Ancestors, Children, Servants

by | Jun 10, 2024

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing. Isaiah 35:1-2a

We have another Presbytery meeting, and our annual Day of Service, coming up this Saturday. We are asking everyone to REGISTER for the meeting and especially the Day of Service. There are some details especially for the people who will be working with the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy which will help our hosts better plan for us.

Even though the business meeting will be short, the day will still touch on varied events in the life of our Presbytery. The title of this reflection—Ancestors, Children, Servants—was my attempt to sum up the common threads as I look ahead to the day.

First of all, we have many ancestors to remember. Most immediately, it seems that God has opened the window for many of our beloved to pass on to heaven. Just this last week, I heard that we have lost two minister members of San Gabriel Presbytery, Rev. Pat Williams and Rev. Dale Morgan; the mother of staff member Wendy Gist; and Dave Weber, a long-time and beloved member and former clerk of session for Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church.

We also have the transitioning of congregations and church properties. We will receive the final report from the Administrative Commission for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, as they made final donations to several nonprofit agencies, and an update on the plans for redevelopment of the Eagle Rock Presbyterian Church property. While it is not final enough for presentation to the Presbytery, we are also revising and renewing agreements for our fellowship in West Covina with International Theological Seminary and two partner churches. In God’s resurrection economy, these actions of generosity, vision, and partnership grew out of the closure of three churches—St. Andrew’s, South Hills in Pomona, and Community West Covina—and the decision of the Presbytery to make a major investment in the Eagle Rock church property, with the hope of creating a new community center and worship space for Interwoven new worshiping community. There certainly is new life springing forth in these spaces, with the St. Andrew’s property continuing to be used as a preschool, Interwoven at Eagle Rock seems to have a new baby appear nearly every month, and at West Covina, pastors are being taught for ministry here and around the world, including a plan for ITS to begin offering MDiv classes for domestic as well as international students. Since ITS is an ATS-accredited seminary with Reformed roots and tuition that costs a fraction of that of other local seminaries, this will be a boon for us as we welcome new pastors in training, starting with an online Polity class taught in Spanish by our own Amy Mendez.

In our Presbytery meeting we plan to receive Rev. Trina Zelle, the former director of PHEWA (Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association) and an old friend to several of us—and she has great energy to serve! And in the Day of Service, we will continue with our tradition of assembling hygiene kits for patients at Los Angeles General Medical Center (formerly LAC+USC Medical Center) who are released to homelessness, as well as helping our host church, Trinity Presbyterian, sort through artifacts of the history of the church.

Several of us will be going to the first land in Los Angeles County owned by the Tongva community in over 200 years, an acre in Altadena that will be restored to native flora with a house that will eventually be used as a gathering place and cultural education center. Talk about ancestors! We are blessed to have a relationship with the first peoples of this land where we all dwell, going back at least several decades, when Cheryl Prentice welcomed the Tongva tribe to have their headquarters at La Casa de San Gabriel. Leaders of the tribe were just recently at the White House, to witness a proclamation expanding the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument with protection for land with significant cultural and sacred importance to the Indigenous peoples in this area. Wendy Gist reminds us that we were advocating for the establishment of the Monument with the “San Gabriel Mountains Forever” campaign several years ago, and it is growing to be an even more profound act of honor for our Indigenous hosts, and stewardship of the land. It is another sign of God’s penchant for new life that the Tongva people’s care and deep knowledge of the land is now being recognized and sought after in this time of climate change and wildfires.

Ancestors, Children, Servants.

In this coming weekend, the weekend of Father’s Day and the weekend before Juneteenth, may we give thanks for ancestors on this land, for ancestors of the faith for our Presbytery family, and ancestor churches whose legacies are fueling new ministries in the future.

May we look to the future marked by our abiding faith in God’s generosity. May we give thanks to God with a willingness to commit our efforts, resources, and hopes to emerging generations of pastoral leaders, new ministries and faith communities, and young families, as well as children of God who are sick and without sufficient shelter. 

And let us be responsive to God’s call for service. Let us give thanks for new friends and on-going partners in ministry as we serve together. We hope to welcome Trina and her husband Phil Reller, a UCC pastor, as well as a few Interwoven members coming to the Day of Service and maybe even their first Presbytery meeting.  

There are so many ways to honor ancestors, care for God’s children, and serve. I look forward to seeing you and serving with you this Saturday, and I pray for a joyous Father’s Day for all on Sunday.