nearly half a year, and as I’ve begun to get to know a number of the Honorably Retired members of our community I’ve had the chance to listen to the stories of folks who have lived lives of service in ways that they never could have predicted. There has been a constant theme, especially among the stories from our retired missionaries. Being willing to let God lead the way (even when that means leaving friends and family and one’s home in order to do God’s mission work as strangers in strange lands) means finding oneself living a life that was never expected, that didn’t work out the way they’d planned, yet managed to be filled to the brim with the joie de vivre of life abundant.

One of the gifts that comes with hearing the stories of our retired church workers means getting a chance to see the overarching narrative of God’s hand in the life of another. And it truly has been an enormous gift. So often in my own ministry experience I have been caught up in the stress and urgency of day-to-day matters of church life, and indeed caught up in the momentary details of non-church life, too. Getting lost in the midst of the demands of the immediate means finding our gaze directed almost anywhere else but at God. It becomes so very easy to ignore or even forget that God is the one at the helm of our lives, and that God is playing the long game. We may look at the fraction of life that is in front of us and wonder where God is, failing to see that God has been at work in shaping our journeys from our first steps in the world and will continue through our very last breaths.

Getting the chance to sit down with some of our retired church workers and listening to them tell the story of their journeys makes God’s active presence in their lives much easier to see, however. Telling our story means taking a step back in perspective, as though we had been standing too close to a painting in an art museum but finally walked far enough way to see what was really going on. And as our retired church workers have taken those backward steps with me to look at their lives together, the clear guidance of God’s hand through every step becomes obvious.

I am relatively young in my ministry, and in the grand scheme of things even young in my own journey with God, but the gift of my work with our HRs and their families is in the realization that just as God has guided and continues to guide their steps in extraordinary and unexpected ways, so too does God guide my own steps. As I listen to the stories of others, I hear God calling gently to me to take a step back in my own life, to see the whole of my story so far, to see God’s hand in my journey and to have the hope and trust in God to lead me still in the years to come.

There is much to learn when we look backwards, because it reminds us of the constancy of God’s presence in our future. What would change about your own perspective this week if you took a moment to look back, to tell your own story of faith and ministry? What in your story whispers to you the evidence of your own future hope?

In grace,

Lauren Evans
Chaplain to Retired Church Workers

Growing Younger

Growing Younger

Guest Author: Jake Kim.

How can churches grow younger? The book “Growing Young,” written by the Fuller Youth Institute, looks at various strategies to help develop meaningful youth and young adult ministries. Their work is based on research from over 250 churches of all sizes, denominations, and theological backgrounds who were identified as “growing younger” by effectively engaging young people between the ages of 15 and 29 years of age.

The three top traits of congregations that are growing younger are that they:

1) Empathize with today’s young people
2) Take Jesus’ message seriously
3) Fuel a warm community.

If you are interested in learning more about these findings and strategies, I would encourage you to visit www.churchesgrowingyoung.org .

The good news is that congregations are adapting and developing meaningful youth and young adult ministries, and these efforts are not just attracting youth but also helping entire congregations to thrive. I invite San Gabriel Presbytery pastors and Sessions to consider: How warm is your community? How clearly do your ministries show that you take the gospel seriously? To what extent are you able to empathize with young people? Thoughtful self-reflection around these key traits is a useful exercise for any congregation and just might help you begin to “grow younger.”

As Associate for Ministry Development for San Gabriel Presbytery, I am the resource person for SGP’s Education Committee. One of our mandates is to liaise and support the Tapestry Youth Collective of San Gabriel Presbytery, which equips and encourages collaborative youth ministry activities and mission projects between our churches. Sophia Alecci is the new moderator of Tapestry and also works as the Director of Student Ministries at San Marino Community Church (See her article below). Sophia would love to be a resource for San Gabriel churches looking for ideas to develop youth ministries. Please feel free to contact Sophia at (206) 327-7875 or salecci@smccpby.com or myself, Rev. Jake Kim, at 626-487-1511 or jakekim@sangabpres.org .

In Christ’s Service,

Jake Kim
Associate for Ministry Development -SGP Education Committee Resource Person

 

Message from SGP Tapestry Youth Collective Moderator – Sophia Alecci

When I was a student in the church, I had mentors that were invested in my growth. They supported me, challenged me, and just hung out with me. Students are the future of the church, and the church needs to be a community that welcomes our youth in! The church should be a space that fosters important dialogue with our students, and creates spaces that students can both laugh and cry in. When attendance is dwindling a church is cutting budgets, too often it is the student ministries that is the first to go. If we want the church to continue to grow, we must invest into our young people!

Sophia Alecci
Moderator of SGP Tapestry Youth Collective

Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity

Guest Author: Wendy Gist.

If I had been asked to write this column a week ago, the Bible verses I selected for this week’s column would not have been my chosen verses. I was far from a “Praise the Lord!” place. I was not thanking God. Instead I was stressed out and frustrated and not thinking happy thoughts.

There had been a fairly major setback on one of the projects I was working on and I wasn’t getting information from others that I needed to make my way forward clear. So, the setback lingered and the feeling of frustration festered. After days of waiting and stress building, my shoulders and neck were tight with tension. It was only then at this very low point that I finally remembered to take my burden to God in prayer and not try to get through this on my own. So, pray I did. It was after praying that I received an idea of one possible way to resolve this issue that actually excited me.

As we’ve all heard before, God sometimes works in mysterious ways. Let’s move back in time about a month. I’m sure you all remember our June 17th Presbytery meeting and Day of Service. I signed up to serve at Door of Hope in Pasadena along with a number of others, including a group of Tapestry kids and their leaders. We met there, took a tour while hearing about what Door of Hope does, and then started work on the available tasks. I knew a couple of the people who signed up to work alongside me, but mostly these were new folks for me. During lunch I made a point of sitting with a group I didn’t know and chatting awhile with one person in particular. Overall, it was a very good service day experience, enhanced by those I worked and talked with.

Now let’s fast forward back to a few days ago after praying to God to bring resolution to this problem I was experiencing. It was after that that I remembered the person I chatted with during lunch on our Presbytery Day of Service and the very positive impression she left on me. I reached out to her via email with a subject line that said “An urgent, but crazy question.” She responded that same day in a way that gave me immediate hope and relieved much of the stress I was feeling. One day later, a happy and exciting resolution emerged, and my problem and stress faded away.

Do I think God was in this? Absolutely! Was God just waiting for me to settle down enough and humble myself enough to reach out in prayer? Absolutely! Am I now praising the Lord and thanking God with all my heart? Absolutely! Will I remember to reach out to God sooner next time? I sure hope so.

God always remembers us – is always there for us and with us. We are the ones who have to remember to include God instead of trying to go it alone.

Wendy Gist
Mission Advocate

Prayer for Your SGP Staff

Prayer for Your SGP Staff

Every summer, your presbytery staff reflects on our work in the past year, and updates our objectives for the next year, until June 2018. I thought I would share a few top-line priorities, for your information and so you can pray for us as we seek to support the ministries of San Gabriel Presbytery.

Diane Frasher, Stated Clerk Email

Diane has the responsibility for ensuring that the constitutional duties of the Stated Clerk are fulfilled, in coordination with Associate Stated Clerk Twila French. A major new emphasis this year is to provide more training and consultation with clerks of session of our member churches, especially new clerks and/or churches who seek to improve their session minutes and church records. Because Diane will no longer be Stated Clerk for Riverside Presbytery, her schedule will be more flexible from now on. On a personal note, she now lives within San Gabriel Presbytery (in La Verne), and has a new grandson, Dalton, born on Friday, July 14. Congratulations, Diane!

Twila French, Associate Stated Clerk/Administrator Email

As I have shared, Twila has had to take on yet another major job responsibility when we purchased the Temple City property. In addition to her work with Diane, managing the office, and doing the bookkeeping, Twila is a point person for repairs and coordinating with our shared ministry partners as we share the Presbytery Center. Unfortunately, one area we had hoped to relieve Twila was website management, but that has not happened as the redesign has not been completed and an on-going maintenance person has not been identified. We will need to make some decisions if the website redesign is not completed by September. An on-going prayer I have for Twila is self-care, especially taking vacation time away from the Presbytery.

As I have shared, Twila has had to take on yet another major job responsibility when we purchased the Temple City property. In addition to her work with Diane, managing the office, and doing the bookkeeping, Twila is a point person for repairs and coordinating with our shared ministry partners as we share the Presbytery Center. Unfortunately, one area we had hoped to relieve Twila was website management, but that has not happened as the redesign has not been completed and an on-going maintenance person has not been identified. We will need to make some decisions if the website redesign is not completed by September. An on-going prayer I have for Twila is self-care, especially taking vacation time away from the Presbytery.

Wendy Gist, Mission Advocate Email

Wendy’s priorities expanded significantly when the Justice, Peacemaking and Mission Committee was formed in 2015. She continues to live into this expanded portfolio in the coming year, now including SDOP (Self-Development of People). We discussed the success of our first annual Presbytery Work Day, and have plans to enable more participation next summer. Wendy is finalizing the preparations for the second youth trip to Peru (though she misses Rocky Supinger, who worked with her to coordinate the details for the first youth trip several years ago). Please pray for all participants, youth and adults, during their time in Peru, July 27-August 7. And we still hope to invite several new participants for our first-ever installation in Peru’s capital city of Lima. This will be a great opportunity because Lima is more accessible and closer to sea level, and the culture of Lima is rich and fascinating. The hope is that the Lima trip will be in Spring 2018.

Jake Kim, Ministry Development Associate Email

Jake will continue to work with the Vision and Strategy Team to develop procedures for evaluating potential new worshiping communities and their leaders, especially as they apply for funding through and from the presbytery. Jake and VST will also support potential new worshiping community leaders, especially who may be interested in the middle of our presbytery, as well as working with a couple of churches in redevelopment. One area that Jake also hopes to focus more on is leadership development, especially supporting young adults who may be coming into leadership in their churches.

Lauren Evans, Chaplain for Retired Presbyterian Church Workers Email

Lauren is learning from our retirees how to define and support the relationships of our retirees with the larger church, and with each other. There is a desire for retirees to connect with each other in a different way from their career days before retirement. Lauren hopes to hold quarterly lunches, and to explore ways our retirees can use their personal and also pastoral gifts. Finally, Lauren anticipates opportunities to help retirees navigate their finances, and to share their story. I for one would love to hear more from our amazing retires, who have lived and often were raised in other countries in work through World Mission. Lauren is seeking a way for the retirees to share their stories-I for one would love to hear more from our retirees!

Wendy Tajima, Executive Presbyter Email

As I mentioned last week, several of our churches are making significant decisions about their future ministries, and I want to support them through their transitions, whatever they may become. Of course, property issues continue to roll along, both the revision and management of the new Presbytery Center but also the ongoing sagas of attempts to sell the Irwindale and South Hills (Pomona) properties. Another major initiative will be to work with Twila French and our CPA, Bruce Gray, to do a major redesign of our accounting system. The current accounting system needs a redesign, especially with property income and expenses, dozens of defunct accounts that need clearing out, and to enable a mission-specific fiscal process.

Speaking of the new Presbytery Center, we need a high-quality grand piano for the sanctuary. The piano was replaced by the Disciples by a loaner when the building was transferred. If you know of a grand piano that can be donated to the Presbytery or purachased, please let Twila or me know. But since I’ll be out of town the next three weeks, better to contact Twila at 626.614.5964 or Email.

One last update. This last weekend was a very happy one for our presbytery, as Pasadena Presbyterian Church met as a full congregation and voted to call Rev. Dongwoo Lee as their Korean Language Pastor. Dongwoo has been a very active member of our presbytery, and his great pastoral gifts were most appreciated as he helped Korean Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church during a most difficult time as they were exiled from their building. Korean Good Shepherd’s Administrative Commission just met this weekend as well, and with that church’s call to Rev. John Moon, the AC voted to seek dissolution this fall. They gave original jurisdiction to the church session immediately, and plan to complete financial reviews and present a final report for the September 16 Presbytery meeting. HALLELUJAH!

PPC’s Korean praise team sang a song that included the following lines:

Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God
And nothing will be able to stop us from loving His church.

As we all seek to serve Christ’s church in different ways, and as we can celebrate together each other’s ministries and the ministries we support as one body, let us give thanks to God for opportunities to uplift each other in the Presbytery, and for very gifted and faithful staff who support you as you follow Christ’s leading. And may we all continue to love Christ’s church.

In Christ’s peace,

Wendy

On the Move

On the Move

Are you keeping cool?!

Yesterday I was quite worried about the weekend heat, because we do not yet have air conditioning in the sanctuary at the Presbytery Center on 9723 Garibaldi in Temple City. Worshiping with 200+ folks at 1:30 in the afternoon without air conditioning was going to present quite a challenge for Mideast Evangelical/MEC! (A challenge almost matched at Trinity in Pasadena, as they tried a Saturday afternoon worship in THEIR no-AC sanctuary.)

I decided to stop by to see just how hot it was, and found the folks moving their worship to the fellowship hall. It was so hot that Grace Taiwanese had finished their lunch quickly and went home, which cleared the air-conditioned fellowship hall for MEC to worship there, thank God!

Korean Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church

The MEC folk had good spirits about the move and I heard this mobile worship went well. I left early so I could visit with Rev. Dr. Heidi Park, our minister member who moved last year to Cincinnati to be a professor at Xavier University. She had also visited Korea, and her husband continues to go back and forth between Korea and Pasadena for his research. She is doing fine, Xavier has been a welcoming community, and she is doing very interesting research on the physiological impact of historical trauma-she has learned that there are changes to the DNA of a people as they are haunted by past persecution. This research was observed initially with Holocaust survivors after World War II, and Heidi is looking into the struggles of the Korean people. (Interestingly, after speaking with Koreans who have immigrated to the United States, Heidi is hearing that immigration has been more traumatic than memories of past wars.)

There are other ways God’s people are on the move in our presbytery. Rev. John Moon just began his ministry at Korean Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, and we pray for him and for his people, that his faithfulness and pastoral gifts help to support and heal and lead the people of KGSPC into a future of hope and service. His installation service is Sunday, August 6, at 4 p.m. Please come and celebrate and pray for this critical new chapter in KGSPC’s ministry.

Pasadena Presbyterian Church

This coming Sunday, Pasadena Presbyterian Church will be hearing and voting on a new pastor for their Korean Language Ministry, and the next Sunday, July 23, the Presbytery will install Rev. Walter Contreras as pastor of their Spanish Language Ministry. Please show your support at this 2:30 p.m. service. Rev. Ann Oglesby-Edwards, PPC’s transitional head of staff, is working diligently with skill and sensitivity in addressing multiple interim tasks at the church. Blessings on PPC as they are experiencing an exciting time of transition!

Tonight, the Commission on Ministry will be considering several requests from churches asking the Presbytery to walk with them as they consider their future ministries. One and possibly two churches will be utilizing the New Beginnings process this fall, which will lead to new awareness of the church and their neighborhood, and with this awareness the church members can discern God’s will for them. If your church is interested in New Beginnings, most of the same personnel who led our churches through New Beginnings two years ago are still doing it, so there is still a Presbyterian-focused approach available to our churches. Let me know if you are interested; if your church has not used the stimulus funds (the Presbytery reserved $2,000/church for church development processes like New Beginnings), then the net cost to the church is $1,500, which is still a relative bargain for the data you receive. Of the ten churches that went through New Beginnings two years ago, significant decisions have been made in seven churches at least, which is a very good track record.

It’s exciting to see how many churches are on the move in our Presbytery. I’m not sure why God decided to move us in the dog days of summer, but it certainly does help to remind us of the challenges of the Exodus. And I have always loved that God was perfectly happy without a structure built by humans who tried to contain God who cannot be contained. And if we can comprehend God’s freedom to roam, may we learn to be equally free to move as God leads us.

So as we begin our mini-Exodus and the new promise (and challenge) of change, as our churches take bold steps into an unknown future, may we give thanks that God goes with us every day, even as we worry about discomforts along the way. And thank God that we can band together as God’s people, and be as Christ for each other and for all our neighbors in San Gabriel Valley. May we encourage and support each other on this journey, that we all may stay faithful and embrace the opportunities of change that God is presenting to us.

And let us pace ourselves. To that end, I will be taking the second half of July for vacation, and then will help lead a seminar for new immigrant clergywomen in Florida (including Mary Ren, our Mandarin pastor at Alhambra True Light!), so I will be out of the office July 17-August 6.

Trusting in our nomadic God,

Wendy

As Boomers Age

As Boomers Age

Yesterday, Mideast Evangelical Church worshiped for the first time in their new home at 9723 Garibaldi Avenue in Temple City. They were welcomed by Grace Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, who have been worshiping at this location for about 20 years. Each first Sunday of the month, MEC has an intergenerational bilingual communion service, with simultaneous translation of the sermon. Grace worships (in Taiwanese) at 10:30 a.m., MEC (in Arabic) at 1:30 p.m. if you’d like to worship with them.

Members of the Mideast Evangelical Church pray for Maher Makar.

Thanks to the excellent translation, I was able to appreciate Rev. Maher Makar’s sermon. As a Bible scholar, he provides Bible study as well as modern application.

As he considered Acts 7, when Stephen preached about Moses, Maher noted how the Bible uses “40 years” to represent a completion of a phase in one’s life. So Moses’ life was divided into three 40-year blocks. The first 40 years, Moses was raised and taught in the house of the Pharaoh. The second 40 years, after killing an Egyptian, he lived in Midian as a shepherd. The third and last 40 years was, of course, the Exodus.

Maher’s message was that God chooses whom God chooses and when God chooses, and what we do in service to God’s mission is not based on our skill and strength, but on God. So it’s never too late to serve God, because God will make us able.

For several years I’ve been thinking about how things will change as the Baby Boomers move into retirement age. The Boomers (born 1946-1964) have been so dominant that they have recreated each phase of life in their own image. As one person said, “when the Boomers started to have children, it’s as if they invented parenthood.” Many of the recent changes in the church (for instance, praise music, and also the marginalization of the church) came from the Boomers’ critical view of the traditional church.

We are now in a post-Christendom world, where about half of US Christians attend church. But as the Boomers age, some are becoming nostalgic for their roots-which include the church. Some are seeking new community and activities to replace their job and child-raising responsibilities. Some are considering the ultimate questions of life as they age. And some, who do not find their way back to church, are often met with grace and compassion by chaplains while in the hospital or hospice. So there are new opportunities to proclaim the gospel to those who have never really experienced a life of faith, or walked away from it.

I have noticed a new awareness of the times when God calls individuals in their advanced age. The first time I heard this was in a Pentecost sermon given by Mark Lau-Branson. He noted the Jewish tradition of wanting to die in Jerusalem, even for those who lived all over the world. This resulted in Jerusalem being a kind of international retirement community, so when the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus’ disciples and attracted the attention of the people, many of these early Christian converts were awaiting death. As noted by Maher Makar, Moses was 80 when God called him to confront Pharaoh. And we all know that Abram and Sarai embarked on their journey at the ages of 75 and 65, and did not bear Isaac until 25 years later.

As Maher said in his sermon, when God called Moses to confront Pharaoh, Moses probably thought, “Why come to me now? Why didn’t YHWH come to me when I was 40, when I was strong and able?” But as God made so clear when speaking through the burning bush, God does not call us when we are ready to do great things with our own abilities, but God calls those whose abilities are doubtful, so that we must answer with faith, and our actions reflect God’s glory, not our own. It is not up to us to decide when it’s convenient to serve the Lord, it’s up to the Lord to know when the time is right.

Recently we had a meeting of the advisory team for Rev. Lauren Evans, our new Chaplain for Retired Church Workers. I always enjoy talking with Lauren about her ministry, because as Rev. Doug Edwards points out, we have the opportunity to look anew at ministry with retirees. Due to our longer lifespans (I believe Board of Pensions said that our retirees live on average into their 90s), we can expect to live 20+ years after retirement. So retirement is not just an ending, but a whole new chapter for life and ministry.

Karen Berns

Doug mentioned that the most important factors in our well-being in retirement are community, purpose, and health. As church families, and as the Presbytery family, we have the opportunity to welcome retirees into community. As Presbyterians, we know God calls us for God’s purpose-and we understand that the nature of that call can change over time. While we often think we can’t control health concerns, we do know that community and purpose do have positive impact on one’s health. Conversely, we are challenged to be a welcoming community and to support one’s evolving call, even as health considerations may affect the ease with which we can put someone into areas of responsibility.

In the coming years, I believe there are growing opportunities for outreach with older adults. And as we open up to God’s call in unexpected times, may we be reminded that God calls all of us, not when we are ready, but when God ordains it.   And as God calls us forward, may we respond with faith, because as God told the 90-year-old Sarah, “Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?”

Trusting in our wondrous God,

Wendy