A Living Oak

by | Sep 25, 2023

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display God’s glory.

Isaiah 61:3b

Last Tuesday’s Presbytery meeting resulted in several important decisions. I was looking forward to the meeting with joyous and anxious anticipation—joyous because the meeting highlighted wonderful ministries in our Presbytery family, and anxious because we were trying to do so much, and we were testing our abilities to communicate effectively over a hybrid format. I want to thank Claremont Presbyterian Church for being hosts on short notice, and for the many hours they put into setting up the system for the hybrid meeting. The decisions were made, the ministries were supported and encouraged, but we weren’t able to run the videos that were to be offered. However, you can view the videos on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SanGabPresbytery.

This meeting was planned as an all-Zoom meeting, and we did have 57 participants through Zoom. When we heard that Milagro Mejia, International Peacemaker from El Salvador, would be in Southern California, we switched to a hybrid meeting, so we could meet Milagro in person. Thanks to a delicious dinner arranged by Puente de Esperanza Church, we were able to meet Milagro, and hear a little more about the Calvinist Reformed Church of El Salvador (IRCES), which she helped to establish. Her translator, Joseph Russ, is the new Coordinator for Migration Issues, Advocacy, and Mission in the Northern Triangle of Central America with World Mission in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. This position was created by the General Assembly when they acted on an overture from our neighbor, the Presbytery of the Pacific. It was good to meet Milagro and Joseph, because we are planning to have a presence in the leadership group that will guide the ministry that Joseph will implement, and the IRCES is a key partner in that ministry. Some of Milagro’s pre-Presbytery talk is one of the videos on Facebook.

We are blessed to have relationships across the miles. Inquirer Kristi Van Nostran gave the opening prayer from San Diego. When Kristi was a mission co-worker in El Salvador, she attended the church where Milagro is a Deaconness and Milagro’s husband is Pastor. And Ally Lee joined us from Georgia, where she and Brian introduced us to baby Rowan Mae Lee, who was born just 6 days earlier!

We heard from Inquirer Veronica Ota (First Presbyterian Altadena), and voted to advance her to candidacy. Veronica is passionate about her calling to help the church play a more active role in creation care and community, which is being recognized as critical to the future church. She is also a gifted musician, and we were hoping to have her open the meeting by inviting the Holy Spirit to be with us—if you want to hear and see her do so, go to Facebook.

The report from Commission on Ministry was action-packed, including welcoming Rev. Beth Putney into San Gabriel Presbytery. Beth is the inaugural Pastoral Resident with San Marino Community Church, focusing on social innovation, which is another emerging movement in today’s church.

We also received the annual updates from new worshiping communities Interwoven and in Temple City, and voted to fund them in the coming year as they grow and mature. These two new communities of faith were to lead us in worship and music; they can be seen and heard on Facebook. Both groups have exciting potential. Interwoven has always had the vision of entrepreneurship in its ministry—an adjacent venture that would engage the community, provide training and employment for young people, and provide the ministry with an alternate source of income. In order to do this, they will need a home base that can support a larger venture than Sunday worship.

The New Worshipping Community in Temple City proposed a new name for their ministry, which is partnered with Westminster Presbyterian Church in Temple City. The new name, which was approved on Tuesday, is Live Oak Community Church. This name offers many connections for us, as a live oak symbolizes the perseverance of Westminster, their growth that is already evident, the strength of the combined efforts of Westminster and the Bridge service of Arcadia, the care they offer to new Christians—and oh yeah, the church is on Live Oak Avenue in Temple City!

We also gave thanks for the faithful ministry of Vikki Randall as she moves to retired status, while she continues to contribute to the Haven ministry with Claremont and as other needs arise. And the 2024 Presbytery minimums for pastors were approved. We will post them elsewhere in the Monday Morning Update. Look also for the nomination form for General Assembly positions in Salt Lake City, Utah, next year, and if you are led to nominate yourself, please do so by October 15th.

The Justice, Peacemaking and Misson Committee shared highlights from the June survey on our churches’ relationships with homeless neighbors; the main message was that we don’t know how to interact with them and don’t know what resources that are available, so JPM will work on providing education and information. They also reminded us about the Peace and Global Witness special offering, which is traditionally offered on World Communion Sunday, which is always the first Sunday in October (that’s this coming Sunday, October 1). Individual congregations are encouraged to utilize up to 25% of this Offering to connect with the global witness of Christ’s peace. Mid councils retain an additional 25% for ministries of peace and reconciliation. And the remaining 50% is used by the Presbyterian Mission Agency to advocate for peace and justice in cultures of violence, including our own, through collaborative projects of education and Christian witness.

Speaking of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, JPM shared a brief and insightful video introducing Rev. Jermaine Ross-Allam, Director of the new Center for Repair of Historical Harms in the PMA. You can hear from him on Facebook as well.

Additional key points from the Presbytery meeting included the approval of the sale of the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church property; the announcement of WinterFest, to be held on Zoom January 31-February 2 and in person on February 3; new task forces created for the 2024 budget and to look again at the Presbytery’s strategy on property development, and a new survey, to hear from you on interests for new learning and relationship-building. You can complete the survey online by September 30 at https://forms.gle/AjWcYVa4SNQzzWV98.

One thing that we did not mention is the fall equinox, when the PC(USA) has traditionally observed Native American Day. We provide some focus on our Indigenous hosts and neighbors in our November Presbytery meeting, but as it happens, I just received good news from Mona Morales Recalde, elder from La Verne Heights Presbyterian and also Community Outreach Coordinator and enrolled member of the Gabrieleno/Tongva San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians. Because she gave such an excellent presentation at our WinterFest this last February, her co-presenter, Elaine Enns, referred NPR to interview Mona! We’ll announce when the interview is broadcast. Mona also shared that AB (Assembly Bill) 776 was passed in a strong bipartisan show of support and was just sent to Governor Newsom for signing. This bill, for which the Presbytery wrote a letter of support, will direct the Department of Transportation to install highway signs along the 210 freeway that recognizes tribal lands in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, and renames the freeway to the Southern California Native American Freeway.

As I mentioned, there was much to celebrate this last week. As a family of established and emerging ministries, we are like that live oak, able to lend protection to new ministries as we continue to endure from our strong roots in the gospel. Let us give thanks for new and continuing life in our Lord!