Alleluia, Anyway

Alleluia, Anyway

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
and upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked God brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Ephesians 4:15-16

The events of last week put to bed any fantasies that 2021 would be more peaceful than 2020. Wednesday certainly was a day for the history books, and all sorts of folk have shared all sorts of responses. Commentators in the United States and around the world spoke of the shock that such a beacon of democracy as the USA would experience such an insurrection. Quite a few of my presbytery executive colleagues rushed to send out a letter to their presbyteries to calm their nerves.

I’m not sure whose nerves they were trying to calm, but I didn’t see a need to send such a letter. Sadly, my family history has taught me that this kind of rage and hatred is not unknown in the US, and I know that I am not the only one. When I went to seminary and started visiting a lot of churches, I noticed how many have the US flag in their sanctuaries. To me, it reflected a conflation of civil and Christian religion. As I thought about it, I could only conclude that my family church, being Japanese-American, never confused the United States with the kingdom of God—but others apparently have.

It is in times of greatest distress that we Christians have the opportunity to be a beacon of hope, that joyous countercultural community, a loud witness to a ruler so much greater than any mortal government, a nation that transcends specious racial or territorial bounds, a love more healing and liberating than hate. I am quite aware that the attack on the Capitol occurred on the day of Epiphany.

The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek word for “reveal.” We can disagree what this event reveals. But regardless, we can choose to reveal something of who we are, as followers of Christ.

As it happens, I just got a notice from Facebook (which I hate, so I never read) that Bruce Reyes-Chow posted one of his very witty status updates. It was funny enough to prompt me to take a look at his Facebook page. There I learned that he has a new book coming out in March, titled “In Defense of Kindness: Why It Matters, How It Changes Our Lives, and How It Can Save the World.” Bruce is a seminary classmate of mine, but you may know of him for being a former moderator of the PC(USA), an important prophetic voice for justice and new worshiping communities and technologies in the church, and now he is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Palo Alto. Bruce is funny, faithful, insightful, and I guess challenging, which has led him to attract some criticism. Yet he is lifting up kindness as the choice we can make to change the world. He is also, by the way, the plenary speaker for our week of WinterFest, February 1-6; Bruce will speak on February 6 but I definitely invite you to register for multiple workshops as well.

On Bruce’s Facebook page was another posting, from Michael Adee, a committed Presbyterian who has faced more than his share of trials as a leader in the PC(USA)’s checkered history in LGBTQ inclusion. Michael chose to respond to the crisis in our capitol by sharing one of those “why I’m proud to be a Presbyterian” articles. Michael wrote:

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,” Mr. Rogers often said to children of his mother’s counsel to him during frightening moments on the news.

One of those helpers was Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) the son of Korean immigrant parents and the first Asian- American elected to Congress from New Jersey. Late January 6, Rep. Kim was clearing up the debris left by the insurrectionist white mob during their attack on the Capitol. “When you see something you love that’s broken you want to fix it. I love the Capitol. It really broke my heart and I just felt compelled to do something. What else could I do?” said Rep. Kim. Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, Rep. Kim and his family are Presbyterian. Thank God for the helpers.

You can see the full article by clicking here.

I’ve shared before one of my favorite statements from John Calvin, the words that begin his Institutes: “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” We must not forget or deny our brokenness, or the immense power of our eternal God to make right whatever small terrors we can create. But we are also amazed to consider that this great God would yet create us, love us, and invite us to share in fixing this old world that we love. We just need to say “yes.”

A friend of mine, Katie Morrison, faced resistance from this presbytery back when she was in seminary. Like me, she has named a blessing of her life having grown up in Pasadena, where people of many races not only live together, but are respected leaders in the community. Her message in the face of resistance was learned from the well-worn faith of the Black community. From “Hallelujah, anyhow,” she said, “Alleluia, Anyway!” We do face trials of all kinds, but we can use whatever we face as an opportunity to share our faith of hope and kindness with a hurting world. May we find ways to do so now, and always.

Peace,
Wendy

 

Shining in the Dark

Shining in the Dark

Arise, shine; for your light has come,and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

Isaiah 60:1

In the midst of all that is happening these days, I have found it hard to say “Happy New Year.”

It seems discordant, especially on the news, for someone to report on some fresh horror in our world, and then to respond with a cheery “Happy New Year!” I have wondered what they mean in saying that, as it does not seem to be a happy new year at all. Perhaps it’s shorthand for “as we begin this new year, we pray desperately that God will save us from this time of fear and death, and that God will find a way to help us be happy again.”

And perhaps we do pray desperately for relief, as we hear of hospitals overflowing with patients, governmental confusion, and deep social divisions that prevent us from gaining strength from unified effort. Just this weekend, we started the new year with a federal government that seems to be disintegrating before our eyes, and the shocking news of the sudden death of our friend and former Board of Pensions regional representative, Rev. Clayton Cobb. Clayton went to the hospital on Wednesday due to pancreatitis, and died Saturday night due to complications. Looking at his Facebook page, as late as that Wednesday morning, he posted a funny video reflecting his decision to move to Monte Vista Grove as a young retiree. I want to believe he stayed full of the joy of the Lord until he passed on to glory, and I do pray for his family and many friends.

So how do we say “Happy New Year!” in the face of continued despair and hits to our souls? Perhaps it is a defiant charge to face future with a positive attitude, regardless of the circumstance; certainly humanity has faced countless calamities, and yet we persevere. I was reminded of a poem that has been putatively attributed to a Jewish person hiding from Nazis in Cologne:

I believe in the sun—even when it is not shining I believe in love—even when it is not apparent

I believe in God—even when he is silent.

I appreciate this assertion of faith; a dramatic manifestation of Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” And a good reminder as we acknowledge both the deadly power of an unseen virus, and the life-giving power of Jesus Christ.

I always remember a woman who commented, after an interfaith service, that she appreciated our Christian faith allowing for the realty of suffering, yet offering hope that overcomes that suffering. This season after Christmas, as we approach Epiphany, we dwell on the concept of light, the light that shines on the people who walked in darkness, the light that shines in the darkness, the light coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ.

Lately I’ve thought about light, that doesn’t only dispel darkness but also forces us to see personal and corporate brokenness that needs to be confronted. As the light shines on what we try to avoid, we are given the choice to face it or deny it—as Christians, if we remember the abundance of grace that Jesus offers us, we are bold to face our sin, our woundedness, our despair, and reject it, confident that there is no sin so great, no hatred so vile, no fear so consuming, that God’s love cannot overcome it.

As we begin another year of life and service, it’s appropriate to face future with prayer and commitment. We do not live in denial; we are not paralyzed by fear—we face future with faith that God calls us forward in love, and walks with us every step of the way. As we begin the new year, I want to share a poetic interpretation of Psalm 90, from poet scholar David Rosenberg:

and for every day lost
we find a new day revealing
where we are

in the future and in the past
together again
this moment with you

made human for us
to see your work
in the open-eyed grace of children

the whole vision unlocked
from darkness
to the thrill of light

where our hands reach for another’s
opening to life
in our heart’s flow

the work of this hand
flowing open
to you and from you.

It occurs to me that our common prayer, the prayer Jesus taught us, encompasses our need for care and forgiveness, and the power and saving will of God to care not only for us but for this whole world. Let us enter this new year with that prayer on our lips, in our hearts, and in the life we lead.

Happy New Year,
Wendy

 

 

History

History

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:3-6

We are beginning this week with history, carried out through the mundane.

As planned and prescribed in the US Constitution, the electoral college meets to make official the election of a new president and vice president. This happens every four years, and until four years ago, the process was a little-known, virtually never watched, administrative duty that simply affirms what was voted on the first Tuesday in November.

And in hospitals across the country, people are getting vaccines. Now if the doctors had their way, most or all of us have already gone through this process this fall (or you should!), when you got your flu shot.

But through these seemingly mundane processes, we are witnessing two major pivots in the direction of the United States and the world.

If the electoral college acts as expected, the presidential election of 2020 will be confirmed. In Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, this nation will be led by a team who embodies a fundamental transition in the demographics of the nation:  an older White man and a younger, biracial daughter of immigrants. To the extent they can model cooperation and mutual trust and shared leadership across differences of generation, race, gender, faith tradition and family background, this nation will follow a path that we Californians have for the most part already cleared. And to the extent that this team will prove that this kind of unity in diversity does not only prevent effective leadership but might even enhance their ability to address our many problems, they may secure a hopeful new chapter in our life as a nation.

Actually, we have seen examples of this in other countries. The other pivotal action being taken this weekend is the beginning of COVID vaccines being administered. The first vaccine was developed by BioNTech in Germany, a nation that has experienced conflicts with their growing Turkish-German minority. BioNTech is a biomedical company co-founded and led by CEO Uğur Şahin, a Turkish immigrant, and his Chief Medical Officer wife, Özlem Türeci, a German-born researcher of Turkish ethnicity.

As Christians, we remember another mundane process that started a major pivot in history. The birth of a baby, born to an unknown couple en route to reporting for a national census, signals the embodiment of God breaking physically into the history of the world.

I’ve often wondered about God’s intention in this act. We believe in an eternal God, who is not bound by time or space, and yet at one point in human time, God chose to enter into our peculiar, limited situation. And God chose to enter not as all that a human can be, not as a majestic emperor or ferocious military commander, but in the humility of the son of a craftsman in a small town far from the capital of a small nation that was under the rule of a foreign empire.

I confess that I’m most puzzled by the timing of this action. Why, of all the moments in the course of human history, did God choose this moment to break into our mortal existence to create something of a physical bridge between God and human, and then to send us the Holy Spirit to continue with us after the frailty of that mortal existence ended?

While I can only accept the timing as one of those many, many things that only God can know, my life depends on my belief that this Christmas action shows me the great love God has for us, and the lengths God will take to bring us back to reconcile with God. And that love has enabled me and countless Christians to weather the turmoil of our world. Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can see the trials that have confronted us in 2020 especially, and yet see the hand of God leading us forward, teaching us new things that we have resisted in our comfort, eliciting compassion and creativity that sometimes get covered up by self-centered inertia, and building us up with resistance exercises against tyranny, fear, and hatred.

There is one more facet that these historic actions have in common. All of these actions require collaboration with the human collective for the action to have meaning. We have seen multiple challenges to the election of Biden and Harris that have been resisted by individuals placed in various pockets of the American political and judicial fabric to uphold the laws of their state and nation.

Ultimately we all must decide whether to work with or against the presidency to come, and how our discernments help or hurt the response to the trials of the nation.

As some have commented, the miracle of the COVID vaccines only help if people take the vaccine. We must step forward, even with reports of unpleasant side effects and the residue of centuries of medical abuse against people of color and questions about equitable distribution, and demonstrate our faith that these vaccines, especially the first two coming from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, are safe as well as effective. The faith in medical technology is required because this approach to vaccinology is new—which means that it is unknown, AND that if validated, if may open up an entirely new era in disease prevention.

And, most importantly, Jesus does not come and blanket us hapless humans with salvation. Jesus incarnates the call of God through centuries of prophets to turn back to God, and he promised us that through the Holy Spirit, we mere mortals would be able to reflect and channel God’s saving power to the world. And even this year, we have witnessed God’s power to work through us even when we try to do what we know nothing about, as we seek to be faithful in pandemic conditions. And the threads of human history can converge, as scientists are now asking pastors to encourage their people to take the vaccine, calling on churches to participate in the physical and spiritual healing of our people.

While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. And yet, weak as we are, Christ calls us to respond and partner in this mission of salvation. As 2nd-century church father Irenaeus said,

The glory of God is a living person

and the life of each living person is the vision of God.

With the birth of Jesus son of Joseph and Mary, the history of the world changed forever. With the birth of every child who follows the will of God, that history of salvation continues. For this and every holy action, recorded and unnoticed, we give thanks, and we offer our lives in faith. Thanks be to God.

Peace,
Wendy

 

 

Priesthood

Priesthood

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of the One who called you out of darkness into this marvelous light.

1:1 Peter 2:9

We are in Advent, the season of anticipation. Coming to the end of this most difficult year, marked with overlapping crises and erratic waves of terror and boredom, it is easy for us to feel Isaiah’s prophecy:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
on them light has shined.         (Isaiah 9:2)

There are many ways that the birth of Jesus changed the course of human history. One thing I’ve been dwelling on this year is how God’s choice to be one of us brings us closer to being God’s own people, partners in mission with the Almighty. It’s sort of like the difference between sympathy and empathy— you can feel sorry for someone else, or you can be that someone else. In Jesus, God chose the latter.

As Presbyterians, we believe in the priesthood of all believers. So when Jesus raises us to be God’s own, we are not just talking about the clergy; we are talking about everyone who answers Christ’s call. When I ask people, especially ruling elders, why they became Presbyterian (as opposed to being born Presbyterian), the most frequent answer is the way authority is shared between all presbyters (elders), teaching elders and ruling elders alike. We believe everyone has a piece of God’s wisdom and power, and everyone has been gifted by the Holy Spirit to contribute to God’s mission in this place.

When we had our Presbytery meeting last month, Ally Lee put together a beautiful necrology, with pictures of loved ones who had passed on to eternal life since our November 2019 Presbytery meeting. Our tradition has been to name current minister members of the Presbytery, and invite church leaders to name elders who had died in the prior year. This year we included a few past minister members (such as Jake Kim, who died on December 22, 2019, just a few months after leaving our membership), wives of minister members, and church leaders.

It is especially hard when we lose loved ones around the holidays. Another beloved member of our Presbytery family just passed away: Lee Hawthorne, wife of Rev. Donald Hawthorne. Lee was a partner and support for Donald all the way to the end, as he is in the Health Center. This year we have said good-bye to several wives of pastors, and we give thanks for their lives, as we know how they served Christ’s church with just as much faithful dedication as their husbands did.

Indeed, there are so many ways to further God’s mission. During the Presbytery meeting, I got a chat asking about George Inadomi. I felt badly that we hadn’t mentioned him in the necrology, but I was reminded that I wanted to write about him and his witness when he died in September of this year.

George had been ordained a Minister of Word and Sacrament to serve El Estero Presbyterian Church, one of the traditionally Japanese Presbyterian churches that run up and down California. He had graduated from UCLA in 1950 and Fuller in 1955. He also served at Church of Christ Presbyterian in Chicago in the 1960s, and there he began his lifelong ministry for social justice, participating in protests for civil rights in Selma, and in the March on Washington in 1963. (Many Japanese-Americans had personal reasons to be committed to human rights based on their own experience; George was only 11 years old when he and his family were incarcerated at Gila River camp in Arizona.)

In 1965, George was called back to Southern California to help with his family’s grocery business. He decided to give up his ordination as minister of Word and sacrament, and he and his wife Jeanette became active members of Calvary Presbyterian Church in South Pasadena. George became a ruling elder instead, but again in the PC(USA) that did not hinder his ability to serve and lead. He was active in San Gabriel Presbytery, and served on the national level, including as Vice-Chair of the General Assembly Council. (As I understand it, the GAC back then could act as the General Assembly between General Assembly meetings; we no longer have a body with that kind of authority in the denomination.) George continued an advocacy of inclusion for all noting, “the PC (USA) is a diverse group that is reaching out in a broad range of ministries to the world.”

This inclusion which George appreciated and worked for takes many forms in the PC(USA), and its root is our deep belief in the priesthood of all believers, and the fundamental understanding that the Bible tells us many times how God can and does do mighty things through whomever God chooses. Every one of us is a child of God, no better or worse than any other human being that God crafted out of God’s creative genius. God makes each one of us unique, so that we can serve in different ways, and all service and offices are needed and appreciated for the body to be whole.

So as we enter this holy season, may we wait with eyes open, and with thankful hearts, for the lives of Lee Hawthorne and George Inadomi, and all who gave their lives to Christ’s service. Indeed, the church would not have been the same without them and their leadership.

Thanks be to God for blessing each of us, that we may be a blessing to others. You are a blessing to me.

 

Peace,
Wendy

 

 

Executive Presbyter’s Report

Executive Presbyter’s Report

Once a year I’m expected to give a report to the Presbytery. I was prepared to give a report that was already too long, but the meeting was going late, and my dogs seemed to think I should keep it short. In case anyone is interested, here is the report I intended to give. Overall, of course, this has been the strangest year I hope to ever experience. But it was a time for some rich learning, and through it all the work got done—and God was there.

Adaptive Change: Instant Evangelists and Holy Imperfection

Most pastors I know have heard about, tried to explain, endured through way too many lectures, and read countless articles and several books on adaptive change (especially Heifetz and Linsky). We’ve been told I don’t know how many times that we are facing a time of adaptive change. Adaptive change (as opposed to the fine tuning of “technical change”) is so radical that not only do we not know the answers, we don’t even know the questions we’re supposed to ask.

Well, I think we’re finally experiencing adaptive change. The basics of life as we know it, and church as we’ve always done it, were taken away, in ways that were unpredictable, sudden and deep, and for several months they were constantly changing—sometimes on a moment’s notice. We had to use technology to recreate our lives virtually—whatever that means! But I am convinced that the Holy Spirit went into overdrive, helping us turn this crisis into remarkably creative new ways of being church, and we learned some things that we never would have learned, if we were allowed to keep doing things the way we always did it.

We were forced to focus on the essentials of church—worship, pastoral care, and mission—and church leaders found new ways of doing these essentials, sometimes more than they did before. We found that there were opportunities in the crisis. Most significantly, we found out that many more people are interested in worshiping with us, if they don’t have to come into the sanctuary. Stated Clerk J. Herbert Nelson likes to say how thousands of Presbyterian pastors became televangelists overnight—and our audiences are much larger than any of us realized.

And COVID forced us to try new things with no guarantee of success. One of the best things that I hope will come out of this strange year is our new-found experience that grace exists, and comes alive when we let go of our attachment to perfection.  Perfectionism has kept us from trying new things, taking risks, stepping forward into the future that is only known to God. But there was no way to do church in 2020 by holding on to the tried and true. Living in holy imperfection, we learned that we are capable of far more creativity than we thought; we were free to challenge our old ways; and sometimes we stumbled into even more effective mission. I do hope that we continue to experience God’s grace as we allow for holy imperfection that allows us to reform the church.

However, I am saddened to have learned that some church members somehow thought pastors weren’t working as hard because of COVID. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have seen pastors face their own performance insecurities to preach, lead, and care through technologies that they didn’t know any better than you did. They worried when the finances plunged through the floor, trying to save their staff’s jobs and wondering about their own. And they tried to care for the church through all the unpredictable changes, even as they shared the same challenges everyone else did, with no advance warning as things flip-flopped in a blink of an eye. While I have not heard from our pastors of the suicidal thoughts that have plagued some pastors this year, I do worry how they will crash when the urgency of the now finally subsides.

Better Together

In the midst of all this uncertainty, we give thanks for being a connectional church. The pastors and church leaders meet weekly to get and share information, compare notes on new technologies and ways to provide care from a distance, and we pray, and share concerns and joys. It has been quite lovely to see ways we’ve been able to support each other. Honestly, this has been an opportunity for the Presbytery to help in more tangible ways, through financial grants, mutual support, common guidelines, even stepping in to play “Presbytery bad guy” in enforcing strict distancing rules. But as time wears on, we also feel the limits of being together only virtually, and we all long for the ease of being physically together, joining our voices in song together, and staying connected with people who do not have comfortable access to technology. So in some ways, this time has actually given us more desire and time to be together, while we also feel the emptiness of being apart. As we move into the holidays, I am more concerned, especially for those who already feel isolated. And we all look eagerly for vaccines to become available in the new year.

Seeing—and Valuing—Each Other Anew

All this disruption gave us new ways of seeing each other. Young leaders, our digital natives, became lifelines as we turned to technology to enable physically distant church life. The young pastors of this Presbytery have always been one of our great gifts, and their creativity and collaboration and commitment continue to amaze me. Through God’s provision, we welcomed Ally Lee to Presbytery staff. She took on almost all the technology needs of the Presbytery and many churches, facilitated communication and collaboration, and brought great new ideas to ways we can support our churches.

We also saw the rise of awareness of racially-motivated violence and disparities in economics and even health resources during this time of public health and economic crises. This led to a new humility, and a willingness to confront White privilege in historic and current systems of society. Perhaps the COVID pandemic gave people time for introspection, study, and conversation that were facilitated by Zoom—for instance, I’ve been able to attend meetings from around the nation, and we beta-tested our first “Belong Circle,” which is one way to enable people to come to know and care for each other across differences. My hope is that we will continue to find ways to live into the gift of diversity that God has given us.

Doing the Work

In the midst of these foundational shifts in life as we know it, we continue to do the work. There were many significant events, including:

  1. In January, the Presbytery approved COM’s major revision of our pastor compensation policy, with special emphasis on effecting family-friendly leave policies, not only for maternity leave but also times when pastors need time for elder care, or critical care of children. This comprehensive policy has been a boon not only for our pastors and the concept of support for the family, but it also provides more clear guidance for our
  2. Also in January, the Presbytery said good-bye to Alhambra True Light Presbyterian Church. Alhambra and our team probably showed more love and grace than in any other church dismissal, and ended years of attempts to stay together. As it turns out, the timing and dissolution terms enabled the Presbytery to continue ministry without feeling financially constrained. And we have opportunities to stay in touch. For instance, I had occasion to speak with Jack Davidson and Foster Shannon recently. Foster, who is still a member of San Gabriel Presbytery, is still writing (I will be reading one of his books, on Revelation), and because he’s still home I got to visit him and Janis. And Jack shared that Alhambra expects to end this year without a deficit, so we can thank God that if there had to be a dismissal, both the church and the Presbytery have moved on in love and continued
  3. In light of this year’s drastic changes in worship life and stewardship, and thanks to the funds that we received from the Synod, as well as the Alhambra dismissal and our reserves, we were able to offer financial support for our churches. We provided upfront finances to help our churches think ahead around technology and continued mission, and offered grants as churches requested them. We distributed almost $300,000 in aid to our
  4. Along the way, we learned of the special needs of undocumented members and friends of our churches, and also new and recently settled refugee members, who have come to us from Latin America and the Middle East. Thanks to two Presbyterian Disaster Assistance emergency grants, on top of the program grant they have given us so that we can employ Kristi Van Nostran, $10,000 of emergency food and medical/rent grants were offered to settled refugees and undocumented immigrants in our own churches. In partnership with Pacific Presbytery and several other nonprofits, Kristi coordinated the safe release and transition of nearly 100
  5. Our little presbytery has inspired the larger church in various ways. The immigrant ministry has inspired many, especially due to the strong support of the churches throughout this presbytery. We have also gotten some attention for our work in West Covina, because we are doing several innovative things at once there: we provided needed care for a struggling church by moving them to fellowship status, we looked for ways to enable larger mission through better use of the property, and we are developing an exciting partnership with International Theological Seminary. We’ve talked a lot about this, but you may not know that we have been asked to talk about this to the national church multiple times, most recently last month.
  1. One way we are like every other presbytery is the need to find new ways of connecting. As a presbytery, we helped convert presbytery and congregational meetings to virtual, we interpreted ever-changing government regulations, and we are looking at ways to share resources that can be used in worship and education, like for World Communion Sunday and our next WinterFest. And Diane Frasher and Lauren Evans, our chaplains for retired church workers, have gone back to old technologies, like the telephone and hand-written greeting
  2. Finally, we are preparing for the future. Thanks to the legacy of First Presbyterian Church of Baldwin Park, we hope to enable an affordable housing development, which will include a Presbytery House that we can use for mission purposes, such as offering housing for asylum seekers. Wendy Gist, who will now be our senior staff member when Twila French retires, is staff support for this project, with the newly expanded Baldwin Park AC. Thanks to the budget you have approved, we are able to expand Wendy’s hours so that she can use her expertise in civil engineering and affordable housing to provide wise, passionate, and focused support on this, and I’m

Giving Thanks

As we look back on this year, we need to take a moment to give thanks. Thanks to God, of course. Thanks to God for bringing us our nearly 100 volunteer Presbytery leaders, the amazing committed leaders in every congregation, the pastors who reinvented ministry on the fly, and the chaplains who care for patients in hospitals and care homes, sometimes risking their own health. And of course, I have to give thanks to God for an incredible group of gifted, committed, faithful, funny, loving, creative, inspired and inspiring colleagues on the Presbytery staff: Wendy, Kristi, Lauren, Diane, Ally, and of course Twila. We began this year mourning Jake Kim. We end this year saying farewell to Twila.  But as you can see, God has sent us new friends, not as clones for others, but each bringing new energy, perspective, skills, and ministries that help keep us moving ahead. I pray that you get to know each staff member, and show them appreciation for who they are and all that they do to enable transformative ministry in this presbytery. Thanks be to God! And thanks to each of you.

When I think of 2020, this is the image I want to remember. This is Registered Nurse Amanda Etienne, of Brooklyn, New York. She survived the hardest three months of her health care career, in those scary days when COVID swarmed over New York, and then she was confronted with—and compelled to fight against—the violence erupting against people who look like her and her family. Here she participated in a protest rally against the killing of George Floyd, in her scrubs, and holding this sign, saying,

“I will still do everything I can to SAVE you! A Black RN.”

As we go forth into 2021, may we stay dedicated to our mission, keep our eyes open to injustice, and stay committed to Christ’s call to each one of us to give our lives for others.

Blessings, and thanks,
Wendy