Our First Time

by | Jun 19, 2017

This last Saturday we tried something different for our Presbytery meeting-we held our first annual All-Presbytery Work Day. I say first annual because prior to the event, some of us were bracing ourselves for whatever would happen, as signups were slow and the logistics of the day required a few wings and a few prayers. So we committed that whatever happens, we would take it as a learning opportunity for future workdays.

Well, as one person shared later, the day was anointed, and I would like to thank the Justice, Peacemaking and Mission Committee, who organized the event, with help from the Education Committee, who organized the worship and who connect with Tapestry Youth Collective. The Presbytery meeting included several important decisions, including:

• Approval of a loan for several needed repairs that also will greatly improve the energy efficiency and accessibility of the new Presbytery Center in Temple City
• Approval of the call of Rev. Walter Contreras to the Spanish Language Ministry of Pasadena Presbyterian Church, with his installation on July 23rd at 2:30 p.m.
• Approval of the call of Rev. John Moon to Korean Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church, with his installation on August 6th at 4:00 p.m.
• Approval of a small grant to help support the new worshiping community, Church Glorious, in West Covina
• Connecting with our Tapestry Youth Collective Middle School Work Week participants, and dedicating our offering to Tapestry
• Commissioning the Youth Trip to Peru this July.

Some of you may appreciate the import of Rev. Moon’s call, which represents a new chapter for Korean Good Shepherd, a church that has persevered through years of turmoil due to an attempt to take the church out of the Presbytery. I encourage you all to attend one or both of these installations, which will be true celebrations of our connectional church. Both churches have much potential as well as challenge, and your prayers are welcome.

After perhaps the shortest stated meeting in San Gabriel Presbytery history (1.4 hours, including 25 minutes for worship), about 30 adults and 30 youth grabbed their sack lunches and went to work. Some of the sites had full contingents, some had only a few (though they had some of their own members as well), but the day was a blessing for the workers, and I hope for the churches and mission partners who welcomed us.

For me, the day was a reminder of the many jobs we pastors get to do. It’s been said that the pastorate is one of the last true generalist jobs, and I for one rejoice in the diversity of gifts used, and opportunities to work offered, in ministry. I have often said that my favorite day in ministry started out in Honolulu, meeting as a trustee for the $30 million Hawai’i Conference Foundation, then flying home to Kauai to count and sort potatoes for the next day’s food pantry.

So on Saturday, Rev. Jeff O’Grady, pastor of San Marino Community Church, and his Princeton intern Alex volunteered to bag the sandwiches for the sack lunches. Rev. Oswaldo Garcia climbed a ladder at Puente de Esperanza in La Puente to clear spiders from the rafters. Rev. N’Yisrela Watts-Afriyie worked with Angel Interfaith Network to put together much-needed supplies of toiletries and clothing for patients as they leave LAC+USC Medical Center. Revs. Diane Frasher and Jake Kim worked in the community garden of First Presbyterian Church of Pomona. Revs. Mary Ellen Azada, Matt Colweel and Jennifer Ackerman applied labels with the presbytery’s new address to over 1500 envelopes. And I got to haul concrete that had been broken up with a jackhammer at Shepherd of the Valley, which was a nice counterpoint to the day I mixed and poured concrete at my church in Waipahu.

Of course, it wasn’t just the pastors who did this work-there were many more ruling elders, youth, and friends who led us. I would not put a jackhammer in the hands of most pastors! Like former Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons said, we are a do-it-together church in a do-it-yourself world.

On Sunday I got to preach and fellowship with the English language service of Alhambra True Light Presbyterian Church. During lunch, one of their commissioners commented on the renewal of baptism that was part of the worship service. He stated exactly what Rev. Jennifer Ackerman proposed when she designed the service-that we are baptized into Christ so that we may go out and do Christ’s mission in the world. And that’s who we are, and that’s what we did.

There is much need for the grace of Jesus Christ in this world. We have the awesome opportunity-and responsibility-to be bearers of that grace. Let us take that opportunity, together with our sisters and brothers in Christ, and see God’s hand at work in our world.

Thanks for everyone who participated in our first Work Day! And blessings on all of you, for all the ways you reflect God’s glory in your life and your work.