But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
As we move into 2021, our Presbytery meeting last Tuesday marked many transitions.
We thanked Jennifer Ackerman and blessed her as she has moved to Portland, Oregon, and completed her term as chair of our Education (now Education, Equipping, and Empowerment) Committee. This was also Diane Frasher’s last meeting as Stated Clerk, and we thank her for her service in that ministry, while we are grateful that she continues in our Presbytery family as Chaplain for Retired Presbyterian Church Workers at Monte Vista Grove Homes. Roberto Ramírez completed his term as Moderator of the Presbytery Executive Commission (which followed his service as Vice Moderator and Moderator of the Presbytery). David Cortés-Fuentes and Josey Saez Acevedo have settled in Puerto Rico, and we approved David’s request to transfer his membership to el Presbiterio Noroeste there. And we marked the deaths of Dick Hettish, Ross Kinsler, and Lee and Don Hawthorne, all beloved and devoted saints to family and the people of God.
While we honored the transition out of ministries and relationships, there were also many opportunities to celebrate new ministries and new friends. Harlan Redmond was enrolled as an Inquirer under care of CPM, and Bruce Myers was received as a member of Presbytery and Site Pastor for the West Covina Ministry Center. As Diane leaves her role as Stated Clerk at the end of February, the Presbytery voted to appoint Ally Lee as Stated Clerk for Administration beginning March 1. And we elected William Maweu and Veronica Ota as members of both Justice, Peacemaking and Mission and Self-Development of People.
Later in our meeting, Deborah Owens and Dave Tomlinson were installed as Moderator and Vice Moderator, respectively, of Presbytery, and Deborah is hoping that we can focus this year on what it means to be a Matthew 25 Church. Our national church has asked the church at all levels to consider three focus areas as a Matthew 25 Church:
- Building congregational vitality by challenging people and congregations to deepen their faith and get actively and joyfully engaged with their community and the world.
- Dismantling structural racism by advocating and acting to break down the systems, practices and thinking that underlie discrimination, bias, prejudice and oppression of people of
- Eradicating systemic poverty by working to change laws, policies, plans and structures in our society that perpetuate economic exploitation of people who are
Deborah’s work as Moderator began almost immediately, as this last weekend, she led a celebration of ministry at San Marino Community Church with the installation not only of Jessica Vaughan Lower and Jeff O’Grady as Co-Pastors/Co-Heads of Staff, but also of San Marino’s incoming Ruling Elders and Deacons. It was a great demonstration of the importance and interconnectedness of all ordered ministries in the Presbyterian Church. I recently reread an essay from Joe Small, who once led the Office of Theology and Worship in Louisville, called “The Travail of the Presbytery” (you can google it for some good historical context). In it, he wrote:
. . . all of the ordered ministries were bound together in the common task of ensuring the church’s fidelity to the Word. Therefore, in whatever ways Reformed ministries might be ordered today, they must remain undivided. When a minister – pastor, elder, deacon – performs any ministerial act, it is performed on behalf of the whole ministry; no one may act alone as the representative of Christ.
As part of this connectional church, we were happy to hear from Mark Hong, our Synod Executive/ Stated Clerk, who reflected on the ministry of the Synod, especially in partnership with our seven presbyteries: Santa Barbara, San Fernando, San Gabriel, Riverside, Pacific, Los Ranchos, San Diego.
Roberto Ramírez highlighted the Presbytery Executive Commission’s letter to all our churches, giving guidance to strongly recommend all our churches continue to worship online and/or outdoors at least through Easter.
The fruits of our connectionalism were also reflected in the number of grants we have received and also given. Thanks to a $70,000 grant from the House of Rest, we can continue to offer chaplaincy ministry among our retired pastors, missionaries, and church workers, with Lauren Evans and Diane Frasher continuing in their roles. The Justice, Peacemaking and Mission Committee announced grants through the El Monte Initiative. They approved $28,978 to CaliCenter at Puente de Esperanza Church in La Puente and $9,000 to the food distribution program at El Monte Community Presbyterian Church. JPM was also able to give smaller grants, to help the staff of Living Waters for the World in Peru ($300), and food distribution programs at Immanuel Presbyterian in Koreatown and El Monte Community Presbyterian ($600 each).
Continuing in their focus on meeting basic needs in this time of pandemic, JPM designated this meeting’s offering to the San Fernando Valley Refugee Children’s Center. You can still donate by sending a check made out to San Gabriel Presbytery to: 9723 Garibaldi Avenue, Temple City 91780, with “Presbytery Offering” on the memo line. Or, you can give online at sangabpres.org/donate and use the drop down menu to “Give to Presbytery Offering.”
As I write this, I just received a lovely text of encouragement and appreciation from a faithful leader in the PC(USA), who has been especially focused on the National Black Presbyterian Caucus. The text celebrates the ways God creates every one of us, and this message of affirmation for others was the way he chose to kick off February as Black History Month.
So as we spend this week of WinterFest in body building, and as we begin this month of celebration and remembrance for the profound history of perseverance and faith in Black History Month, and as we focus on how we can be a Matthew 25 Church, we are thankful that we can do God’s work in the world together, supporting each other in love.
Thanks be to God, and see you all this week!