The Practice of Seeing

The Practice of Seeing

So she (Hagar) named the LORD who spoke to her, “You are El-roi” (God of seeing or God who sees).

Genesis 16:13

Over the past few months, I have found myself reflecting one of the stories of Hagar. In Genesis 16, she is introduced as the Egyptian slave of Sarai who is given to Abraham as a second wife to give them both the heir that God has promised. Sarai deals harshly with her when she becomes pregnant, and Hagar runs away into the wilderness. There in the wilderness the angel of the Lord finds her by a spring of water. After their meeting, Hagar names the Lord, El-roi or God who sees.

El-roi, God who sees, names the action of God’s attention placed on those who might otherwise be unseen. Hagar flees a situation where she is unseen. Taken advantage of as a vessel rather than valued as a member of the family. God’s seeing is restorative and gives strength to Hagar to return.

I have been meditating on this passage because in many ways I am learning how to put my attention on those who are often unseen. As the Teaching Elder Commissioner for our Presbytery, one of the ways that I participated in the discernment of General Assembly was to submit myself to the practice of Equity Primes. Each of us was given a reference card that said:

Equity Prime

We each have a choice. . . to be a voice for equity and inclusion.

When I see or hear someone being treated in a manner contrary to our values and rights as members of this committee, I can. . .

  • Send a private message to the speaker
  • Ask for recognition to pause and address the issue in the moment
    • Speak with the moderator at the break to address later

Am I using the meeting tools to maintain my own power?

Provisional lists of the rights of Committee members underlying the equity prime card:

  • Right to be recognized by the moderator
  • Right to disagree and voice disagreement
  • Right not to be interrupted and be able to finish a thought
    • Right to vote (depending upon status)
      • Right to speak with an accent
      • Right to request an interpreter
      • Right to feel equal to others at the table
    • Right not to be a cradle Presbyterian and have zero connection to the historical church


Throughout our meetings together, there were many times that we read these cards together. We reminded ourselves that the work of discernment involved putting our attention to what many times might be unseen in the conversation. At several points, we needed to slow down the conversation, so that those who were receiving interpretation could participate. Or we had to stop because the technology needed to be restarted for a few people. In addition to the equity prime cards, we also agreed to a Committee Covenant that encouraged us to consider what voices were not speaking and to ask who if those who would be most impacted have had the chance to speak.

The Equity Prime cards are one way of practicing together how to see people and issues that are unseen. Like all difficult work it takes practice to build competency. Throughout our time together, it became clear that the practice was shifting some of the ways that our committee was interacting. By the time, we were discussing the format for the 226th General Assembly, we were asking more questions about the impacts to groups that have not been able to participate in General Assembly due to caregiving responsibilities, hourly jobs, lack of internet accessibility, adequate financial support for the secondary costs, or accessibility challenges due to disability. I imagine that over the course of weeks and months, the practice would bear even more significant fruit.

As we are preparing for our September 13 Presbytery Meeting and even beyond looking to read and vote on around 30 amendments to the Constitution from the 225th General Assembly, my hope is that as a Presbytery we might consider practices that will enable us to put our attention on people and issues that might be unseen in our work together.


 Rev. Ally Lee

One other note: I hope that you will register this week for the EEE Mid-Year Conference. We are excited to share with you all the thoughtful reflections and challenges that Rev. Dr. Dongwoo Lee and Rev. Dr. Terry McGonigal have for us. You can find out more information including a registration link in the MMU.


Unexpected Gifts

Unexpected Gifts

A Reflection by Stated Clerk for Administration, Rev. Ally Lee

The last days of August are upon us. Schools have begun. We are watching the shifts in weather nervous about local fires and praying for our neighbors affected by ongoing fire and smoke. Hurricane season is in full force on the eastern coast of the Americas. All of these serve as markers of fall. A time for new church programs, education classes, maybe even a beloved yearly gathering. And yet, we are still engaged in this COVID dance. Some regular programs will have to wait another year. Some gatherings will go forward but might look different.

I think we are all tired, and perhaps if you are like me there are moments of excitement. Learnings that come as surprises and change our minds about a long-held belief. Or a shift comes that changes the conversation creating room for dialogue, openness, and forgiveness. These moments fuel creativity and hope. I find that I am more aware of these moments because I need a little extra fuel to keep up with the COVID dance.

This week, I have been grateful for the collection of these moments that have enabled me to get to know the Presbytery more deeply in my first year and a half than I believe I would have under other circumstances. After two months on the job, I was thrown into mid-council work in a pandemic. I found that many of you were willing to offer help and support, and even more of you reached out for encouragement as well. The gifts of encouragement, experience, and wisdom from all corners of our Presbytery have inspired me. I do not know if I would have had so many opportunities to build these relationships across the Presbytery if it wasn’t for Zoom. I am inspired to be on the look out for more unexpected gifts as our COVID dance changes.

And one of the changes that is coming up is our first hybrid Presbytery meeting. It will take place at 9:00 am on Saturday, September 18. You can join the meeting in-person at San Marino Community Church (1750 Virginia Road, San Marino) or on Zoom.

For those joining on Zoom, find a comfortable place to sit in your home or office (wherever your internet is strongest), and sign in by 8:40 am. We will go through the details of how the Zoom meeting will work in hybrid form at 8:50 am. These details will also be sent out in the Presbytery packet on September 10.

For those joining in-person, we will meet in the Fellowship Hall of San Marino Community Church where their contemporary service takes place. A registration table will be set-up in the courtyard. Doors will open at 8:30 am for registration. Please wear a mask and do not attend the in- person gathering if you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have any symptoms.

We will not be serving food or drinks at this meeting. We ask that you enjoy your morning coffee or tea in the courtyard before coming inside for the meeting.

We will have seats set-up in small groups for our breakout times. You will not have to move around to be in a group. The online meeting participants will be shown on screens up front along with the meeting PowerPoint. Please bring a copy of the packet on your device to reference during the meeting if you would like the additional detail that will not be on the PowerPoint. We will go over the details of how we will hear from both groups before the meeting begins.

I am so grateful for the support of SMCC and several in our Presbytery commissions and committees who are helping to sort out the technology and logistics. And I can guarantee there will be hiccups and failures and new learnings. What a gift to share this experience with all of you. We are learning and growing together. May the Spirit more to inspire and shape us in the face of challenge and discomfort. I hope that you will join us for this opportunity.

One way that you can contribute to the work of the meeting is to register for the meeting as soon as possible. In fact why not click this link today and take care of it. The registration form asks if you will attend in-person or on Zoom. As you can imagine, it matters for the design on the meeting if more folks will be in-person or online. If something changes and you need to change your registration, contact me at before September 16, so I can adjust. In the MMU the week before the meeting, I will post a contact number for the day of the Presbytery meeting.

I am excited for the Sept. 18th meeting and hope to see you there.

Grace and peace,




Reflection: Ally Lee

Reflection: Ally Lee

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.

Philippians 2: 1-4

These past few months have been a series of transitions for many of us. Our daily routines have changed. Many routines require more thought and energy than ever before. Who knew that preaching a sermon could take three to four takes with additional work to edit the video? Not to mention learning how to edit the video in the first place. Or that connecting with people we normally see every day would require learning new technologies to be able to see their faces. We are exhausted from learning new ways of being in the world. Even for those of us who are digital natives, the speed of the transition has taken its toll.

As many of you know I work part-time with the Presbytery of San Gabriel as the Presbyter for Administration and the Associate Stated Clerk. My other part-time job is as the Associate Pastor at Knox Presbyterian Church. One of the areas that I oversee at Knox is our children’s program. Over the past few weeks, we have been going through Compassion Camp by Illustrated Ministry. This curriculum written as a virtual VBS teaches basic skills for building compassion and this week’s theme is loving yourself. What this curriculum highlights is that in order to love others well, we must learn to love ourselves. If the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, then we have our work cut out for us to learn how to love well.

When I was younger, this passage from Philippians 2 was taught in such a way that I thought caring for myself was an act of conceit. Being humble required putting aside your own needs. The exhortation was to serve as Christ served and that required humiliation. However, what I think those teachers missed in their exegesis was that there is a distinction between conceit and self-care. An even great distinction between tending to your needs and selfish ambition. I wonder how often we have tangled up those ideas and at who’s expense? If we are only able to love others as well as we love ourselves, then how well are we caring for our neighbors?

My question for us this week is how are you learning to love yourself? In this season of transition and new learnings, how do you show yourself kindness? I encourage you to take some time this week to reflect on these questions. Then, take some more time to find a practice or an activity that will nourish your soul or give you respite.

Grace and peace,




Reflection: Beginnings and Introductions

Reflection: Beginnings and Introductions


The new year is a time for resets as we all begin afresh after the hussle and bussle of the Christmas season. At the beginning of this new year and this new decade, I am beginning a new position. I have been involved with the Presbytery of San Gabriel since I began working as the Office Administrator at Knox Presbyterian Church back in 2010. My first introduction to the Presbytery was through Twila French, who ably guided me through the dozens of questions I had about Knox’s statistical reporting and shared mission giving. I was grateful again for Twila when she guided me through the initial paperwork for becoming an Inquirer and kept me on track for meetings throughout that process until my ordination in 2017. It is with great joy, I celebrate becoming a co-worker with her and joining the Presbytery staff ten years later as the Presbyter for Administration and Associate Stated Clerk.

Over these last ten years, I have served in various roles at Knox Presbyterian Church working as the Office Manager and now as the Temporary Associate Pastor. My experiences have taught me that administration is like setting the table for a meal. It is an opportunity to make everyone feel welcome and valued. I look forward to enjoying many conversations with the members of our presbytery both over meals and meetings. As we gather together, I hope to encourage the gifts and talents of our members to flourish as we come together to further the Kingdom of God in the San Gabriel Valley and beyond.

A little about me, as I mentioned I am serving as the Temporary Associate Pastor half-time in addition to my work with the Presbytery. At Knox, I work with our children’s and adult education and spiritual formation ministries. I am married to Brian Lee, and we will celebrate our 10th anniversary in March. Brian is writing his dissertation for a Ph.D in Religion, Ethics, and Politics from Princeton University. In June 2019, our daughter Johanna Sequoia was born. We live in Altadena near Farnsworth Park and enjoy walking around our neighborhood with our two dogs. I am originally from the Southeastern United States, so I enjoy potlucks and BBQ.

You can reach me by email at or by cell at (626) 353-0828. I will be at the Presbytery Center on Tuesday and Wednesdays from 9 am to 4 pm and Thursday mornings from 9 am to noon each week. Other days of the week, I am regularly checking email and answering the phone and am available to meet.

Grace and Peace in your new beginnings,

Rev. Ally Lee 

Don’t forget:

Our first Presbytery meeting of 2020 is tomorrow, Tuesday, January 14, 7 pm, at Monte Vista Grove Homes in Pasadena. There will be two pre-Presbytery meetings, starting promptly at 6 pm, for people who have questions about the proposed dismissal of Alhambra True Light Presbyterian Church to ECO, or the recommended amendments to how San Gabriel Presbytery defines minimum pastoral compensation for the pastors of our churches. We will also have the opportunity to examine and bless Candidate Peter Hawisher, who has been called to Radford Presbyterian Church in Virginia.

And remember to register for WinterFest, February 8, 9-2:30, at Arcadia Community Church. You can register at